Forwards and NHLE – 2012 Draft

Updated: July 28, 2012 at 4:41 pm by Scott Reynolds

One of my favourite tools in evaluating prospects is Gabriel Desjardins’ NHL equivalencies. The basic premise is that we can expect each player to bring only a portion of his offense from the league he played in last year were he to make the jump to the NHL. By observing how much offense other players brought from these other leagues in the past, we can estimate how much offense (on average) to expect from players from those leagues in the future.

It’s an imperfect assessment of skill for sure — we’re just measuring offense after all — and I think it generally works better for forwards than defenders (and goalies!), but it’s one indicator for whether or not a player might one day find success in the NHL. It also gives us a tool to compare players in different leagues (although with young players it makes sense to cut the guys playing in the professional leagues some extra slack). After the jump I’ll explain the system in a bit more depth and look at the performance of each of the forwards drafted in 2012 (in the days, we’ll look at the forwards drafted in 2011, 2010, and 2009 over the next few days).

In the chart below, I’ve taken each player’s goals, assists and points, converted them to a “per game” rate, multiplied them by the league equivalency number, and then expressed them as an “NHL equivalency” assuming an 82-game NHL season. As you may have guessed, each league has a different equivalency number. I’ve used this article for the translations from the KHL (multiply offense by 0.83), SEL (0.78), CZE (0.74), FNL (0.54), NCAA (0.41), WHL (0.30), OHL (0.30) and QMJHL (0.28); this article for the translations from the USHL (0.27), AJHL (0.16), and BCHL (0.14); and this article for the translations from US High School hockey (0.0625). Unfortunately, especially at this early stage in player development, there are a lot of leagues that don’t have an NHL equivalency number yet including the European junior leagues and Canadian High School hockey (thanks Calgary).

Before I go ahead and put up the chart, a bit more explanation is needed. Not all of the players drafted in 2012 were actually the same age; in fact, several players had already passed through the draft at least once (and sometimes twice). All of these older players are included in the chart but are marked in yellow (which should help people to understand why their team passed on Kevin Roy).

The “Draft Number” column is not the player’s actual draft position but the player’s position among forwards. So, for example, the San Jose Sharks drafted Tomas Hertl 17th overall, but he was the 8th forward to be drafted, so his “Draft Number” in the chart is “8”.

These numbers may also be slightly different than the NHLE numbers you may have seen elsewhere for these players. That’s because I include both regular season and playoff games in the results, which I think probably gives a better estimate. None of these teams are playing a balanced schedule anyway, so it seems to me that including the larger sample of games is the way to go.

The “Rank” column is organized by NHLE.  The second number in brackets includes all of the players who don’t have an NHLE ranking and inserts each one according to his draft number.

Points of Interest

  • I didn’t hear a lot of people saying that this was a great draft year, but I did hear quite a few people say that it was a good year for defenders. In reality, it may have just been a weak year for forwards. There were just three forwards eligible for the first time with an NHL equivalency above 30.0, and it’s a steep drop to Zemgus Girgensons in fourth. That doesn’t compare favorably at all to last season when there were nine different forwards above 30.0. The last banner year for defenders was 2008, with ten of them going in the top twenty. But even there, the competition from forwards was much stiffer with six posting an NHL equivlaency of at least 30.0 (Steven Stamkos, Colin Wilson, Mikkel Boedker, Josh Bailey, Cody Hodgson, and Tyler Ennis), plus a few more who came close or didn’t have an equivalency available.
  • The Buffalo Sabres did very well to get two of the best scoring forwards available in the draft despite not having a single pick in the top ten. If you value players with a high ceiling, it’s tough to argue with what they did here.
  • Tomas Hertl looks fantastic by the numbers, but I think his performance might be overstated by the NHL equivalency because the Czech league has likely declined since Gabe put these numbers together. It’s awfully tough for me to believe that a league being dominated by a 40-year-old Petr Nedved (he led the league in scoring) is anywhere close to the same level as the NHL.
  • The players who look like big reaches by this measure are Sebastian Collberg, Mitch Moroz, Stefan Matteau, and Tom Wilson. You can probably give the Canadiens a pass on Collberg since he was playing in the Swedish Elite League, but the other three were playing in junior leagues, and were selected way earlier than their offensive ability suggests is reasonable. Of course, all were selected as early as they were because they provide a physical presence. The Oilers, Devils, and Capitals had better hope that helps to win you games.
  • But I guess size matters. At least, that seems like a big part of the explanation for Charles Hudon falling all the way to 122nd despite posting a point per game in the QMJHL. Corey Pronman had Hudon 34th on his list coming into the draft, but did note his small stature and minus skating ability as drawbacks. That’s a combination that will get you overlooked for a while. Still, his results suggest that some of his other abilities are top notch.
  • Tanner Pearson was the most famous overager, but Kevin Roy actually had the better NHL equivalency. He’s also nine months younger than Pearson and was first eligible for the draft in 2011 as opposed to 2010. Roy’s 1.76 regular season points per game was also the best mark in the USHL since David Backes scored 67 points in 25 games in 2001-02. Roy isn’t a very big guy, but he’s got plenty of offensive talent and was a tremendous selection by the Ducks at 97th overall.
  • Another overager of interest is Nikita Gusev who had a monster year in Russia’s junior league. He won the league’s regular season scoring race by 21 points despite playing 19 fewer games than the guy who finished in second. He was also one of the top ten scorers in the World Junior Championship, posting three goals and six assists in nine games. I get that there are probably questions about his desire to play in the NHL, but when you’re picking in the 200s, you may as well grab talent.