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?
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:
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)
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
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
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).
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.