2012-13 Reasonable Expectations: Sven Baertschi

Kent Wilson
August 07 2012 10:09AM

 

 

It's been a long time since the Flames had a forward prospect enter the season with this much hype. Calgary hasn't had a kid up front jump directly to the bigs from junior since Jarome Iginla did it in 1996-97.

Sven Baertschi hasn't made the big roster yet, but after scoring two points-per-game in the WHL and managing three goals in five outing during his cup of coffee in the show, all arrows point to the 19-year old skipping his apprenticeship in the AHL and donning the Flaming "C" right away.

A little irrational exuberance about the kid is understandable given what he represents - an oasis in the middle of a seemingly vast, unending desert of failied draft choices. And while the club will likely continue to be at least competitive for one more season, there's precious little else to be overtly hopeful about at the present time for Flames fans.

Expectations and Comparables

That said, expectations for Sven should be tempered somewhat. The NHL is a tough league and even the best kids need some time to find their legs at the highest level. To establish a potential range of expectations, I went back to the list of Baertschi comparables I put together a few months ago and took a look at how some of the most similar guys did in their first season:

Player Season GP Total points PPG PP ice Total Ice
Corey Perry 20-21 56 25 0.45 3:04 11:34
Wojtek Wolski 20-21 76 50 0.66 2:33 15:31
Brayden Schenn 19-20 54 18 0.33 1:41 14:07
Claude Giroux 20-21 42 27 0.64 1:23 15:09
Bryan Little 20-21 48 16 0.33 3:12 15:36
Jordan Eberle 20-21 69 43 0.62 2:32 17:40
Bobby Ryan 20-21 23 10 0.43 2:34 11:15
Average   52.6 27 0.51    

With the exception of Bobby Ryan, the rest of the guys listed either jumped straight into the NHL or had a limited apprenticeship in the AHL (less than one season). Ryan eventually made the jump full time around the age of 21-22 and has been a high-end player ever since.

As you can see, even though the collection of NHLers is pretty impressive, none of them were true impact guys in their first season - and many of them were in their 20-21 year old year (Baertschi will be 19-20). Only Jordan Eberle played more than 16 minutes a game and only Wolski scored 50 or more points. The average point-per-game pace was 0.51 across all seven players, which represents a 42 points season over 82 games. Of course, none of the kids played in all 82 games (in small part due to injury, but mostly because of scratches/demotion), so the average total points of this sample was just 27.

At the low-end, Schenn and Little managed just over 0.3 PPG, while the best of the bunch were Wolski (0.66) and perhaps the most intuitive current comparable for Baertschi, Claude Giroux (0.64). This isn't an exhaustive nor overly scientific method, but an expected range from 0.3 - 0.6 points-per-game nevertheless strikes me as reasonable.

In terms of point totals over 82 games, that's 25-49. The fact that Baertschi's NHL equivalence last year was smack on 0.6 PPG or 49 points lends further credence to these numbers. 

Opportunity

Of course, the biggest determining factor outside of Sven's talent and performance will be opportunity. Above I listed the PP and total ice time for each comparable to show roughly where each guy fell on the depth chart in his rookie season. The only top-3 forward was Eberle and that's primarily because the Oilers were depthless and injury prone in 2010-11. The average total ice time was just over 14 minutes across the sample, so most kids fell just outside a top-6 role at even strength and were often second PP unit options.

Given the Flames depth chart, 14 minutes per night might be a high estimate for potential ice this year. Baertschi will be competing with a number of wingers for ice time, including Alex Tanguay, Curtis Glencross and (potenitally) Mike Cammalleri or Roman Cervenka on left wing. On the right, there is Jarome Iginla, Jiri Hudler and Lee Stempniak. Bubbling beneath is Blake Comeau, Tim Jackman and Lance Bouma.

Absent injuries, there's a lot of established guys looking to eat up minutes. The Flames PP will have a lot of incumbents battling for ice time as well: Iginla, Tanguay, Cammalleri, Glencross, Hudler, Cervenka and Stempniak. 

Upon first glance, it looks like Baertschi's likely to be a 3rd/4th line option who gets limited PP time. Perhaps the only way he jumps up the depth chart is a few injuries to guys like Tanguay or Hudler and/or is Bob Hartley decides to deploy Glencross in a checking role in order to cobble together a soft minutes scoring unit. If either happens, 15 minutes a night and second PP unit time is possible.

Conclusion

Of course, much of the above assumes Baertschi is ready for full time duty right away. Despite his incredible run in junior last year and his notable 5-game performance with the Flames, it's entirely possible Baertschi will struggle to remain in the line-up for the full season. Keep in mind the average games played for all the kids in the comparable list was south of 53, for instance, and every guy in that sample was/is a pretty good player. On top of that, the Flames depth in the middle rotation up front is stuffed pretty full - any sort of prolonged trip-up or dry spell can mean a demotion to the minors to make way for the vets.

That said, if Baertschi takes another step forward and is given some opportunity through strategy or injury, he should spend most of the season with the big club and could become a secondary scoring options. If that happens, 40-50 points isn't out of reach.

On the other hand, even if he struggles to a 20-something point year, any disappointment should be muted given Baertschi's age and pedigree - a lackluster first go at 19-20 doesn't necessarily mean he will be yet another disappointment in a long line of Flames prospects; the list of guys who jump straight from junior to the NHL and score 40+ points is a lot shorter than the list of guys who eventually become quality players in their early-to-mid 20's.

39d8109299a9795cb3b41a4e9b49d501
Former Nations Overlord. Current FN contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#1 the-wolf
August 07 2012, 01:36PM
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There's a big part of me that believes Baertschi should play 1 year in the AHL. I know he has the talent to play in the NHL, but I'm not sure playing on a loser squad with no leadership and being stuck on the 3rd line is an ideal environment for him to begin his apprenticeship.

Keep him down for a seson, play the heck out of him and bring him in next year after the team has imploded.

On that note: any word at all, from anywhere, in regards to Iginla and a new contract?

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#2 Baalzamon
August 07 2012, 02:30PM
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@Michael

.. Baertschi never has, and never will, avoid the physical game. That was one of the main things people said about him in his draft year: small, but gritty.

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#3 MC Hockey
August 07 2012, 08:03PM
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Nice analysis Kent. I hope the Flames simply use Bartman properly meaning in a line 2 or at worst line 3 role if with the NHL level team. Don't let the Flames be the team where creativity and offensive talent in young players comes to die as in past. If not playing offensive-first minutes, then let him play top line in Abby.

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#4 RexLibris
August 07 2012, 10:44AM
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I've never been a big proponent that Calder consideration, or even generally the points coming from a rookie campaign, are a strong indication of a player's career.

I would agree with your last statement but in the sense that success or failure for Baertschi, in my mind, will revolve around how he adapts to the NHL level (making some roster assumptions here) and his play both with and without the puck.

If he ends up having a Mikael Backlund '11-'12 kind of year I wouldn't hold it against him. By the same token, if he won the Calder I wouldn't get my hopes up either. One is almost better to underachieve a bit in the first season than to unreasonably raise everyone's expectations to a level that may be unsustainable.

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#5 FireOnIce
August 07 2012, 11:08AM
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Woah woah woah, 40-50 points? I'm expecting more like, 100+ points (40-50 goals and 60-70 assists). Are my expectations set too high?

I kid. Realistically, if Baertschi can chip in even 20-30 points, I'd be happy. Especially if, like you said, he really only ends up playing 3rd/4th line minutes.

Hopefully that doesn't stunt his growth as a player like it did with Boyd, Lombardi, et al. Eventually, Baertschi will have to move up and be in a scoring role (ala GlenX finding the new O and M for his line) or else it's useless playing him 10 minutes a night in a largely defensive/energy role.

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#7 SmellOfVictory
August 07 2012, 11:27AM
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I'm excited, nonetheless. I'd like to see him somehow make it onto the first PP unit, unlikely though that may be.

And speaking of Landeskog, I was incredibly skeptical of that pick at 2nd overall by Colorado, but man is my face ever full of crow right now. Maybe Larsson will still end up being the more important player overall, but it's pretty easy to defend Lando as a top 3 pick considering his rookie season.

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#8 Bean-counting cowboy
August 07 2012, 11:27AM
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If we have a relatively injury free year, I can see him spending around half the year in Abbotsford, but if we have a year like last year, he should get top 6 scoring minutes

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#9 NHL93
August 07 2012, 11:32AM
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I'd love to see him start the year in Abbotsford and get called up for a brief audition when injuries start piling up. I just fear the Flames will rush him. Of course, I know very little about a lot of things, so if the coaching staff thinks he can be of some use playing on the 3rd/4th line (with some PP sprinkled in for good behaviour), then so be it.

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#10 Michael
August 07 2012, 01:08PM
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I don't think Seven is at the same level as Eberle. Giroux or Wolski, so I would have to project his PPG at the bottom of the listed range, something in the 0.3 - 0.33 PPG (25 - 30 points). The Flames also have some potential weaknesses down the middle, and an overall lack of size / grit , both of which may have a negative effect on a smaller player like Sven.

Sven likely makes the team, but he needs playing time. Wouldn't be against him spending part / all of the year in the minors, and being the first call up.

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#13 Michael
August 07 2012, 02:17PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

I don't think Seven is at the same level as Eberle, Giroux or Wolski

Any particular reason why?

He lacks size and strength, tends to avoid the physical game, isn't great on the defensive side of the puck, can score but lacks the 'explosive' break out ability that can dominate games. I'm not sure that the Flames have the right centers to distribute the puck to him, or the big wingers to go into the corners to flush out the puck.

That being said, I think Sven will develop into an NHLer, I just don't know if he is going to be the impact player that some fans expect.

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#14 RexLibris
August 07 2012, 03:11PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

I'd say the team is waiting to see what the new CBA brings before re-signing Jarome.

This month, I'm going to publish something arguing they should consider not re-signing him at all, but that's another matter.

Not re-signing Iginla, Kent? Are you looking for a record number of hits on the site?

;-)

It seems like Iginla might be waiting for the team to show its capabilities as well before signing.

It would be a very interesting bit of theatre if Feaster were forced to trade Iginla at the deadline and still maintain that the Flames won't rebuild.

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#15 Steve
August 07 2012, 03:12PM
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Michael wrote:

He lacks size and strength, tends to avoid the physical game, isn't great on the defensive side of the puck, can score but lacks the 'explosive' break out ability that can dominate games. I'm not sure that the Flames have the right centers to distribute the puck to him, or the big wingers to go into the corners to flush out the puck.

That being said, I think Sven will develop into an NHLer, I just don't know if he is going to be the impact player that some fans expect.

That's the most misinformed take I've ever read. You've obviously never watched him. He is very noticeable on the defensive side, he is a better puck distributor than a goal-scorer. He goes into the corners.

He may not turn into a great NHLer, but I consider those comments completely irresponsible. Please get some sort of a clue before commenting.

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#16 the-wolf
August 07 2012, 03:26PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

I'd say the team is waiting to see what the new CBA brings before re-signing Jarome.

This month, I'm going to publish something arguing they should consider not re-signing him at all, but that's another matter.

I look forward to it.

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#18 Austin
August 07 2012, 04:04PM
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I think if Baertschi gets 30 points I'd be happy, if he hit 45 I'd be ecstatic. People saying that he isn't physical makes sense, sure he's not an overly physical guy.....but he also isn't even 6'0 tall I don't think. But watching him in his 5 game stint last year, he was always chasing after the puck, in his own end as well. My expectations for Baertschi are anywhere from top 3 to top 6. That can be achieved in seasons to come though.

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#19 Austin L
August 07 2012, 04:05PM
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Sorry I meant to post that from this account.

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#20 FireOnIce
August 07 2012, 04:07PM
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Forgot to say this earlier but... it's never good to compare your up and coming prospect to Wojtek Wolski. Might as well compare him to Marek Svatos while you're at it.

In other news, Ferland charged with assault outside of a bar in Cochrane. Cue the impending trade a la Brett Sutter.

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#21 Bean-counting cowboy
August 07 2012, 04:12PM
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Brett Sutter was a bit different case, with the family ties and all.

Hope Ferland smartens up (if he was at fault here)

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#23 DangleSnipeCelly
August 07 2012, 05:27PM
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@ FireOnIce

Doesn't sound too good for Ferland, this from the Toronto Sun:

"Cops said a group of people had gathered outside a drinking establishment at around 1:10 a.m. MDT when one male was pushed to the ground.

When another man came over to assist him, he was struck in the face, knocked unconscious and fractured the orbital bone around his eye.

Police said the attacker then fled from the scene but an investigation led to the charges for Ferland."

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#24 Baalzamon
August 07 2012, 06:32PM
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from the Flames website:

http://flames.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=639329

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#25 RexLibris
August 07 2012, 09:18PM
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Some of the descriptions I have read of Baertschi remind me of the way Hemsky plays. He is never described as physical but he is more than willing to play into the "tough areas" where physical play increases.

Baertschi doesn't seem like the kind of player to initiate physical play, but rather is one who is perfectly willing, and capable, of taking a hit to make a play.

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#26 If Only HIs Name Was Olli Postandin
August 07 2012, 09:26PM
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Michael wrote:

He lacks size and strength, tends to avoid the physical game, isn't great on the defensive side of the puck, can score but lacks the 'explosive' break out ability that can dominate games. I'm not sure that the Flames have the right centers to distribute the puck to him, or the big wingers to go into the corners to flush out the puck.

That being said, I think Sven will develop into an NHLer, I just don't know if he is going to be the impact player that some fans expect.

Dude, have you even watched the kid play for the Winterhawks? Avoids the physical game? Isn`t great on the defensive end? What a load of crap. People will tell you that he tends to get too physical given he is only 5`11 and 190. Plus, he is not scared to go to the corners and get hit. His work ethic and toughness in this regard are undeniable. The only question it raises are whether his body can take a beating from men over the course of 82 games if he keeps playing that way.

Plus, his defensive game is solid, and he definitely makes players around him better. In fact, I am excited about Sven precisely because of the hockey sense and two-way ability he brings to the ice every night. He is a complete player, unlike Eberle.

Speaking of Eberle, how the hell can you impugn the `size and strength`of Baertci, while referencing the aforementioned Coiler, Girioux, and Wolski. Wow what a stable of power forwards you listed there. Eberle especially cracks me up as he is way more fragile than Baertchi, and his play in the corners, or lack thereof, proves it.

I`ve watched Baertchi play at least 30 games last year, with 5 of those being live. I`ve come away impressed every time because of his heart, toughness, and defensive acumen. Which leaves me to wonder who the heck you were watching!!!!

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#27 Steve
August 07 2012, 09:31PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

I don't necessarily agree with Michael either, but he's entitled to his opinion. Feel free to disagree with him, but let's not get too personal in the back-and-forth.

Fair enough. I just really can't believe he's ever seen him play. Pretty much the exact opposite of how I'd describe him.

@Michael

If you have actually seen him play, I retract my statement. You are indeed entitled to your opinion.

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#28 RKD
August 07 2012, 10:27PM
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If he plays a full season I could see him getting 30-40 points. I guess it depends on which line he plays on as well. I can see the Flames going through injuries again and Baertschi to be counted on more.

I think anything north of 35 points would be a bonus. I understand he is young and has limited NHL experience, but I hope him being on the third line won't hamper his progress.

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#29 kittensandcookies
August 08 2012, 10:11AM
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35 points from Baertshi would be awesome. Just for perspective that would place him fifth for scoring on the Flames last year.

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