Power forward. It's a named position in basketball, it's a descriptor of a kind of player in hockey. It's someone who plays big and is strong enough to win pucks, succeed in physical areas on the ice, and dole out big hits. It's also someone who is also skilled enough to make and finish a variety of offensive plays while also being smart enough to contribute off the puck on defense. A hockey forward who can do all of those things are quite valuable - even if they are not necessarily the sort of player that leads a unit. These kind of players have been sought after in the NHL draft for decades. The subject for today's profile may fit this mold of a player: Taylor Raddysh.
Who is Taylor Raddysh?
According to Elite Prospects, Taylor Raddysh was born on February 18, 1998. He's listed at 6'1" and 203 pounds. He's a right-handed shot that played right wing for the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League last season. Raddysh just finished his second season in the OHL, a massive improvement over his rookie campaign:
Before jumping into the points, I do want to say that I appreciate that Raddysh has so few penalty minutes. That's always a good thing to see in general, more so when the player is carrying some weight and tends to use it. Let's get into the points now.
While Raddysh scored only three additional goals, he contributed a whopping 43 more assists in 2015-16 than his 2014-15 season. The reason for this is probably what you would expect given who's on Erie. More on that in a bit. The OHL website shows that Raddysh not only finished third on Erie in points, but he finished third on the team in shots on net with 226. In the OHL post-season, That's an average of just under 3.4 shots per game. The large number of assists do not mean he was deferring the puck and passing up shots. It is worth mentioning that Raddysh's playoffs featured a stat line of four goals, six assists, and 29 shots on net in twelve games. That's not bad, although I'm raising an eyebrow in that drop in SOG/GP. Then again, it was twelve playoff games that ended with a four-game sweep by eventual champions, London. The competition got stiffer, for sure. In any case, Raddysh had a big 2015-16 season to establish himself as one of Erie's best players.
What Others Say About Taylor Raddysh
I'm going to start with this profile on Raddysh by AWheeler at Oilers Nation. It appears Wheeler has his profiles scattered throughout the Nation network of hockey blogs. Do check it out as it contains two reasons why Raddysh's production jumped in 2015-16:
The issue that can be taken with Raddysh's strong numbers is that he was a regular member of one of the top scoring lines in the OHL. The lion's share of Raddysh's points this season came by the end of November during a time he was playing almost exclusively with Strome and DeBrincat. When those two left for the WJC's, and for some time after, Raddysh was bounced around a few different line combinations with varying degrees of success, but nothing close to what he was seeing earlier. Near the end of the regular season the big line was reunited and Raddysh saw his numbers begin to pick back up..
Those two reasons: Dyland Strome and Alex DeBrincat, two of the most prolific scorers in the OHL. Wheeler dug in and found out that Raddysh mostly played with those two. In the few times he had to perform without them, Raddysh was not on the scoresheet as much. This fuels the perception that Raddysh was just the third man on that line; he was a complementary player. I don't think that's a bad thing at all. It just means he's not on the level of DeBrincat, who will likely be a first rounder this year and Strome, who was picked third overall last year by Arizona. I will say he appeared to have played well enough for the Erie coaches to keep that trio together. 226 shots on net tells me that Raddysh wasn't just riding their coattails to the scoresheet on most night.
I highlighted that portion and Wheeler's profile first because it really showcases that reality regarding Raddysh's 2015-16 season. I would recommend reading it because Wheeler does recognize that there's plenty to like about him. He notes that most of his goal scoring came in the scoring chance area; he uses his size well; and he's willing on defense. Skating and the defense could use some work; the latter may come with experience, the former may need additional training. He even states that he sees Raddysh as someone that could get into the end of the first round. It's just that it's important to note that Raddysh was part of a big scoring line as opposed to being a big scorer with and without Strome and/or DeBrincat.
Let's move onto a different profile. As Raddysh played in the OHL, it's worth checking out how Brock Otten rated Raddysh. In his Top 50 OHL Prospects, he placed Raddysh 18th in between Cliff Pu and Givani Smith. Here's what Otten wrote about Raddysh:
Raddysh is just a really hard working complimentary offensive player who has excelled doing the "dirty work" for a guy like Dylan Strome. He has great size at 6'2/200lbs and uses that to drive the net, win battles in the corners, and open up space for his linemates. Raddysh just has that knack for finding open space in the offensive zone, which points to him having terrific hockey sense. I particularly love his vision coming off the wall. Creates a lot of scoring chances by making great passes after gaining/maintaining possession along the boards (similar to a guy like Matthew Tkachuk). His overall puck skill and skill set is not flashy, but he does whatever is needed on a scoring line and that's why he's a valuable player and could make a valuable pro. If he can really improve his skating (particularly power), he could be more of a driving force on a line.
Otten's summation highlights that Raddysh appears to be very good at viewing the offensive zone and making passes on offense. It supports that his large number of assists weren't just a matter of giving the puck to two guys who've been point machines in the 'O.' He's helped them get into spots to make goals happen. That being said, between Wheeler's profile and this blurb, I'm more convinced that Raddysh is suited for being a complementary winger as opposed to being the winger that would drive a line's success. Curiously, Otten also thinks his skating could use some work.
Over at The Hockey Writers, Mark Scheig has this profile on Raddysh. This section jumped out at me:
Once Raddysh accelerates, he is hard to stop. It’s also hard to get the puck from him. It makes him a threat every time he touches the puck. Then when in a prime scoring position, he has a powerful shot, one that catches goaltenders off guard. He has the tools to become an effective NHL power forward.
Scheig concluded that Raddysh's skating does need improvement, although he highlighted his defensive play more as an area to work on. Given that he highlighted his acceleration getting up to top speed making him hard to stop, does this mean he needs to work on his acceleration? Perhaps also skating when not at top speed? That's the impression that I get. Scheig thinks that if the skating was a bit better and if he was more consistent in both ends of the rink, then he could be a first rounder. Likewise, he echoes what Wheeler and Otten saw as a player.
I'll give the last word to Ben Kerr of the Last Word on Sports. He profiled Raddysh as part of his Top Shelf Prospects series. His conclusion is that Raddysh does project out to be a player like Chris Kunitz from a style standpoint; someone who may be an effective complementary player on a line but not someone to be the main player on it. Kerr also thinks he could add some muscle, too. I suppose that can apply to most prospective players, though I don't think that's anything more than that given his current frame. Kerr also specifies what he think Raddysh needs to work on with his skating in this part of his profile:
Taylor Raddysh has very good size and good speed. He has good acceleration which allows him to gets in quickly on the fore check. Once there, he finishes his checks, punishing opposing defenders, causing turnovers and creating offense. He could be even better if he could improve his first step. This would allow Raddysh to win more races for loose pucks than he already does. Raddysh has good agility, and can weave through traffic, both with and without the puck. He can cut to the outside on a defender and once he gets a step is hard to stop. Raddysh has the power in his stride to fight through checks and get to the net, and the balance to be strong on the puck when being hit by opposing defenders.
As with Scheig, Kerr recognizes that Raddysh is a force when he gets up to speed. However, Kerr notes that it's the "first step" or first stride that really could use improvement. I can't disagree that it would really make him more effective in either direction. I'd like to think whether or not one believes that he can and will do that soon will help determine whether he hears his name on June 24 or June 25. Because Kerr notes that Raddysh has the other tools one would want in a power forward between his shot, his passing, and how he uses his body to make constructive plays.
A Little Video
There's one highlight video on Youtube about Taylor Raddysh at the time of this writing. It's from a user called SEER VIDEO. After about 50 seconds of introduction, the video highlights begin for the next four minutes or so. Look for #17 in it making plays and finishing them:
An Opinion of Sorts
The long and short of it on Raddysh is straight forward. He's a power forward who projects to be a supporting player rather than being the lead guy. The criticisms are legitimate: his skating (seemingly his first stride), his defense (which may just need more experience), and his production was propped up by playing with DeBrincat and Strome. The positives are also legit: he's got a good shot and clearly used it frequently with Erie last season, he's very good at passing the puck to set up Strome and DeBrincat to finish plays, and he uses his frame well to get pucks and maintain possession without taking many penalties. How likely the NHL scouts think he'll improve on what's needed while maintaining his strengths will translate to the next level will drive where he's drafted. There's a lot to like about Raddysh and so I can foresee someone taking him higher up in the second round, if not in the back end of the first round.
That would be unfortunate in a way. Complement or not, this is the sort of player I would really like the Devils to draft in the second round. He's a right-shooting right winger with plenty of offensive skills. Those facts alone would make him a sensible pick for the Devils, who lack these kind of players in general, never mind at right wing. What flaws he has would explain why he would be a second rounder, but I do not get the sense that they are issues that will prevent him from contributing at the next level of hockey. Like Cam Dineen, though, I do not know if he'll be available for the Devils at 41st overall. If he is, then he at least has to be considered if not picked. But I think his skill set combined with how he plays the game makes it likely in my opinion that he goes before the Devils pick again. As always, we will see what happens later this month.
Taylor Raddysh is a complmentary power forward, if one were to describe him in three words. Would you want the Devils to take him at #41 if he's available and why? What about Raddysh impresses you the most? What about him concerns you? If you've seen him play at Erie in this past season, then what did you think? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Raddysh in the comments. Thank you for reading.