Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Cooper Marody Approachin'

A lot of positive stories came out of preseason this year.

Jesse Puljujarvi scored incredible goals; Tyler Benson was one of the best passers in the entire group; McLeod skated entirely longer than his odds were; Caleb Jones outplayed many veterans; Ty Rattie torched every goalie he came across.

I'm probably missing a couple, and Cooper Marody's audition is one.

March 21, 2018

Let's rewind to time of arrival here.

This was a player whose only red flags (among those I subscribe to) were initial draft position, and acquisition price.

There's the question of why a player with his draft season was selected after in the 6th round when his production was much more similar to those taken in the 2nd, any further down and you stop finding players with clearly superior seasons outside of over-agers and risky items like Kirill Kaprizov.

Here are some scoring forwards taken in the USHL that year that have arrived (to varying degrees) in the NHL:

(all data via

#17 - Kyle Connor / / 0.71 5v5 pts/game

Connor drove a PP unit and cashed 25 5v4 points that year, that's why he's the highest drafted without being the biggest 5v5 producer. He had holy-shit skill that wowed scouts and has developed into a top line 5v5 scorer in his own right, though it's tough to get a read on passenger-driver status because he played 800 of his minutes last year with Blake Wheeler and that was almost all with Mark Scheifele as well, because that's what good teams do with their skilled rookies.

#21 - Colin White / / 0.65 5v5 pts/game

This is one of many 2015 first round picks that will be brought up by their respective fanbases for quite some time. As with any ridiculous draft class such as this, there were teams that travelled curiously away from superior offensive players on a day that they were unusually easy to find. A google search comes up with many red flags, Colin White was an "all-around forward, captain material" via Dobberprospects. Run away.

#23 - Brock Boeser / / 0.60 5v5 pts/game

Boeser's another strong powerplay performer, nine goals and 24 points 5v4. Between him, Pettersson, and to a much lesser degree Gaudette, someone on Vancouver knows exactly whose shots are highly translatable to higher leagues, and they acquired this talent sometime after the 2014 draft.

#25 - Jack Roslovic / / 1.20 5v5 pts/game

I really, really believe in this player. He played on a filthy line with 16-year old Matt Tkachuk and Auston Matthews, which likely inflated his 5v5 totals. However, none of these players were particularly strong 5v4 via totals and I'd have to investigate further into what was going on there in order to say anything with confidence about the situation. Roslovic has taken his 5v5 ability to higher ranks with well over 2.00 primary points per 60 in the AHL last year and has such rates in the NHL in small samples so long as he skates with good players. There are a lot of forwards in this draft who have received miles more opportunity but have less ability than Roslovic.

#32 - Christian Fischer / / 0.84 5v5 pts/game

Fischer's a big, 15 goal scoring two way forward who has already arrived in the NHL after a 47-pt season in the AHL at age 20. If Cooper Marody puts up Fischer's 2017-18 pace (~0.8 pts/game) in the AHL this year, I think you bring him up at the deadline at the latest because we're looking at an NHL player.

#158 - Cooper Marody / / 0.73 5v5 pts/game

Here's the heart of it, what's the biggest difference between this player and those above? Solely draft number. I can't find skating or attitude problems on record. In fact, that's not much at all on record circa 2015.

Post-Draft Production Curve

Most of the time what's more important than draft day offense is the years following, so let's take our group through this time period. Very, very fortunately, all of the players' birthdays cluster quite well for these purposes - Marody and Connor in December '96, Roslovic and White in January '97, Boeser in the February following and Fischer in April.

Shortly, NHLe is an attempt to identify how many NHL points a player outside of the NHL would score based on how much they scored in any given league. We're using it here to level the playing field between players who played different leagues that are easier or harder in to score. 

Almost all of these players went to college post-draft; I'm going to use Rob Vollman's latest NHLe from May 2017 as his set differentiates between the NCAA leagues, they're here in entirety.

As an aside, something I have a strong suspicion of in the NCAA ranks is that forward teammates and strength of team in general are even more influential than normal. It's something that I want to immediately investigate as soon as more data is available, like TOI. I think that lines are blended the least of any North-American hockey setting in college, roles are more concrete, and that that is the largest but not sole factor in this effect. I will reference linemates and role often in the following exercise. This is something that's rather unique (as far as I'm aware, and perhaps only to the degree I believe it_ to my own evaluations and you're free to stick to the more empirical parts of the following.

Draft +1

Kyle Connor - 50.4 NHLe / / 71 pts in 38 GP, University of Michigan, Big-10

  • This is honestly outrageous and, if I had access to the data I'd wager powerplay sorcery was a large boost in the boxcars for this player. Winnipeg thought, as I would, that they had an NHL player in the following season but it appears they didn't have a role for him as he put up just 5 points in 20 games in the majors the next year, but torched the AHL as a rookie for 25 goals.
  • His team was ridiculous, and he played on a line with two more future NHLers, Compher and Motte. Zack Werenski was also on the team, and with that cast of characters I think we can pick out the PP1 unit.

Brock Boeser - 50.4 NHLe / / 60 pts in 42 GP, University of North Dakota, NCHC

  • The second utterly ridiculous freshman year, the second one that screams "top line/1PP NHLer'. Quite surprised Vancouver didn't move him to Utica after his freshman year, but that may have been a collaborative decision. Perhaps they wanted to see him away from a 32-win team.
  • Here we have the second NCHC player (the league with the highest equivalency) and, if you were following the Caggiula sweepstakes - a hilarious auction to look back on - you know all about the Boeser-Caggiula-Schmaltz line. Drake was +46 this year. Completely nuts, and I'll repeat my powerplay suspicion as added to this trio was Troy Stecher, who quarterbacked an NHL powerplay the very next fall. Even higher quality than Connor's line given Schmaltz became a top-six forward in the majors in short order.

Colin White - 36.2 NHLe / / 43 pts in 37 GP, Boston College, H-East

  • Surprise! It's Colin White. As he's the least productive in terms of both full career and NHL body of work thus far, his year represents a reinforcement of my suspicions about college hockey. 
  • White played on the top line of a 28-7-5 BC team with two NHL-drafted players born in fall '94. That being said, when you draft an offensively-shy two-way forward with phrases like 'captain material' thrown around, this kind of production spike at this time is very important for the prospect's chances.

Christian Fischer - 33.5 NHLe / / 90 pts in 66 GP, Windsor Spitfires, OHL

  • This is the only non-NCAA player, I thought about removing him because of it. He stays because I already dug up the data. This is a necessary production rate for a player selected high going back to junior, and a 40-50-90 season is a torching that checks the box but doesn't quite put him ahead of his peers.
  • I'd need TOI data on this, but I'm close to saying the player should have scored even more if we were looking at an offensive, top-six forward here. Rocky Thompson is a great offensive technician, and this was a strong team with high draft picks and a defenceman that was a couple years removed from a 40-point NHL rookie debut on a deadly Lightning powerplay. The reason the TOI is important is because the team could possibly have been so stacked that Fischer actually got less ice-time than perhaps a weaker team would have given him if they had to lean on one good line.

Jack Roslovic - 25.4 NHLe / / 26 pts in 36 GP, University of Miami, NCHC

  • This is a third tier, away from the two 'sure top-liner' and the 'top-six potential' onto more of just an 'NHL prospect' type production. This is around the floor for what you want to see from a drafted prospect, and the type of freshman year a non-drafted guy needs to have in order for me to have confidence in signing him as a skill forward free-agent after his senior year.
  • Like clockwork, this is by far the worst team we've looked at. A 15-18-3 record, Roslovic tied for the team lead in points, and the highest point total for a defenceman (a powerplay clue) was 19 year-old 3rd rounder Belpedio, who put up less than 20 points in all but one of his NCAA seasons. Given that Roslovic has the third best career so far when we look at present day (and the third highest NHL-potential, in my opinion and many others) this is a strong point for team-strength and linemates affecting NCAA season totals heavily.
Cooper Marody - 20.3 NHLe / / 24 in 32 GP, University of Michigan, Big-10

  • Here's some possible scout's vindication - the player who was right in the cohort in 5v5 production, falls (short of proportionately) down closer to his draft number, away from the 1st and 2nd rounders.
  • But, he had a much lesser role than any of the rest of the cohort. Six forwards scored ahead of him on the team (a tell), and this was Kyle Connor's team, remember. He still handily outscored the next 18 year old behind him, and above were forwards all his senior. In investigating his role in his freshman year, I also found another whisper about his draft-day fall in the draft in this piece. For those that don't know, players' whose knock is 'strength' or a lack of 'hard-nosed' play are my favourite acquisition targets. This could also be the reason the coach wasn't fond of the player in spite of puck skills and skating ability.

Draft +2

Brock Boeser - 37.5 NHLe / / 34 pts in 32 GP, University of North Dakota, NCHC

  • Boeser's team went from 32-6-4 to 21-16-3, his linemates were instead 18 year-old Tyson Jost and 20 year-old Shane Gersich, the powerplay defenceman Tucker Poolman who's not yet gotten an opportunity in the NHL to run one, unlike Troy Stecher of the year before. You're looking at a massive decrease in production by a player who would score 29 goals in the NHL the next year. 

Kyle Connor - 32.6 NHLe / / 44 pts in 52 games, Manitoba Moose, AHL

  • If you're 20 and you're a top line forward on an AHL team and on the first unit power-play on merit, you'll be in the NHL within 2 years, or it's overwhelmingly likely to become so. Still, note the jump back in production. This wasn't a playoff club, and Connor played with Roslovic on a line with a player who's last season was played primarily in the ECHL.

Christian Fischer - 31.8 NHLe / / 47 pts in 57 games, Tucson Roadrunners, AHL

  • Here we've got a successful CHL to AHL transition,  Fischer played top line minutes with a veteran player who can score well (they haven't done that in Bakersfield, as I detailed in my last article), Fischer scored well at evens (1.71 primary points per hour) and what we're looking at for him is his last season outside of the NHL that he'll have for quite some time. His arrival is actually on the earlier side, 88 NHL games on record to the leader Connor's 98. 

Colin White - 29.4 NHLe / / 33 pts in 35 games, Boston College, H-East, AHL

  • Here's the third straight heavy regression in second season NCAA players due to line-mate and team-strength downgrades. I should note, if you're surprised I'm surprised these things affect production, that it's not simply a straight across adjustment here. NHL-bound players take leaps every summer and are completely different players year-to-year. It's not just a 20-point drop, it's a 40-point drop as the player is 20 points more potent offensively every year, as a rough example. These are players who we know have made the NHL, some of them stars. In every other league prospects like this rocket up each year without fail. This is why I'm convinced something is up with college hockey and I'm choked I don't have the data for it, to be honest with you.

Jack Roslovic - 28.4 NHLe / / 48 pts in 65 games, Manitoba Moose, AHL

  • Jack again, everything that applied to Connor applies to him here. Weak team, bad line-mate, young line-mate, men's league. Roslovic was a little less efficient on the power-play and a little less efficient 5-on-5. He also got almost 3 less minutes 5v5, estimated by prospect-stats, indicating a shelter-job. They also had an option to send him to the CHL, but chose not to. Worked out.

Cooper Marody -22.5 NHLe / / 15 pts in 18 games, University of Michigan, Big-Ten

  • This is the mono year. Cooper again trails the cohort, but the disease is a bitch. The most famous example recently in the draft was Timothy Liljegren, who should have shredded the SuperElit if he kept up his development curve, but he actually scored very poorly in the games he played. If we apply that timeline to Cooper here, going a little shy of point-per-game is just fine. However, there's still solid separation from the group since draft day.

Draft +3

(Boeser, Connor and Fischer all made their teams and blossomed into full-time NHLers out of camp)

Jack Roslovic - 42.1 NHLe / / 35 pts in 32 games, Manitoba Moose, AHL

  • Exactly the kind of blossoming you want out of a skilled player, and a confirmation of sorts on the decision to send him to the AHL instead of the CHL the year before. Led his team in points-per-game, scored a ton at evens, earned an NHL spot and his production translated directly. An NHL player.

Cooper Marody - 34.5  NHLe / / 51 pts in 40 games, University of Michigan, Big-Ten

  • The redemption year, Cooper Marody led a team that was about on the level as Boeser's Draft+2 squ, and one that he drove the top line by himself (alongside two undrafted, poor offensive players). Apparently improved his skating, and by my viewings he's a capable carrier and distributor and as mentioned above, has excellent processing. Consider that he lost a year in development, and still delivered about where the cohort did in their actual second years and is right there with any of the non-elite team/line years. His advanced age advantage is pulled down by lost development, and a team that would be nothing special without him, making this an impressive year and one that's necessary to appear an NHL prospect and player.

Colin White - 22.1 NHLe / / 27 pts in 47 games,  Belleville Senators, AHL

  • This was a poor AHL team, but a poor showing among them. 9th in estimated ice-time, but 8th in points-per-hour as well. Overtaken by the Senators' 2nd round pick in the same draft, Filip Chlapik. They were both promoted post deadline, and didn't produce much in totals so - just as I did for their AHL numbers - I checked their rates, and found that Chlapik was replacement level and White was actually a 3rd liner on merit. The key takeaway here is that even the bottom of this cohort is in the NHL as a top-nine player.

There we have it, it takes a little bit of excuse-making contextualisation, but Cooper Marody's numbers hang well with the middle of the pack of USHL forwards who scored like him 5v5 in 2014-15. I promise that despite my immense talents in homeristic rationalisation, I didn't need to flex those muscles that much to get Marody's body of work there. He did have mono. He did have a poor team and role prior to his explosion last year, and we saw the scope of that effect on the other college players, even players who went on to be elite NHLers.

And now, for your viewing pleasure

I've been capturing Condors video for the past few days, and thought I'd pluck a couple clips to try to briefly address my favourite thing, often fraudulent and compulsory always completely legit concerns about a drafted prospect's strength and effectiveness in battles.

This is the knock I found on Marody, and it may already be outdated because there was talk of an inability to put on weight (during the mono period?) and his being 160 lbs, which by listing he's now a healthy 190.

Anyways, there's little track on this player in the defensive zone, even after the second game (the first obviously entirely too dominant to produce much film on DZ activity) and from what I've seen, misreads are the only real problem with the player in terms of play without the puck and along the boards he's fine physically. He's playing the middle of the ice sometimes and taking faceoffs, too, but sometimes Vesel is down low so there's opportunity for physicality against the point man pinching. Here's a couple quick examples, Cooper on the red X:

The first marked play is one where, if a player's weak on their skates they get beat immediately there. Doesn't happen, he loses positioning only after Keegan Lowe takes too long to support the puck.

Second play features strength carrying the puck, and a peek at the players' offensive instincts.

The thing with physical plays is that, unlike with skill plays, frequency is much more readable by each individual event. What I mean by that is, a player who scores 15 goals a year in the NHL will once in a while score a highlight reel goal, one that if you've only seen that play you'd think the player were a star, or at least a scorer. But with physical plays, you can see parts of plays where they do or don't get beat and extrapolate how often they get beat with some accuracy.

For example, if you watch Leon Draisaitl protect the puck a couple times, you can make a bet that he doesn't get shoved around too often and you'd be right. If you observed a player that's weak on their skates get toppled without even being off-balance, or watched a player get shrugged off by a stronger specimen, you can bet on a repeat performance. You can also very easily identify player-type by a player who shys away from physical contact - very few are allowed to do that and still get ice-time.

Keep that in mind when we're observing these small snippets of physical play - if Marody was easily beat, he'd look much more contestable here. It's not black and white, but the effect is real.

The first portion is important, because it gives you a sense of where Marody's feet are at, and how hard it is to pin him down in the first place. He accelerates quickly. Later in the same clip, he engages net-front.

A contest along the boards helps stimulate a breakout, and I didn't cut the clip in time because I wanted to leave in that nice one-touch play to move the puck in the neutral zone. I need more games for a project on this, but if called up Marody would really help in this area, just in case the Oilers decide to start trying carry the puck across either blueline without McDavid on the ice.

Next is another engagement that despite its effectiveness the play goes the other way.

Third is stick on the ice test, you might draw a penalty there if you go down but it shouldn't be Plan A. Note the effortless pass while taking the hit to make the play.

No rush, unless...

So, what did we establish here?

For one, Marody's production curve is both anomalous among the early-arrivers from the USHL's 2015 draft crop, but role and context away from staying in the pack, and, given the excellent junior year number (and along with it the role and context) Cooper's caught up pretty well. He scores and has been scoring at basically the rate that a Roslovic or a White or a Fischer has, and if he continues his point-per-game pace with the Condors it's just additional confirmation. In terms of offensive players, at this point he is the first and only call-up option and could improve the team today.

For two, the issues on draft day have been rectified, and skating has become even more of a strength. This isn't a player who hurts you in any area, at least from where we're standing now. He can engage physically, and has boots of separation if he wins the puck. Most notably, from my viewings, is his carrying and distributing and neither of these abilities are hindered by physical weaknesses.

Cooper Marody is the rare player who could be in the NHL today but is in the AHL - even rarer for the organisation who has his contract. It may be injury when we see him, but he can upgrade the roster in its current iteration so long as the bottom-six bleeds goals. Need more NHL games to assess the team's needs, and more AHL games to be sure of the players' offense at the professional level - but this was about as good a trade as the genre of fast-tracking will give you in the modern NHL; the player's got a decent shot of being in the top-9 on merit very soon.

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