Random Thoughts – Kids and Goalies



It’s the off-season and the Flames are entering slumber mode until training camp. Nevertheless I still have a few things kicking around my head, including stuff on Sieloff and Jankowski.

– With Pat Sieloff signing his ELC, I’ve heard a lot of noise about him potentially turning pro this year. Sieloff is a rare CHLer in that he can skip right to the AHL at 19 because he spent his 17-18 year old season in the US development system. Taking that preliminary development step would probably be good for a lot of teens who are stuck in juniors owing to the CHL-AHL arrangement, but I’m not sure what the rush is with this particular player. 

Sieloff played just 45 games for Windsor last year (scoring 11 points) owing to injury concerns. He made the WJC gold-medal winning US squad, but was a support, bottom-pairing guy. He hasn’t particularly dominated his peers at this point in his development and could probably benefit from a 19-20 year old year in the OHL.

Which is to say there’s no evidence that I can see that suggests Sieloff should jump the queue. A small percentage of prospects are good enough to compete against men before their 20th birthday, but it’s a very big jump to take. Not sure what the rush is with the former 2nd rounder. 

– Bit of a brouhaha in the Janko article below I see. 

One thing I’ve learned from 6+ years of writing about hockey, and prospects in particular (if only because I’ve engaged in a lot of research that turned out to be completely fruitless), is that you should almost always assume the null hypothesis: ie, this guy probably won’t make the NHL or be a player of note. A very small percentage of kids turn out to be worthwhile pros at all. An even smaller amount of them turn out to be difference makers in the show. Flames fans can count on one hand the number of draft picks over the last decade who are currently playing in the league as anything above a replacement level guy.

Of course, youngsters are a bit of a "blank slate" for a year or two after they’re chosen, with reports of their skill sets and potential NHL ceilings fueling fantasies and speculative roster building. It’s part of the fun of being a fan, of course, particularly when you cheer for a team that has little chance of meaningful success in the near future.

Again, I’ve nevertheless learned to assume the null hypothesis until a prospect can prove otherwise. A kid needs to be extraordinarily dominant relative to his peers in order to make the leap and stick. There aren’t a lot of job openings in the league every season and the competition is comprised of established, well-trained professionals and other exceptional young talents all jostling for a few open spots. So a prospect needs to be consistently great or boast an extreme development curve to even get a legitimate shot.

It’s a tough hill to climb and plenty of guys with glowing scouting reports and great physical attributes fall off a long the way.

In regards to Jankowski in particular, there’s no arguing his results from last year were "meh" at best, even if we look at them in greater detail and from various angles. This is hardly a death blow to his pro aspirations, of course, and there’s also no question his circumstances last year were tougher given his young age and the impotence of his club. Still, pointing out his freshman performance as underwhelming and not indicative of future success isn’t pessimism, hatred or a personal vendetta against the player – it’s a nod to the fact that becoming a useful player in the NHL is really, really hard and that hopefuls need to be better than a huge segment of their peer group – in theory and in fact – to make it.

Janko still has time on his side, but make no mistake – a big step forward is required.

– I mentioned this on twitter the other day, but I looked at a collection of goalies who have recently played in th KHL and NHL with the intention of finding the potential difference (or "translation factor") between the two leagues so we can know what to expect from Ramo this season. 

Here’s how the list turned out:

Martin Gerber 6349 566 0.911 747 64 0.914
Curtis Sanford 3472 333 0.904 712 52 0.927
Anton Khudobin 567 38 0.933 837 74 0.912
Kari Ramo 1411 148 0.895 4466 343 0.923
Sebastien Caron 2741 296 0.892 300 40 0.867
Yann Danis 1363 123 0.910 934 84 0.910
Pekka Rinne 8183 659 0.919 661 68 0.897
Evgeni Nabokov 17068 1498 0.912 554 62 0.888
Vitaly Kolesnik 178 20 0.888 2882 232 0.920
Ilya Bryzgalov 11970 1037 0.913 265 23 0.913
Semyon Varlamov 4207 370 0.912 503 27 0.946
Sergei Bobrovsky 3380 282 0.917 678 46 0.932
John Grahame 5612 574 0.898 549 57 0.896
Robert Esche 4614 464 0.899 1779 163 0.908
Total 71115 6408 0.910 15867 1335 0.916

The key numbers are the aggregate save percentages in each league. This particular group of goalies managed an average SV% of .910 in the NHL over 7000+ shots and a .916 SV% in the KHL over nearly 16000 shots.

Obviously this comes with a huge list of caveats, including the small sample of players, the potential effect of career curves, the fact that we don’t know if team quality meaningful influences SV% in the KHL, etc. The result is intuitive because it shows that pucks are apparently harder to stop in the NHL, but I wouldn’t take the assumed magnitude of the effect too seriously (meaning, I wouldn’t assume Ramo – a career .923 goalie in the KHL – will necessarily be a .917 talent goalie in the NHL).

– Speaking of goalies, Ryan Pinder asked me last week on the radio who I consider to be the Flames best prospect in net currently. I said it was Jon Gillies owing to his remarkable season for Providence as a freshman last year, but again we should be cautious about getting too excited about projecting him as a high-end starter after only a single 30+ game season. Still, if he can replicate or build on his performance as a sophomore, he’ll be a guy to start getting legitimately excited about. 

  • Gillies had a freakishly good season last year, and we all know what we say about sustainability – most things aren’t.

    Still though, if he comes anywhere close to duplicating his numbers and develops into the pro we all hope he becomes, that’s something to get excited about.

    The nice thing is he won’t be rushed. Ramo is going to have a couple of years to prove that he either is or isn’t the guy going forward for this team, and I suspect they’ll wear the tread off of Ortio and Brossoit trying to determine if either of these guys are for real, so Gillies can develop at his own pace under the radar for a couple more seasons before he gets thrust into the spotlight (barring trades/injury/etc.)

  • DoubleDIon

    I actually think Jankowski and Sieloff are our two most overrated prospects. I’d happily trade both for Teravainen. I like a lot of our second tier guys. Arnold, Granlund, Agostino and Cundari don’t get near the credit they deserve. IMO all of them are better than Sieloff and Janko.

  • beloch

    Honestly, it’s damned hard to predict a goalie’s Sv% for a season even if he’s played hundreds of NHL games. Still, your numbers suggest that the odds of Ramo achieving adequacy are significantly higher than MacDonald’s odds, even if that isn’t exactly saying much. I suspect this season’s Flames are not going to be able to rely on goal-tending for a good pick and will have to legitimately suck! If Ramo plays as well as Dubnyk did last season the battle of Alberta might not be as one-sided as people expect.

    There is a wild-card left out there though. If you were Feaster, what would you do if Kipper rolled up to your door on opening night, stogie in one hand, vodka in the other, hookers on his arms, and saying he wants to play!

  • beloch

    ” I said it was Jon Gillies ”

    Inarguable. I’m surprised he’d have to ask, honestly.

    Granted, it was one season, but Brossoit hasn’t even come close to looking that good ever.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    In both cases (Sieloff & Jankowski) the phrase dominate their peers is used. While I can understand the meaning for the offensive guy I wonder how the defensive guy (what Sieloff brings to the table) is measured?

    Does PS have to put up points to shows dominance? Is the assumption all future NHLers, regardless of their NHL role (the role PS was drafted to play not one they are forced to assume) must score in the amateur ranks? For example, Yelle was a premiere defensive forward in NHL but he scored well in junior.

    What about defensive defenceman? Can one be that in junior (non existent offense in junior) and be an exceptional one in pro? How does one measure their relative effectiveness let alone dominance?

    • ChinookArchYYC

      generally, players who make the show put up good offensive numbers in junior regardless of their eventual role. hell, even regehr had an nhle of like 15 in his +1 year in the whl.

      rare is it a guy becomes above-replacement if he doesn’t score at above .75ppg for forwards and .25ppg for defensemen.

    • Jeff Lebowski

      It’s a hell of a tough team to make: next to Canada, the best team (yeah, the US is close)(and like the US, Sweden has better goaltending than we do). It’s no insult to Mickis: he’s good and getting better, but he wouldn’t have been invited to the American or Canadian camp either.

    • flamesburn89

      IMO, strange decision by Sweden. I guess they feel they have plenty of depth at center with Zetterberg, Backstrom, and Sedin(ew).

      I certainly thought he was going to get at least an invite. Especially when guys like Marcus Krueger are being invited. Oh well

      • redricardo

        Interesting how real hockey experts who are selecting for the Canadian, U.S. and Swedish Olympic teams view our “top end” young players. Quite a reality check regarding our current talent level.

        • SmellOfVictory

          I know, right? Look at the dozens of other players who are 22 and under on those teams. Not to mention the glut of Swedish players the Flames have (hint: Backlund is the only one of consequence, possibly the only one, period). If I could roll my eyes hard enough to reflect the way I feel about your post, my eyeballs would pop out of their sockets.

          • Jeff Lebowski

            Check the invitee roster once you are done rolling your eyes and playing pocket pool – Tavares, Stamkos, Eberle, Duchene, Pietrangelo, Hamonic, Doughty are all 22 and under and that is just Team Canada invitees.

          • Jeff Lebowski

            Taylor Hall is 21

            Sweden – ekman-Larson, hedman, Brodin (19)

            Yakupov and Tarasenko got invited to Russia (both 19). I’m sure if you looked you could make some long lists.

            I think this shows our lack of elite prospects, which is nothing new. We don’t have any elite players, young or old. Sorry, we just dont, and as Kenta points out, this is the opinion of the hockey world, not just those grumpy ‘negatives’ (aka realists) like Lambert.

            Hopefully Monahan can turn into one by the time he is 21 and lining up beside our first overall pick from next years draft.

          • SmellOfVictory

            Eberle, Doughty, Pietrangelo and Stamkos are not 22 and under. I count three forwards and one defenceman on Team Canada’s Olympic roster. Team USA looks like it’s got a similar proportion.

            It is well documented that the vast majority of young Flames players/prospects of note are between 18 and 22 (most of them on the younger end of that scale), which is not an age group that is well-represented in the Olympics. And expect Baertschi to be on the Swiss team in spite of this fact. And had Backlund been able to play for Sweden in the World Championships there is a substantial chance that he would’ve been invited as well.

            You’re trying to make a case against the Flames’ kids based on a faulty premise, and quite frankly it’s irritating. You don’t see Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nathan MacKinnon, or Jonathan Drouin on those lists, either. “omg clearly the national teams think they’re worthless”

          • flamesburn89

            Stamkos, Doughty, and Pietrangelo are all 23 years old. Also, quite a few of the guys you just listed were drafted very high.

            Stamkos went first in 08, Doughty went 2nd, Pietrangelo went 4th

            Tavares first in 2009, Duchene 3rd

            Hall first in 2010

            Hard to get international caliber players when you are not god-awful for a while.

            Funny how you claim Backlund not being invited to Team Sweden is a bit of a reality check for Flames fans. So does that mean that Jamie Benn not being invited is a slap in the face for Stars fans? What about Nugent-Hopkins or Justin Schultz not making the camp? I guess it means they’re all garbage players, since the ‘hockey experts’ don’t think highly of their “top-end young players”

  • Jeff Lebowski

    Sieloff shouldnt be judged by his offensive numbers, especially NHLE.

    He is a hard hitting defensive dman. He will not be counted on for offense in Calgary. He will probably never develop offensively in the CHL let alone the NHL.

    He is physically ready for the NHL. The question is if his defensive play, speed and instincts transition.

    I dont see the problem with playing him in the NHL next year. He wont develop offensively so test his NHL readiness.

    If he aint ready, send him down. If he beats out a vet, play him…

    I like this mandate that if youth and vet are tied, they will go with the youth.

    In the past it was opposite, look how that worked out. In fairness our youth is alot more impressive nowadays.

    Give him a chance, you wont regret it when he creams the oilers or canucks with a devastating clean hit.

    Random prediction: Ortio will play better than one of the 3 goalies ahead of him on the depth chart….

    • beloch

      Re: Your random prediction

      I bet all of Calgary’s AHL goalies (and quite probably one in the NCAA!) will be capable of out-performing MacBackup. They still won’t see a game in the NHL this season. In fact, if Ramo doesn’t suck I bet he’ll sit a lot too, especially down the stretch when the Oilers are threatening to dive past the Flames and grab a better pick!

    • Parallex

      Of course he should be judged on his offensive numbers (at least in part). I mean, a guy that’s an NHL quality player should look at least average in all facets of the game when paired against Major Junior level players. I mean “offense” is basically the sum of individual skills (shooting, passing, skating) meeting opportunity… so why isn’t Sieloff scoring points? If he has NHL quality skills he should be accumulating points even as a defenseman unless he’s used is some really outlandishly lopsided manner (Malholtra level zone start + PK only special team play).

  • flamesburn89

    Funny that we are now discussing the merits of our prospects being part of the starting line-up; less than six months removed from the removal of Iggy, J-Bo, Tangs and possibly Kipper from the Flames scorecard and we are debating whether the GM should keep his job based on the progress last year of a teen-aged draft pick…
    Do we not all remember Dutter and the legacy he left?

    Let’s all say it together….RELAX…..!

    I for one am excited to see what develops over the next few months, something I would have been hard pressed to say 6 months ago….

  • beloch

    The Herald is reporting that Rambo Ramo just got an invite to team Finland’s summer camp. I’d be very surprised if he makes the team given who else has been invited to try out for the job. Still, this is encouraging!

  • redricardo

    Speaking of Random Thoughts… I see the Canucks are retiring Bure’s #10. Why would they do this? Don’t they know that “Forever a Flame” (or their equivalent… Constantly a Canuck… or whatever) is a way bigger honor?

    Oh, wait, my bad. It’s actually kinda lame. Who do we contact about ending the Forever a Flame embarrassment, and retiring numbers like normal people?

  • jeremywilhelm

    Sieloff has about bottom pairing Dman upside to him at best.

    I would trade him and Jankowski for Girgensons.

    Trading down was a mistake.

    I really don’t get why everyone is so enamored with Sieloff.

    • jeremywilhelm

      Because certain people on here have taken an unabashed homer stance and are trying to defend the Janko pick by constantly reminding everyone that we also got Seiloff. Which only matters if Seiloff is awesome. Therefore, he must be awesome, because Flames’ management is never wrong and to say they are means you are not a ‘real’ fan.

      • SmellOfVictory

        I wasn’t a fan of Sieloff at all, from the beginning. I’d have understood the desire for the 2nd rounder better if they chose a guy like McCabe or Thrower.

    • Jeff Lebowski

      OK so let me understand this, we drafted Sieloff about 13 months ago. He goes to play in the CHL & manages to play well enough at 18 to get on the US WJC team & becomes part of a Gold Medal winning team. Yet, you already know that he will be a bottom pairing dman “at best” and a big mistake. Wow, you guys are just so phenomenal at projecting players, I cant believe you don’t work for some NHL team. You can see already that Janko & Seiloff are wasted picks & Girgensons is a guaranteed win.
      That’s pretty impressive.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I must admit that I thought the offense didn’t have to necessarily be there in junior for defensive dmen. However, just looking at drafted guys (who featured as defensive guys in junior and now play that role in NHL) they still put up points. They just do. Like Denis Gauthier did.

    It’s interesting that Sieloff was still ranked 2nd round-ish despite never demonstrating offense. Perhaps they thought it would come. Or scouting services (and hockey in general) just over value his best attributes.

    More insight I picked up here. Good to know.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Re: Janko

    Regardless of how he turns out, I think it must be awful close to this particular “strategy” being a bust.

    He was sold as a guy who would, essentially, be a top 10 or so pick in the 2013 draft, but he was a couple days too old. Does anyone think that he would have gone that high? Would he have even ranked as a first rounder in this past draft with his NCAA results?

    So we gave up a first rounder for a guy no one else would have taken before our second round pick. Seems to me we could have had a “legit” first rounder and Janko in the 2nd.

    This strategy only made sense if Janko started beating the pants off his age cohorts. That hasn’t happened. If he turns out, it is blind luck that has made the strategy worthwhile. Not the advanced skill of the Flames in identifying superior talents.

    • supra steve

      The Flames entered the 2012 draft with no 2nd round pick. The general consensus is that the reason that the Flames traded down from their 14th overall spot is that they wanted Janko in that spot (he was at the top of their list of available players), but thought they would be able to get him later in the first. So they made the deal with BUF (14th for 21st and 42nd) to move down in the 1st and gained that 2nd rounder.

      The Flames were clearly of the opinion that Janko was not going to be available much later then that 21st pick. Were they correct in that assumption? I cannot honestly/truthfully answer that question, just as you cannot truthfully say that Janko would have still been available at #42.

      The Flames have been up front about this player since the draft, he may need 4-5 years to mature into the player they hope he is to become.

      After Janko was drafted, he made the decision to go straight to college rather then spend a year in the USHL (which reportedly had been his plan), and why not, as his draft status was assured and no longer an issue. If he had been a week younger (or passed over in the 2012 draft), I suspect he would have gone the USHL or CHL route in order to better showcase himself for the 2013 draft.

      To summarize, none of us know how this player will develop in the coming months/years, just as none of us can honestly say at this point in time that the pick was either brilliant or idiotic. We will have to wait and see. Making claims like “we gave up a first rounder for a guy no one else would have taken before our second round pick” is not informed, truthful, or helpful.

      • SmellOfVictory

        Nice post! This!!!!! & the same can be said for Seiloff. Maybe we should start the criticism when these kids turn 20 & we get a better idea of how their development is going.

          • jeremywilhelm

            It’s because the data doesn’t fit this happy little narrative that they have going on in their heads.

            Sounds alot like when people were like, oh, let’s just wait till Chucko/Pelech/Shaun Sutter all progress a little bit, THEN YOU WILL SEE!

            Sieloff was underwhelming in both the OHL and the WJC. To think he is ready to step into the AHL is borderline moronic.

          • supra steve

            Justin, many including myself do not discard data. I find it very interesting reading & makes for a very good snapshot measure as to where a prospect may be at, at a certain point of time in their development. To predict to a certainty how an 18 year will being 2 years is delusional. What I resent, as a true lifelong Flames fan, is when the stats are simply being used to predict whether the player is going to be an NHL player during a small sample at the ripe age of 18 years old. That then leads the sheep like Jeremy Wilhelm to call people like me morons when we get a little defensive about our young players & want to give them a chance. They criticize the players & management & our scouting & it just becomes a pretty cold dialogue here to listen to that kind of rubbish.

            This is where several Flames fans find themselves on the opposite side of the spectrum as to what we see with our young future players. By your post back to me feeds this. At what point have I said to discard the data? All I said was an 18 year old who was just drafted, was good enough to play for the US Gold medal team at the WJC cant be all that bad. I get this underwhelming garbage thrown back based on “data” where we should have never selected the kid period. Where’s your response to that statement? Or do you feel the same way? If so I guess we’ll just agree to disagree on things on this site.

          • Arik

            By saying “wait until the guy is 20!” you’re basically saying to discard the data from his 18 year old season. Moreoever, nobody here is claiming we should dump Janko or Sieloff yet, just that the outlook for them is grim at best.

            Don’t put words in people’s mouths. It’s rude. Plus, when was the last time you washed your hands?

          • Arik

            ???????????WTF?? Seriously. Did you read my comment at all. Talk about putting words into mouths. Where did I say at any point to ignore stats until they are 20? My point is using stats, limited stats of an 18 year old I might add & spawning comments like post # 19. The very fact I am responding to the Stat advocates who write on this site, where my posts are preaching a little moderation before harshly judging the player/GM & scouts & getting slammed for it is ludicrous.

            & don’t worry about me washing my hands. Maybe find a bar of soap for yourself. Look whose being rude.

    • SmellOfVictory

      How do you make the distinction between blind luck and scouting, exactly? The goal of scouts is to attempt to predict how well a player will turn out (or how good a chance they have at being x ability in the NHL), not how that player will be doing one year after his draft.