Just like that, it was over for Boston University. They were eliminated by the second-seed St. Cloud State in the NCAA Frozen Four tournament, which ended their season, and ultimately, the college hockey careers of the senior class. Included in that class was the Nashville Predators‘ third-round draft pick, defenseman David Farrance, and the pressure mounted for the Predators’ front office to sign him. Cole Caufield, the now-former Wisconsin forward and Montreal Canadiens’ 15th-overall 2019 draft pick, inked his contract on March 27.
Predators general manager David Poile hoped to sign the young defenseman while avoiding another Jimmy Vesey debacle, which fans did not want to re-live. Long story short, the organization signed Farrance to a two-year, entry-level contract.
Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the team has signed defenseman David Farrance to a two-year, entry-level contract.https://t.co/0PqDbxd9eX— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) March 28, 2021
Farrance’s resume speaks for itself. He was nominated for the Hobey Baker award twice in consecutive years. Despite the shortened season, he posted 16 points in 11 games, including five goals. Last season was more of the same, notching 43 points in 34 games, which was the most by a BU defenseman in the Hockey East era (1984 to present). He was at an impressive 1.26 points-per-game average, which was the highest of any Hockey East defenseman in the last 25 years. He also led NCAA defensemen in goals and points. The fact that he was a third-round pick is mind-boggling.
What makes Farrance unique? After scouring the internet for replays of BU’s games and his highlights, I’ve been able to break down some of his strengths and weaknesses and where he can use those tools effectively on the Preds’ stacked blue line.
Farrance’s skating is arguably the strongest part of his game, especially on offense. When his feet get moving, he is one of the hardest defensemen to stop in transition. While he isn’t an exceptionally fast skater, he uses every inch in front of him along with quick crossovers to create a strong and possession-oriented breakout. A special thanks to Eric D from On The Forecheck (who also wrote a great article on Farrance that uses tracked data to illustrate his points) for some of the clips in this article. He’s a far better scout than I am, so be sure to check out his piece as well.
We can see Farrance’s skating prowess on the defensive zone breakout. He is a fantastic power-play quarterback, which means he uses his feet to open up space both in transition and in the offensive zone. This transition on the power play is eye-candy for anyone scouting for an offensively inclined defenseman. Farrance wears #4 in all of the clips.
In the clip above, Farrance picks up the puck with relative ease and skates up the ice. His crossovers are strong, and his feet are well placed for the next stride. He has an excellent habit of keeping his head up on the rush, and very rarely will you see him looking down at the puck to stickhandle. As I alluded to earlier, Farrance uses every inch of space that the defense gives him, whether on the power play or at even strength.
The last part of this clip is what the Predators should be most excited about: a possession entry with a pass to the high slot. Everyone knows that Roman Josi is a possession monster who’s in a league of his own when moving the puck up the ice. However, the Predators don’t have another dominant transition defenseman in their ranks. Adding a player like Farrance, who looks to the slot immediately after penetrating the offensive zone, will make Nashville’s power play all the more dangerous. A Farrance to Eeli Tolvanen connection in the zone after a strong transition? Yes, please.
Despite that teammate – and Predators fifth-round pick – Patrick Harper does most of the work in this clip, Farrance demonstrates excellent strength with the puck, as he retrieves it on the lower boards. While continuously moving his feet, he carries the puck past a teammate to the top of the zone in a curling motion. He then shields off the defender after a push and drops it to Harper, who scores after some excellent skating. Farrance’s strength on his feet is demonstrated through solid edgework and crossovers in the transition or while protecting the puck in the offensive zone from opposing players. He can use these tools efficiently to aid an anemic forward core when it comes to high-danger chances.
Another reasonably strong aspect of Farrance’s offensive game that slips under the radar is his shot. While it’s not deceptive like Auston Matthews’ or have the raw power of Shea Weber’s, Farrance’s shot is still highly effective. It helps that quarterbacking the power play is one of his specialties, and his ability to locate the space at the top and sides of the offensive zone is in the upper echelon. In the clip below, Farrance makes a smooth pass to the winger, who then feeds it back across to the left side. The winger on the left side then feeds it up to Farrance, who blasts the puck past the goaltender.
One thing that stands out about his work from the point, especially on the power play, is his ability to get shots on net. A small yet critical piece of the Predators’ power play, in addition to having a sniper worthy of the Calder Trophy, is Josi’s ability to get shots through to the net. This is essential considering Nashville’s overreliance on point shots through traffic.
The special teams weren’t the same when PK Subban and his blistering slap shot were traded to the New Jersey Devils. The Preds still miss his ability to get shots on net with the man advantage. Farrance, like Subban and Josi to an extent, gets pucks through really well with his slapshot or deceptive wrist shot, like this one:
Farrance slowly moves over towards the puck, receives it, rotates on his inside edges, and fires a shot top-shelf past the goalie. Not only is this a great example of his deceptive shot, but it also showcases the technical skating maneuvers he uses to open up space. His keen ability to find lanes and place the pluck in precise points is impressive and will be beneficial in the future when he becomes Nashville’s second power-play quarterback.
Vision might be one of the most underrated aspects of any player’s game. Farrance has often demonstrated his high-end vision both in transition and within the offensive zone. His ability to control the power play through smart and crisp passes and his knack for noticing or foreseeing gradually opening lanes is a valuable asset for every offensive defenseman.
In the clip below, Farrance does a great job of anticipating the play and moving the puck to the rushing forward. He breaks the puck out of the zone after receiving a pass, keeps his head up, and slides the puck gracefully to an area out in front for the forward to cleanly pick it up.
Here’s another example of Farrance combining his skating skills and vision to work for an open lane in the offensive zone and then using his quick yet strong release to score.
Farrance’s vision is one of his strong points, which boosts his already impressive offensive skill set and provides him more opportunities for deployment. It also helps push young inexperienced defensemen over the top of the mountain to securing a roster spot relatively fast. Farrance can maintain control of the puck at such a high level that it will propel him up the lineup when the time comes.
By now, it’s clear that Farrance is a gifted player offensively. But, no player is perfect. It wouldn’t be an accurate analysis if I didn’t cover his flaws as well: his defense. Not every defenseman will be Jonas Brodin or Victor Hedman in their own end. Does that excuse consistently poor defensive play? No, but for a player like Farrance, it’s not his main priority but nor his defensive play egregiously terrible.
In the play below, Farrance smoothly rushes up the ice, breaks into the zone with possession but turns the puck over, which results in a rush the other way. He seems a bit slow to get back, but they are on the power play, and he has support, so it’s forgivable here. When he moves to the front of the net, he doesn’t put his body in a favorable position. Instead, he reaches for the puck with his stick on the cross-ice pass.
Like most defensemen, Farrance is much better when he’s imposing his will on his opponent rather than the opposite. His decision-making is sometimes puzzling. He can be inconsistent when defending the rush and appears to struggle when pinching up on the attacker or sitting back to maintain the gap. Sometimes he makes the right decision but other times he doesn’t. I’ve noticed that he can get caught reaching instead of playing the body. It happened in the clip above, and it happens in this clip as well.
Rather than forcing his body on the opponent, Farrance opts to reach his stick out and try a wraparound stick-check. It was ineffective as the UMass forward got a high-danger chance. The following clip is the same thing but a better representation of Farrance’s occasional lack of awareness in the defensive zone. After taking a hit on the corner boards, he returns to the front of the net momentarily before putting himself out of position, which allows an initial high-danger chance, and ultimately, a rebound goal. It’s another instance when Farrance is methodical when attacking the player with the puck, and instead of forcing his 6-foot-2 frame on the player, he reaches out with his stick to block the shot.
These clips are a microcosm of Farrance’s issues defensively on the rush and in his own zone. The positive? They are teachable aspects of the game. A head coach like Karl Taylor in Chicago, who emphasizes working on a player’s all-around game rather than solely their strengths, could benefit Farrance’s development if he is sent to the Wolves in the AHL for some work. He is now on the taxi squad, which should provide invaluable experience for the young defenseman being around NHLers every day. He might also get some reps with the big boys assuming the injury bug continues to bite the Predators. For now, though, there are still some genuine concerns with his defensive play, especially his decision-making.
As we wind down, I’d like to note that scouting is hard, and those who do it for a living are both extremely lucky and very skilled at what they do. Until now, I didn’t really appreciate the work that analysts and writers like Eric D or Scott Wheeler and Corey Pronman from The Athletic do. So, be sure to give them and other scouts that you enjoy reading some love and appreciation.
I’m excited to offer this piece to fans interested in prospects and the future of the Predators. Farrance is a bright spot. His offensive upside is worth watching. Space is the key that unlocks all doors, and he uses every inch of it to maximize his offensive production. The struggles defensively are mostly issues that can be coached. The one thing that concerns me is Farrance’s decision-making, but that should improve with experience. The Predators now have a dynamic and supremely talented offensive defenseman to add to their ranks. Nashville’s already star-studded blue line is about to get much more dangerous.