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Finding Cheap depth: Mattinen and Middleton

It’s not just the draft where you can find cheap talent; two players who were long shots for one squad might find a better shot in a black and gold one.

There were a large number of players this year who were previously drafted, but never signed with their team, and are headed to free agency, or re-entering the draft. A couple of those players were Toronto Maple Leafs draft picks.

The Bruins have a long history of turning the Maple Leafs’ trash into treasure. Tuukka Rask was acquired via trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton were drafted from picks acquired via trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Could the Bruins do this, on a smaller scale, with former draft picks of the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Keaton Middleton and Nicolas Mattinen, both picked in 2016 by the Maple Leafs, will be re-entering the draft this summer. It is pretty unlikely that either get drafted considering their age and status, but could they be good, cheap free agent signings for the Bruins?

Nicolas Mattinen - RHD

Middlet Mattinen stands at 6’5” and a little short of 225 lbs. Going into the 2017-18 season, the future didn’t look too bright for Mattinen. According to our “friends” at Canucks Army, he had an expected success (of both making the NHL and playing anywhere from 10-200+ games) rate of 5.2%. His closest successful comparable was Dalton Prout, who wasn’t really a star defenseman.

Claus Anderson/Getty Images

However, Mattinen had a stellar 2017-18 season, and the numbers show it. His production, especially at 5v5, isn’t too pretty. He averaged about a point per 60 minutes, which is about average for an OHL defenseman, but is slightly inflated due to his age, and 10 of his 19 5v5 points were secondary assists. But looking beyond point totals, Mattinen seems to have quite the two-way game developing. Of the 30 OHL defensemen his age who played at least 10 games, Mattinen was 4th in relative goals for-% at 7.52%. For those unfamiliar with that stat, it is the percentage of goals that are scored by Mattinen’s team when he was on the ice, minus the same when he is off. So although Mattinen’s team only scored 47.86% of the goals when he was on the ice, without Mattinen that number dropped to 40.34%. This is largely due to the fact Mattinen played most of his season in last place Flint, before being traded to the eventual OHL champs at the deadline.

A much smaller sample size here, but in Mitch Brown’s tracking project, Nicolas Mattinen ranked 100th percentile in rel-CF% among OHL defenders, and led the Hamilton Bulldogs in CF%. Since Mattinen’s two-way game seems to be developing quite nicely while being under the radar enough to tender an offer to, giving him a chance with the Providence Bruins on an AHL contract would be a great boon on both the P-Bruins and the RHD depth in general.

Keaton Middleton - LHD

There isn’t too much to say about Middleton besides that he is big, even bigger than Mattinen at 6’6” and 240 lbs. His production on the other hand, is even worse than Mattinen’s as you can see below. However, he did have a decent rel-GF% at 2.88%, but nothing good enough to offet his poor, dull production.

If the Bruins were to hand Middleton a minor league contract, they would have to work significantly on his skating. With his size and hockey IQ, he could be a decent depth defenseman, or top end AHL defenseman, in the future if his skating improved.