Team Canada’s Defencemen

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 3:23 am by Josh W

As our analytics knowledge
continues to expand we can use what we know at the NHL level and start to apply it at
the junior level. 

The Canadian Hockey League (CHL) comprises of the Western
Hockey League (WHL), Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and the Ontario
Hockey League (OHL). The data they
provide in box scores is minimal compared to the NHL play by play sheets but we
can still derive plenty of useful advanced CHL

Continue past the jump as we analyze Hockey Canada’s
selection of defencemen.

Advanced statistics have already been used to analyze Canada’s goalie
.  It’s ridiculous that
Hockey Canada brought only two tenders to camp which included the average QMJHL
goalie, Zachary Fucale, and the WHL elite goalie Eric Comrie.  In doing so they left out other elite goalies
who have won championships including Tristan Jarry with his .920 sv%.

But the die has been cast by Hockey Canada so we can only
analyze who has been selected. 

wjc defencemen ppg

Above are the seven defencemen currently named to Team
Canada. Most of the data is

The NHLE column is NHL Equivalency
points; Quality of Competition (QoC) is how tough their opponents are; Quality
of Teammates (QoT) is how strong the players they play most with are; the
Estimated Even-Strength TOI (Est. ES TOI) shows us how often these players are
on the ice a game for while the ES rel Gf% shows how often their team gets
outscored while they are on the nice (positive is better).

QoC and QoT are known in the NHL. Here they are represented as
z-scores within their leagues so we can compare players across

From a quick glance, most of the choices by Hockey
Canada within the defence corps seem pretty reasonable. The only choice I would question is Dillion

At the junior level
defencemen don’t need to be high scoring, but good defencemen usually cause the
puck to move go to the offensive end of the rink which in turn causes scoring. Thankfully, Heatherington has been sitting
out so far but there are literally tens of players better than him including:
Jordan Subban, Trevor Murphy, Mason Geertsen, Ryan Pilon and Jason Fram to name a few.

wjc defencemen usage

We can also turn these statistics into a similar usage chart
as we would see in the NHL to give us a better picture of these players. Joe Hicketts continues to stand out as one of
the better players, despite being the smallest defencemen which some pundits
have issue with. 

Following is a break down of each individual choice.

Darnell Nurse – OHL – Sault Ste. Marie

6’4” 189 lb Darnell Nurse is currently penciled in as the
top pairing for Team Canada and at 19.89 years-old is one of the oldest
players on the team. He was drafted 7th
overall in 2013 by the Edmonton Oilers from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.  

He is still with the Greyhonds (currently 3rd
in the OHL in Est.
Fenwick Close
) and through 19 games he is scoring at 1.00 PPG, good for 4th
in the OHL Defencemen Scoring Rate. Nurse faces slightly above average competition while he is getting help from very
strong teammates. The elder statesman on the blueline has very heavy
special teams time with middling even strength ice time while sporting a  slightly negative -5.04%
even-strength relative goal-for%.

Shea Theodore – WHL – Seattle

Nurse’s defence partner is currently penciled in as Shea
Theodore. This 6’2”, 182 lb defencemen
is also 2013 1st round pedigree having been drafted by the Anaheim
Ducks at 26th overall.   

Theodore plays
for the Seattle Thunderbirds, currently a slightly below average team in
the WHL, and is scoring at a 0.80 ppt rate (11th amongst WHL
defencemen).  He plays middling
even-strength time against above-average competition, along side above-average
teammates, with approximately 5 minutes of special teams per game. As a result he has very strong even-strength
relative goal-for % numbers at +25.75%. He only has 10 games played so we are the least sure about his statistics
compared to his peers given sample size issues.   

Josh Morrisey – WHL – Kelowna

Morrisey is another 2013 1st round stock having
been drafted by the Winnipeg Jet 13th overall. The 19.75 year-old 6’ 0”Morrisey is currently on Canada’s second pairing. Morrisey also plays in the WHL for the
Kelowna Rockets, having been traded from the Prince Albert Raiders. 

Through 25 games played this season he is scoring
at a rate of 0.84 PPG. On average, Morrisey plays 22 minutes at even-strength, and almost 9 minutes of special
teammates, a game.  He faces average
competition but he’s the only Canadian defencemen being brought down by his
teammates and still comes ahead in even-strength relative goal-for % at 1.65.

Madison Bowey – WHL – Kelowna

Madison Bowey is the defensive partner of Josh Morrissey
back in Kelowna as well as on Team Canada.  Currently the third oldest defencemen and
listed at 6’1” and 195 lbs, he has scored at a rate of 1.18 ppg through 28
games played.  Bowey has had the benefit
of playing with strong teammates, currently better than 93% of the WHL while
facing weak competition – the plushiest assignment of all members on the
team.  While playing almost 17 minutes at
even-strength, and 8 minutes of special teams, Bowey has only has walked
away with a +2.50% even-strength relative goal-for % so far.

Samuel Morin – QMJHL – Rimouski

The sole QMJHL defence men is the giant 6’ 7” 224 lb
Samuel Morin from the Rimouski Oceanic. Like most defencemen this year, he came from the 1st round of
the 2013 NHL Entry Draft selected 11th overall by the Philadelphia

So far this season Morin only
played 12 games and is scoring at a 0.75 points/game rate, an improvement from
last season. Morin plays against above
average competition while skating with extremely strong teammates
suggesting he should be producing higher than he is. Morin also plays some of the lowest even strength
ice time and has a negative -4.65 even-strength relative goal-for %. ESPN scout Corey Pronman says he has been decent
but seen nothing offensively. 

Joe Hicketts – WHL – Victoria

Joe Hicketts would be a good player if he was bigger, said
every Hockey Canada management. Listed
at 5’ 8” and 186 lbs Hicketts is statistically the best and youngest defencemen
on the team. He went undrafted and was
signed as a Free Agent to the Detroit Red Wings in September 2014.  

Through 31 games in the WHL he is scoring at
a 1.23 points/game rate which is better than many forwards.  Hicketts is able to score at that rate while
playing against slightly below average competition and is receiving some of the
least help from his teammates. Hicketts
plays about half the game for Victoria and spends around 10 minutes on special
teams and still walks away with a +21.63% even-strength relative goals-for %.

Dillon Heatherington – WHL – Swift Current

The 7th defencemen Canada named to the roster was
Dillon Heatherington from Swift Current out of the WHL. Listed at 19.61 years old, 6’ 3” and 196 lbs he
has played 30 games so far this season scoring at a rate of 0.37 points/game. He faces above average competition while
playing with above average teammates. Heatherington plays around 25 minutes a game with 19 minutes of that time at even strength
and posts a -2.08% even-strength relative goal-for %.