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Stutzle the class of 2020 draft

Tim Stutzle Ottawa Senators Tim Stutzle - Getty Images

Watching a frenetic Tuesday night affair between the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers, I was left with one takeaway: re-drafting the NHL class of 2020 would see forward Tim Stutzle go first overall. There is no debate.

There is a book (perhaps many books) to be written about the stunning divergence in quality between Ottawa’s amateur and pro scouting over the years, but the biggest feather-in-the-cap moment for Pierre Dorion’s front office was nabbing Stutzle at third overall in 2020.

Since entering the league, Stutzle has looked every bit the part of a dynamic first-line forward, and his development remains on an upward trajectory.

What you want to see from a player early in his career is precisely what we are seeing with Stutzle – a player who is increasingly trusted to carry heavier workloads, and who is responding by producing more in those minutes. It’s a perfect feedback loop and usually the first indicator a player is transitioning well into the NHL ranks.

Scoring is just one element in hockey, but it is an important one for forwards. In relation to some of the other players taken from the same draft class, Stutzle has been by far the most productive offensively, and it’s not particularly close:

The second area where you want to see outperformance with a young player is in the on-ice numbers. In the case of Ottawa, that type of analysis gets difficult. This is a team that has had notorious goaltending difficulty over the course of Stutzle’s young career – in fact, over Stutzle’s 210 games, Ottawa’s netminders are stopping a woeful 89.4 per cent of shots.

Even in that context, consider this: The Senators over the same three-year horizon are just 13 goals underwater with Stutzle on the ice, and that number shrinks to one when removing his rookie season from the equation. Keep that goaltending on the ice and remove Stutzle, and you have a team that’s 50 goals underwater.

That divergence is staggering and indicative of Stutzle’s relative outperformance. It’s also a hallmark sign of a player who can reliably outperform, independent of how strong or weak the environment is around him.

To that end, a tangentially interesting question: What would a re-draft of the top of the 2020 draft class look like?

Also on Tuesday night, you may have caught Los Angeles Kings’ forward Quinton Byfield score on a Herculean individual effort – the second-overall pick from that year who has also produced at a breathtaking rate this season.

A reader then poked me to re-draft the rest of the group, which frankly is a much more difficult exercise than finding the real daylight between Stutzle and the rest of the class.

So, what would a top 10 re-draft look like? One of the tricky things about re-drafting just a few years after actual selections is there is still quite a bit of ambiguity – neither transition timelines nor individual development is linear for players, and we already know young forwards have an easier time transitioning to the league than their defensive or goaltending counterparts. So, yes, this is still a nuanced conversation.

What we can do is use a single unit of measure to attempt a comparison across players in many different environments and playing different positions. My preference is Goals Above Replacement, which measures a player’s impact along six key components: even-strength offence and defence, power-play offence, shorthanded defence, penalties taken, and penalties drawn.

What does it say about the 2020 class? It says at least eight players have been high-end performers at this point in their career. It also says that Stutzle’s biggest competition may be in the form of Carolina forward Seth Jarvis:

While it is true that Jarvis’ and Stutzle’s situations could not be further from one another, you cannot dismiss Jarvis’ play merely because he’s on a great team.

I would argue that Carolina has been a great team for many years because of their young players, and Jarvis has been that good. Regularly playing alongside Sebastian Aho, the Hurricanes have been 36 goals better than the opposition when Jarvis is on the ice over a three-year horizon. That’s a remarkable achievement for a player who just turned 22 years old.

A re-draft another three years from today may suggest something differently — it does look like a two-horse race right now, but Minnesota Wild defenceman Brock Faber’s breakout season will keep us asking questions.

Although Jarvis has been full-value in Carolina, the individual skill set and offensive production realized from Stutzle amidst a very difficult playing environment makes a strong case for him being the best player out of this class.

Data via Natural Stat Trick,, Evolving Hockey, Hockey Reference