2015 Top 25 Under 25, #3: Brayden McNabb
#3 is #3.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Nationality||Drafted||Current League||2014 Rank|
|#3||Brayden McNabb||1/28/1991||Canadian||3rd round, 66th overall (2009)||NHL||5|
Brayden McNabb is now in his second full year with the Los Angeles Kings. After being acquired from the Sabres for Hudson Fasching and Nicolas Deslauriers, McNabb made his debut with the Kings on opening night last season.
Though initially acquired with an eye on the future, Brayden McNabb joined the Kings' present situation much faster than anticipated. McNabb took advantage of his early inclusion in the Kings' lineup and never relinquished his place on the roster.
McNabb's slight rise on this list from last year is mostly due to attrition, but he did a good job earning praise and playing time during his first full NHL season. We didn't actually get to McNabb in our 2014 Top 25 Under 25 until January of 2015, so Eric had a chance to write about the first half of his season in a little bit more depth.
Right now, McNabb's value still outstrips his on-ice performance; he's a young defenseman, and in an NHL that is starting to leave the prototypical physical defenseman behind, McNabb has enough offensive potential to be a valuable piece on the blueline.
While we were generally positive on his early-season play, we were still more excited about his potential than his production.
Fortunately, by the end of the season, McNabb had successfully established himself as one of the four best defensemen on the Kings.
On the ice, McNabb played like a top-four defenseman according to the possession metrics, which put him right up there with Possession King Jake Muzzin, Andrej Sekera, and Drew Doughty. Among L.A.'s regular defensemen in 2014-15, McNabb was third in 5v5 Corsi percentage and second in 5v5 Fenwick percentage. Of course, playing on a great possession team helps, but McNabb's WOWYs indicate his defensive partners played better with him than without him, and that includes Doughty and Sekera. By relative Corsi and Fenwick, the Kings were a better even-strength possession team when McNabb was on the ice than when he was off.
McNabb's late-season play manifested in more tangible results as well. Sutter was trusting him with more ice-time in March than he had at any point before that in the season - except for November, when the Kings were depleted by injury. McNabb's improvement as a possession player was mirrored by an uptick in production (including his only goals of the season!). On top of that, McNabb maintained a steady physical presence throughout the season. The latter probably did more to endear McNabb to the Kings fanbase than anything else.
In his sophomore season with the Kings, the heavy-hitting defenseman has a steady role to look forward to. The Kings will rely upon McNabb without reluctance, and how he responds to that will have a great impact on the Kings' season. On paper, I think McNabb makes up part of the best group of defensemen the Kings have had since they became consistent contenders. At this moment, I think McNabb is the fourth best defenseman on the Kings. Not bad for a second-year player on a two-time Cup winner.