February 13 2012 12:17PM
Since the latest Sven Baertschi update here on FN, the Flames best prospect has gone another tear, scoring eight points in his last three games. The outburst has inched back near the 2.0 PPG mark and he is currently 14th in the WHL scoring despite playing about 20 less games than most of his peers.
I noted some of these accomplishments last night on twitter and HP's Corey Pronman responded:
@Kent_Wilson his PPG is 2nd is highest in WHL I think in last 6-7 years outside Schenn last year. More than Eberles.— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) February 13, 2012
That made me wonder about other potential comparables for Baertschi over the last few years.
So I took a look:
I limited the inquiry to forwards who played their 19-20 year old seasons in the CHL. It's tough to compare across leagues, so that exempts guys in college hockey or across the pond. I included some recent Flames picks (Nemisz, Wahl) for context.
In junior it's important to match guys to their age cohort since the difference between 16 and 21 year old players is a vast one. Baertschi is technically in his sophomore season in the WHL (which is usually 18-19 for many players), but he has a late 1992 birthday (Oct.5/1992) meaning this is his 19-20 year old year.
- Keep in mind we're excluding anyone who made the NHL as a teenager, since we can't really compare their scoring rates. Crosby, Stamkos, Tavares, Bergeron, Jordan/Eric Staal and Perron were guys who were in the show by the time they were 19, for example, so they don't appear here.
- Like in the NHL, PPG pace is a good but nowhere near perfect proxy for talent meaning it's not an exact predictor of future results. We obviously don't know the context of each players output - quality of teammates, how he was used by the coach, percentages, shot rates, etc. - so keep that mind when looking at the list. We're working with a broad brush here.
- Related: Dave Bolland, Corey Perry and Rob Schremp played on a freakishly dominant London Knights team during their junior days. The Knights leaned very heavily on their top-end players and tended to crush their opponents, so their numbers are somewhat skewed. Rob Schremp is one of the the reasons we now look at ES/PP splits in prospects as well - a huge portion of his points came with the man advantage which obviously isn't quite as meaningful as ES scoring.
- Not sure how to explain Steve Downie. He was a merely capable scorer until his 19-20 year old season where he just blew up. He only played 45 games that year, so maybe we're talking an aberrant hot streak.
- Aside from some guys who haven't made the leap yet (Howden, Hishon, Kadri, Etem, etc.) we can see most of the guys listed are capable or better NHLers. There are few exceptions (*ahem* Patrick O'Sullivan) but it's a decent list nonetheless.
- If we limit things to just the WHL, Baertschi comes out on top with Brayden Schenn over the last 7 years or so. Schenn's season was also a shortened one (27 games) and he played on a very good team (Saskatoon Blades). A couple of caveats to keep in mind.
- The most compelling comparable for Flames fans is probably Claude Giroux. A 22nd overall pick by the Flyers, Giroux is a similar build to Baertschi (5'11" 175lbs when he was drafted) and also plays the wing. He scored at almost the exactly same rate as Baertschi in his 19-20 y/o season in the QMJHL and has since developed into a very nice hockey player.
Giroux spent half of his pro rookie season in the AHL where he scored a point-per-game before being recalled by Philly. He's been an NHLer ever since.
Obviously we're still only talking about 30 games for Baertschi and it remains to be seen how things end up by the end of the year. The early returns are really encouraging though.
His split of even strength and powerplay scoring is strong (40/28 or 59% at ES) so fortunately we're not talking about a Rob Schremp situation. Baertschi also accounts for more than 44% of Portland's scoring when he's in the line-up, so it's safe to say he is a prime driver of results for the Winterhawks. For context, Greg Nemsiz never even crested 30% for the Spitfires in four seasons.
We'll take another look at these comparables in the summer when we have Baertschi's entire season to consider.