It is amazing how quickly opinions can change on a prospect. Just last summer, many fans were excited for the Winnipeg Jets addition of Brenden Kichton.
The right-handed shot defender offensive defender was drafted by the Jets in 2013 as a 20-year-old and re-draft entry after the New York Islanders failed to sign Kicthon to an entry level contract. Kichton went on to dominating the AHL, scoring most assists by a rookie and earning All-Rookie Team and All-Star Team nods.
Last year though the St. John’s IceCaps struggled, and with it went the opinions on many of the Jets AHL prospects.
We continue our summer prospect profile series, checking in at #13.
Here is Kichton’s Player Cohort Success over the since his pre-draft eligible season:
PCS% is the percentage of similar players in height, league, scoring, and age that made the NHL, while PCS points per game is the production typical of those that did make it.
Similar to JC Lipon, Kichton was ignored in his draft eligible season, since he spent two years as an undersized non-scorer.
However, in his 18-year-old season, Kichton’s point production rocketed to well over a point per game pace, leading the WHL in scoring for defensemen. The Islanders then selected the blueliner 127th overall in the fifth round.
This should have been a considered a steal.
The next year Kichton faltered somewhat, although understandably. The Spokane Chiefs were the highest scoring team in the WHL the year prior; their goal production rate fell by 17.1 percent, and with it Kichton’s fell by 17.6 percent.
There’s only so much a defender can dominate in scoring, especially with defensive scoring being so reliant on power play assists.
Kichton’s point production bounced back, although his PCS fell. This is because Kichton was playing in the WHL as an overager, when most prospects his age would be playing in the AHL. The Islanders, who also had drafted only defensemen exclusively that year, felt that Kichton was not ready for the AHL.
PCS is impacted by where a player is situated. They gain a bump for playing in the AHL, as not every NHL prospect even makes it to the AHL. They lose traction when playing in junior as an overager, as most overager prospects are those who struggle to perform relative to their peers, and therefore rarely make the NHL.
After his overage season, Kichton did not discuss with the Islanders about signing an entry level contract, and so he re-entered the draft, where the Jets took Kichton late, in the seventh round.
Kichton proved the Islanders wrong by dominating the AHL as one of the best defensemen as only a 21-year-old rookie. Kichton’s point production though did slide once again, and again coinciding with a team slide.
The St. John’s IceCaps fell from being the second highest scoring team in the Eastern Conference with 258 goals to second lowest with 183. Kichton’s point production fell by just under 25 percent.
Still, even if Kichton’s sophomore scoring is more along his talent levels, the young defender is still out performing most fifth-round picks, let alone seventh-round selections.
There are qualitative factors though that may hinder Kichton’s development. While Kichton has been an effective defensive scorer, most undersized defenders that make the NHL as high scorers tend to be plus-skaters.
Kichton’s skating, while far from terrible, is not quite what you’d want of a NHL player who lacks strength, physicality, and defensive acumen.
A good comparison is the Jets’ own and underrated Paul Postma.
Kichton has produced similarly to Paul Postma at almost every level. While Postma is more of a shooter and Kichton a passer, they play fairly similar games. Postma is a much better skater though and so his tools have transitioned to NHL better than Kichton’s likely would.
Kichton will look to lead a very young defensive core for the Manitoba Moose. Unless the Jets send one of Adam Pardy or Jay Harrison through waivers, Brenden Kichton will be older than all but Julian Melchiori and Andrew MacWilliam.
Kichton has likely already performed well enough to earn him an additional contract year after his ELC expires — after all, Melchiori did this summer — but he will have to return to his dominant ways and lead the Moose if he wishes to continue following the path to the NHL like Paul Postma and prove the doubters wrong once again.
Here are some highlights of Brenden Kichton in his overage, 2012-13 season, courtesy of “John Smith” on youtube: