June 24 2014 08:53AM
Via the NHL
Did something happen to Sven Baertschi?
The 21-year-old prospect - once the crown jewel of Calgary’s stable - has seen his stock drop considerably in the eyes of many since he was drafted 13th overall less than three full years ago. On the surface, it looks pretty cut and dry. Is there more underneath?
SVEN comes in at #3 on our 2014 Flames Fifteen.
Baertschi has now been ranked 1, 2 and 3 in successive years in the Flames Fifteen. A little bit of that is due to who’s been drafted, a little is due to the players around him developing “quicker”: but the majority is probably a result of Baertschi spending so much time in Abbotsford.
(Editorial Note: Pike and Bader are insane.)
Baertschi is obviously not the player who scored 3 in 5 the first time we saw him. No one shoots 30%, after all. But, in my opinion, Baertschi might have the biggest offensive upside of everyone on this list - so him shooting 10% shouldn’t be out of the question. He did that over his 20 or so games in 2012-2013.
Baertschi has scored at a very good rate in the show, as well. Over 51 games, Baertschi has amassed 24 points - which means he’s getting half a point-per-game. He’s done that with an on-ice scoring percentage that’s about average (8.6%), a PDO that’s about average (1004) while remaining within 1% of the team’s relative corsi. During that time, his most-played-with players were Monahan, Kostopolous, Cammalleri, Russell, Brodie and Smith. With the exception of Cammalleri, (Brodie was still “just” a top-4 defenseman at that time), there wasn’t a lot of shot attempts being produced.
To be fair, though, Baertschi has struggled (relatively) at the AHL level. I’m not totally sure why he was sent down this season, even now - sure, his underlying stats are bad. We know that. But, the amount of 20 or 21 year old guys who can play opponents to a draw is few - a top draft pick (Hall) or a lucky dart (O’Reilly) are really the only ones who can. The thing that gets me about it is that he’s better than Monahan defensively and offensively right now and the Flames thought it would be a good idea to waste a year of Monahan’s contract while failing to apply the same logic they did to Baertschi.
But back to the AHL - Baertschi hasn’t torn up the league, posting NHLEs of 33 (.55 trans) and 26 in his two seasons there. That’s a little lower than what we’d want from a supposedly high-end prospect. When added to his NHL totals, though, they get a little better - 35 and 28. He also scored at a 2 PPG rate in the WHL in his +1 year (NHLE of 49) and an NHLE of 32 in his draft year.
Last year in the AHL was a little worse than the year before in terms of total results, but he produced more than two shots a game and still scored 29 in 41 - even though it took him 16 games to get his 5th point, something he had accomplished by game 10 at the NHL level. That’s why I’m mostly going to chalk up his issues this year to luck - I was called insane when last summer I predicted less than ~38 points from Baertschi. It is hard to score at the NHL level, guys. When we looked at his comparables at the start of 2014, he still looked good.
Also, as we know - correlation does not equal causation, but Sean Monahan had 19 points in 51 games (.37 PPG, 252nd among forwards) after Baertschi was sent down. That rate makes him a 4th liner on 20 teams in the league. Shockingly - they're probably both better players when they're together and being sheltered.
|Power Play Points||Secondary Assists||Team Scoring|
|Sven Baertschi||17% (5/29)||56% (9/16)||24% (29/123)|
Two of Baertschi’s point splits are pretty good - he obviously didn’t get a lot of chances on the PP, as only one of his 16 assists and 4 of his 13 goals were on the PP. I bet if he had 5 or 6 bonus PP assists, no one would be worried at all. His TS% is also pretty healthy, especially when so much of his damage was at EV. His secondary assists might look more worrying, but like we've said before - they're less of a concern than the other two and can be more affected by sample size. Before this season, though, his SA% had been good (as have his PPP% and TS%), so that why I'm willing to chalk that up to bad luck.
I’m also not worried about his injuries - the issue with labelling guys as injury prone is that they really aren’t - look at a guy like Justin Williams. Lots of injuries that weren’t his fault (head, shoulder, knee… sound familiar?) and now he’s played in more than 220 straight games. Anyone can get hurt at any time. It isn’t unique to some players.
My thinking is this: Baertschi has been Flames property for three seasons. In two of those seasons, he posted an NHLE that was elite and in his last WHL season he basically just used the league. The only season in which he had poor results was this one, and even then “poor” is relative - this is a guy who has scored proficiently at every level so far and is still only 21 years old. He’s scored at the NHL level without a lot of luck and playing with players who are commonly skilled, he’s dominated the WHL and he’s shown good results in the AHL.
I’m on record as saying he needed a full year in the AHL even after he scored 3 in 5 - but almost every guy does. He’s now spent that year in the AHL, and my view is this: I’m not going to worry about a player who has amassed an average NHLE of 36 since he’s been in North America. Aside from John Gaudreau, he’s been the prospect with the best production since he’s been drafted. He will be a fixture on the first line in Calgary for the next decade - I'm sure of it.