It’s been almost a couple of weeks since the draft, and there is little question that it went remarkably well for the Maple Leafs. From the first round right through to the seventh there wasn’t a shortage of players drafted with the potential to be a high end player for Toronto.
The one pick that seemed to leave many fans wanting was the 34th overall pick of Travis Dermott. The Leafs traded down twice, stockpiling assets along the way, but the moves always carried with them the guarantee that someone like Jansen Harkins, Daniel Sprong, or Oliver Kylington would still be available when the Leafs came to pick. All three were available when the pick was made, and with the Dermott decision came a couple of questions.
1. Why trade down twice then seemingly reach for a player instead of trading down further?
2. Are Dermott’s offensive numbers a product of the significant ice time Travis would see with McDavid?
The first question is easily dismissed through looking at how significantly different everyone seemed to rank this draft. McKeens and Future Considerations certainly had Dermott exactly in the rang where he went, but others like Corey Pronman of ESPN had him significantly lower in his rankings. It’s entirely possible the Leafs brass chose to go with the kid they would have seen more of and understand that 34th overall was perfectly reasonable for Dermott.
The larger question is whether or not Dermott’s numbers are attributed to playing with Connor McDavid, and the answer there is no. Looking at the November to January window where McDavid was out of the lineup due to his hand injury and World Junior commitment Dermott’s numbers actually improved. Granted, he still has Dylan Strome on his team, but since Strome doesn’t have the “generational talent” label attached to him we can just consider him a regular part of a good OHL team.
It’s safe to say that McDavid was probably didn’t hinder the offence of Dermott, but at least we know that there isn’t any significant drop off when McDavid was out. Of course, Dylan Strome is also very good, and with Dermott being the top minute guy on Erie’s defense (23.86 minutes according to CHLstats.com estimated time on ice) Strome would have been on the ice with Dermott as well.
For the sake of argument I pulled some of Travis Dermott’s other numbers from CHLstats and looked at how he compares to the other 17 year olds in the OHL last season, and offensively he is still very much near the top. Rasmus Andersson, Vince Dunn, Thomas Schemitsch and Mitchell Vande Sompel are the only players who regularly created more offence, and in the case of Vande Sompel he benefited from significant time as a forward.
These numbers are pretty solid when you consider that Travis Dermott is more of a two way defender than some of the other players at the top of the list, and his well rounded game may have given him the edge over other draft eligibles.
He’s a two-way defenseman but his value is tiled more toward offense. He rarely forces plays, and makes good outlets under pressure. He’s slightly undersized, but Dermott does battle hard for pucks and shows fine defensive IQ. Overall, his defensive-zone play projects to be about average as a pro, although he’s been solid in that area as an OHLer.
Admittedly I was one of the naysayers on Dermott prior to the draft and he didn’t rank in the second round for me. I could easily produce five names I was more excited about at 34, but given the trust earned by Hunter, Dubas & Co. through the rest of the draft, and gaining a better understanding of the numbers behind Dermott, I would now consider him a prospect very much worth being excited about. The Prospect Cohort Success Model would seemingly agree with that assessment, as Dermott is given an impressive 31.25% chance of reaching 200 NHL games, and the NHL ppg of his comparables are .31 and they include Kevin Klein, Cam Fowler, Drew Doughty, along with former Leafs Carlo Colaiacovo, Tim Gleason, and Todd Gill. At this stage I’m not willing to believe the Leafs have the next Drew Doughty or even the next Cam Fowler on the hands, but the thought that Dermott could be a solid second pairing defender is a very good use of a second round pick.