The 2014 Entry Draft seems to be the least discussed in recent Leafs history, and it’s not hard to figure out why. It’s sandwiched in between an era of misses and an era of rapid cupboard re-filling; not to mention, Toronto had just six picks and only two of them have played a pro season in North America at this stage.
JJ Piccinch is soon to become the third member of that class, and while I don’t know if there’s much upside there, I could see him having a fair bit of life left in his hockey days.
|Age||21 (June 12, 1996)||Birthplace||Paramus, New Jersey|
|Pos||Right Wing (RH)||Drafted||2014 (Rd 4, Pick 103)|
|Vitals||6’0, 190lbs||Acquired||Via Draft|
We had Ryan O’Connell a few spots ago as a great example of a player making his career decisions based on his education. That’s not always the case for players who go the college route, though; particularly in the case of American prospects, playing out your teens and early 20s hockey at a school is just part of the road to the pros.
It gets really interesting for players when it starts to fall apart, though. Do you decide hockey might not be your final destination and start focusing in class? Or do you take the leap of faith, burn your bridge, and cross the border to play some CHL hockey instead?
Piccinch lept to the London Knights, and it’s hard to say that it didn’t work out for him. He went from an afterthought freshman on BU to a 30-goal scoring mercenary on a Memorial Cup winner; instant gratification at its finest.
|15||2011-12||North Jersey Avalanche 16U||AYHL 16U||22||23||19||42||16|
Last year didn’t see him improve a ton, but the dynamic of the Knights also changed significantly. Piccinich’s 66 points ranked 5th on the 2015/16 London roster, which sounds pretty good until you realize the Top 3 ended up with 121, 116, and 107 respectively. Of course, Christian Dvorak, Mitch Marner, and Matthew Tkachuk all ended up in the NHL this year, so finding a way to score despite that was an interesting challenge for his team.
Piccinich was much closer to the top this year; despite only scoring six additional points, it was a total good for second behind Cliff Pu (86). Piccinch also stayed right in the thick of the race for primary points per game on the team, staying within 0.06 per game of Pu and leading the team in primary assist frequency.
|pGPSn||pGPSs||Exp. Success %||Exp. P/82||Exp. Value|
|421 (4/31)||12 (T19/31)||2.1% (30/31)||32.2 (12/31)||0.7 (30/31)|
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.
The projection models see less in Piccinich than any Leafs prospect that they apply to. Open, shut, straight up (okay, Miro Aaltonen is behind him, but there’s a unique factor there explained in his post). Tons of players of his mould get chances to succeed, few come out to be regular NHLers.
The eye test reveals Piccinich to be a staggeringly generic hockey player. That’s not a bad thing; there’s value in reliability, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’re talking about a player who competes really hard, is a pain along the boards, and can maybe brush up on his skating. It’s a description that many roll their eyes at, but teams will always look to have a player like this available as a reserve, and every so often, you find a Zach Hyman-type who figures themselves out just in time to be a useful NHLer.
The Upcoming Year
Piccinich signed a two-year contract with the Toronto Marlies at the conclusion of the last season, which more or less solidifies him as a prospect-by-proxy until further notice. I’ve got serious doubts that there will be enough space for him at the start of the season, though; I’d expect him to play the bulk of this year out with Orlando.
Piccinich is the type of player that gives you no reason to believe he’ll be an impact NHL player, but all the reason to believe that he’ll get reps of some sort. His work ethic and off-ice characteristics will make him an easy choice for an AHL/ECHL team, and if he’s able to hit some sort of stride in the AHL by the time his mid-20s come along, you just know he’s going to get at least a cup of coffee as he tries to carve a Derek Ryan-like story.
Is he likely to give you much more? Probably not. But he’ll be a certified good pro for the long haul, and you the dependability in that expectation is what gets him a bit of a boost ahead of those behind him.
To see the other profiles in this year’s series, please reference the full list.---
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