Last year, I wrote about a method of evaluating prospects using NHL Equivalencies or NHLE. NHLE allows us to figure out the NHL equivalent of prospect’s performance outside of the NHL. This enables us to better compare prospects playing in various leagues where the level of play is often quite different.
I decided to come up with a prospects ranking using NHLE as my guide. Last year I simply ranked the prospects from the best NHLE to the worst, but this time I am taking into account age and league because those are big factors as well. A 20 year old in juniors could have a higher NHLE than a 17 year old, but the 17 year old may have the higher ceiling because the 20 year older than most.
For each prospect I included their stat line from last season followed by the NHL equivalent for that stat line over an 82 game season. I also included an explanation for my rankings. Note that goalies are not included as there is no NHLE for goalies. Hovinen would rank very high on my list if I included goalies.
2. Sean Couturier
Comments: These two are clearly the cream of the crop. They have the highest offensive upside while being two of the yougest prospects on the list. This ranking is more like 1a and 1b. You could easily flip them around and it wouldn’t be wrong. Schenn’s NHLE shows a higher offensive upside, but he is also a year older with an extra year of experience in juniors. His third season of junior hockey projected to a 14 goal, 40 point season in the NHL which is nearly identical to Couturier’s third season. They both have similar offensive upsides and both project to be two-way centers that can center the top line in the NHL. I don’t feel there is really anything that separates them, but someone had to be ranked #1 and somebody had to be ranked #2.
3. Matt Read
Comments: Read is an interesting one. Read is 25 years old which I wouldn’t even normally consider a prospect. He is also the oldest player on the list so I feel that his ceiling is lower than some of the other prospects on this list. Yet, Read is a NHL player as of today. He was impressive in his small sample of games in the AHL, led the Flyers in pre-season scoring, and earned a spot on the 3rd line. I debated on where I should rank him, but since he proved he belongs in the NHL so far I feel it might be a small injustice to rank him behind prospects with much more to prove.
4. Nick Cousins
5. Brendan Ranford
Comments: Cousins and Ranford have the highest offensive ceilings after Schenn and Couturier. Their offense compares favorably to the older prospects and they still have plenty of room to grow being two of the youngest prospects on this list (Cousins is *the* youngest). Ranford had a better season than Cousins, but I believe Cousins’ upside is even greater because he was a point per game player as a 17 year old which is something Ranford didn’t do. I feel he should out perform him in future seasons. I also believe his skill set will better translate to the pros as Ranford has an issue with skating and conditioning.
6. Erik Gustafsson
7. Blake Kessel
Comments: Gustafsson and Kessel are two of Holmgen’s better college free agent signings. They both have the potential to contribute in the NHL as 3rd pairing defenseman that occasionally see time on the powerplay. Kessel is a year younger than Gustafsson so he may actually have a slightly higher ceiling, but Gustafsson has already proven his skill set translates to the pros.
8. Harry Zolnierczyk
Comments: Zolnierczyk is interesting because his projection is slightly higher than Read’s and he is also younger, but yet he hasn’t transitioned to the pros as easily as Read has so far.
9. Tye McGinn
10. Jason Akeson
Comments: McGinn and Akeson’s had better seasons than many of the prospects on this list, but their position is hurt by the fact that they were old for their level as 20 year old prospects still playing in junior. Most legitimate offensive prospects are playing in the pros when they are 20. Akeson gets more attention due to his gaudy numbers, but McGinn was right there with him. I ranked McGinn ahead of Akeson due to the fact that McGinn has a skill set that better translates to the NHL. McGinn has the chance to make it as a bottom six forward if his offensive game doesn’t translate, while Akeson is not an ideal bottom six candidate.
11. Marcel Noebels
Comments: Noebels leads the next tier of prospects again due to ceiling. He has performed to the same level as everyone else in this tier while being the youngest of this group.
12. Brandon Manning
Comments: Manning’s season ranks right around Gustafsson and Kessel, but he is hurt by the fact that he was too old for his level as a 20 year old playing in juniors. His upside is questionable at this point.
13. Tom Sestito
Comments: Sestito’s offense ranked alightly higher than most in this tier. He’s already had a cup of coffee in the NHL and should be one of the first Flyers call ups this season.
14. Eric Wellwood
Comments: Wellwood has received more attention than most Flyers prospects since he did not look out of place during his cup of coffee last season, but his ceiling seems to be fairly low. He has youth on his side which is why he is ranked ahead of the trio behind him.
15. Ben Holmstrom
16. Stefan Legein
17. Mike Testwuide
Comments: These three could be interchangeable. Holmstrom is ranked first because he is the most versatile and is the most likely to stick in the league. His offensive upside is low, but he could get a shot as penalty killer and faceoff specialist. Legein is the forgotten prospect. He has been around longer than most on this list and the organization seems to have fallen out of love with him. He had a disappointing season last year, but yet he performed to the same level as Holmstrom and Testwuide who the Flyers love. I ranked him ahead of Testwuide since he is younger. If he bounces back this year his ceiling should be a bit higher.
18. Tyler Brown
Comments: Brown is another one who suffers due to being a 20 year old plaing junior hockey last year. His ceiling is likely lower than his projection indicates.
19. Luke Pither
Comments: Pither is a prime example of why prospects who are too old for their level are suspect. Pither had a great offensive season as a 20 year old junior, but struggled to find an offensive game in the AHL.
20. Zac Rinaldo
Comments: The only reason why Rinaldo makes this list is because he is currently playing in the NHL. He has no offensive upside and will have a trouble sticking in the league if he can’t develop a defensive game. He is someone who hurts his team more than helps it.