Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Charles Hudon, an undervalued fifth-rounder.

So Charles Hudon picked up another goal and assist in his team’s overtime loss against the Amerks Sunday, and is four point clear in the AHL scoring race.

One thing which I’ve been thinking of is how we describe him as a “fifth-rounder”, usually to feel good about our prospects, and to congratulate Trevor Timmins and the rest of the brain trust. But we use the tag as an absolute, as when we deem him to be an Alma native. As if 122nd overall was his place in line, and justly so.  He always was meant to be a fifth-rounder, and always shall be.

So that a fifth-rounder is leading the AHL in scoring in his rookie year seems spectacular. It indicates a player who’s made tremendous strides in his development, a diamond in the rough who was overlooked, whose brilliance wasn’t perceived by other myopic scouts.

The thing is, he was drafted in 2012, the year after the Bruins had swept to a tainted Stanley Cup victory, aided and abetted by NHL refereeing and Daddy Campbell. Every team at that draft was looking for thumpers, for Milan Lucices and Shawn Thorntons, the ‘Boston Model’ was all the rage. Truculence ruled that day.

But, like at every draft, there were disagreement on rankings, on ‘upside’, about this prospect’s value compared to that one. Various scouts argued for their boy. And Serge Boisvert started advocating for Charles Hudon starting in the second round, but didn’t win over Marc Bergevin and/or Trevor Timmins until Dalton Thrower, Tim Bozon, and Brady Vail were drafted.

So maybe we shouldn’t view Charles as a fifth-rounder, but rather as a second-rounder who got caught in the rip tide of idiocy that gripped the league at that time, and which may be petering out. Just last month, Brian Burke and Marc Bergevin spoke at a conference, and Burkie was explaining how before every year they start scouting meetings by going over previous drafts to see where they might have made mistakes. He spoke of how Blackhawk Andrew Shaw, another fifth-rounder, is one player who’s stood out, one who they’d decided was too small.

The thing is, as Burkie cracked, “He doesn’t realize he’s too small.”

Other examples abound.  Dustin Byfuglien was a project, a player with a few great tools like size and strength and a great shot, but was far from a total package. So that the ‘Hawks took a flyer on him in the eighth round makes sense. That’s an appropriate round to take a chance on a longshot to ever make it.

Charles Hudon in comparison was already a frontline player who’d dominate games in junior, the only real knock against him was his size, and whether he’d expire when exposed to the pro game.

Conversely, a player like Keegan Kanzig of the Victoria Cougars was picked in the third round by the Flames strictly for his great size, his zero goal, seven assists season does not justify that high a draft status. In his case, he was an eighth-rounder who was also affected by the NHL zeitgeist, and Burkie’s predilection for brawlers, but for him it played in his favour and moved him up in the draft, as opposed to Charles.

If we really are in the throes of a puck possession era and moving away from intimidation as a tactic and dump and chase hockey, and if the 2012 draft were held in similar conditions, Charles Hudon would never have slipped all the way to the fifth round, but might have been on most teams’ radars by the time the second round rolled around. So maybe we should see Charles as a second-rounder who we bought when his stock was low, as opposed to a true-blue fifth-rounder.

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