I want to introduce another way of evaluating prospects using a NHL Equivalency or NHLE for short. Gabriel Desjardins, a prominent blogger in the hockey analysis world developed NHLE. He has figured out the production equivalency for lower leagues and how they translate into the NHL. Meaning we can take a player’s stat line from a lesser league like the Canadian junior hockey league and figure out what the NHL equivalent for the player’s performance would be. This gives us an idea of how a prospect would perform offensively at the NHL level. It’s not a perfect method for evaluating prospects because it cannot take into account for such things as ice time, line mates, power play time, skating ability, but it has proven to be a sound method of evaluating prospects. Unfortunately, it cannot predict defensive ability or goaltending, but it does a great job of evaluating offensive ability, forwards in particular. To read more about NHL Equivalency go here.
To figure out a player’s NHLE, I take a player’s stats and convert them to a per game rate; goals per game, assists per game, and points per game. I then take each rate and multiply it by that league’s equivalency number. Gabriel Desjardins has a table for the each league’s equivalency rate here. To convert them to the NHL equivalency I then multiply each number by 82 since there are 82 games in a NHL season. This tells us how a player’s performance at a lesser league translates to the NHL and gives us a ballpark prediction of what to expect if they were called up to the NHL.
Evaluating NHL prospects is difficult because you have prospects playing throughout various hockey leagues. How does a prospect performing at point per game clip in the OHL compare a player performing at a .5 point per game clip in the KHL? NHLE allows us to convert them all to their NHL equivalent so we can a fair comparison.
I will be ranking and keeping track of the Flyers prospects using NHLE. Most prospect rankings are completely subjective, but this is going to give us a more objective. We all know who the Flyers top prospects are, right? Let’s see what NHLE has to say about that.
First I want to start off taking a look at how NHLE performed on some of our already established players to give everyone an idea of how this works. Since their rookie seasons have already been played I am using their actual games played rather than the estimation of a full 82 game season.
First I start with Mike Richards. His final state line in the OHL was the following:
43 GP, 22 G, 36 A, 58 PTS.
To predict what he would do in the NHL his rookie season I then convert his goals, assists, and points to a per game basis and then multiply those numbers by the NHL equivalency for the CHL which is .29. I then multiply those numbers by 79 to get the following NHLE prediction for his rookie season:
79 GP, 12 G, 19 A, 31 PTS.
Mike Richards’ actual stat line:
79 GP, 11G, 23 A, 34 PTS.
As we see the prediction was pretty close to his actual performance. The NHLE worked well to give us an idea of what he could do based on his performance in juniors.
Next we have Jeff Carter.
Final season in the OHL:
55 GP, 34 G, 40 A, 74 PTS
Rookie season prediction:
81 GP, 15 G, 17 A, 32 PTS
81 GP, 23 G, 19 A, 42 PTS
In Carter’s case there was a much wider gap between the prediction and the actual performance. Carter was a much better goal scorer than predicted. It doesn’t surprise me the prediction was so off because Carter has one of the best wrist shots in the NHL. Stats cannot account for that and also cannot account for the development of players. Carter’s 23 goals in the NHL was much more impressive than his 34 goal performance in the OHL.
Next up is Claude Giroux. Giroux played in the AHL for about half a season before being called up to the NHL, but I am going to use his final junior season performance for his prediction since it was a larger sample.
Final season in the QMJHL:
55 GP, 38 G, 68 A, 106 PTS
Rookie season prediction:
42 GP, 8 G, 15 A, 23 PTS
42 GP, 9 G, 18 A, 27 PTS
Like Mike Richards his prediction ended up being fairly close to his actual performance.
Lastly we do James van Riemsdyk. Since he only played a handful of games in the AHL I am doing this prediction based on his final season in the NCAA.
36 GP, 17 G, 23 A, 40 PTS
Rookie season prediction:
78 GP, 15 G, 20 A, 35 PTS
78 GP, 15 G, 20 A, 35 PTS
In JVR’s case his prediction ended up being right on the money. Keep in mind it is rare to see the prediction and performance to be identical. We’re just looking at keeping it in the ballpark.
Now on to the meat and potatoes. Let’s look at the predictions for some notable Flyers prospects based on their performance during the 09-10 season.
First up are the forwards:
1. Andrei Popov: 20 G, 15 A, 35 PTS
2. Luke Pither: 13 G, 21 A, 34 PTS
3. Mike Testwuide 20 G, 9 A, 29 PTS
4. Eric Wellwood: 11 G, 13 A , 24 PTS
5. Dave Labrecque: 9 G, 15 A, 24 PTS
6. Patrick Maroon: 6 G, 18 A, 24 PTS
7. Brendan Ranford: 10 G, 12 A, 22 PTS
8. Michael Chaput: 10 G, 9 A, 19 PTS
9. Andreas Nodl: 8 G, 11 A, 19 PTS
10. Stefan Legein: 12 G, 5 A, 17 PTS
Based on their predictions Popov and Pither are our best prospects, but at the ages of 22 and 21 respectively their ceilings aren’t as high as your typical top prospects. There’s really not a whole lot to like about this list. Age unfortunately matters when it comes evaluating prospects. A 2-3 year age difference may not seem significant, but history tells us that a 17 year old scoring at a point per game rate is much more likely to have success in the NHL than a 19 year old with the exact same numbers. The fact that our farm system and this list is riddled with players 20 years or older is both disappointing and concerning. Nodl and Legein drafted as high as they were are huge disappointments. Their ceilings seem to be bottom line checking forwards. Legein hopefully could be an Asham type grinder with decent hands. Maroon at the age of 22 has been a disappointment, but I guess for a 6th round pick you can’t expect more.
For me the most interesting prospect on this list is Brendan Ranford who was just drafted this year. He turned 18 this year and just completed his 17 year old hockey season. According to his prediction his performance was just slightly off from Pat Maroon who is 4 years older and Labrecque and Wellwood who are both 2 years older. He appears to have the most potential according to this list, but considering he is both undersized and a below average skater we have to temper expectations for him. Michael Chaput is the only other teenager on this list and his performance also compared favorably to the prospects who were older than him. It will be interesting to see how our two teenagers develop.
Finally the defenseman:
1. Erik Gustafsson: 3 G, 25 A, 28 PTS
2. Joonas Lehtivuori: 3 G, 10 A, 13 PTS
3. Marc-Andre Bourdon: 1 G, 10 A, 11 PTS
4. Tyler Hostetter: 1 G, 10 A, 11 PTS
5. Kevin Marshall: 1 G, 3 A, 4 PTS
Unfortunately, there is no statistical metric to evaluate the defensive performance of these prospects. We can only project the offense ability of defenseman. Erik Gustafsson looks to be the only legit offensive defenseman at this point. Lehtivuori and Bourdon are disappointments thus far considering they are both supposed to be offensive defenseman. Based on their offensive abilities it’s no wonder Holmgren hasn’t put any faith in our prospects. It’s really not a strong crop of defenders and Gustafsson who is our top prospect is undersized and there are question marks about his defensive player. He’s also turns 22 this year so my expectations for his ceiling is lowered.
The good news is there is still room for development in these prospects. Most if not all of these prospects won’t be contributing in the NHL next season and these predictions are based solely on their performance last year. I’ll be keeping track of these prospects in the future to see how they grow.