May 01 2014 03:15PM
Via the NHL
Ryan Culkin is now a professional hockey player - and he makes his first appearance in the ranks of Calgary's top-15 prospects, coming in at 15. The defenseman impressed in his final season of QMJHL action, but how will he do in the pros?
Culkin, who is currently listed at 6'2" and about 200 pounds, was drafted in the 5th round of the 2012 entry draft by Jay Feaster and company. In his draft season, Culkin had an NHLE of 10.3, which wasn't overly impressive - but it's the fifth round, right? Culkin rewarded the Flames by increasing his NHLE to 16.5 in his draft+1 season, showing a healthy progression and earning more PP and PK time to boot. Culkin hasn't had to deal with many injuries during his time in the QMJHL, as he's played 60+ games in the past three seasons (a full season consists of 68).
As you can see, Culkin's definitely on the bottom end of the prospect spectrum. More than half of our panel didn't rank him on their respective lists.
It's not necessarily the fault of Culkin that this is the case; the Flames have a very strong prospect cupboard so some guys are going to get washed out. I specifically valued Culkin lower than other prospects because of his age relative to his results in his specific league. Culkin spent the majority of his season as a 20-year old (Born in December), and I am personally very wary about huge spikes in production in older players at the CHL level because of the physical difference between a 16 or 17 year old and a 19 or 20 year old. I feel that at the Junior hockey level, size and maturity can make up for many deficiencies in a player's game. There's also the fact that older players tend to get more special teams time - this is important for reasons that you will see soon.
This season (13-14), Culkin had his best offensive output as a Junior player. As a rule of thumb, players who are successful at the NHL level do have some scoring prowess in the Junior ranks, regardless of that player's offensive capabilites at the NHL level. It's a very positive sign that Culkin increased his offensive output year-over-year.
It is a less positive sign, unfortunately, that his contextual numbers are poor. We look at these numbers to see how a player is scoring and how much he matters to his team. Secondary assists are less "important" than primary assists as the player with the primary assist often is more responsible for the play. Even strength points are important because they tend to be more predictive of a player's quality as power play opportunities are more rare on a player-to-player basis. PP scoring rates of teams are highly variable, too, so expecting a high percentage of points to come on the power play isn't smart. Lastly, a player's team offense percentage shows us how important he is to the team overall.
|Power Play Points||Secondary Assists||Team Scoring|
|Ryan Culkin||62% (31/50)||55% (23/42)||21% (50/243)|
Of course, these numbers are less reliable than the numbers we have for NHLers, but they still give us a good base line. This is the other reason I didn't rank Culkin that high: of his 42 assists this season, 28 were on the power play. It's unlikely that a player is going to be able to replicate those types of numbers year-over-year for the reasons I've outlined above. At worst, I like to see a 55/45 EV/PP point split - Culkin was 38/62. He was also heavily in on the secondary assists, which suggests to me that he's more of a passenger on scoring plays than his overall totals would suggest. I like to see a split of about 60/40 A1/A2. His team scoring percentage was okay, though, as 20% is my break-even line for defensemen.
Culkin remains a much better prospect than one glancing over this profile may think simply because of his total output and the depth of the Flames' system. However, I wouldn't be surprised if he takes a large step back offensively next season at the AHL level without the nice circumstances he had this year. In fact, we already sort of saw that drop this season after he was traded. Culkin's PPG pre-trade was .95. After? .52. A lot of that has to do with the fact that he was no longer getting the PP minutes he did with the Remparts, and it ended up hurting him - Culkin finished with an NHLE of 18.9.
Culkin skates well enough that he's a legitimate NHL prospect, appears to have good hockey sense, and has increased his results year-over-year. His first pro season will go a long way in determining if he will ever be an NHLer.