Brayden McNabb’s potential is there when healthy

Vegas’ expansion draft selection from the Kings can be really good if he’s on the ice.

Editor’s note: Vegas finally has a roster. It’s time to get excited. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be introducing you to these new Golden Knights players.

Defensemen like Brayden McNabb don’t come around often. The 6-foot-4 left-handed defenseman was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the third round of the 2009 NHL Draft. He was traded to the Kings in March 2014 after only 27 games in Buffalo.

In the three seasons since that trade, the 26-year-old Davidson, Saskatchewan native has developed into one of the better blueliners in the NHL.

He plays a physical game but has the possession driving ability to not get stuck in mold of a shot-blocking defenseman. He limits opponents’ scoring chances while managing to help turn the puck back up the ice with consistency.

He has played 238 games, notching seven goals and 43 assists for 50 points.

His issue is an apparent lack of foot speed. His low offensive production and durability concerns highlight the fact that, in his six pro seasons since leaving the WHL, he’s managed to play 75 games in a season only one time.

Numbers, numbers, numbers

McNabb’s common partner in L.A. was Drew Doughty and the Doughty-McNabb combo was absolutely beastly. But, this would skew some of his numbers by being on the ice with a Norris Trophy winner.

While playing with Doughty, McNabb had a 60.3 Corsi For percentage while allowing just 42.05 Corsi Against per 60. They were on ice for substantially more goals for (62.2 percent) than against.

Here were McNabb’s NHL rankings in L.A.

  • 19th in Goals For percentage (56.52)
  • 1st in CA60 (44.92)
  • 1st in Corsi For percentage (58.30)
  • 20th in CA60 Rel (-4.79)
  • 18th in Corsi For percentage Rel (3.38)/

Last season, McNabb was replaced by Derek Forbort alongside Doughty. Instead he spent most of his year playing (mostly) with Alex Martinez.

As you might expect, his goals for dropped without Doughty. He was still at a 66.7 percent in the 197 minutes McNabb and Doughty played together. His possession numbers were still excellent, posting a 58.4 CF% with Martinez. If McNabb dropped off physically, as some Kings fans suggested, his results didn’t show it. His 60.2 CF% for the season was top among defensemen and his 44.16 CA60 was 2nd.

The Verdict

When on the ice, McNabb’s team has the puck more, scores more, gives up shots and scoring chances significantly less than every other team.

Thus far, despite Los Angeles’ willingness to walk away from him, and their fans convincing themselves it was the right call, McNabb has been, and continues to be, elite when healthy.

He has played Top-4 minutes in each of the last three seasons and succeeded. One could even make the suggestion he’s a top pairing guy. A No. 2 behind a more offensive-minded No. 1 (say, perhaps what Shea Theodore might become). And at 26 years old, he may be around for a long time.

Given such a player, his on-ice results should rise again. And he could help a Theodore or similarly offensive defenseman maintain puck possession and will provide a physical side to the teams defensive attack.

Also, watching his hits on Youtube is fun.