Allsvenskan NHL Equivalence



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Flames fans are probably happy to hear that their team’s 23-year old center Mikael Backlund is tearing the cover off the ball in the Allsvenskan so far this season (10GP, 8 goals, 19 points, 1.9 PPG). The significant caveat being, of course, that the Allsvenskan (or SWE-1) league doesn’t appear to be all that good. As Graham Wiswell put it on twitter after viewing a few highlights:

A professional relegation league beneath the siginificantly more competitive Swedish Elite League (SEL), The Allsvenskan doesn’t tend to produce a lot of NHLers. At least, not a lot of NHLers who don’t stop over in the SEL or AHL before finally making the show here in North America. As a result, it’s difficult to generate an NHL equivalence or translation factor since that requires a large-ish sample of players who gone from one (SWE-1) to the other (NHL) in a single step.

The NHL Sample

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The number of players who have done it in recent memory is vanishingly small. In fact, I could only find four in my trip through hockeydb – Michael Ryder (2004-05), Francis Bouillon (2004-05), Patrik Berglund (2007-08) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (2009-10). Each guy played nearly a full season in the SWE-1 in the year mentioned and then immediately played 40 or more games in the NHL the next year.

Of course, four is a pathetically small sample, but I ran the numbers anyways.

Player GP points SWE-1 PPG GP points NHL PPG
Patrik Berglund 36 45 1.25 76 47 0.62
Michael Ryder 32 48 1.50 81 55 0.68
Francis Bouillon 21 18 0.86 73 18 0.33
Olliver Ekman-Larrson 27 42 0.86 48 11 0.33
Total 116 153 1.32 278 131 0.47
Translation 0.36          

Ryder and Bouillon were closer to their prime years when they played overseas during the previous lock-out, while Berglund and Ekman-Larsson were fresh faced rookies when they made the leap. Something to keep in mind.

The result is pretty intuitive, ranking SWE-1 somewhere between Junior hockey (0.30) and the typical AHL (0.44). That said, it has has to be taken with a large heaping of salt given our sample is N=4.

SWE-1 to SEL Equivalency

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To develop a proxy NHLE for the Allsvenskan, I decided to look at players who graduated to the Swedish Elite League from SWE-1 and then to use that measure to determine a translation factor for the NHL. Naturally, a lot more guys tend to move up and down between the two Swedish leagues, so the numbers were far more robust.

All-in-all, I found 82 player matched-seasons (year-1 in SWE-1 and then year-2 in SEL). I did not exclude anyone according to age, although typically may want to eliminate guys right at the start or end of their careers to avoid outliers. I did, however, discount a guy if his year in either the SWE-1 or SEL was less than 20-games. 

The sample included 3,367 games played in the SWE-1 with a total of 2165 points (0.64 PPG). Those same guys played 3525 in the SEL, garnering 1039 points (0.29 PPG). The SWE-1 to SEL translation factor was therefore 0.46, meaning we could reasonably assume a Allsvenskan player moving up to the SEL to retain about half of his output.

The NHLE for the Swedish Elite league is 0.78. If multiply that by our new "SELE" factor of 0.46 for the Allsvenskan we get…0.3588 or .36. Huh. How ’bout that?

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Again, this places the Allsvenskan above the CHL (0.30), but below other, more prominent pro leagues like the AHL, SEL and KHL. 

SWE-1 NHLE Application

Only five NHLers are competing in SWE-1 during the lock-out: the aforementioned Backlund, Patrik Berglund, Matt Read, Carl Hagelin and Anze Kopitar. Former first rounder Filip Forsberg is the only other recognizable name there currently. Here’s how they rank in terms of NHLE so far:

Player PPG translation NHLE
Backlund 1.90 0.36 56
Read 1.45 0.36 43
Hagelin 1.38 0.36 41
Berglund 1.07 0.36 31
Koptiar 1.06 0.36 31
Forsberg 0.74 0.36 22

Keep in mind none of these guys has even played 20 games yet, so things are bound to change over time. I doubt, for example, that Anze Kopitar will only score at a PPG pace over the long haul in the Allsvenskan. In addition, Berglund and Backlund are playing together for Vasteras, so we should expect that to inflate things a bit for them.

  • RKD

    Pleasantly surprised by the results, small sample notwithstanding. Thanks for looking into that.

    Assuming this is a temporary stop for Backlund, this level could be best case scenario for him. Why?

    1) He’s proven he can handle reasonably tough situations in pro hockey already. So it’s not essential that he get more pro experience in the short term.
    2) Backlund desperately lacked confidence last season. He generated chances, made smart decisions and put himself in positions to score. He would simply whif on the puck, lose it in his skates, or rip right it into the bread basket. This isn’t a lack of skill, but simply confidence. Provided the lockout ends reasonably soon, this could be a perfect situation for him. Give him reason to believe in his offensive abilities again, while his two-way contributions will continue to evolve.

    Backlund has a rare opportunity here. He’s under performed offensively, and still has a very realistic shot at a #1 C role. After thinking on it some more, I think this experience could bring the one ingredient he’s been lacking at the NHL level: confidence. I think we’ll finally see what we’ve been waiting to see from him, provided the lockout doesn’t wipe out that possibility altogether.

  • RKD

    Whether he’s got an NHLE of 12 or 82, it’s still encouraging to see him outscoring guys of that calibre. All I really want from Backlund is, if we’re down a couple of goals in a game, is to feel like it’s not a wasted shift every time he comes on.

  • SmellOfVictory

    coupla things:

    because it’s a relegation league, i’d be curious what the effect of being on a “top” team would be vs. being on a bottom feeding, “never gonna make the SEL” level team. västeräs, for example, has always been a middle-of-the-pack tweener team, whereas longtime SEL stalwarts djurgårdens have only been recently relegated.

    i also find it curious that kopitar chose to go to mora when he played as a youngster in the lower (div1) södertälje system.

  • RKD

    also ? michael ryder OWNED with leksands in 04/05 and came back to the ‘chell a far more confident player. i think if that happens for mickis, this lockout can be actually considered a successful stint for him.

  • RKD

    Thanks for the update, even if it is a softer league and softer competition. We can all agree that Backs needs a major boost in confidence. What are his shooting percentage and possession times like?

    Roman Horak and Sven Baertschi are tied with 11 points apeice in the AHL. Horak scored a natural hattrick Friday!

  • RKD

    Thanks SOV. On an unrelated note Roman Cervenka has not played in the Czech Repbulic league since Oct. 14th. Either it is an injury or he has been loaned to the KHL.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I think, with some players, a lot has to do with the coaching staff. What I mean is the philosophy or mentality rather than being put in positions to succeed.

    To illustrate:

    Either Sutter could have given Backlund every opportunity to play top 6 or PP. lets say same number of minutes that Hartley would. However, I think the Sutter ‘make smart decisions or play dump and chase’ philosophy limits the growth of offensive players.

    To generate offense you have to have a philosophy that allows some risk taking. If players feel less restricted to try and make plays they’ll try more plays (like a dangle to get to the middle of the ice).

    I’m hoping Hartley can strike the right balance of letting players get confidence with offense while not allowing them to cheat and not back check.

    Laviolettes teams seem to play that way (Philly and Carolina).

    The philosophy has to be one off attack. Siutters are to defend and take zero risks.

  • I’m a bit surprised that a league that’s noticeably mediocre to the naked eye would translate higher than NCAA hockey. I’m thinking a better, more-direct sample might’ve brought that down…although that’s always complicated by the fact that there’s less incentive for a Swedish player that’s projected for 3rd/4th line duty to leave Sweden.

    • SmellOfVictory

      Different rink size and different playstyle may make it appear worse to you than NCAA, but consider the proportion of kids in the NCAA who actually make the NHL, and of those how many actually end up as above average NHLers. It’s really not that strong a league.