Nothing divides Leafs fans more than a player without much offensive upside. Today in the latest edition of our First Round Targets series we will look at such a player, profiling the polarizing Brandon Carlo, an American-born defenseman playing for the Tri-City Americans of the WHL.
THE NUMBERS TEST
The best number Brandon Carlo has is his 6″5′ height. Say what you want about how teams often overestimate the importance of size as opposed to skill when it comes to evaluating players, but as our good friends at Canucks Army have shown, size does mater.
As for his point totals, Carlo’s numbers are fairly underwhelming. With just 25 points in 63 games for Tri-City this past season, Carlo’s 0.40 points per game clip puts him in the bottom third among other top draft-eligible CHL defensemen.
Carlo also got the opportunity to play for Team USA at this year’s World Juniors, and despite putting up no goals and just 1 assist in 5 games, the tournament was something of a coming-out party for him because of how he played in his own end.
As far as the projection tools go, The Projection Project says Carlo has a 23% chance of becoming an NHL defenseman. Interestingly enough, most of Carlo’s historical comparables ended up being pretty good players. 18 of the 59 ended up becoming first-pairing players, with an additional 21 of the 59 players being second-pairing players. Some of the names that compare to Carlo using this tool are Brooks Orpik, Ron Hainsey, and Kurtis Foster.
The PCS% tool says Carlo has a 26.92% chance of playing at least 200 NHL games, with the point per game totals of his NHL comparables coming out to 0.16, which equates to 13.12 points over an 82 game NHL season. Some of the names that compared to Carlo using this tool include Brenden Dillon, Keaton Ellerby, and Justin Falk.
THE EYE TEST
The numbers aren’t too flattering for Carlo, but I do think he has some pretty good potential.
Carlo plays much like you would expect out of someone who doesn’t have great point totals and is 6″5′. He’s got exceptional one-on-one ability as a defender and does a great job closing the gap on opposing players. Negating controlled zone entries is one of his big strengths. He’s also really good as far as defensive zone awareness is concerned. He’s a decent puck-mover and has a decent wrist shot, but driving offensive play isn’t his strong suit. When his team is set up in the offensive zone, he usually stays pinned to the blueline, always concerned about the play coming back the other way. He’s a real stay-at-home defenseman and would be best suited playing alongside a more offensively skilled player because driving offensive play isn’t a strength of his game.
Here’s a good video that gives you a better idea of how Carlo plays the game:
He reminds me of players like Marc Staal, Braydon Coburn, and Roman Polak. I think he projects reasonably well as an average or below-average second-pairing defenseman in the NHL.
DOES HE MAKE THE LEAFS SHORTLIST?
Based on some of his numbers and his style of play, most people would automatically say no. But there is value in having a player that excels in the defensive part of the game (I say “defensive” in the most old-school of ways). Given the Leafs’ emphasis on skill and on using underlying numbers to help make decisions, the Leafs drafting Carlo seems unlikely. But if they were to take him, even though most people would probably be pretty upset, I would be okay with the move. I like Carlo. His upside isn’t huge, but he’s a pretty safe pick and he passes the eye test nicely. He probably wouldn’t be my first choice at 24, but I would be fine with the Leafs picking him.
One last note: unlike the other players that we’ve covered in this series so far (Nick Merkley, Travis Konecny, and Thomas Chabot…links below), Carlo actually has a pretty solid chance of being available to the Leafs at 24th overall. It would be a bit of a surprise if players like Merkley, Konecny, and Chabot ultimately fell all the way down to the Leafs, but Carlo is ranked 21st by ISS and McKeen’s, 22nd by Hockey Prospect, and 25th by NHL Central Scouting (among North American skaters). So Carlo is right in the Leafs’ range, and is a realistic consideration for the team with Nashville’s pick.
Other First Round Targets: