Entry-Level Expectations, Part I: Vladislav Yeryomenko

What will the defender manage this year?

With a new season upon us, there is a new class of Predators prospects whose exclusive negotiating rights with the team expire at the end of the year. Last year Nashville chose not to sign three prospects in this position (Karel Vejmelka, Jacob Paquette, and Pavel Koltygin) and added the remaining two on AHL deals (Tommy Novak and Adam Smith).

This season, I wanted to do a quick assessment—before the year got underway—of the likelihood any of these entry-level contracts are handed out before next June. I intend for these to be quick posts with a recap of each prospect’s career since Draft Day, what you can anticipate this season, and how they’ve established themselves versus their peers.

I have once again enlisted the help of Bryan (@projpatsummit), our analytics contributor, to visualize some relevant data for each prospect. First up: defender Vladislav Yeryomenko.

What’s New Since Draft Day?

WHL D Rank

Yeryomenko was selected in the fifth round, 151st overall, by Nashville last summer at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. He posted 41 points in 63 games for the Calgary Hitmen the season prior and four more points for Belarus at the World Junior Championships.

In his first season after the draft, Yeryomenko was an integral part of a Hitmen squad that struggled through the first half of the season. Despite a drop in points, Yeryomenko concentrated most of his primary offensive production on even-strength play, which was unique among his higher-scoring peers.

Expectations for 2019-20

On May 2, Yeryomenko was traded to the Moose Jaw Warriors as part of a massive deal for Canucks prospect Jett Woo. After they released Yegor Buyalski, Yeryomenko is one of two import players on the Moose Jaw roster. CHL rules stipulate teams can carry a maximum of two, but the Warriors selected goalie Jesper Wallstedt in the CHL Import Draft on June 27.

It’s unlikely Wallstedt, a top prospect for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, comes to the WHL, but if he does, Moose Jaw would have to release one of Yeryomenko or Danill Stepanov. The caveat with Yeryomenko is that he is 20 years old, so he could sign an entry-level contract and jump right to the AHL.

“We’re in a situation where it’s a little bit unique, we expect to have Yeryomenko here — all conversations with the player, agent and Nashville are they have another year to sign him and they want him to play another year in the league...”

Warriors GM Alan Millar spoke to Marc Smith about the situation and provided insight on Nashville’s desire to keep Yeryomenko in the WHL this season. It makes sense given his development and the packed depth chart in Milwaukee.

After graduating Josh Brook and trading Jett Woo, the Warriors should bring back six defenders, including Yeryomenko who highlights the pack experience-wise. Daemon Hunt will be someone to watch for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. I expect Yeryomenko to play top-pair minutes in all situations for a playoff-contending team.

What Does History Tell Us?

For each of these profiles, I compiled the data of similar players from the previous four drafts. In this case that means defenders drafted out of the WHL from 2013 to 2018. I enlisted Bryan’s help to visualize who gets offered entry-level contracts when and if there is any correlation to offensive production.

(Note: Bryan really knocked this out of the park, and I want to encourage you all to explore all this data viz has to offer. Here is the link.)

In the data above, ‘Draft Year’ is defined as that player’s draft day to June 1 the following year; ‘Draft Year + 1’ is June 1 the year after their draft day to May 1 the following year; ‘Draft Year + 2’ is that May 1st to June 1st when their exclusive negotiation rights expire. Here are a few takeaways from this data set:

  • WHL defenders are almost guaranteed an ELC within short order of draft day if taken in the first two rounds (no surprise).
  • Those drafted in rounds three and four are less of an exact science, but they’re still more likely to score a deal—usually in the second season after their draft.
  • Late-round picks have an uphill battle to scoring a deal and almost never sign immediately, but (with a few exceptions) scoring 0.60 points-per-game is a good benchmark for signing a deal.
  • There are some fascinating cases like that of Max Lajoie of players defying these general parameters.
  • If a late-round pick hasn’t signed by March or April of their second season post-draft, it’s highly unlikely they will. Among this group, it’s incredibly rare for players to score a deal between May and June. It seems teams likely have their mind made up by the time of the trade deadline. Even Jacob Paquette’s remarkable run with the IceDogs last spring wasn’t enough./

Yeryomenko has a big season ahead of him, but he has all the opportunity to make the most of it. I think a season where he returns to his 2017-18 production, similar, or better is key to signing a deal. But, ultimately, I think Nashville will offer him an entry-level contract around February or March.

All stats are courtesy of eliteprospects.com, pick224.com, and whl.ca.