December 09 2011 02:07PM
When FlamesNation covered the draft from Minnesota, we marked Sven Baertschi as one of the best draft targets for the franchise at 13, but he wasn't a run-away pick or anything. He had some pretty good results in his draft season, but nothing that suggested he was taken late or was a profoundly high value pick outside the top-10.
The 18-year old swiss winger had himself an excellent first training camp with the Flames, showing perhaps the best performance by a first year forward that I've personally seen since I started writing about the team. He was legitimately dangerous in just about every game he appeared in, ranging from the rookie tournament all the way up to exhibition contests versus NHLers.
Even a nice pre-season didn't prepare anyone for what Baertschi has done in the WHL though. The kid has absolutely exploded for the Portland Winterhawks so far: in just 23 games played, he has 12 goals, 41 assists and 53 points (!!). Baertschi is currently 4th in WHL scoring despite missing 8 games and his point-per-game pace of 2.30 is the best in the entire CHL. The current WHL scoring leader is Mark Stone, a 20-year old from the Brandon Wheat Kings, who has 62 points in 32 games. At his current pace, Baertschi would have an expected 73 points in the same number of games and would be leading the WHL scoring race by more than 11-points over Stone. Baertschi scored 85-points in 66 games last year. If he can maintain his current pace, it projects to a 152-point season in the same amount of games played.
Another way to look at prospects production is translate their output by an NHL equivalency factor - essentially projecting how many points a player would get in the big league given his current production in junior. The CHL-to-NHL equivalence according to Gabriel Desjardins is about 0.30. If we apply that to Baertshi, we get an expected 82-game NHL output of about 57-points as an 18-year old.
The only 2011 draftee doing better than that right now is Ryan-Nugent Hopkins and he's actually playing in the NHL. For further context, check out how other Flames prospects are shaking out by this measure.
To further examine Baertschi's output, I have tracked his even strength and power play production so far this season. In addition, I have added up the Winterhawk's total offense in the games he's appeared in so we can get a sense for the degree to which the kid has contributed to the club's overall output.
The chart shows team offense, as well as Baertschi's even strength, PP, SH and empty net points. Here's how the ratios shake out:
% at even strength: 55.8%
% on PP: 44.2%
% of team offense: 51.0%
Sven is certainly making hay with the man advantage, but he's also getting the job done at five-on-five. His current ES scoring pace is 1.26 points-per-game. Even if we eliminate his PP scoring, Sven would be projected to finish with 81-points in 64 games this season (his highest potential game total).
The really eye-popping figure, however, is percentage of team offense. It's by far the biggest contribution by a prospect that I've seen since I started looking at this stuff. To put it in perspective, Greg Nemisz was in the 25% range for the Windsor Spitfires - less than half of Baertschi's ratio. Most Flames forwards prospects over the last couple of years have settled in and around 30% or so.
The Portland Winterhawks are a high octane team and there is some speculation of whether Baertschi was benefiting from his environment. What the 51% number suggests, however, is that he is the straw stirring the drink.
For further evidence, consider that fellow 2011 draftee and frequent linemate Ty Rattie scored just 11 points in the 8 games Baertschi missed for a PPG pace of 1.38. In the 23 games Baertschi has played, Rattie has 46 points (2.0 PPG). Those are small samples, of course, but the results again point to Baertschi being a central figure of the attack.
Those are just absurdly good results. Light years beyond anything the Flames have seen from a forward prospect in a very long time. It's only a small portion of the season and it's entirely probable Baertschi will slow down at some point. However, even if he scores just a 1.0 point-per-game for the rest of the year (less than half of his current pace), he'll finish the year with 94-points in 64 games. If he drops to "just" 1.5 points-per-game, Baertschi will manage 114-points this season assuming he plays the rest of his games. The top scorer in the league last season was Linden Vey, who garnered 116-points in 69 games - and it was his 19-20 year old year.
I'll stress that it's early right now and it's probably too soon to be crowning Sven as the "savior of the franchise" or any such thing. But the early returns couldn't possible be any better.