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Sean Farrell: 2020 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: A Small Playmaking Winger

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Sean Farrell of the USHL is moving up to the NCAA when hockey resumes, and will be doing so for the Harvard Crimson.

Who is Sean Farrell?: Sean Farrell is a 5’8” left-handed forward who weighs 175 pounds, and was born on November 2, 2001. He last played for the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League. In the 2020-21 season, he is committed to play for Harvard University. Prior to playing for the Chicago Steel, Farrell was a member of the United States Development Program, where he had varying success. After some stagnant point production between in the 2018-19 season, Farrell had a solid year with Chicago and is a college player to watch for the next few years.

Elite Prospects

There’s some things to like here, and some things that make me a bit wary of picking Farrell. After having a solid season in 2017-18, his point total actually dropped from the U17 team to the U18 team despite playing more games. This is made up for, somewhat, by his season with the Chicago Steel. In his first USHL season, Farrell was tied for the fifth highest point total in the league. He was also fifth in points per game amongst all players, and tied for third amongst players who played at least half the season at 1.27. USHL site stats show that Farrell had 17 of his points on the power play, with five goals and 12 assists. He also had two shorthanded assists an had 98 shots on goal (15.3 shot percentage). Farrell’s 41 assists led the league, as only Ty Jackson - who played four more games and was in his second full USHL season - had as many. Interestingly, of six players who had more points than Sean Farrell in the USHL, four of them were on the Chicago Steel - and two of them (Sam Colangelo and Brendan Brisson) were the only players with a higher points per game rate in the league.

It is worth noting that he was born in Hopkinton, Massachussetts, and chose to play for Harvard because he wanted to play in Boston. When asked for the Chicago Steel website what the process of committing to Harvard was like, Farrell responded:

It was pretty exciting for me, I knew I wanted to be in Boston and play in the Beanpot one day so I was looking at a bunch of schools in Boston and Harvard was the one I fell in love with

I think this should be taken into consideration given the anxiety Devils fans now feel whenever one of their prospects is a college player. After the Alex Kerfoot departure, I think some Devils fans are already worried that Reilly Walsh of Harvard University (and formerly the Chicago Steel) will also walk to another NHL team when his time in college is over. I also think that these anxieties are not worth passing over quality prospects in the draft - especially after the first round, where Farrell is likely to go.

Size is the next issue, as Farrell doesn’t appear to be a game-breaking skater. However, his ability to play penalty kill is a positive sign in his favor, as he’s been able to play a 200-foot game in juniors despite his smaller-than-average stature. His weight, which I took from NHL Central Scouting, is a positive sign as he is not as light relative to his height as many draft prospects are. This is in keeping with his hard-nosed reputation, as he apparently has the strength to make it work - at least at the levels he’s played at. Playing in college should be a good experience for him as he can get used to older players than he competes against in juniors.

Where is he ranked?:

What others have to say about him: Unfortunately, Farrell is not an oft-written about prospect, and much of the writing on him is locked behind paywalls. Regardless, here’s a look at what I found on Farrell. In the article “Chicago Steel Set to Make an Impact on 2020 NHL Draft”, Josh Bell wrote about Farrell:

While Farrell may be undersized at 5-foot-9, 179 pounds, he makes up for it with pure skill. He’s a player with great speed and if he doesn’t have the puck he’s always battling for it. His strongest asset is his passing ability, as is proven by his league-leading 41 assists this season...

...While Ferrell is known for his passing ability, it’s important to note that the young player brings a great shot to his game too. As seen from the WJHC totals, when he shoots, he can rip it past the goalie. He’s simply an excellent passer and feels more comfortable utilizing that. As he gains more confidence with his shot, you’ll likely see those goal totals rise.

The issue of Farrell’s confidence is reflected in his shot attempts. His 98 shot attempts was sixth amongst Chicago Steel players. If he’s going to be successful as an NHL player, he’s going to need to create more shots for himself. As he moves up levels of competition, I would only expect his shots per game totals to continue decreasing. With the ninth highest shot percentage on his USHL team, I would also expect him to be a below-average shooter at the NHL level.

Writing for The-Rink, Ray Napientek had this to say about Sean Farrell in his post about the Chicago Steel 2020 Draft prospects:

Sean Farrell is a playmaker. He does an excellent job of finding his teammates and generating offense. Farrell is a quick decision maker and shows a soft touch on his passes. Farrell shows the ability to make plays under pressure and protect the puck despite his smaller frame. He stretches the defense well with his passes and creates space for himself with his stick handling and patience. Farrell has very good hockey sense. He does not let his lack of size hurt him along the boards and in front of the net. One thing to pick on, Farrell can look to not be as selfish and shoot the puck more.

Video Highlights: Here’s some video from his performances in the World Junior A Challenge with Team USA, where he had five goals and three assists in six games.

The WJAC is a good place to look to if you’re worried about whether Farrell was riding a stacked Chicago Steel squad, or if he was helping inflate their goal totals. The answer is, I think, that everyone at the top of the Chicago squad is just that good relative to the level they play at. Farrell’s eight points at the WJAC was third amongst all players - and the top two were his Chicago Steel teammates. Brendan Brisson had five goals and seven assists, and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine had five goals and five assists. Of the three, only Fontaine is projected to go in the late rounds if he’s drafted at all - as he is an overager.

His assist at 1:30 is the type of play I like to see a draft prospect making. Goals do not come easy from where he was on the ice, and put a pass in a perfect spot for a redirection.

One of the only other videos I was able to find was on the Chicago Steel website. It’s not that special a goal, but it was his first of the season and was therefore named by him as his favorite play he made in the past season.

Finally, here’s an example of some good positioning and a good redirection by Farrell.

If I saw the Devils give up a goal like that - with four players surrounding the player redirecting the pass - I would certainly be unhappy. Those types of goals shouldn’t happen as he faces tougher competition, but it was a good play nonetheless.

Does He Fit?: The issue with Sean Farrell is that the Devils do not have a pick in the rounds that he is likely to go in. I’ve seen suggestions that he might go as high as the late first round due to his success in the USHL this season in combination with his tournament performance. That would be a reach, though Farrell might be an NHL player some day. Is that day soon? Probably not. As a USHL player, I think he should make the full use of his time in college (or at least three years) before signing an ELC. For that reason, I think that Farrell would be a great third round pick for anyone who takes him. If he goes in the second, that would be understandable.

As for his acumen, I do not see high-end skating or even very flashy skill - but he knows where to be and who to pass to. I do not think that the Devils should prioritize picking him given the number of playmakers they have in the organization. I would rather they pick a goal scorer - and Farrell is not likely to be a reliable goal scorer at the professional level. However, if he managed to fall to the fourth round (and the Devils don’t get any second or third round picks), I would want the Devils to take him. He’s a low-risk, medium-reward prospect who may peak as a middle six playmaker. Farrell is a solid prospect, but I don’t think he diversifies the skillsets of young players under the Devils’ control enough to, say, trade into the second or third round just to pick him. His teammate, Gunnarwolfe Fontaine, might be a good target for a sixth or seventh round pick. But unfortunately, I do not think the Devils will be in a position to pick Farrell without reaching or unnecessarily parting with assets.

Your Thoughts: What do you think about Sean Farrell? How do you think he projects as a professional hockey player? Do you think he’ll make the NHL? Who do you think should pick him? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.