Michigan junior forward Cooper Marody had his NHL rights traded on Wednesday from Philadephia, who drafted Marody in the 6th round of the 2015 NHL Draft, to the Edmonton Oilers, who sent a 2019 third round draft pick acquired in a deadline deal from New Jersey for Patrick Maroon, back to the Flyers.
It’s rare to see deals made after the NHL trade deadline, but the deadline is only for playoff eligibility, but with the Oilers not making the playoffs and Philly acquiring a draft pick, that doesn’t really factor into the decision. The timing of it is interesting, however, which, more on that later.
It would seem to be an odd time for Philadelphia to dump Marody, given he is having a breakout year at Michigan. After struggling through mononucleosis in his freshman year at Michigan, and missing the first half of last season due to academic ineligibility, Marody has been one of the top scorers in college hockey in his first full, healthy season as a junior. His scoring line of 14-32-46 in 37 games ranks 10th nationally in overall scoring, and 8th nationally on a points-per-game basis.
So why would Philadelphia give him away for what seems like relatively little return? Marody’s style of play is likely one of the huge drivers in this decision.
There are some things Marody does really well. His skating has always been above average, and I really like his hockey IQ in the offensive zone. Marody is excellent at finding soft areas of ice to work from in the offensive zone and is terrific at passing the puck. He knows where he is sending the puck next before it gets to him, and that has made him one of the most effective playmakers in college hockey.
But there is a downside. Strength has always been the biggest knock on Marody, going back to when he was draft eligible. And he hasn’t added any weight, at least by roster listing, since joining Michigan three years. That shows in his play on the ice. Marody isn’t particularly strong on the puck, and isn’t very effective working along the boards and in tight spaces.
That combination makes Marody a bit of a boom-or-bust prospect. If he is unable to establish himself in a scoring role at the NHL level, he’s unlikely to stick in a bottom line role.
It’s maybe not a surprise that the Flyers leaned towards thinking bust either. Philadelphia general manager Ron Hextall and head coach Dave Hakstol are both known for preferring a more hard-nosed style of hockey. Current young Flyers like Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, and Scott Laughton are all players that fell, to some degree, in their NHL Draft years, because of questions about high-end scoring ability, even though they play very tough, responsible games. It’s fair to say Marody was an awkward fit in terms of organizational philosophy.
It’s also worth noting that the Flyers prospect pool is fairly deep at the moment. It’s never a great idea to give away good assets, but Marody was only the third-best NCAA prospect the Flyers had in the NCAA this past season behind Western Michigan’s Wade Allison and Ohio State’s Tanner Laczynski(I write a Top 100 prospects this year, but if I had would have had Allison, Laczynski and Marody 12, 32, and 40 respectively). With Allison and Laczynski, among others, potentially joining the organization in the near future, that would have left things very crowded for Marody.
So why make the trade now? The biggest reason is that the clock was ticking with Marody. If he had returned to Michigan for his senior season, he would have been able to become a free agent the summer afterwards, and gone anywhere he wanted with the Flyers getting nothing in return. The Flyers would have been in extremely poor negotiating position if they tried to make a deal for him next year.
The same technically holds true with Edmonton, but by making the trade now, they gain a huge advantage in negotiation. The Oilers’ season is essentially over, so they can offer Marody the opportunity to jump immediately into the Edmonton line-up, should he sign a pro contract once Michigan’s run in the NCAA Tournament is over. Even if Philadelphia had wanted to sign Marody, they likely weren’t going to give him extended NHL time late this year during a playoff stretch run. Marody gets some NHL experience and gets to burn the first year of his entry-level contract this year, Edmonton gets to make sure they have Marody under their control.
As far as the return of a third round pick for Marody, my initial reaction was that it was a little low for a player that has shown he can score like Marody has, and has, more or less, panned out about as well as one can hope a sixth round draft pick would.
But when you look at what the value of a third round draft pick is, I guess it makes sense. A pick 60-90 in the draft averages out to a good-to-very good minor league player that maybe plays 50-100 NHL games. Or having about 25-30% chance of playing more than 100 NHL games.
If you asked me what the odds are Marody will play more than 100 games in the NHL, I’d probably say higher than 25%, but keeping in mind the boom-or-bust I mentioned above, probably wouldn’t be comfortable saying anything above 50%. Certainly if you asked the Flyers what the odds were of him playing that much, especially in their organization, they’d put them much lower, and say they got fair return.
I still think it’s a good deal for the Oilers, and could potentially salvage what I thought was an absolutely horrible trade in acquiring Boston College’s JD Dudek and a third round pick for Patrick Maroon. Players with the offensive gifts of Marody are hard to find, and for a franchise that continues to struggle, it’s probably worth taking a home run swing at relatively little cost. As with any prospect, there is some level of risk involved. And in the case of Marody, it was a level that a team that is a current playoff contender, and one with a specific style of play in mind, wasn’t willing to take on. But the potential is there for Marody to be a very good NHL player.