-via D. Mahoney

John Gaudreau, drafted in the 4th round by the Calgary Flames in 2011, has been a staple in any optimistic discussions revolving around the Flames over the past few years. Thus far, in his college career, Gaudreau has been nothing short of amazing. He put up nearly 1.5 points per game in his sophomore year and is racking up 2 points per game this year, his 3rd year with Boston College. Gaudreau’s current 2 ppg translates to a 67 NHLE and he is currently riding a 23-game point streak (he’s got 48 points during that streak). Johnny clearly looks to be a special player, but just how special is he?


Johnny Gaudreau and his draft class:

Player Team Round NHLE Draft Year NHLE 2013-14 Difference
Landeskog* Colorado 1 31 69 38
Gaudreau Calgary 4 25 67 42
Nugent-Hopkins* Edmonton 1 38 61 23
Saad* Chicago 2 23 55 32
Strome* NYI 1 40 48 8
Scheifele* Winnipeg 1 28 46 18
Karlsson  Anaheim 2 18 42 24
Zibanejad* Ottawa 1 32 40 8
Couturier* Philadelphia 1 41 39 -2
Miller NYR 1 12 36 24
Namestnikov Tampa 1 25 35 10
Pageau Ottawa 4 29 35 6
Tynan Columbus 3 41 34 -7
Ferlin Boston 4 27 34 7
Huberdeau* Florida 1 38 32 -6
Coleman  NJ 3 31 32 1
Mersch LA 4 16 32 16
Rakell Anaheim 1 22 31 9
Jenner* Columbus 2 26 31 5
Granlund Calgary 2 0 31 31
Jurco* Detroit 2 23 30 7
Lucia Minnesota 2 10 30 20
Rau  Florida 3 19 30 11
Grimaldi Florida 2 22 28 6
Ruuttu Phoenix 2 0 28 28
Archambault Montreal 4 20 28 8
Khokhlachev Boston 2 28 27 -1
Jaskin St. Louis 2 18 27 9
Nieto San Jose 2 19 27 8
Lessio Phoenix 2 20 27 7
Kucherov Tampa 2 22 27 5
Prince Ottawa 2 37 27 -10
Trocheck Florida 3 22 27 5
Boucher NJ 4 16 27 11
Salomaki Nashville 2 11 25 14
Grenier Vancouver 3 19 25 6
Ritchie Dallas 2 21 24 3
Leivo Toronto 3 12 24 12
Rattie St. Louis 2 29 23 -6
Labate Vancouver 4 26 23 -3
Rieder Edmonton 4 19 23 4
Puempel Ottawa 1 31 20 -11
Shore LA 3 18 20 2
McNeill Chicago 1 28 18 -10
Rask Carolina 2 19 18 -1
Sundstrom NYI 2 2 18 16
Lowry Winnipeg 3 17 18 1
Phillips Minnesota 1 35 17 -18
Quine Detroit 3 19 16 -3
Tvrdon Detroit 4 23 16 -7
Baertschi Calgary 1 32 15 -17
Armia Buffalo 1 39 15 -24
Andreoff LA 3 28 15 -13
Camara Boston 3 7 15 8
Hofmann Carolina 4 10 15 5
Jensen Vancouver 1 23 13 -10
Danault Chicago 1 26 12 -14
Cousins Philadelphia 3 25 10 -15
Shaw Florida 3 17 10 -7
Cantenacci Buffalo 3 26 10 -16
Fogarty NYR 3 7 9 2
Molin Dallas 4 n/a 8
Noebels Philadelphia 4 20 8 -12
Shalunov Chicago 4 11 7 -4
Biggs Toronto 1 11 6 -5
Ewanyk Edmonton 3 9 6 -3
Shalla Nashville 4 26 6 -20
Nermark Colorado 4 5 5 0
Kessy Phoenix 4 9 5 -4
Cramarossa Anaheim 3 42 3 -39
Jacobs Buffalo 4 16 2 -14
Noeson Ottawa 1 28
Veilleux St. Louis 4 17
St. Croix NYR 4 27
Blomstrand Vancouver 4 29

This is every forward selected in the first four rounds of the 2011 draft. The table includes the player, the team that drafted them, the round, the player’s NHLE the year they were drafted, the player’s NHLE today and the difference in NHLE between this year and 2011. The * indicates players currently playing in the NHL. 

Notable 1st rounders from that year include Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Jonathan Huberdeau, Ryan Strome, Mika Zibanejad, Mark Scheifele, Sean Couturier and Sven Baertschi. Ty Rattie, Boone Jenner and Brandan Saad were also taken that year in later rounds and that’s about it for highly recognizable names.

Gaudreau was the 61st forward drafted in 2011. His 25 NHLE in his draft year was nothing remarkable (i.e., not high-first round calibre). But his NHLE was a lot higher than a lot of the players in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. If Gaudreau was a tall player, or even average height, he probably would have gone at the end of the 1st round or in the 2nd round.

Today, Gaudreau, with a 67 NHLE this year and a +42 difference from his draft year to this year, is clearly the winning forward selection of his round (the 4th). He looks to be the clear winner of the 2nd and the 3rd also as there is no one close to his 2013-14 NHLE or NHLE difference. And even the 1st round, Gaudreau, although not in NHL yet, is scoring at a comparable clip to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gabe Landeskog, two very good players that are in their third seasons in the NHL. 

The closest to matching Johnny’s differential NHLE is Landeskog at +38. However, Gaudreau is still 4vbetter than Landeskog. For perspective, the average difference between 2010-11 NHLE and 2013-14 of all the players selected in the first four rounds (not including Gaudreau) is less than 2 points Gaudreau’s differential is a cool 21 points better than the average player in the draft. If nothing else, he’s certainly the most improved player of that particular year.

Additionally, Gaudreau’s 67 NHLE is by far the highest NHLE of any player currently set to turn pro. Only three players have entered the league since the 2005 lockout with a NHLE over 60 the year before entering: Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane. Gaudreau is two years older than any of these players as they all made the jump at 18 or 19, but Johnny is still realtively young (20 years of age).

Rarified Air

One thing that struck me was how few people have a NHLE in the 60s and how these players eventually tend to score substantially higher than their NHLE. This suggests that once you get to this point, you’re scoring so much (e.g., ~2.5 points per game in the CHL and ~1.8 points per game in the NCAA) that you probably couldn’t score anymore without taking away substantial ice-time from the other three lines on the team. In addition, players of this age and skill level tend to develop rapidly year-over-year, as demonstrated by Gaudreau’s massive jump in NHLE over the course of his college career.

Curious how rare it was to have an NHLE of 60 or higher, I sussed out a list of any players in the past 30 years (1983 – 2013) that had scored a NHLE 60 or higher the year before they entered the bigs. Here’s what we end up with…

Players NHLE Year Before Going Pro First Year Points (P/82) Draft Year
P. Kane 62 72 2007
Crosby 67 103 2005
Malkin 69 89 2004
Kovalchuk 77 64 2001
Richards 73 62 1998
H. Sedin 60 29 1998
Daigle 63 50 1993
Kariya 67 68 1993
Lindros 64 101 1991
Forsberg 81 87 1991
Ray Whitney 63 32 1991
Kovalev 67 48 1991
Naslund 64 13 1991
Weight 68 46 1990
Modano 63 77 1989
Bure 70 76 1989
P. Turgeon 65 45 1988
Selanne 90 129 1988
Amonte 60 72 1988
Roenick 72 74 1988
Sakic 62 74 1987
Fleury 61 77 1987
Nieuwendyk 76 101 1985
Lemieux 96 112 1984
Robitaille 75 87 1984
B. Hull 67 79 1984
LaFontaine 82 104 1983

Looking at the list of players to have recorded a 60+ NHLE going into their first pro year, every single one of them went on to be a superstar except for Alexander Daigle. As well, almost every player came swinging straight out of the gates and put up remarkably productive rookie years. Many of the players listed above went on to win the Calder Trophy in their rookie year as well.


What Johnny Gaudreau is doing right now in the NCAA cannot be overlooked. He is the highest tracking non-NHL player since Patrick Kane. Gaudreau’s current NHLE also sits in a comparable class with Brett Hull, Eric Lindros, Theo Fleury, Joe Sakic, Ray Whitney, Sidney Crosby and many other notable players from the last 30 years.

Obviously it’s a different game from when most of those players reached the 60+ NHLE feat. In fact, there’s only been four players to reach the mark in the past 15 years, which likely means the lower leagues likely had different (lower) translation factors back in the day. Therefore, hitting the 60+ NHLE mark in today’s modern era is all that more impressive.

Nothing is written in stone but at this point, even despite Gaudreau’s height, we should be more surprised if Gaudreau doesn’t make a dent in the NHL than if he does. Evidence suggests he’s that good.

  • beloch

    One other thing worth mentioning is that goal-scoring in the NCAA has been gradually trending downwards. It’s markedly lower than it was in the 90’s. In another thread I did a comparison between Martin St. Louis and Gaudreau’s NCAA careers adjusted for division scoring. Gaudreau started behind, but has pulled out ahead this season. His career trajectory can now only be predicted via advanced ballistics.

  • How did you calculate Khokhlachev’s NHLE Byron? I got an NHLE of just 27 for him (31 points in 41 AHL games this ear). Trochek is in a similar situation (27.2).

    What translation factor were you using the AHL?

    • Byron Bader

      Hmm… yes that does seem to be the case. I’m getting the same numbers as you (.44 for AHL). Probably just a user error on my part (wrong stats line or the like). In fact, a few of the guys seem off. Something may have gone haywire with my datasheet. I’ll adjust tonight when I have it in front of me. Sorry, folks. Not sure what happened.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Awesome article, Byron. Very exciting about Gaudreau.

    And not to detract from the Tiny Grezky parade, but this also puts Baertschi’s issues in perspective. Of the guys taken in the first round that draft, only 6 of them are currently ahead of him in NHLE, which should hopefully make everyone feel a little better about his up/down season so far.

    • beloch

      Actually, Baertschi’s NHLE looks way off and might be one of the errors Byron Mentioned. I make his NHLE for this year to be 25.9, which would bump him down 17 slots if the rest of the list is correct (it probably isn’t).

      Baertschi’s NHLE was 33.4 last season, and it was 49.2 in the year following his draft! That’s quite the decline, but there do seem to be mitigating circumstances. Namely, being moved up to the NHL before he was ready probably cut his point production last season, and his ice-time in the NHL wasn’t very good this season either (12.8 minutes/game), nor was he given great line-mates most nights. Finally, his head was likely messed up royally after being sent back down to Abby, a team that has plenty of scoring options and probably hasn’t been giving him great TOI until recently when he seems to have started coming out of his funk.

      If Baertschi is left in the AHL I think his NHLE will come back up by the end of the season. He wasn’t producing even at the same level he was in the NHL after being sent down, but he’s started putting up points recently. He really looks like a player who was rushed into the NHL before his time. The difficulty of adjusting to different leagues in addition to the associated mental difficulties have probably depressed his NHLE below what it might have been.

      Has damage been done to the player in addition to his stat-sheet? I haven’t a clue. It’s pretty clear Baertschi needs to stay in Abby for a while though. He might be ready next season, or he might need another year in the AHL. Given the difficulties he’s had transitioning between leagues, the Flames should strongly consider leaving him in Abby for a full season and letting him (hopefully) dominate there.

    • The Last Big Bear

      Late last week I was on a business trip in the New Jersey area and wouldn’t you know it….there is Peter Chiarelli having lunch at the hotel restaurant with Johnny G’s parents. I thought otherwise until I return to the hotel at the end of my day and there are Johnny’s parents in the lounge having drinks with Lou Lameriello! OMG i Say..then suddenly I awaken in a cold sweat thinking of how Glen Sather dicked the Flames on the Tim Erixon deal and the royal treatment Justin Shultz gave the Anaheim Ducks after 3 years of dedicated mentoring and development by them….thank goodness I was awaken from that terrible nightmare!!

      Burkie be aware!!!

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Nice work Byron, in spite of your computer errors.

    A 67 point Flame. Please Johnny, sign a pro contract after the Frozen Four and give us a peek at what you can do with the big dogs.

  • The Last Big Bear

    I mentioned this in another article, but I thought I’d mention it here too.

    NHLE is derived from how well players from a given league score in the NHL the *following* year. An extra year of development is inherent in the calculation. A player’s NHLE projects how well he’ll score NEXT YEAR.

    In your first table, by using their current year production as their NHLE, all of the NHL players are being short-changed by one year of development. You’re comparing Johnny’s projected NHL production NEXT YEAR against the production from THIS YEAR of the kids in his draft class that are in the NHL..

    To make a fair comparison you’d have to take the projected NHL production for NEXT YEAR of all the NHL kids, and compare that to Johnny’s NHLE (because it too is predicting his production for NEXT YEAR). This would drop him down, and significantly boost all the kids playing in the big show.

    Your 2nd table is fine, but the first table is applying double standards that make the non-NHL kids (like Gaudreau) look better.

    • beloch

      NHLE is definitely going to be off for players who are already playing in the NHL. Really, an age/games of NHL experience based conversion factor >1 based on typical progression for young players should be used to reflect expected development in this kind of comparison table. This would capture the big step you expect an 18-year old rookie playing in the NHL to make by the time he’s 19. e.g. If the factor was 1.2 for 18-year-olds with 0 games of experience, we’d expect 20% more points for Monahan next season. By 150-200 games of experience this factor would likely be getting close to 1 though. i.e. Landeskog and the Nuge will probably improve until reaching peak around 26, but the improvements will likely be small ones.

      So this table isn’t perfect for making comparisons to established NHL’ers like Nuge or Landeskog, but it still gives us a rough idea of how Gaudreau stacks up. This list really should include NHL points for players who have played in multiple leagues though. Sven looks a lot worse than he really is with them omitted!

  • Byron Bader

    Alright. I’ve gone through the list again and updated it. There were a few strange errors and, god willing, it’s completely accurate now. The errors were a combination of a number of things, mostly late night number counting.

    Johnny is just as dominant as before.

    I’m going to go find some tequila now.

    As you were.

        • beloch

          You’re actually arguing in favor of including his NHL scoring since using just his AHL scoring lowballs his current status considerably. Yes, it’s not perfectly valid to weight NHL points at just 1. To make a fair comparison, we’d need to weight them above 1 to reflect the progression he’ll make by next season. Still, using 1 for now is an okay approximation. It’s definitely conservative and beats ignoring what he accomplished in the NHL, since that’s half the season’s output from him (and his better half so far!).

          • Byron Bader

            Yeah I wouldn’t worry about it. An NHLE can change considerably with a few good or bad games, especially with a low sample size … hence why I had to update the whole friggin thing when a couple bad apples spoiled the whole data set!! He’ll be at about a 30 NHLE clip by the end of the year I’d imagine.

  • seve927

    He’s so good that as obsessed as I am with Flames prospects, I sometimes forget about him. I don’t really even care what he does at this level any more. Sign a contract son!

    • The Last Big Bear

      To be fair, he does also compare Johnny to the other college and minor league players’ NHLE, which is a perfectly valid comparison, and by that measure Gaudreau blows them all out of the water.

      So I suppose you could say…

      … wait for it…

      Johnny Gaudreau is the best 2011 pick NOT in the NHL.

      Feaster would be so proud.

    • Byron Bader

      I’m not arguing he’s a better player than a guy like Landeskog or RNH or Crosby or Kane. But it’s not like he’s 36 putting up those numbers, he two year’s older. Many of the guys on the 60+ list came from college or European leagues and many didn’t make their rookie debut until 2-4 years after they were drafted.

  • piscera.infada

    Like most commenters on this topic, I, too, want to see Mr. Gaudreau (and his linemate, Bill Arnold too, but I digress) in Flames colors sooner than later.

    This is a young man who has met the challenges to be successful at every level he has played. With what we have seen in WJC competition, tournaments, league play and playoffs, this guy shows up and plays much bigger than his physical attributes may reflect. NHL competition will tell the tale, but like other smaller statured players such as Theo Fleury and Marty St. Louis (and I will be so bold as to include Joey Mullen!), this guy has a solid shot at being THE point producer for the Flames.

    Oh, and I figure if he wins the Hobey Baker award, there is a much higher probability of him turning pro for next season. Help out in making him the winner of that award by voting for him–its a key part of the process folks!

  • jeremywilhelm

    Any chance that Flames Nation could do a Q and A type article with John. We could submit questions and he could respond to a selection of them. It’d be nice to show him some love so he’s in Calgary sooner!

  • jeremywilhelm

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to compare Gaudreau to all other third year NCAA players with an NHLE of 60 or more? Small list perhaps. But comparing only to players that made it to the NHL introduces a bias. So does comparing Gaudreau’s +3 draft season to other players +1 draft season.

    Regardless, what Gaudreau is doing in the NCAA is pretty special. It is just tough to see this as credible when we are comparing Gaudreau to Kane, Crosby, etc who did this in their first season.

    I would be much more interested in knowing if there were players with that level of production that never made the NHL. Or how Gaudreau compares to the players that he is truly comparable against.

      • piscera.infada

        It was Al Morganti. That’s all I have to go from, but I’ll take it from someone who seems to know the situation a whole lot better than I do… The way he spoke about it made it seem like a forgone conclusion to everyone involved in BC hockey.