A Look at the Farm



Guillaume Desbiens is just one of several AHLers we’ve seen so far this season. Who else do the Calgary Flames have down with the Abbotsford Heat, and what would they be capable of at the NHL level?

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Given my extensive background in AHL to NHL translations it made sense for Kent to ask me to follow up his recent statistical examination of Flames prospects with a look using the more modern AHL translation techniques developed since Gabe Desjardins’ initial development of NHLE years ago (summarized here). The short version: age matters when it comes to prospects/player career arcs given younger guys are further away from their peaks. It also makes sense to try to adjust for different ice times/circumstances between the AHL and NHL for certain players. Rather than just use a flat translation ratio, we can adjust for the age and role of each player and get a more "tailored" NHL equivalence.

Given some of the fair criticism recently that even my statistical pieces on an exciting talent like Jay Bouwmeester are about as interesting as a cricket match in Texas (or anywhere else, really), you can understand how reluctant I would be to proceed on a topic such as this – but proceed I have.

Interestingly my first business trip was to Abbotsford and, like just about everyone we’re about to discuss, I’ve always had to carry my own bags.  As for farms, my father grew up on one in Saskatchewan, a fact that also be deduced from the mere fact that I live in Calgary.  Put it all together and clearly we have the necessary expertise to determine if Ben Walter is good for 17 points or 18. 

So to put a twist on a French Canadian expression: hold a coffee with both hands, because we’re diving in:

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The Top 10

Krys Kolanos 34 – 18 – 22 – 40, 31 years old
Full Season NHL Equivalent: 82 – 14 – 18 – 32
Closest Comparable: Mathieu Darche, Montreal

Since the lock-out only two players older than Kolanos moved from the AHL to the NHL: Mathieu Darche and defenseman Jassen Cullimore. Darche is one of only two players to score 20 points after making the jump past age 28 – Bates Battaglia is the other.

You can see the effect of the adjusted NHLE method with Kolanos. Although he has scored at 1.2 PPG pace in the AHL this year, his NHLE is only 32 because he’s so much older than most prospects and can’t be expected to get top line ice time in the big league. In a younger kid with more potential, the typical NHLE would be around 44 points.

Brian Connelly 52 – 5 – 36 – 41, 26 years old
Full Season NHL Equivalent: 82 – 2 – 16 – 18
Closest Comparable: Johnny Boychuk, Boston

Acquired in the Brendan Morrison deal, Brian Connelly could potentially win the Stanley Cup just like his closest comparable Johnny Boychuk.  Assuming he’s also traded to Boston, that is.

Jon Rheault 41 – 15 – 15 – 30, 26 years old
Full Season NHL Equivalent: 82 – 8 – 8 – 16
Closest Comparable: Brandon Segal, Chicago/AHL (was Dallas)

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Jon Rheault, which is pronounced row, as in “Rheault Rheault Rheault your boat, gently down the stream”, could potential be as good a depth forward as Brandon Segal, and almost certainly as good an actor as Steven Seagal.

Ben Walter 55 – 11 – 27 – 38, 28 years old
Full Season NHL Equivalent: 82 – 5 – 13 – 18
Closest Comparable: Patrick Rissmiller, Colorado Avalanche/AHL

Ben Walter has 1 point in 24 NHL games but could be of great interest to the Anaheim Ducks (because he has two first names).

Greg Nemisz 38 – 12 – 13 – 25, 22 years old
Full Season NHL Equivalent: 82 – 14 – 14 – 28 
Closest Comparable: Maxim Lapierre, Vancouver

Calgary’s first round select in 2008, Greg Nemisz has 1 point in 8 NHL games, but could develop into a 28-point player like a 23-year-old Maxim Lapierre did in Montreal.  Bear in mind that the spread of AHL-to-NHL translations is pretty wide at this young an age.

Clay Wilson 49 – 11 – 20 – 31, 29 years old
Full Season NHL Equivalent: 82 – 6 – 11 – 17
Closest Comparable: Mike Mottau, Boston Bruins

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Clay Wilson has 8 points in 33 NHL games, which is roughly the scoring pace you’d expect based on his AHL scoring level.  Wilson’s career got off to a late start because he was stranded on an island for years with a Purolator courier.

Hugh Jessiman 49 – 21 – 8 – 29, 28 years old
Full Season NHL Equivalent: 82 – 12 – 4 – 16
Closest Comparable: Brad Isbister, retired (was Vancouver)

6’6” former first-round draft choice Hugh Jessiman was fantastic in the X-Men movies, but would probably come up short at the NHL level.  His goal-to-assist ratio is no fluke, he did the same thing in Milwaukee in 2008-09 by standing right in front of the goalie and looking ugly (Mike Ricci had it half right).

Quintin Laing 45 – 11 – 10 – 21, 33 years old
Full Season NHL Equivalent: 82 – 7 – 6 – 13
Closest Comparable: Jed Ortmeyer, Minnesota

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Quintin Laing has 11 points in 79 NHL games, and has managed more than 26 points only twice in his eight full AHL seasons.  You’re probably wondering why we’re covering him instead of someone who wasn’t alive when the Flames were still in Atlanta.  Good question.  We’re doing this in order of points per game, but we fortunately only have a couple more to go.

Dustin Sylvester 45 – 10 – 11 – 21, 23 years old
Full Season NHL Equivalent: 82 – 6 – 6 – 12
Closest Comparable: Tom Pyatt, Tampa Bay

Skilled 5’7” prospect Dustin Sylvester may some day develop into a useful depth player, but first he’ll have to catch Tweetie Bird.  Sufferin’ succotash!  (Of everyone we’ve covered, only Quintin Laing gets that joke).

Paul Byron 27 – 4 – 7 – 11, 23 years old
Full Season NHL Equivalent: 82 – 4 – 7 – 11
Closest Comparable: Dustin Sylvester

Acquired in the Robyn Regehr/Ales Kotalik/Chris Butler trade, skilled 5’9” prospect Paul Byron has 7 points in 30 NHL games, but 97 points in 151 AHL games over his career.  His AHL stats this year don’t exactly flatter him, but he probably has much greater NHL potential than that shrimp Dustin Sylvester (at least that’s what Byron calls him).

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below


While there are others in Abbotsford worth covering, like new acquisition Akim Aliu, Lance Bouma and Carter Bancks, none of them are scoring at even the 0.3 point-per-game AHL pace, which would make our analysis of these ten players exciting by comparison.

For those of you who read the first paragraph (or author’s name), yawned, and skipped to the bottom, Kris Kolanos and Greg Nemisz AHL performance this year would translate to a roughly 30-point NHL pace, according to the more modern statistical models.

On that same basis, Brian Connelly and Clay Wilson would likely settle in at the 17-18 point pace, much like forwards Ben Walter and Jon Rheault. And Hugh Jessiman drew a face on his stomach so Dustin Sylvester has someone at eye-level to talk with in the dressing room.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    If that’s the top 10, the Flames are going to have to get players from somewhere else. Draft picks and prospects for the long-term future, and players for the immediate future.

    How might they be able to accomplish that?

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    time to give bancks a call up, the kid is a character guy. something the mothership lacks. is nemisz considered a bust yet, not exactly lightin the lamp. my opinion is he lacks the foot speed needed for the show.

    • Matty Franchise Jr

      He’s too young to be considered a bust; especially given that he appears to have improved fairly consistently (if slowly). On the positive side, he’s been billed as a power forward – the type of forward that historically takes longer to peak than others. On the negative side, his stats in junior may well have been substantially influenced by playing on one of the better WHL teams in recent history, and he is still quite slow.

      It’s unlikely he’d top out at anything above a 2nd line scorer, and most estimates seem to put him as more of a 3rd line player.

      • If you aren’t a .75 PPG player in the first year or two of your AHL career, there’s almost no chance you’ll even be a .5 PPG player in the NHL at any point. Nemisz PPG pace through a season and a half is 0.54.

        Nemisz might, at some point, be a bottom six option for the Flames. Maybe.

      • to correct you, windsor is in the ohl. secondly, his foot speed was known at the bantam level, my nephew played against nemisz for years. he was a big kid who relied on his size, once the other kids matured nemisz was considered slow. as the game speed progressed nemisz regressed. as for inflated stats, at the time of his draft nemisz was thirdline material with the spits. an allstar cast led by hendrique,hall,ellis,etc lit the lamp. a fire hydrant could pickup points with the lineup boughner iced.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    And Rob, don’t be sad about the occasional complaint regarding your stuff. A lot of us here are greatly appreciative of the comparisons you put out (although I didn’t have much I could add to JBo’s since most of his comparables were before my time).

    • Thanks, I appreciate that.

      I truly believe we’re in the early stages of a wave of objective statistical analysis in hockey, just like the one that hit baseball a couple of decades ago.

      But for now, it’s really hard to present our work in a way the average fan finds meaningful or relevant (and interesting).

      As an aside, I was a little worried about the joke I made at Sylvester’s expense. Until I remember that yeah, he’s 5’7″ 175 lbs. I’m ok.

  • I’m kind of hoping that the Flames start trying to aggresively shop around in the NCAA free agent market. Go out and try to get the Casey Wellman’s, Steve Bozak’s, and Stephane Da Costa’s of the world. Sure, keep a tweener or two ala Kolanos and Lundmark but I’d put a bit more faith in the College seniors then in the unsigned CHL guys like Bancks, Cameron, Elson. Or career AHL grinders like Stefan Meyer for that matter.

    • kyle jean of lssu(lake superior state) is one worth takin a flyer on.and i also failed to mention josh bailey being a spit at the time when the nemisz lovefest began. a sad note mickey renaud was a huge factor on that team.

  • Has anyone here ever forwarded excellant articles like this (and others on this site) to Ken King/Feaster/Wisebroad? It may help them to realize that this organization is headed for a very steep cliff with severed brake lines. Just a thought.

  • everton fc

    Didn’t many give Feaster credit for rebuilding the farm? Didn’t many say this was one of Feaster’s bright accomplishments since taking over as GM??

    Based on this report… That is not the case.

    We have no players on the farm ready for full-time NHL duty. I’ll include Byron. Irving’s the only one who will make the jump. The jury’s still out on the 5’7″ 153lb Byron. And I don’t hate the guy.

    Players like Bouma can find a nitch, due to their playing style. Who else on the farm outside Desbiens, Bancks and maybe Rheault, plays like Bouma?

    With Meyer enjoying life in Sweden these days… I can think of no one. Not a one.

    Nemisz… We’ll never know about him until he gets a significant look up here w/the big team. My sense is he’ll be out of the organization w/in 2 years time.

    Maybe they can turn this kid Aliu into some kind of 4th line mucker w/hands. Who knows.

    We need a complete rebuild. Including the farm.

    • loudogYYC

      We can’t underestimate the brutality of the Darryl Sutter tenure. He had blind faith in AHL players that Feaster had to issue parting with and replaced all those pieces with useful, contributing players.
      The Heat sit tied for 9th in a 30 team league and have much better odds than the Flames of making the playoffs.

      My guess, and please correct me if I’m wrong, is that no AHL team boasts a lineup that is overly exciting.

      I’m actually really happy with what Feaster has done with Abbotsford. If nothing else, he’s made it a better development team for prospects. Now these kids have a chance at winning instead of getting used to giving it your all and still losing.

    • RexLibris

      no. there’s a reason he’s only had 2 nhl games since he was drafted almost a decade ago. add to that the ahl-only contract.

      the thing feaster did this year in “rebuilding” the farm was bringing in quality ahl veterans, so that’s where that comes from. has nothing to do with the nhl readiness of the players.

  • the forgotten man

    Wow…thank you for the informative post Robert, but it was really depressing to read. Besides my eternal quest of figuring out how they get the Caramilk in a Caramilk bar, why is Tod(d) Button still employed by this organization?? Canada Post employees have been fired for less…maybe Edwards is shopping for a new Swiffer as we speak.

  • RexLibris

    The Heat are a veteran squad that are performing well, perhaps in spite of the Flames prospects on it, rather than due to.

    That being said, I think Feaster did a decent enough job in creating a challenging environment where winning isn’t entirely foreign (.580 thus far) to the group and players, hopefully, have some onus on them to earn their ice time. I don’t know for certain if that is the case, but it seems a fair assumption from looking at the roster.

    Speaking of prospects and call-ups and evaluations, this article from Hockey Writers might be interesting for Flames fans: http://thehockeywriters.com/calgary-flames-round-up-could-a-lame-duck-season-be-a-big-opportunity/

  • wawful

    Thanks for the article Vollman. The humor helps the bitter pill of reality go down easier.

    I wonder how this post would have looked if the Flames had a normal number of injuries this year and players like Horak or Brodie had spent more time on the farm.

    As for replenishing the Farm team… Is there anyone interesting coming up through the juniors who might make the Heat next season? e.g. I can see Baertschi going straight to the big club, but when can we expect to see players like Reinhart or Gaudreau in Abbotsford?

  • PrairieStew

    That article was hilarious, but maybe that’s because I am older than dirt. Heck I remember my watching the Russians beat Canada 7-3 in the first game in 72 with my grandfather on the farm in Saskatchewan. I was devastated. He was less so because he was looking forward to watching Archie Bunker the next night.

    Having said that – there are only 3 guys on that list with a snowballs chance of ever hitting the 100 game mark with the Flames, let alone setting the world on fire – Nemisz, Connelly. and Byron. With Horak and Bouma already up thats not as brutal as it looked a year or so ago; especially considering the prospects elsewhere (Baertschi,Reinhart, Ferland, Arnold, Gaudreau, Ramage, Rammo, Granlund)