There isn’t anything that gets a scout more excited than a utility player. You know the type; the ones who are jacks of all trades, but masters of none. The ones that aren’t exactly filled with God-given talent, but work hard to get to their end destination and spend time researching every nook and cranny of the game to make up the edge that they lose by not being particularly elite.

Ryan McGregor has been described in that mould by many, and while you can argue that a player of his type isn’t one that you invest too heavily in, the proposition feels a lot fairer when you’re using a late pick and you see a bit of upside in the kid in question.

Age 18 (January 29, 1999) Birthplace Burlington, Ontario
Pos Centre (LH) Drafted 2017 (Rd 6, Pick 172)
Vitals 6’0, 159lbs Acquired Via Draft

McGregor was actually slotted a fair bit higher in people’s draft rankings at the start of the 2016/17 season, with many having him pencilled in as a potential 2nd or 3rd round pick. He did have one thing go against him, though; a concussion that was suffered in his last game of the 2015/16 season. Recovering from that injury meant that he wasn’t afforded much of an offseason, which meant less time in the gym and less time to get prepared for the pace of the game.

 AGE  SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM NHLe +/-
15  2014-15  Burlington Eagles  SCTAMM 32 17 20 37 16
16  2015-16  Sarnia Sting  OHL 58 11 13 24 4 10.2 8
17  2016-17  Sarnia Sting  OHL 65 14 13 27 16 10.2 -1

As a result, his point production this year was about the same as it was in his Age 16 season. Knowing what he had gone through, though, I was curious to see if he had a slow start (lack of preparation), and/or a tapering off down the stretch (lack of conditioning).

Sure enough, after a two-point season debut, McGregor went on a season-high seven game streak without a point. Just as unsurprisingly, and fitting the scout takes about him having a poor calendar year 2017, his production completely fell off a cliff after new years day, including a 25-game goal drought.

Time Frame GP G A PTS +/- PIM SOG SH%
September 21 – January 1 34 12 6 18 4 8 65 18.5
January 2 – March 17 31 2 7 9 -5 8 50 4

Now, McGregor was definitely shooting unsustainably high in that first half of the season; that 18.5% even includes the seven-game pointless streak. As well, you’d probably hope for a future NHLer to take more than two shots per game in his draft year in Junior, especially if he’s not a known playmaker. But you still can’t help but wonder if that lack of recovery time played a factor into how his season went.

pGPSn pGPSs Exp. Success % Exp. P/82 Exp. Value
840 (1/31) 59 (2/31) 6.9% (26/31) 25.1 (22/31) 1.7 (26/31)

The above numbers are products of the Prospect Graduation Probabilities System (pGPS), created by Canucks Army to project a prospect’s odds of becoming an NHL regular. For a run-down on what each of these stats mean, head back to the introduction.

Despite the odd circumstances that led to it, the end result of his bog-average Age 17 season, paired with his rather average physical traits, position choice, handedness, etc make McGregor the most generic player in the Leafs organization according to pGPS. No player has more matches in the system, though the odds of success are all over the place and leave him near the bottom of expected value as a result. Looking at the above chart, fans will probably be hoping for more of a Wayne Simmonds, Tanner Pearson, Joel Ward, or Andrew Shaw than a Tim Sestito.

If there is one thing that McGregor does have as a physical asset, it’s his foot speed. I wonder how sustainable that is, given that being rather lanky (159 pounds) for his height (6’0) probably gives him an advantage that he would not be wise to try to continue into the professional ranks, but maybe more technique training while he fills into his body will help him keep that together.

Besides, that, it’s easy to see where the hype around his Hockey IQ comes from. He’s consistently in the right place to contribute to a play, even if he doesn’t necessarily finish on every effort. That should make him a good asset to a strong X’s and O’s coach; a player that can be relied upon to carry out a system and make a quick but wise decision from time to time.

The Upcoming Year

It’ll be interesting to see how Sarnia deploys McGregor this season. So far, he hasn’t started off too hot, going without points in his first two games. Last year he was deployed as a third line forward with some penalty kill time, and I would assume that will continue again. We should know within a few months whether last season was injury-inspired or an actual showing of stagnation; if it’s the latter and he doesn’t progress much, he’ll probably be in a much lower spot on this list a year from now.

Long-Term Outlook

My feelings here are similar to the ones I gave for JJ Piccinich; this is a player poised to have a long pro career based on his work ethic and his willingness to do all the things that coaches and scouts love. What makes him more intriguing though is his age and recent history; he’s still another couple of years of junior left in him, and if his stagnation last year is rooted in his injuries, then we might be due for those years to be a big jump.

If that happens, we’re probably talking about a player that screams “Leafs fourth line bloomer on an ELC” in about four years. If not, well, he’ll probably carve his niche in the minors for a while.

To see the other profiles in this year’s series, please reference the full list.

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