Putting Mark Jankowski’s Performance In Context

 

 

The single biggest issue with the Mark Jankowsi selection by the Calgary Flames is the challenge of correctly putting his performance at Stanstead college in proper context. Both qualitatively and quantitatively: when viewing a player, his abilities are naturally gauged against those he is competing against – there are many all-star AHLers who are entirely ordinary in the NHL. Many high scoring juniors don’t make it as professionals in the AHL, etc. In short, the lesser the league, the easier it is to look like a star.

Quantitatively, because the better known feeder leagues like the OHL, the NCAA and pro leagues across the pond routinely send players to the NHL, it’s easier to see to what degree players retain their offense at the highest level and therefore estiamte roughly how much scoring is "worth" relative to the NHL.

Jankowski’s 93-points in 53-games for Stanstead college sounds impressive (1.61 point-per-game) but the Canadian HS prep league is obscure and the competition is minimal as compared to, say, major junior hockey or NCAA. In the Hockey New draft preview they ranked Jankowski 37th overall. One scout interviewed for the piece said "Could (Jankowski have played in major junior this year? Sure he could have…Would he been a star? Probably not."

Estimating NHL Equivalence

I decided to use this Prep school-to-CHL comparison to estimate Jankowski’s NHL equivalency, which as discussed frequently before is a method developed by Gabriel Desjardins for translating offense in various leagues to the NHL which allows us to compare numbers from across disparate divisions such as the CHL, NCAA and SEL. Essentially, we multiply a players point-per-game pace (PPG) by an established translation factor and then use that to calculate the estimated output over an 82-game NHL schedule. 

We know the translation factor for the CHL (0.30), so I used a range of estimated ratios to determine the Canadian prep school quality. Here are the results: 

Qual rel CHL PPG % of CHL translation factor NHLE
At 90% 1.63 0.9 0.27 36
At 75% 1.63 0.75 0.225 30
At 60% 1.63 0.6 0.18 24
At 50% 1.63 0.5 0.15 20
At 40% 1.63 0.4 0.12 16
At 30% 1.63 0.3 0.09 12

 

As you can see, the news gets bad pretty quickly. Things are encouraging if Jankowski’s HS league is about at least 60-75% as good as the CHL (which is a long shot). Anything below 50% and he falls to the high-to-mid teens. For context, Sven Baertschi’s NHLE in his draft season was about 32.

This is a rather clumsy, shotgun method of doing things I admit. Luckily Gabe Desjardins has looked at how highschoolers in Minnesota translate their offense to college and by, extension, to the NHL.

Initially, I looked mostly at leagues that sent players directly to the NHL, the idea being that we wanted to be able to make single year projections of minor-league and junior players. However, because it is derived from the performance of a large number of players, a League Equivalency is also a measure of League Difficulty. We can compare two leagues to one another either by looking at how players fare when they jump from one league to another, or how players from two different leagues fare in a third. More importantly, we can extrapolate to an NHL Equivalency, even for a league that doesn’t send anyone to the NHL.

Overall, Minnesota hockey translates to the NCAA (NHLE = 0.41) at approximately 0.18, giving an NHLE of 0.073. The translation to the USHL is 0.195; its translation to the NCAA is 0.65; the overall NHLE is 0.052. Via a similar process, the NHLE via the NAHL is also 0.052. This puts the difficulty level of Minnesota H.S. hockey somewhere between 5.2% and 7.3% – which is not very high: the leading scorer in Minnesota over the course of a decade might be good for 20 points as an 18-year-old rookie in the NHL.

 Emphasis added.

Minnesota HS is not precisely the same league, but it’s close enough for our purposes. As you can see, the level of competition relative to college and hockey and the NHL is minimal – even at the high-end, the translation factor is just 7.3%, which is below the 30% range I estimated for HS-to-CHL above.

First Round Forwards Comparison

Now that we have a translation factor for Jankowski, we can use it to put his output in context of the other forwards who were picked in the first round this year. This comparison, I think, will illustrate the level of risk the Flames took in selecting a player out of a second tier HS league with their first round pick.

Player PPG Translation NHLE
Nail Yakupov 1.64 0.3 40
Alex Galchenyuk* 1.22 0.3 30
Filip Forsberg** 0.4 0.39 13
Mikhail Grigorenko 1.44 0.3 35
Redek Faksa 1.06 0.3 26
Zemgus Girgensons 1.12 0.27 25
Tomas Hertl 0.66 0.61 33
Teuvo Tervainen 0.4 0.54 18
Thomas Wilson 0.55 0.3 14
Scott Lawton 0.82 0.3 20
Mark Jankowski 1.63 0.073 10
Brendan Gaunce 1 0.3 25
Henrik samuelsson 0.82 0.3 20
Stefan Matteau 0.69 0.3 17
Tanner Pearson*** 0.64 0.3 16

*Galchenyik was hurt all year, so I used his prior season to calculate his NHL

** As far as I know, there’s no NHLE for the SWE-2 league that Forsberg played. I estimated the translation factor based on the SEL’s ratio.

***Tanner Pearson was drafted as an over-ager this season, so I used his prior season in interest of a more apples-to-apples comparison.

The list is presented in the order they were picked.

Jankowski’s NHLE is the lowest of the first round forwards this year, even if we take the "best case" translation factor from Desjardin’s study. A couple of guys are within range – Stefan Matteau, Teuvo Tervainen, Thomas Wilson and Filip Forsberg. The caveat here is that with this sort of broad-brush method we’re essentially blind to things like ice time and role. Teens playing in mens leagues like Forsberg and Teravainen, for example, will typically have lesser ice time and roles than guys in the CHL or HS hockey and, as result, will get less opportunity to put up numbers. 

Limitations

NHLE only describes a prospect’s current level of output and what it means relative to the NHL. What it obviously doesn’t tell us is how much better a kid is going to get. Some guys peak as teens while others guys (like Baertschi this past season) take giant leaps forward. A large portion of the scouting game isn’t merely describing a kid’s current skill level, but projecting it out 3-5 years down the line and beyond. 

The Flames must be at least dimly aware of the risks associated with scouting and picking a kid out of lower tier league. What they seem to be banking on is Jankowski’s youth (youngest player drafted in the first round) and steep improvement over the last year or so to continue apace as he moves up to higher leagues.

Weisbrod and Feaster not only raved about Jankowski’s raw skills at the draft this weekend, but also his hockey sense, intelligence and character. We can therefore assume it’s those factors they believe will allow him to adapt and excel in more difficult circumstances – like how a kid with a high IQ can be expected to maintain high grades as he works his way through school, rather than an average kid who aced one test because it was simply too easy for him.

It remains tobe seen which it is for Jankowski.

  • Good take,

    I do like the pick. I dont think comparing prep hockey to Minnesota High School is as fair as it seems. The prep schools like Shattuck St Mary’s and Notre Dame compete more as Midget AAA teams than high schools, dropping the 18 year olds they are allowed to carry as a Prep school (in the US anyway). Stanstead appeared to compete against US prep, which would include 18 year olds.

    Given that, Prep can likely be seen as a hair above Midget AAA. A lot of Prep schools stopped coming to the Mac’s Midget tournament because they refused to drop 18 year olds.

    High performers in Midget AAA to CHL might be a little cleaner, and have more data used to compute the NHLE.

    For the sake of hope, Zach Parise was an old player in his draft year, and he competed in Prep Hockey at 17 for Shattuck’s. Sidney Crosby played on the same team at 14.

    • Yeah, there’s all sorts of issues with the comparison, which is why I include the “relative to CHL” range of values. If you don’t like Minnesoat HS, feel free to pick a value from that table based on your own assumptions.

  • Greg

    Definitely high risk / high reward. We’ve been aching for that over Sutter’s pick-a-can’t-miss-4th-line-grinder though no?

    Given they were going to take him at 14, it was definitely the right move to trade down and get the extra 2nd at least.

  • Very interesting. Once he hits a more established league like the NCAA it will be more clear where he stands. He reminds me of when Zajac was picked 20th overall from the BCHL. A kind of 2nd tier league that was totally dominated by him.

    • Yeah, I looked at Zajac and Turris, who both played in and killed the BCHL. They also both scored at a higher pace than Jankowski in their draft years:

      Zajac – 1.89
      Turris – 2.28
      Jankowski – 1.63

      When they went to college, they were both roughly PPG pace players, which is decent but not exceptional.

  • Graham

    @Clay

    the high school I attended had a varsity prep team at about roughly the same league level (high prep) as shattuck.

    joe colborne played in the ajhl instead of that team at 17 because he dominated in a couple of exibition games. so yeah, I’m not exactly a fan.

  • @Justin

    yeah, Im not a huge fan either of the qualcomp. I like the fact we are drafting skilled forwards finally and not coke machines. Some of the bigger schools are more ‘factories’ than anything else. I wish I knew where Stanstead fit into the spectrum.

  • @clay, if I remember correctly we took chuckles a bit after zajac and obviously zajac stirred that drink!

    @kent, I guess the other issue is age. With Jankowski being on the brink of not being eligible you have to wonder if those months of development guys like zajac and turris had were beneficial to their draft year development over Jankowski.

    I don’t want to sound to apologetic, I think the flames reasoning was just that though. He’s young, lots of questions, major upside.

  • Ouch. I mean, wow, that’s TERRIBLE.

    would not quality of team be a bit of a factor, though? Perhaps if Jankowski had played among better players, he might have had an easier time scoring? grasping at straws, I know.

    One slightly encouraging thing, though, is that Jankowski is characterized as a playmaker. and he scored more goals than assists last year.

  • Taking a “wait and see” here. Let’s let the kid get a season at Dubuque in the USHL and then we’ll have a better take on where he is at. We have to keep in mind that he’s a late bloomer, and it might take a couple of years to fill out his 6’4″+ frame. I do like the idea of a fast, highly skilled, and *BIG* center for the future.

    If the kid is 2 days younger then he wouldn’t have even been in this draft. If he dominates at Dubuque this year, then we effectively got a top 10 pick in 2013 at #21 in 2012.

  • Graham

    The Jankowski pick is going to be controversial
    for years. We have either got a big, offensive minded center, or one of the biggest first round flops in Flames history (and we have had our share).
    Given the tenure of hockey executives, its unlikely that Feaster will be around in five years, so his gamble if successfull, is likely to benefit the next GM. Credit due for taking a gamble to benefit the club, not Feaster himself. (you can bet Feaster gets the blame for a flop regardless).
    Overall, I just don’t think it is a gamble I would have taken. I would have picked one of Ceci, Tervainen or Girgensons. Jankowski is the kind of gamble you take if you have two first rounders or two second’s.
    Kents numbers are not encouraging…

  • Does anyone know if anyone has ever been drafted out of whatever league it is Stanstead College plays in? Is this pretty unprecedented?

    If there is, I wonder if there are similar circumstances to gauge Jankowski on, as this league is pretty obscure and I feel like judging the qualcomp of it is harder to define than is being hypothesized here.

    • Not that I know of.

      This year a couple of HSers were taken from Minnesota Duluth. Dom Toninato scored 73 points in 31 games (2.35 PPG) and was taken 126th overall, for instance.

      Again, who knows how we Minny HS actually compares to this Quebec prep school.

  • Triumph44

    Nice analysis, Kent. I do wonder when one gets that far away from NHL quality play just how much value NHLE has. It leads me to more philosophical questions about what talent is and how it’s realized – players obviously get better by playing both with and against better players. So are Calgary counting on him improving as a result of increased competition/team prowess or do they think that he’s already a ‘1st round draft pick’ by virtue of what he’s shown in this obscure league?

    It sure sounds like they got married to one guy’s skillset and shooed away questions about just how important it is.

    Also, I would think that Zajac’s dominance would have something to do with Chucko’s presence and vice versa – Chucko is not an NHL player, obviously, but he looked like an average-ish player in the AHL, which is still significantly better than most BCHL players, most of whom don’t have pro careers of any significance.

  • The only thing that could have made JFee/Wbrod look worse on this is if they went on a Burke-like tirade ala Morgan Reilly — “We had this guy ranked #1 on our list”.

    This pick is a real shot in the dark.

  • i am a fan of the work you do here, love reading it!

    Two things come to mind for me when I try to reconcile the figures in my mind:

    1) Mark has been noted as a playmaker first that can also put the puck in the net by many souting reports I’ve read. Given the fact that he scored more goals than he assisted on, it makes me wonder if his quality of team mates he is passing to is worth a thought.

    2) I think comparing him to Nail and others who maybe upto 11 months older than him is also worth an asterix.

    Thanks for all the work you put into this!

  • everton fc

    Pretty gutsy move, picking Jankowski at 21… But Feaster’s statement, “He’ll be the best pick in this draft 10 years from now”…

    Not prudent.

    This could, indeed, go down as the worst pick in Flames history, in Round 1. He’ll have to become a #1 centre producing 60-70 points a season, to make this a success, based on the talent passed over.

    And that wouldn’t make him the best pick in this draft, Mr Feaster. Not by a longshot.

    What a wreckless statement to make to an already-upset and pessimistic fanbase….

  • thymebalm

    What do we want to see from Jankowski in the USHL next year?

    If he was drafted as a rising talent, I’m interested in next years stats more than last year’s.

    Players that turned NHL success drafted in the 1st round from USHL:

    Kyle Okposo 50GP 27G-31A-58P 1.16PPG

    Joe Pavelski 60GP 36G-33A-69P 1.15PPG

    Thomas Vanek 56GP 46G-45A-91P 1.63PPG

    David Backes 57GP 28G-41A-69P 1.21PPG (2nd round)

    Paul Stastny 56 GP 30G-47A-77P 1.38PPG

    Blake Wheeler 58GP 19G-28A-47P 0.81PPG

    Phil Housley 16GP 13G-13A-26P 1.62PPG

    I realize that Jankowski’s numbers are going to be post-draft and not pre-draft, but let’s just test this out.

    The average PPG rate for these USHL players is 1.25.

    That has to be the target range for Jankowski next year. If he can produce around that level in the USHL… we’ll have a way clearer picture of what kind of prospect we have.

  • RexLibris

    First off, Kent, great article. Very good analysis and some good background work here. Not inspiring, for Flames fans, but as an ad hoc NHLE comparison it does put things into context.

    Which leads me to my second point…

    @evertonfc

    I totally agree. One of the biggest issues I had with this pick was what Feaster said about the player, and the selection process, after the fact. Saying that a high school kid will become the best player taken in the draft and then quickly saying that this was Weisbrod’s pick is just blatantly irresponsible. He is laying so much hope and pressure at the feet of such a young and inexperienced young man and then handing off the possible repercussions to his subordinate.

    I know he was probably thinking that he was giving credit where it was due, but the best thing would have been to say that Jankowksi is a good player and they feel a wise investment for the long term. Not spout off about him being Joe Nieuwendyk.

    Saying that it was Weisbrod’s pick just means, in the end, that if things go sour (and with a pick this risky that is obviously a strong possibility) it is someone else’s fault.

    He ought to have kept his mouth shut on potential and just said that he and his entire staff chose Jankowski. Feaster strikes me, more and more, as someone who, when he speaks, is trying to convince the listener that he is the smartest person in the room.

    Anyway, I hope Jankowski has an NHL career and I hope that he can manage the pressure that will undoubtedly come in the next few years.

  • Feaster’s dyslexic and somehow got Gretzky and Jankowski mixed up.

    This kid, on paper, seems to have the right stuff to be an awesome player. He also has a name that, for first rounders, sounds like a total flameout (see: Krahn, Brent and Daigle, Alexander). We will certainly have to wait a couple years before we ever find out whether Jankowski over Girgenson/Maatta/Finn et al. was the right decision.

    Certainly, the statement that in “10 years this kid will be the best of this draft” is far reaching, AT BEST. In all likelihood, Feaster and Weisbrod will never have to face the music on this proclamation, as both will probably have been run out of town long before then.

  • T&A4Flames

    My problem with the draft is not that Jankowski is a good kid or that he has potential. I’ve listened to Pat Steinberg defend the move all day today. But I just dont get it. Feaster said they were going to go best player available, by their list. You cant tell me that even the flames list had Jankowski ahead of Teravainen, Ceci, or Maata. Teravainen was top ten on almost everyone else’s draft lists. Only Craig Button had Jankowski in the top 20 and he still had Teravainen 5th. The 2nd rounder is a whatever pick, defensive defensemen that may or may not have the talent to make the NHL. I have been a feaster supporter for the most part, but I think they are off on this one. I think they fell in love with a certain guy and were going to pick him regardless, rather than do what they said they would do and “pick the best player available.”

  • everton fc

    jankowski is a very big gamble. i wonder how much this pick was motivated by family ties. as for the minny high school loop, its a good league but is a step above aaa minor midget and a step or two below the lower junior loops. i wonder why jankowski didnt go the ophl route. his minor midget ohl draft stats are not very impressive. stanstead by all means isnt a notre dame or a shattuck program by any means, dont they play against elite academy a bit?