It was a pretty exciting moment as Gary Bettman announced the Winnipeg Jets were moving up four selections to get their guy. The Jets then took to the podium and chose Logan Stanley 18th overall.
The truth is very few low scoring defensemen make the NHL, and even fewer are plus value contributors. The deck may be stacked against Stanley, but the Jets feel that this giant of a defenseman has what it takes to beat the odds.
Prior to the draft there were whispers that the Jets would target size in the draft. The Jets got some with 6’4 goalscoring extraordinaire Patrik Laine, and then got even more with the 6’7 giant Logan Stanley.
Stanley’s best asset is, without a doubt, his size. At 6’7 and the largest wingspan at the combine, the left-handed shooting defender requires opposing forwards to take significant detours to drive around him.
In terms of hockey IQ, he seems to be a smart player and will usually make the right play in the defensive zone both with and without the puck. He can make breakout passes well enough that one hopes he can translate some puck moving to the professional level, although he seems to default to chip out plays far too often.
Outside of the defensive zone seems to be where Stanely’s decision making tends to falter, as he struggles with neutral zone transition and support.
His skating becomes a lot more of a controversial topic. Last year, Stanley was a very poor skater which caused most scouts to project him as a second or third round selection. The defender worked hard though to improve himself in that area; the results I think are why opinions are so mixed.
Stanley’s stride and skating style is still very ugly, inefficient, uncoordinated. The blue liner will never be confused with the smoother skating giant Tyler Myers. He has learned how to get a lot of propulsion from his long legs, giving him a pretty powerful push and a decent top-speed. Because of this, Stanley has a fine “North-South” top-gear, but lacks mobility and explosiveness. Stanley’s skating ends up being strong enough to effectively skate out the puck and follow up the play, but he struggles keeping up with forwards who attack him at his own blue line and recovering the puck.
This steep improvement in skating combined with his size is likely what made the Jets covet Stanley so much.
When it comes to an extremely tall and lanky player who is improving quickly, one may project that if their development curve continues to stay at such an incline they will surpass many of the individuals they are behind.
The odds are still against Stanley. Players that score with his production rate rarely ever make the NHL and those that do rarely ever have a significant impact, even those of similar stature to Stanley. The few that do took abnormally large and significant improvements over the next few seasons in their overall play and scoring. While scoring is not everything, especially for a defenseman, it does correlate to skill and success, and those that move the puck out of the defensive zone well.
This is where the Jets hope Stanley will change. While Stanley does not perform well in scoring now, they hope he will in the future as he continues to better himself and hopefully at an accelerating pace.
In terms of what to expect, there is a large range in possibility. If all things go perfectly, Stanley’s best case scenario would likely be a second pairing defender fairly similar to Tyler Myers, although I doubt Stanley would ever be as mobile. His size makes him a potential option for the third pair even if he significantly misses his ceiling, although the “tough third-pair” role has been disappearing to make way to more skilled depth players.
He is a project, however, and will likely take a few seasons to get to a NHL level, if he ever does. Realistically one would be looking at an ETA of 3-5 seasons, so do not get your hopes up too high for a Stanley-Myers pairing.