Sunday, 13 March 2016

Did the Canadiens err selecting Lukas Vejdemo over Nicolas Roy?

Before last season, two Roys, Jérémy Roy of the Phénix de Sherbrooke and Nicolas Roy of les Saguenéens de Chicoutimi, were touted as potential first round picks for the 2015 NHL draft.  Of the two, Nicolas Roy was thought to be the better prospect, being a 6'4" centre with offensive skill, while Jérémy was a smallish puck-moving defenceman with a great hockey sense.

As the season unfolded, the offence never kicked in for Nicolas Roy, he progressed as a player, but one who was now projected as maybe more of a shutdown centre, a mission he nailed during the summer Ivan Hlinka tournament.  He finished the season with only 16 goals, and 50 points total, and no chance to be picked in the first round.

He was chosen early in the fourth, 96th overall, by the Carolina Hurricanes, while Jérémy Roy barely missed the first round, being the first pick of the second round, with the Sharks trading up to claim him as the first player chosen on the second day of the draft.

This season though, Nicolas Roy has taken a great leap forward.  He's still excellent by all reports in terms of his defensive play, but he's also scored 46 goals so far, with three games to play.
«Il est extrêmement consciencieux de sa défensive, a noté Jean. Je savais qu'il était capable de faire 90 ou 100 points, mais je pensais qu'il allait devoir tricher pour y arriver. Il a prouvé qu'il pouvait le faire sans tricher. Si tu m'avais dit qu'il allait faire 90 points, j'aurais préféré qu'il en fasse 20 de moins, mais en étant dominant défensivement. Il a toutefois réussi à atteindre ce plateau tout en jouant de façon impeccable dans sa zone.»

"He's extremely conscientious about his defence.  I knew he could put up 90 or 100 points, but I thought he'd have to 'cheat' to get there.  He proved he can do it without slacking off on defence.  If you'd have told me he'd get 90 points, I would have preferred he score 20 fewer, while dominating on defence.  But he reached that level while still playing flawlessly in his own zone" -- Chicoutimi Head coach Yanick Jean.

I didn't squawk too much when the Canadiens didn't snap up Nicolas Roy, preferring Lukas Vejdemo late in the third, describing him as a sneaky dark horse pick that their European scouts loved, and as a big centre who compares to Alexander Wennberg.  I figured the Canadiens know what they're doing, they can evaluate and compare the kids and make the best decision.

But now, so early in the race, I'm getting cold feet.  Lukas Vejdemo is a year older than Nicolas Roy, couldn't crack the Team Sweden roster for the WJC tournament, and this season has put up a meager 5 goals and 17 points in the SHL, which is admittedly a men's league, difficult for a 19-year-old to play in.

Evaluating young prospects is difficult, and there is a long way to go before either of these players reach the NHL, but it's not great for us that Lukas Vejdemo, who we were led to believe was on the cusp of a great jump in his development, instead seemed to stall, while the bigger local player we passed up, who was there for the taking, is the guy for who everything fell into place.

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