Ty Voit is an American from Pittsburgh, selected 153rd overall by the Maple Leafs in the NHL Draft last weekend. He is a classic Kyle Dubas-type, in that he is a zippy little winger. He chose to play for Sarnia in the OHL instead of in the USHL when he was drafted into both leagues.
CONTEXT AND BACKSTORY
Last season was his rookie OHL year and did quite well for himself: 8 goals and 28 points in 49 games. That was good for 7th in the OHL in points per game for 16 year olds in their D-1 season. It was a clear tier behind top OHL prospects like Mason McTavish or Francisco Pinelli, but in the same group as Brett Harrison (3rd round pick), Chase Stillman (1st round pick), Brennan Othmann (1st round pick) and Wyatt Johnston (1st round pick).
What’s the difference between those four and Ty Voit, when they were all taken two or four rounds earlier? Well, all of them played in some games this season where Voit did not. All but Johnston played in a European league for at least a few games, and all four of them including Johnston played in the World U18 Junior Championship. Voit, meanwhile, would likely have been an offensive leader for Team USA at the Hlinka Gretzky tournament last summer to help his stock, but it was also cancelled due to the pandemic.
Since the last OHL season ended early because of COVID, Ty Voit only played in the PBHH Invitational — a showcase ‘tournament’ that were mainly exhibition/shinny games from the way various scouts described it. It was not a major international tournament that scouts and teams love to see (and overrate). For what it’s worth, in those games Voit was one of the top producers for his age group with 10 points in 10 games.
And there are some indications that, going into this year at least, Voit was considered to be in that same tier of prospects as the other four. Here’s a blurb from the Elite Prospects’ draft guide that talks about the issue of how to assess a player they liked, but how the uncertainty of him not playing meaningful games affected the discourse about him overall:
There was a pitched battle in every meeting to determine Ty Voit’s place in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, with our scouts aligned on two separate sides. Some viewed him as a B-grade prospect, a high second-round pick. Others saw him as more a question-mark, better suited to the third or fourth-rounds.
He started the season as an A-grade prospect, checking in at No. 27 overall in January. Ultimately, the Sarnia Sting forward’s stock dropped as our discussions about his game intensified and we became more certain of the projection of other prospects.
Voit’s final position on our board at 70th overall reflects the tension within our group. Maybe he assuages some of our concerns with the benefit of a full OHL season or even some overseas playing time, but that just didn’t happen. The June showcase was practically shinny hockey, so it’s not a great evaluative setting. So, we’re left with last year’s sample.
The other major difference between Voit and the other four OHL prospects in his tier is that they’re all 6’0” or taller, where Voit is much smaller. When he was drafted into the OHL, Voit was 5’8” and 140 lbs. When he was drafted by the Leafs this weekend, he was listed as 5’10” and 161 lbs. Some scouts who watched him in the OHL last year and at the showcase exhibition games this year remarked that he looked like he put on a lot more muscle, likely because with no games he just spent all season at the gym. That honestly could accelerate his strength and conditioning compared to normal years, as players often lose weight and muscle through the grind of a season.
By all accounts, Voit has the kind of skating you want a smaller player to have. His speed is above average, but not quite elite. However, he is very agile and maneuverable, and shifty on his skates so it’s difficult for defenders to square him up. He can make quick lateral cuts and crossovers to elude the other team, and find undefended areas of the ice. Becoming more explosive as a skater will be important for him, which is something that adding muscle and strength will help with a lot. For now, his skating is what helps him be able to make plays and drive transitions despite being smaller in height and strength than his competitors.
From Brock Otten:
He is most effective currently on the attack, playing the game at a feverish pace. With a quick, low stride and terrific edgework, Voit is a very difficult player to contain because he changes direction and stops and starts with relative ease, all while keeping the puck on a string.
Voit is the goal scorer in black, who starts this clip entering the zone and then switching to reverse crossovers to build speed around the near-side faceoff dots. He takes off and is already at top speed, while the defenders give him way too much room and it’s too late for them to do anything once he gets the puck. He simply blows past them for the breakaway.
Ty Voit (RW) - #96 - Sarnia Sting— Eddy Jones (@eddyvanjones) October 17, 2020
One of my early favourites out of the 2021 OHL Draft Eligibles. Undersized, but boy does he have skill for days.
He may or not make my Top 10 for @TheDraftAnalyst pic.twitter.com/LPX8Ppvlt3
More than one scouting report I’ve read described Voit one of the most creative and skilled playmakers in his OHL draft class, full stop. That’s great to hear for me, especially for a late round pick. We unfortunately don’t have any real sample of games to watch or analyze to assess that against other top OHLers who were drafted and at least played some games, but it’s hard for me to believe that all of that went stagnant or went away. In the highlights of his that I’ve seen from his last OHL season, he certainly looked highly skilled. He made some very impressive passes, especially considering he was a D-1 prospect, and 16 year old OHL rookie for all of them.
From Elite Prospects’ 2021 Draft Guide (pay to download):
He sprung teammates for great scoring chances with one-touch passing. He plays the give-and-go game better than most players in this draft, and executes on those plays far quicker than his peers, too. He accelerates on receptions and chains moves like stick lifts, turns, and saucer feeds in an instant. His game is full of creative, unexpected offensive patterns; he attracts defensive pressure and makes plays through layers.
You can see in his tracking data (again, remember this is from last season when he was 16/17 years old) how much of his game is based on passing and playmaking.
Part of what helps his playmaking is how Voit is able to handle the puck. He has a similar quality as Auston Matthews, though not at the same level, where he can stick handle the puck in tight. It helps him keep defenders off balance, and make it harder for them to take it off of him. He knows how to manoeuvre the puck on his stick to lure in defensemen to pull them closer to him, or how to protect it as he drives through defenders. This combined with his passing and skating is why Voit is such a fun playmaking winger.
From Josh Tessler:
He does an excellent job of drawing in attackers with his puck manipulation. He’ll pull a 180 degree turn with the puck, face the neutral zone instead of the goaltender, lures defenders to him, his teammate cuts left and Voit throws a pass through his legs to the teammate. Voit will manipulate defenders by playing the puck out in front of him, draws the defender in and then he will swing the puck around the right to dance around attack
The other theme that comes through in the scouting reports about Voit, which are harder to tell from what highlights I can find, is that he is “smart”. That can mean a lot of different things, but for me it includes things like positioning on the ice, awareness of the play around him, clever tricks and manipulation, and processing the game quickly. This helps him see and anticipate a play a bit before everyone else on the ice, so he can make very creative passes, or position himself on the ice better. It also helps him compete against players bigger and stronger than him, so they can’t catch him, check him, or pin him against the boards when he has less room to move.
From David St. Louis at Elite Prospects:
I like how Voit prepares his receiving/shooting space by stick lifting defenders as the puck comes. Detail, but an insight into how his mind works. He protects the puck instead of throwing it away if there is no option and receives his share of pucks because he knows how and where to move. One great sequence this game: Voit attacked the offensive zone through the middle vs four defenders, one on his back. He broke in (deceptive, puck at hip stance helping) and, because he previously peaked over his shoulder for support, he managed to slip the puck back to a teammate after attracting defensive attention. High-level play for such a young player.
A couple other "teases." First, Ty Voit has to be considered one of the most individually skilled players out of the OHL for this year's draft. He may not be the biggest or the strongest, but he is a master manipulator of space and elevates the play of those around him. pic.twitter.com/00rbMcM6mS— Brock Otten (@BrockOtten) May 14, 2021
This is a big one, because it will affect numerous elements of his game. Adding more strength will help his skating become more powerful and explosive, and improve his top speed. It will also help him be able to fight through checking and not get pushed around so easily in scrums and along the boards. And it will help him add more power to his shot, which I’ll address more below.
It’s not uncommon for smaller, offensively-minded wingers to be not the best defensively, especially when they are younger. Any scouting report I read touched on this as an issue for Voit as well. By all accounts, he could get lazy defensively. He could fly the zone too early, he could have his head in the clouds, position himself in no-man’s land in his own end, and so on.
Now, on the one hand that’s something that seems easy to fix, and he was just a 16 year old rookie. You’d expect him to get better at that with more coaching and maturity. On the other hand, it’s not like we’ve never seen an offensively skilled winger just never get better at it, and that’s a big reason why they don’t make it very far. For what it’s worth, Voit does have the tools to at least get good enough defensively. Being quick, agile, and showing the ability, anticipation and desire to chase pucks down and steal them in the offensive and neutral zones are things that could be applied in the defensive end too — in theory at least. And the reports I’ve read suggest he did apply himself defensively at times, it was just inconsistent.
From Future Considerations (side note: some good highlight clips you won’t find on Twitter):
On the topic of maturing his game, I think the biggest area of growth for Voit is the defensive zone. As a winger, he doesn’t have a ton of responsibility in the defensive zone, and Voit does have the work ethic to get back on the backcheck and disrupt his opponents. But under sustained defensive zone pressure, Voit often floats quite high in his own zone and I found he stays fairly tight to his own boards quite often. I’d like to see him get a bit deeper and try and close off passes to the point a bit better with some smarter stick positioning. The other addition to his game that will come with maturity is physical development and overall strength.
I will also touch briefly on his shot. In the highlights, there were a few times where it looked like he flashed a nice, hard and accurate wrist shot. He also scored a real nifty backhand that really caught me off guard. But he’ll likely never be known as a goal scorer, more of a playmaker whose skill will occasionally help him score goals at higher levels. His goals were scored off rushes or well timed cuts to the net, rather than sniping from long or even medium distance.
Adding strength will help this, as will working on his shot mechanics. But he has shown willingness to go to the net and to the dirty areas for tips and rebounds, which is another area where adding strength will help. Being at least enough of a threat to shoot and score to keep defenders honest will be important for his development, as it will help his passing and playmaking be even more effective. Not that I have any NHL player in mind when I say this.
It’s really hard to say, since I was not able to watch any games of his at all. Not even any from two seasons ago. From everything I read, the impression I got is that most scouting people forecast him to be a middle 6 play making winger who can help out on the powerplay and do a lot of the offensive work in the neutral zone and offensive zone to set up chances.
But the likelihood of him doing that is the big question, because we didn’t see how he developed this season. He will return next year to the OHL and the Sarnia Sting, and he will need to show that he is bigger, stronger, faster, and just overall better. For us to know that he was a legit prospect who should have gone in the first 2-3 rounds, he will need to be a dominant force among his peers. Lead Sarnia in points, play on their top line and top powerplay unit, maybe some PK time as well, and finish the season among the OHL leaders in points.
It’s what the likes of Connor Brown, Josh Leivo, Jeremy Bracco, Mikhail Abramov, and Nick Robertson have done in the CHL in the past. Or even Nick Abruzzese and Veeti Miettinen have done in the NCAA. But none of them were truly elite prospects, and they either made the NHL as useful depth or we’re still not sure if they’ll make the NHL. Others, like Dmitro Timashov or Adam Brooks, struggled to carve out an NHL spot at all. But failing to reach at least that level in your D+1 season, still playing in junior, means you wind up like Riley Stotts, Ryan McGregor, and others who never even got an ELC.
CONCLUSION: WAS THIS A GOOD PICK?
For a firth rounder? Hell yes. This is the kind of swing in the late rounds that I like. I had other guys in mind for the same spot, and they all had a similar profile as far as size and skill. The fact that the OHL didn’t play, and Voit didn’t get to play in Europe or in any major international tournaments to help his draft stock may have helped the Leafs land a steal. He was going into this season in the same conversation as other top OHL prospects that went in the first to third rounds, and that appears to be for a reason.
Voit not playing at all when the others only played a little is not a significant difference for development time, and he spent this season bulking up and practicing on his own. I love that a 5th round pick was mentioned as one of the most skilled and dynamic playmakers in the OHL for his draft year.
This is a classic Dubas pick that aligns with my own thoughts of how to find value in the draft in later rounds. If everyone else left all have concerns and question marks, I’m all for swinging on a guy who only dropped because he’s small, but having above average or even elite skills in certain areas (skating, offensive abilities like shooting or passing) are about the best you can expect. If they make big strides in other areas and turn into a valuable NHLer, even in the mid to bottom 6, that’s a success for a fifth rounder.
Do you agree that Voit was a good pick for the fifth round?
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100% love this pick
I like it overall but I think Dubas could have done better
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