An interesting conundrum has faced prospect writers and analysts this season in regards to the upcoming National Hockey League draft. The primary cause for debate is the absence of projected first overall selection Nolan Patrick from the Brandon Wheat Kings’ lineup for much of this season. In somewhat similar circumstances a season ago, 2016 draft prospect Tyler Benson saw his absence crater his value in the eyes of scouts. He missed much of the 2015-16 season due to injury and ended up going 32nd overall to the Edmonton Oilers.
As for Patrick, there are a few reasons why his draft stock shouldn’t be expected to drop in the same way that Benson’s did last season.
Benson debuted in the Western Hockey League with the Vancouver Giants in 2013-14, playing in seven games as a 16-year-old. By the time he was entering his NHL Draft year, he had appeared in just 69 WHL regular season or playoff games – a product of some injuries and the Giants not being terribly great without him. Being limited to just 30 WHL games in his draft year left too few games for him to make an impression on scouts.
On the other hand, Patrick has already played a ton of hockey. Debuting in the WHL in 2013-14, his 15-year-old season, he had the benefit of playing a lot of games for a good team and staying fairly healthy throughout. By the time he entered his draft year, he had appeared in 182 junior contests. That’s a ton of chances for scouts to evaluate him, particularly during two lengthy WHL playoff runs (including a trip to the Memorial Cup).
So Patrick had played a lot more hockey by the time he hit his 18-year-old season. But was he better? If you judge it entirely by his points production, the short answer is “yes.”
Benson had 45 points in 69 regular season games, for a 0.652 points per game scoring rate. Patrick had 159 points in 130 regular season games (a 1.223 points per game rate) and 46 points in 52 WHL and Memorial Cup playoff games (a 0.885 points per game rate). In other words, Patrick has played more than Benson had and has scored a bunch more.
Not Terribly Similar
Patrick and Benson entered the WHL with an impressive amount of fanfare. However, from there, their experiences diverged rather significantly. Patrick was a prominent player on one of the Dub’s most prominent and successful teams, while Benson hadn’t quite had the impact that his counterpart had by the time his draft year came around.
Based on all of this, even if Patrick misses a bit more time due to injury, don’t expect his draft stock to suffer much.