Thursday, 22 December 2016

Philippe Myers turning heads as a Team Canada member, UFA signee by the Flyers.

Interesting case study about Philippe Myers, a 6'5" defenceman from the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies who went undrafted this June, got an invitation to the Flyers rookie development camp, and impressed them enough that he was asked to attend their rookie camp in the fall.  He did well enough there and in the main camp that the Flyers signed him to an entry-level contract.

This is a success story for the kid, and maybe for the Flyers, but it always stings when another team, and especially Philly, finds a gem in our back yard.  The way the story is told, it seems things just clicked for him this summer, in terms of maybe getting his growth spurt under control, getting confidence in his ability, etc.  But let's be clear that, during their Memorial Cup chase in May and June, Phillipe Myers was seen as a steady-eddie, a dependable minute-muncher, but in no way was thought by the analysts, either on TVA Sports or Sportsnet or Stéphane Leroux on RDS, as a good pro prospect who'd go high in the draft.

He was a good player on a great junior team, and definitely not seen even as favourably as teammate Jérémy Lauzon was the previous season, one of a brace of good young LHJMQ defenceman from the 2015 draft.  Mr. Lauzon was seen as not in the class of Jakub Zboril, Thomas Chabot and Jérémy Roy, or even the next tier of Nicolas Meloche and Guillaume Brisebois.  Prognosticators saw him as almost as good as the latter two, that he was a third-rounder who might sneak into the late 2nd-round, based on a great second half of the season.  Eventually, the Bruins bought in to this line of thinking, and picked him mid-second round, ahead of Guillaume Brisebois, who 'fell' to the Canucks at the top of the third round.

Yet now, undrafted 18-year old Philippe Myers has leapfrogged his 19-year-old teammate Jérémy Lauzon on the Team Canada depth chart.  He's the one getting powerplay time, getting more minutes.

Something that sticks in my craw a little as a Canadiens fan is how Noah Juulsen is now the rightie on the second pairing, behind Philippe Myers, while he was thought in the run-up to the camp as a lock to partner with Thomas Chabot on the first pairing, and maybe to get powerplay time.  His role has been usurped.  Coach Dominique Ducharme has teamed up the two LHJMQ d-men, and put Noah with Jake Bean for a WHL second-pairing.

Looking at his point production last year, Philippe Myers put up 17 goals and 28 assists in 63 games.  I've posted before about an article written by a blogger who analyzed how point production related to success in the NHL.  He found that .6 pts/game in a CHL defenceman's draft year was the benchmark necessary for success in the NHL.  If a prospect didn't reach that level, the chance that he'd make it in the NHL was vanishingly small.

So when stories came out about the Flyers signing Philippe Myers, I wondered if he was one of the big but slow and ham-handed with the puck prototype that was falling out of favour in the league, after the relative flops last season of Jarred Tinordi, Jared Cowan, Dylan McIlrath and Jamie Oleksiak.  I immediately performed the PPG 'test', and found that he easily met that standard, he actually produced .71 pts/game.

It is puzzling then that Philippe Myers didn't garner more attention.  Did scouts believe he was a 'victim' of his team's success, that the great supporting cast around him explained in large part his point totals?  Taylor Raddysh, a 2016 second-round pick by Tampa Bay (them again...) was under the same scrutiny.  He was thought to be a good finisher with good size, but scouts wondered whether his point totals were inflated, due mostly to playing on the same team/line with Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat.  So far this season, Mr. Raddysh is proving the doubters wrong.

We can bang our heads against the wall about this, or maybe we can understand that this isn't so rare an occurrence that it constitutes malfeasance by the scouts.  It happened just recently, when Joe Hicketts, a smallish defenceman who was passed over in the 2014 draft, got an invitation to the Red Wings camp, and earned a contract based on his performance there.  He easily earned a spot on the WJC Team Canada roster two years running, ahead of more notorious prospects who got picked high in the 2014 and 2015 draft.

A similar story is Michael McNiven, who was passed over in the draft in 2015, came to the Canadiens' development camp as an invitee/roster filler, and did well enough to eventually earn a contract.  Mike was one of three invitees to the selection camp for Team Canada this year, and will be part of the team as an alternate, in case of injury.

There are also near-misses of this type.  The story goes that the Canadiens, devoid of a seventh-round pick in the 2012 draft, considered offering Sven Andrighetto a contract as a UFA.  Sven had been passed up in the draft a second time, and the Canadiens apparently hemmed and hawed, and passed up the chance.  The next season, they had to spend a third-round pick to acquire him, and the rumblings were that Patrick Roy's Colorado Avalanche were about to do the same before being scooped.

And speaking of misses and puzzling decisions, the American team for the World Juniors, already stripped of Brock Boeser who'll be undergoing wrist surgery, have now cut Alex DeBrincat and Logan Brown.  The hosts of TSN 1040 Vancouver were wondering where the goals were going to come from, why they'd pass on these guys even if they had a disappointing selection camp.

So, in the final analysis, we could shake our heads and cluck and point fingers, or we could accept that evaluating 18-year-old hockey players is hard.

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