Early ISL Draft Reactions: New Titans Soaring, New Breakers Struggling in 2021

Thanks to Barry Revzin for compiling this data.

The International Swimming League draft was presented as a way to begin the process of rebalancing the league’s 10 teams, giving the bottom teams an opportunity to improve their rosters and create a more competitive landscape beyond the top four teams that dominated the first two seasons of competition.

And in a few specific places, it did that. The Toronto Titans, for example, look like real ISL final contenders, which would make them the first club outside of the ‘original four’ teams (LA, Cali, London, and Energy Standard) to crack the top four in the league.

Below, average per-match scoring by each team’s draftees

This data excludes the retained athletes, and excludes athletes picked up in free agency. So it is, essentially, the original rookie round, plus the 13 weighted rounds of picks.

1. 178.50 – Toronto Titans
2. 141.00 – London Roar
3. 140.75 – DC Trident
4. 122.25 – Aqua Centurions
5. 117.00 – Cali Condors
6. 115.50 – Iron
7. 100.50 – Tokyo Frog Kings
8. 93.00 – LA Current
9. 91.00 – Energy Standard
10. 45.75 – NY Breakers

There are a few things we have to consider when weighing this data.

For one, while athletes were ostensibly open to any team, we know realistically that this wasn’t true. 15-year old Summer McIntosh, for example, wasn’t ever going to be on any team but the Titans, or she probably would have gone earlier than the 11th round, which was the Titans’ last pick. Her 38 points per match are more than any other Titans draftee has scored this season (even more than their first-round rookie pick Kasia Wasick at 35.5). In fact, she’s outscoring almost every draftee, with the exception being Vini Lanza: the London Roar’s second pick, coming in round 5 of the draft.

Toronto also picked up Kasia Wasick, who inexplicably wasn’t retained by the Breakers in spite of being the fastest 50 freestyler in the league last season. The only explanation is that she declined to return to the team, thereby entering the rookie draft.

But they also had good picks in their own rights – Marius Kusch has been a big pickup for them, as has the previously-anonymous Grigori Pekarski of Belarus, who is a short course sprint wiz.

We also have to consider that after the first rookie round (which really undercut a lot of the rebalancing effort), there was a draft system laid out that benefited the teams who were worse last season. Aqua Centurions, for example, got four picks before Cali Condors got their first.

Additionally, there is a bit of an offsetting impact of team quality in play. A new swimmer on a good team will get fewer racing opportunities than a new swimmer on a bad team. On the other hand, a new relay-capable swimmer on a good team will get more relay points than a new relay-capable swimmer on a bad team will.

We also have to squint a little bit and pretend like the regular season matters, especially when discussing the good teams. Energy Standard or Cali are hurt by a draftee not showing up – but they also don’t care as much if those draftees don’t show up until the playoffs, because their 15 retained swimmers are more-than-enough to cruise them into the playoff round.

So this data is done solely on the basis of average points scored, per match, by a team’s draftees. The season is still young, and a lot of the data so far can be dependent on opponents and matchups, so we’ll continue to re-evaluate as the season goes on.

Highlights of the Analysis:

  • The New York Breakers, in spite of a relatively-advantageous 3rd pick position, did not get much help in the draft. Their ‘rookie round’ pick Matt Temple is performing well so far, by their next three picks are all scoreless so far this season. David Popovici and Mewen Tomac haven’t scored any points this season (Popovici isn’t on the squad for Naples), while their fourth pick (in the fifth round) Maxime Grousset was a flub, as he wasn’t entered in the draft pool. Another forfeited pick in the 10th round, with a lot of swimmers still on the board who have contributed big points, and the Breakers are in a world of hurt. With the loss of their top scorer from last season Michael Andrew (not participating), and layer that on top of non-returning swimmers like Wasick and Matt Richards and Emily Escobedo performing well on other teams’ rosters, it’s looking like a last-place season in the team’s first year under new general manager Martin Truijens.
  • The DC Trident had a high draft ranking, so we’d expect their rookies to do well, but that doesn’t tell the full story. Their first round pick, Ryan Hoffer, has only averaged 5.8 points per match this year – second-lowest of any first round pick. He was the clear pick at that position for Trident. There was some argument maybe for Wasick, but Hoffer looked ready to be an instant breakout in short course. It’s too early to call him a ‘bust’ yet, but this higlights the depth of their draft. They got Ali DeLoof (24.2 points/match) in the 4th round, Aleksandr Shchegolev (17.5 points/match) in the 7th round). and Tatiana Belonogoff (10.8 points/match) in the 9th round. Aside from Hoffer, they don’t really have a bad pick yet. If Farida Osman ever returns for the team (she seemed like a value pick in the 6th round on paper), then the Trident’s draft gets even better. GM Kaitlin Sandeno and her staff did a great job in the draft, making value out of each pick.
  • The London Roar are waiting for some stars – Emma McKeon, Kyle Chalmers, Cate Campbell – to rejoin the team, but are still very very dangerous because of that draft number. Vini Lanza, their #2 pick and a 5th-round pick overall, has a skins win that is huge. Dylan Carter, Christian Diener, Teppei Morimoto (a Japanese swimmer that escaped the Tokyo team) are all performing well, and Zac Incerti became a brilliant late-round pick after an Olympic breakout. London, thanks to the ability to reserve swimmers from both season 2 and the huge contingent of season 1 athletes who didn’t race for them last year already had the deepest base to pick from. The draft didn’t erode that one bit, thanks to some shrewd picking.
  • Tokyo seemed confident in its draft strategy, in spite of some botched picks and retaining far fewer athletes than any other team. So far, they haven’t done great with their new additions, though, scoring just 8th out of 10 teams. On the other hand – they have more points from the “undrafted free agency” period than any other team. That was boosted by Yui Ohashi, who most teams expected to not participate in the league at all.
  • Energy Standard’s draftees are not doing great, but their staff, which often seems a step ahead in understanding format, was more willing to sell out on the idea that if they can get through the regular season (which they will do without problem), and get swimmers back then, they’ll be fine. Just among draft picks, the team will at some point get World Champion Boglarka Kapas, World Record holder Etiene Medeiros, and Olympic Champion James Guy. That’s in addition to the return of Florent Manaudou- Marie-Sophie Harvey, Emily Seebohm, and Femke Heemskerk. The top teams are still stacked.
  • While Aqua is clearly soaring, we have to acknowledge that a lot of that is because they were able to retain Thomas Ceccon as a ‘returning swimmer’ in spite of him not having been a part of the team in the past. This essentially gave them an extra #1 pick (they probably would’ve taken him first overall if given the opportunity). So that’s one big reason why we’ve seen the team improve so substantially even though their draftees are mid-pack. Ceccon is averaging 36 points/match so far.
  • If the draft continues, we’d expect general managers to get a lot better, a lot more sophisticated, and slowly incorporate more data into their selections. In any draft in any sport, there will be surprises and there will be busts, but generally you expect a tilt of the scatter-plot toward higher picks scoring more points. In this draft, the impact is all over the place – with a lot of undrafted free agents easily outscoring a lot of drafted swimmers. Three teams so far, Breakers, Tokyo, and Energy Standard, have scored more points from their undrafted swimmers than their drafted swimmers. Some of this will come with a more stable league too – more parity could mean more swimmers showing up for the regular season, more shared information about who will be available when – all of this will make the draft process better.

Ranking the first round picks by average points scored:

  1. Kasia Wasick, Toronto – 35.5
  2. Barbora Seemanova, Iron – 34.0
  3. Evgenia Chikunova, Energy Standard – 30.8
  4. Paige Madden, Tokyo – 25.0
  5. Matt Temple, New York Breakers – 21.5
  6. Martin Malyutin, LA Current – 20.5
  7. Arno Kamminga, AQC – 15.8
  8. Maaike De Waard, Cali Condors – 11.5
  9. Ryan Hoffer, DC Trident – 5.8
  10. Kenzo Simons, London – 4.0

Ranking the top 17 non-first-round picks by average points scored (Pick # in parenthesis):

  1. Vini Lanza, London – 52.0 (#30)
  2. Summer McIntosh, Toronto – 38.0 (#92)
  3. Marius Kusch, Toronto – 34.0 (#26)
  4. Sherridon Dressel, Cali Condors – 33.5 (#104)
  5. Grigori Pekarski, Toronto – 28.0 (#54)
  6. Maria Kameneva, AQC – 26.0 (#11)
  7. Ali DeLoof, DC Trident – 24.2 (#24)
  8. Andreas Vazaios, DC Trident – 23.5 (#18)
  9. Valentine DuMont, LA Current – 20.5 (#47)
  10. Aly Tetzloff, Tokyo – 19.0 (#75)
  11. Grigory Tarasevich, Tokyo (#27)/Fabian Schwingenschlogl, Toronto (#44) – 18.5
  12. Tippei Morimoto, London (#68) – 18.0
  13. Ilia Borodin, AQC (#71) – 17.8
  14. Chase Kalisz, AQC (#17)/Dylan Carter, London (#38)/Holly Barratt, AQC (#41)  – 17.5

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1 year ago

If Tokyo gets an in-shape Morozov, he’s a huge gamechanger. They also need to swim people like Yui Ohashi in more events. If you can win both IMs at the Olympics, you can swim anything. They should try her in the 200 back.

1 year ago

I know the way the ISL is run has some problems but it is so god damn fun

1 year ago

This ISL stuff is boring and confusing.

1 year ago

I am hoping that Zapple and Hoffer can pick it up a bit. DC is just barely getting beat by AQC and a strong meet from them would put us in contention

Swim nerd
Reply to  N80m80
1 year ago

I haven’t given up on hoffer yet. Given time he will get better as he adjusts to scm. He’s also young, this is the first time he’s racing against pros so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Reply to  N80m80
1 year ago

Hoff split 48.0 in the first match in the free relay, but then he already improved to 46.7 and 46.5 in match 4. He just needs time. He’s only going to get better from there.

Reply to  N80m80
1 year ago

Hoffer took some time off after trials, out of the pool for almost 2 months. On top of getting used to SCM, he’s also working himself back into shape–physique-wise he looks a little soft by his standards.

People have been saying Hoffer is perfect for the ISL, which could be true for playoffs and finals when he’ll get more rest, but I’m not so sure he’s going to be a huge regular season force. He’s never been a great in-season racer.

Chineeese boy
1 year ago

NYB vs TOT is basically attack on titans

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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