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How do we use Dalton Prout?

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What kind of player is Dalton Prout, and how do we best utilize him?

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Some initial ground rules:

  1. This post is not about his contract. The consensus here is that it was a bad contract and it was poorly timed. Let’s not rehash that discussion in the comments. This is solely about Dalton Prout the player.
  2. We’re also going to ignore the knee-jerk "put him in the pressbox" comments. As with Jared Boll, because he’s under contract I assume he’ll play in at least half the games. The goal of this post is to look at what he’s capable of and which other defensemen would make the most effective partners for him in 2016-17.
  3. This is meant with all due respect to Dalton Prout, the person. By all accounts he’s a great teammate and he’s done a lot of community outreach. It’s important to keep this in perspective while also trying to judge his hockey skills objectively.

What kind of player is Dalton Prout?

Dalton Prout is a third pairing defenseman. It’s not fair to expect him to be a game changer. If you compare him to third pairing blue liners from each Stanley Cup finalist, you will see that he fits.

http://ownthepuck.blogspot.ca/
http://ownthepuck.blogspot.ca/

Here are some additional charts from Micah Blake McCurdy of hockeyviz.com (this site is a great resource and I encourage you all to check it out at some point):

Micah Blake McCurdy, hockeyviz.com
Micah Blake McCurdy, hockeyviz.com

The most interesting stat, to me, is how good he appears to be at shot suppression. Do these numbers fit with our observations? I can believe that his physical style of play is a factor. He led all Jacket defensemen with 152 hits (next closest was Tyutin with 128).

While he suppressed shots, the number show that he wasn’t any better at preventing goals. I can think of a couple reasons for this:

  1. Among defensemen only Tyutin and Jones had fewer blocks per 60 minutes.
  2. His turnover numbers are poor. 25 giveaways to just 7 takeaways. My recollection of Prout is that many of his turnovers seemed to lead to easy scoring opportunities for the opponents.
  3. He takes too many penalties compared to how many he draws.

How do we use Prout?

Here are the defensemen most likely to make the team:

Left-handed ATOI Right-handed ATOI
Ryan Murray 22:51 Seth Jones 24:27
Jack Johnson 24:11 David Savard 23:10
Dean Kukan 17:21 Dalton Prout 16:10
Zach Werenski N/A Cody Goloubef 15:08

  • Murray and Jones are the obvious first pairing
  • Johnson and Savard would likely benefit from more of a second pairing role
  • I wonder if Goloubef may not make the team out of camp. He missed time to injury, and after returning he didn’t impress.
  • On the other hand, Dean Kukan did very well in his 8 game audition.
  • Zach Werenski is the wild card. It’s hard to project how well he’ll do if he makes the team, or how much he’ll play.
Micah Blake McCurdy, hockeyviz.com

This is a chart comparing the most common defensive pairings from last year. So many squares below the red line shows how much the blue line struggled last year.

Prout and Kukan have squares near each other, so it’s possible they could be a good pairing together.

In the comments earlier this summer I suggested pairing Prout with Murray as a way of "hiding" Prout. This confirms that they would be better than average at shot suppression, though they wouldn’t provide any offense. This could be a good pairing if the goal is to slow down the opponent. Murray would take on PP and PK shifts to make up his minutes. If you look at the game-by-game chart, you will notice that Murray was Prout's partner for a handful of games late last season. In that time, Prout had his best offensive production and allowed fewer shots and goals.

Prout and Savard are surprisingly close to the "fun" end of the spectrum. This appears to be the best pairing to get any sort of offensive production when Prout is on the ice. They had a +/- of 0, which is better than most of the pairings.

Conclusions

Keep Prout’s minutes in the 15 minute range. Don’t expect any significant offensive production. His physicality still has some usefulness - depending on the opponent. He will need to improve his puck-handling and reduce the turnovers and penalties.