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Learning about 2018 NHL Draft prospects: Volume 4

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The draft will be here before we know it; let’s know some guys!

Swift Current Broncos v Kelowna Rockets Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

With the 2018 NHL Entry Draft just a few weeks away, General Manager Ron Hextall and the Philadelphia Flyers could be adding up to nine prospects to the organization. There’s already a lot out there on those who are expected to be drafted in the top 31 to 62, but what about the guys who are supposed to go anywhere from 63rd to undrafted? In a series of articles before the draft, I’m going to try and analyze both the well-known prospects and some of the lesser-known prospects who aren’t expected to go relatively high next week. Let’s know some guys.

Jesse Ylonen
Since his dad Juha was playing for the Phoenix Coyotes at the time, Jesse Ylonen was born in Arizona, but he’s spent his youth playing hockey over in Finland. This 6’1, 168-pound right winger matured through the Blues’ system, where he had three goals in four games for the Blues’ U-20 team in the JR. A SM-liiga this postseason. Ylonen spent the regular season with Espoo United in the Mestis, where he recorded 14 goals (tied for second on the team) and 13 assists for 27 points (fifth on the team) in 48 contests as the youngest regular on the team. His steady season allowed him to go wire-to-wire ranked 28th in Central Scouting’s European skaters rankings.

Since Ylonen has been playing over in Finland, the staff at Finn Prospects has been covering him for awhile. Asko Huuki stated in his most recent scouting report of Ylonen that is skating is exceptional and could help him land higher in the draft than some people are anticipating. From Huuki’s report in February:

“Ylönen is bit better player everytime I see him. He is now stronger than before and he has become a lot better in board battles. The forward has high hockey IQ and he already reads the pro game well. For the most part he is inside the game and he makes smart decisions constantly.

Skating is the most intriguing part of his game. The forward has above average top speed but his ability to accelerate quickly, change the direction and at the same keeping the puck with him is an excellent asset. With his skill set, Ylönen could very well be selected in the first round in the forthcoming NHL Draft.”

Ylonen is a great passer as well, as highlighted by his two passes at the 1:42 part of this highlight package.

Set to play for the Pelicans in the Liiga next season, Ylonen is anticipated to be taken 44th overall by DraftSite.

Riley Stotts
After suffering a freak injury and switching WHL clubs, Riley Stotts produced a strong enough campaign to jump from 88th in Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings to 51st in the final rankings. This center from Winnipeg (who weighs in at 6’0”, 174 pounds) had two goals and an assist in 22 games with Swift Current Broncos earlier this season before being part of a major deal that saw seven players and two draft picks exchanged between the Broncos and Calgary Hitmen. After the trade, Stotts posted 17 goals and 24 helpers for 41 points in 47 games for Calgary.

Stotts’ 16 points in 52 games last year doesn’t look too great, but the center had to deal with a unique injury sandwiched in the middle of his season. While at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge, Caiden Dailey, a teammate at the tournament and another 2018 draft-eligible prospect, inadvertently stepped on Stotts’ unprotected toes with his skate. The result was a deep laceration that impacted two of his toes, including his big toe. Looking past his setback last season, Stotts has been able to score goals at every level. After he had 43 goals in 30 games and 39 goals in 29 games in Bantam AAA leagues in 2013-14 and 2014-15, he put home 31 in 38 games in Midget AAA in 2015-16.

Compared to similar forwards in the WHL, Stotts doesn’t have the best numbers due to his stint with Swift Current earlier in the season. Of the 143 forwards who played in 65 games or more this season, Stotts is tied for 75th with 13 5-on-5 goals and tied for 89th with 26 5-on-5 points. Things do look better when you factor in his age, as he finished seventh in goals and tenth in points for his same point totals amongst the 40 WHL forwards who came into the season younger than 18 years old.

Aside from the numbers, Stotts has a similar profile to a (soon-to-be) former Flyer. Ryan Pike of The Hockey Writers has more on Matt Read, oh whoops I mean Stotts:

“In a lot of ways, Stotts is an ideal “middleweight” player. He’s not a big player but he’s not small, nor does he get pushed around a lot. He’s mobile, but he’s not a speedster. He’s good with the puck, but he doesn’t usually dazzle with stick-handling – though he is capable of maneuvering past defenders. You could argue that he doesn’t have a single elite-level attribute, and you’d probably be right, but Stotts’ game is more than the sum of its parts. He works extremely hard, is rarely out of position, and frequently makes his teammates better whether by making a smart defensive play to close off a passing lane or taking the time to wait for holes in defensive coverage to find a teammate. His game has no glaring holes in it, and it’s elevated by his ability to play with pace without losing his attention to detail.”

Pike’s assessment of Stotts not having the most flashy stickhandling but still being able to get around defenders is pretty evident in his highlight package. Also, these highlights (and the video above) show that Stotts does a great job of putting himself in scoring position with a clear passing lane for his teammates.

DraftSite has Stotts being taken 45th overall in the second round.

Ty Emberson
Considered a stay-at-home type with decent speed, Ty Emberson seems to have the skill set that will assuredly get him picked in the middle rounds of this draft. The 6’1”, 196-pound right-handed defenseman who hails from Wisconsin provided four goals and 23 assists in 61 contests for the U.S.A. National U-18 team this season, which helped him jump from 57th in Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings to 42nd in their final rankings for North American skaters. This comes after Emberson failed to record a single goal between his games with the national U-17 team, national U-18 team, and the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) in the USHL in 2016-17.

Although the numbers aren’t there, Emberson has the speed and hockey sense that could lead him down a path to the NHL. Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst illustrated Emberson’s game back in September in his preview for the 2017 All-American Prospects Game and provides a nice picture of what a good stay-at-home defenseman sounds like in today’s game:

“Quick puck rusher who reads plays at an extremely high level and knows precisely when to attack. Emberson’s combination of size and speed makes him a prospect with serious NHL upside. He loves to take the puck deep and makes the right choices, and he seems to identify and react properly when his partner is close to isolation. Emberson is a key cog to the NTDP’s top power play unit and has a high success rate with his zone entries. He’ll stay in him home state next season when he suits up for the Wisconsin Badgers.”

According to DraftSite, Emberson should be going 111th overall in the fourth round of this draft. He’s committed to the University of Wisconson for the 2018-19 season.

Alexis Gravel
Although his numbers aren’t great (even for a goalie in the QMJHL), there are reasons to believe Alexis Gravel could succeed in the NHL one day. At 6’3” and 220 pounds, this native of Germany who catches with his right hand fell from being the top North American goaltending prospect to third on Central Scouting’s final rankings in a season where he had 20 wins in 39 appearances with a .890 save percentage and 3.38 goals against average for the Halifax Mooseheads. This came after Gravel made his way on to the QMJHL All-Rookie Team with nearly identical numbers, as he had 17 wins in 50 games with an .894 save percentage, 3.36 goals against average, and a shutout.

It’s always difficult to gauge a goaltender’s NHL capabilities based on their statistics, especially one that’s in a league that provides as much offense as the QMJHL. That’s welcomed news for Gravel, as his numbers aren’t that great compared to other goalies who played often in the Q this year. Of the 18 goalies who played in 39 games or more this season, Gravel ranked 15th in save percentage and 14th in goals against average.

What Gravel has going for him is his solid positioning to go along with his size. There are concerns about his ability to move post-to-post, as well as his issues of covering up his five-hole while attempting these post-to-post saves in the process, but Cat Silverman provides a positive note on this project’s outlook for his career. From her piece for Mile High Hockey earlier this month:

“His butterfly has opened up a bit, he moves a bit faster, and he seems to stay on balance more than he did in older clips of his game, despite still looking a bit clunky in his overall positioning.

He also has a fantastic outlook on where he wants his game to be, which could be coupled with how he’s played this year to make him a good bet for strong development. With emphasis in his combine interviews on tracking and a Lundqvist-esque mentality, he seems to ‘get’ what he’ll need to do to hit the NHL.”

Draftsite has Gravel going 141st overall in the fifth round of next week’s draft.

Patrick Giles
If you want size, Patrick Giles is your center. The Chevy Chase, Maryland native stands at 6’4” and 205 pounds and this might be the most appealing part of his game. As an alternate captain of the U.S.A. National U-18 team, Giles fell from 19th in Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings for North American skaters to 47th in their final rankings as he accrued 11 goals and 11 assists for 22 points in 62 games.

Given a choice between football and hockey at a young age, Giles chose hockey, but his ability to cycle by using strength to help his positioning indicates the football player in him never left. DraftSite offered two scouting reports for Giles, both of which say Giles has the tools to one day make the NHL, but mention several of the forward’s flaws. From Ron Perinpanayagam:

“This big-bodied centre/right winger’s played a very effective role on the USNTDP checking line. He’s very effective along the boards in the o-zone, with flashes of creativity that suggest he may have an offensive upside. Perhaps his foot speed is what kept him off the team’s penalty kill, however, he uses his body and good positioning to close the lane.

I would like to see the same effort on the backcheck as he exhibits on the forecheck, as he works the front and back of the net very well. All in all a very adept forward on the cycle who’s ceiling may be bottom 6, but has the tools to get him there.”

Slated to go 139th overall in the sixth round of this draft, Giles is committed to Boston College for next season.