November 20 2012 09:22AM
It's been about a month since we checked on the NHL equivalence of the Flames various kids. Last time around, Sven Baertschi, Johhny Gaudreau and Roman Horak were leading the way for the forwards while TJ Brodie was on an island by himself on the back-end.
The order hasn't changed much, although they are a few risers here and there. Also, the guys are bunched much closer together this time around thanks to the sample size being a bit bigger.
Baertschi and Horak have cooled after a hot start, but still have good (but not great) numbers. The diminutive phenom Johnny Gaudreau takes on top spot as a result. His start to the season is remarkable as a college sopomore, to say nothing of a 5'8", 160 pound player. CBS Sports ranks him second in the Hobey Baker race right now.
A few risers include Bill Arnold and Matt Deblouw. Arnold is second on Boston College in scoring behind Gaurdreau and although he probably won't be a big scorer at the pro level it's good to see him putting up respectable numbers anyways. Deblouw was a 7th round pick this past summer so I didn't even bother to include him in the original NHLE article, but his 11 points in 12 games is good for second on his team in scoring currently. Some nice early returns on a late round pick.
Max Reinhart is struggling significantly at the AHL level, at least when it comes to the offensive game. He only has 2 assists and 16 shots in 14 games and also carries the club's worst plus/minus (-4). It's early and I suspect he's suffered through some bad bounces, but Reinhart needs to start putting up better output even if we assume his ceiling is a third line, two-way center in the show.
Brodie is still out in front, but with a lesser margin this time around. Culkin and Wotherspoon are scoring at the exact same rate, although Wotherspoon is older and paired with Seth Jones on the Portland Winterhawks. Culkin's Quebec Remparts are a similarly dominant team in the QMJHL, so take both of their rates with a smallish pinch of salt.
Kulak is on the other end of the spectrum with the WHL's worst club, the Vancouver Giants. Sieloff's Windsor Spitfires are perfectly middling, though it probably doesn't matter either way: Sieloff wasn't drafted for his point production.
As you can see, the Flames don't really have a single big gun on the back-end in the organizational pipeline. Brodie has developed into a dominant all around defender in the AHL this season, but he doesn't project to be a guy who can run a first unit PP or score 40+ points at the highest level. Culkin is a few years out and may develop in that direction, although right now his upside looks like, well, TJ Brodie.
Points from the blueline are relatively rare and therefore expensive to buy in the NHL, so it's the type of thing teams should hope to grow rather than purchase via free agency. In addition, the game's most dominant defenders tend to both suppress and promote scoring to their team's advantage: think Shea Weber, Kris Letang, Nik Lidstrom and Zdeno Chara. The org doesn't have a guy within hailing distance of those players currently (of course, few do).
Keep in mind, of course, that were are still only a month or so into the season for all these guys and a 10-15 game sample is still really small. Mark Jankowski's PPG pace recently jumped from 0.44 to 0.7 after a single game for instance, so there's still lots of room for movement.
Mikael Backlund continues to put up points in Sweden with 21 in just 13 games so far. If we assume a translation factor of 0.36, his current NHLE is about 48 (47.6).
Related - Backlund is currently 7th overall in the Allsvenskan scoring, despite only playing 13 games.