What can make a draft class really successful is finding talented players late in the draft. While it is certainly not common, unearthing a Jesper Bratt or a Brett Seney or even a Patrick Davies in the fifth round or later is never a bad thing. It is not all luck. It requires plenty of work from the scouting department, plenty of research into unheralded players, and identifying who can succeed with what you are looking for in an organizational sense as well as luck. To that end, we try to identify some potential players likely set for the back-end of the NHL Entry Draft. One possible player is the subject of today’s profile: Seattle winger Henrik Rybinski.
Who is Henrik Rybisnki?
Henrik Rybinski, also known as Henry Rybinski, is a left winger who plays for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League. According to his official player page at the WHL website, Rybinski is listed at 6’1”, 174 pounds, and hails from Vancouver. While he is listed as a left winger, he has a right-handed shot - which makes me wonder if he can play both sides. Rybinski is on the younger side of this year’s draft class with a June 26, 2001 birthdate. As noted in his player page and confirmed at his Elite Prospects profile page, Rybinski completed his second WHL season as he spent his rookie season as a 16-year old with Medicine Hat. This past season saw a switch in teams that requires a bit of discussion.
Rybinski was drafted by Medicine Hat and appeared in 63 regular season games and six playoff games. The 16-year old put up three goals and nine assists in the season and one assist in the playoffs as he adjusted to major junior hockey. While the production was modest, there was reason to believe he could step it up as a 17 year old as indicated in this 2018-19 season preview of the Tigers by Paul Figler at DubNetwork. That did not happen. Rybinski put up just five points in fourteen games and then requested a trade at the beginning of November. Rybinski was unhappy with his role on team. As reported by Ryan McCracken at the Medicine Hat News on November 2, 2018:
After putting up a goal and four assists through his first 14 games of the season, Clouston says Rybinski expressed a desire to be utilized as a top-six centre. But with captain James Hamblin and alternate Ryan Chyzowski centring the team’s top two lines, it was a request the Tigers were unable to fulfill.
“We had lots of opportunity for him here, right now and moving forward, and we pictured him here for a long time,” said Tigers head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston. “Unfortunately the opportunity didn’t match up to the opportunity that his group was looking for.
“I think the two concerns were ice time — he definitely wanted much more ice time than we had been giving him— and then the opportunity for those minutes to come at centre, and there’s just no way. They were looking for Hamblin, Chyzowski-type minutes and that doesn’t work.”
Rybinski — who was unavailable for comment — will not be with the team while Clouston tracks down a trade.
Much of the article quotes Shaun Clouston and Tiger defenseman David Quenneville as Rybinski and his representation did not comment. I guess he played center with the Tigers as a rookie? He had 260 attempts in 2017-18 per the WHL’s website, which is an average of 4.12 draws per game. That is not very much but he was also in a more limited role. That average jumped up to 7.28 per game in his 14 games with Medicine Hat in 2018-19. I suppose he was a center there. Anyway, Rybinski did not play for the Tigers since that trade request was made. He did suit up with the Coquitlam Express of the British Columbia Hockey League, a Junior A league, for nine games to stay in form. According to EP, he put up one goal and eleven assists in those nine games. While productive, it was in a lower league as he awaited a trade.
Rybinski would get what he asked for on January 4, 2019. As written up by Robert Murray at WHL.ca, Rybinski was traded to the Seattle Thunderbirds for a 15 year old prospective defenseman named Aidan Brook and two picks. In Seattle, Rybinski did not get to play center. He took only 23 draws with the Thunderbirds. However, he did play a much larger role and the production followed. In 33 regular season games, Rybinski scored seven goals (two on the power play), registered twenty-eight assists (seven on the power play), and took 54 shots on net. Rybinski was not a big-time shooter but he did average at least a point per game rate with Seattle. His points with Seattle alone would have put him eighth on the team in scoring - he finished fifth in points when you add in a the few with the Tigers.
To put his production in a little more perspective, his player page at Prospect-Stats is worth checking out. His goal scoring rates were nothing to write home about, but his rate of generating assists was among the better ones in the WHL. Ditto his rate of total points and his rate of primary points (goals and primary assists only) is not too far off the mark either. That makes his run with Seattle more impressive. Production is not everything but for an offensive-minded forward, it means something. For such gains to be made after the trade suggest something good happened and he may be one to check out for the near future.
It also suggests that Rybinski was right to make the trade request. I am sympathetic to Qunneville as quoted in McCracken’s article. I would prefer players to force the coaches’ hand to give them more minutes, more shifts, and more responsibilities. While he may have been tabbed as someone to take the next step with the Tigers, he clearly did not in the beginning of the season and could not after the trade request. That stated, Rybinski got what he wanted - as a winger, not as a center given his low faceoff totals. He made good on it by his production alone, which likely pleased the Seattle staff. Not everyone who demanded a trade at age 17 purely because of his role on the team can necessarily do that. Rybinski did.
Where is Henrik Rybinski Ranked?
Rankings are not everything and plenty can change between now and June. Still, they can provide a general idea as to whether a prospect is worth getting excited over. In the case of Rybinski, you can get a sense of why the headline and introduction paragraph are what they are.
- NHL Central Scouting Services: North American - 129 (Midterm), 123 (Final)
- Steve Kournianos - The Draft Analyst: Not Ranked (Preseason 400, August 2018), Not Ranked (Midseason 400, December 2018), 182 (Top 500, April 2019)
- Larry Fisher - The Hockey Writers: Not Ranked (Top 124, October 2018), Not Ranked (Top 186, December 2018), Not Ranked (Top 217, February 2019), 201 (Top 300, April 2019), 213 (Top 350, May 2019)
Only CSS and the two longest publicly available ranking lists include Rybinski. And Kournianos and Fisher did not give him a ranking until April. This is consistent with someone who would likely be going in the last three rounds, if at all. Rybinski may be described as under-the-radar at best. It only takes one to see him though to make him a selection.
What Others Say About Henrik Rybinski
Much of the attention paid to Rybinski was about his trade request instead of how he did in his draft year. Bill Placzek at DraftSite has this brief blurb about him:
Forced a trade out of Medicine Hat, but didn’t sit home until occurred; he went to the BCHL boasting the second best scoring totals there until he was finally traded to Seattle. Offensive forward with a solid game away from the puck. Has good size, speed and shot.
That is a brief blurb. If his shot is good, then I would have liked to have seen him take more of it as he averaged fewer than two shots per game. Then again, the assist totals suggest that deferring to others ended up being a good decision.
Fortunately, I was fortunate to get in touch with Joel Henderson of Dobber Prospects. Henderson covers the Western Hockey League for the site and has seen plenty of the young players out of Western Canada’s (and Northwest America’s) major junior league. He was willing to answer several questions I had about Rybinski and his game. Here are his responses:
All About the Jersey (AAtJ): The big news about Rybinski was demanding a trade from Medicine Hat after being unhappy with his role on the team. The trade request was honored and he did receive a larger role on Seattle. Is such a request common in the WHL? While he got it, was this move really necessary for him; couldn’t he have fought for more ice time with the Tigers?
Joel Henderson (JH): It’s not terribly common but it’s certainly something the WHL has seen for various reasons. It’s not very common a player protests and then moves to the BCHL for a time. Medicine Hat was pretty dead set on who their top-two centers were and Rybinski was seeking that type of ice time. Personally, I think it’s reasonable for a player who thinks they are draft eligible potential to want top-six minutes to showcase what they can do but obviously there is usually little a player can do beyond to work harder. If it’s true that Rybinski wanted to play center, well, that ended up as a mixed bag since he played right wing in Seattle. He could potentially move back to center next season.
AATJ: Rybsinki was quite productive with Seattle with 35 points in 33 games. What do you see are his strengths and weaknesses on offense or in offensive situations?
JH: He has a quick reaction time when the puck is on his stick which matches his stickhandling ability. This allows him to maneuver in traffic and generate offence where others cannot. His agility and ability to react to a play will be more evident next year I believe. He is also a strong forechecker; using turnovers to create quick opportunities for his teammates. He can be found both on the power play and penalty kill which gives him flexibility too.
As far as weaknesses, he needs to gain strength like most players. His shot also leaves a lot to be desired. I think next season you’ll see more deke goals in tight around the net than you will powerful sniper-type wrist shots to a top corner.
AAtJ: Similarly, what do you see are Rybinski’s strengths and weaknesses on defense or in defensive situations?
JH: He is certainly a more offensive-minded player but he’s not weak defensively. On the penalty kill, you can find him blocking shots at times or filling space effectively. He’s a smart player and reads space very effectively. This allows him to move down in the defensive zone and jump on a loose puck to start a breakout.
AAtJ: How well does Rybinski skate? Are there any particular mechanics or general parts of his movement that you think he needs to work on?
JH: You’ll find that his lateral movement is much more his strength as opposed to his breakaway speed. I don’t think there’s any one particular attribute which is awful. He will just need to put the work in to improve foot speed, acceleration and strength. His agility is his biggest weapon though. The ability to shift and change direction quickly while maintaining control of the puck is a quality he has that other draft eligible skaters lack from the WHL.
AAtJ: What do you think are Rybinski’s expectations for Seattle next season? Do you figure he needs to be one of their top forwards, play in all situations, etc.?
JH: Seattle will be a very young team. They’ve already traded other draft eligible skaters Jake Lee and Dillon Hamaliuk to Kelowna and a few key vets are graduating so there isn’t much for Rybinski to work with I’m afraid. Since Rybinski is a playmaker by trade, I think his stock will rise but the offensive numbers won’t be eye popping to the casual fan. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a trade at the [WHL] deadline for him either.
AAtJ: Based on what you have seen and what you know of Rybinski, what do you think is his potential? Is he someone that could surprise people in a few years and make them wonder what they were missing out on?
JH: He has a much higher potential than most in this draft class to be quite honest. I could see him being drafted as high as the third round. As teams as looking for fast processing players, Rybinski excels at that. It allows him to dangle a puck one-on-one in the feet of a defender or make tape to tape passes from right to left quicker than others can see them develop. If he can add acceleration, I think you’ll find he will be very tough to get the puck from in the offensive zone. The WHL highlight video should have quite a few Rybinski clips to work from over the next two years.
AAtJ: Rybinski is not ranked very highly. Among the few places that go that deep, he is ranked #123 among North American skaters by Central Scouting Services. Do you think Rybinski will be drafted in June? Or do you think he will get more notice in a year or after he finishes his junior career?
JH: He absolutely should be drafted. Obviously, teams will take interviews with the player seriously and ask questions to find out about his character and work ethic due to a trade demand but his set of skills is worthy of being drafted; no question. I can only speak to the on-ice play.
I thank Joel Henderson of Dobber Prospects for his detailed responses; you can follow him on Twitter at @DatHockeyDoe. It is certainly insightful and it suggests that Rybinski should probably get a little more attention. Henderson has seen plenty of Rybinski to know that his shot is not so good; but he has skill on the puck and the ability to react quickly to get to it. Per Henderson’s responses, Rybinski played in all situations with Seattle - which is another plus. He is not a defensively deficient player.
I do not know about being going as high as the third round; some team would have to absolutely love his game for that to happen. I do agree that he checks a lot of boxes as a prospective forward that could be drafted. And I also agree that his interviews with teams will be crucial because I am confident he will get a lot of questions about that trade request out of Medicine Hat.
A Little Video
The WHL has been putting together highlight videos of many different players from last season. They put this one together of Rybinski, showing off nearly each and every one of the seven goals he scored with Seattle last season. He is wearing #12:
The challenge of these highlight reels is two-fold. First, they are often brief and focus on a set of successful plays. You do not get a chance to see a whole lot outside of whatever the highlight is. These are all goals. Rybinski scored seven with Seattle and eight overall. Rybinski put up thirty assists between both teams last season. Yet, this clip does not show any of those assists - which may point to what may make him worth a pick in June. Second, these clips just do not show him away from the puck, which is a huge part of anyone’s game. Based on this video, I could not tell you whether Rybinski is or is not good on defense or in the neutral zone. There is some movement away from the puck before he scores, but that is it. That said, this is a guy who is ranked 123rd by CSS among North American skaters. You have to take what you can get.
If nothing else, these seven goals are very nice looking. It does not appear he is particularly fast, but you can seem some of the quickness Henderson brought up. He did beat his defender straight up on the second goal, starting 14 seconds into the embedded clip. He also beat a defender to a loose puck from the opponent’s blueline 58 seconds into the video. I also liked how he won the puck at 38 seconds, chipped it to the slot, and then followed the puck to stash in a rebound. He even showed a little flair at 1:11 to beat a defender by going forehand-to-backhand followed by cutting to the middle to go top-shelf on the goaltender. These are all very nice instances. Despite not being a big player, he was brave to go to the net as much as he did. The skating does not look super crisp to my amateur eyes, but he did demonstrate that he can change directions quickly, get past a defender, and chase down plays. Those are positives. The clips also back up Henderson’s statement that his shot could use work as only a couple of these goals were not close shots. However, I am hesitant to believe this is representative of his game knowing that he does not shoot the puck a lot (54 shots in 33 games with Seattle) and he scored few goals in total (8, 7 with Seattle). I wish this highlight reel showed some of those 28 assists he had with the Thunderbirds. Alas.
An Opinion of Sorts
If Rybinski is drafted at all, then it is likely going to happen late in the draft and it will be by a team who believes in his future based on what he did in Seattle. Much of this profile centered around his trade request because that was the major event in his 2018-19 season. He took a risk in demanding it on the basis of wanting more ice time. Generally, it would be preferable that the player competes for it first. But his risk clearly paid off. He was quite productive in a larger role with Seattle. Points may not be everything but they indicate that he was doing quite a few things right with the Thunderbirds. Now he is seemingly set to build on that in 2019-20. That may be worth taking a flyer on in the sixth or seventh round.
Should the Devils take that flyer? Possibly. That jump in production to go along with an increased role and more minutes on a different team is hard to ignore as a positive sign for the future. An offensive minded winger who can at least beat his peers with his skating may fit the type of prospect the Devils have looked for throughout their recent draft classes, even in the final two rounds. He may not be quite fast and he may have areas to work on, but he has some assets in his favor in terms of his agility, how he generates plays, and how he is not a one-dimensional player. I still think he is a late-round caliber selection but I can agree that he is flying under the radar as the trade request received a lot more attention than anything he did on the ice. I would not complain if he ends up being the Devils’ sixth or seventh round draft pick. I think it would be a justifiable pick. I would likely not complain if he was not, which is still a possibility although I agree with Henderson that he should be picked by somebody. Such as it is for those projected to go late in the draft.
That’s my opinion of sorts for Henrik Rybinski. You may have a different opinion. What do you think of what you have learned about Henrik Rybinski? What do you think of his play as a forward this season? Did his trade request put you off? Or are you more pleased that it paid off for him and Seattle? What did you think of Henderson’s descriptions of Rybinski’s game? If you have seen him play, what did you think of his play? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Henrik Rybinski in the comments. Thanks again to Joel Henderson of Dobber Prospects and @DatHockeyDoe on Twitter for answering my questions about Rybinski. Thank you for reading.