One of the most frustrating things about evaluating prospects in the advanced stats era of hockey is the shabby state of junior and lower pro leagues’ stats. Things have actually gotten better recently thanks to sites like Prospect Stats, but we’re still a long ways away from having useful contextual factors and underlying numbers like possession, zone starts and quality of competition.
Nevertheless, we do what we can. To that end I have put together a list of CHL forwards ranked by certain offensive outputs: NHL equivalence (a factor that translates the players’ output to NHL output by considering the relative quality of the league he’s in), even strength primary points per game and percentage of team scoring.
The latter two factors attempt to control (somewhat) for guys who are overly reliant on special teams or quality teammates for scoring. It’s much easier to score a lot on the PP than even strength and it’s easier to pile up points if you play with stars on a juggernaut squad.
The other benefit of these three factors is there are comparable across the entire CHL – meaning we can look at guys in the OHL vs the QMJHL vs the WHL while comparing apples to apples.
CHL Draft Eligible Forwards
So without further adieu, here’s the list:
I limited things a bit, so this isn’t every single draft eligible CHL forward this year. Once you start getting to the guys with NHLe’s of 17 and are projected to be picked in the seventh round (or never), you’ve probably gone far enough.
– As you move through the list you’ll see guys marked with yellow or red. Yellow denotes a player who looks like a good bet given his projected draft position. Guys in red look like bad bets.
– There’s a mix of obvious and interesting names at the top of the list. Guys like Matthew Tkachuk, PL Dubios, Alex Nylander and Logan Brown make up the top tier. On the other hand, late first and early second rounders Alex DeBrincat, Adam Mascerin and Vitalii Abramov also boast noteworthy results.
– In fact, DeBrincat is far and away the best draft eligible CHL forward this season from a pure numbers perspective. He ranked first or second in each of our three chosen factors (and almost any offensive metric you can name, really). Obviously DeBrincat is dinged for his lack of size (5’7″, 160), but I’m still surprised to see him ranked in the teens and 20s in most mock drafts. He’s going to be a huge value for pick for someone if he lasts beyond the top 10.
– Another interesting name is Adam Mascherin, who ranks fourth overall by this method. Another shorty (5’9″, 200 pounds), Mascherin exploded for 35 goals and 81 points this year. He was also in about 43% of his team’s offense, second only to DeBrincat’s 44%. Definitely a name to keep in mind as the second round nears.
– Another one is Vitalii Abramov. Also just 5’9″, Abramov’s results were only slightly worse than the much higher ranked PL Dubois. He led the Olympiques in scoring by 20 points despite being one of the youngest forwards on the team and accounted on about 40% of their offense.
– Brayden Burke is an overager who put together a huge season in the WHL (which is almost totally lacking in impact forwards otherwise). The Edmonton native is also smallish at 5’10”, 160 lbs. and doesn’t have a history of scoring (just 34 points in his draft year), so he’s more of a mid-round gamble than any of the other guys in the top tier.
– Once you get into the middle of the list you start to see a lot of guys with suspect results but relatively high rankings. Sam Steel, Max Jones and Jonathan Ang all have output rates and NHLe’s comparable to guys ranked in the mid rounds or below. Of course, we don’t know everything about these players from these numbers – still lacking important context remember – but they strike me as riskier picks where they are projected for this reason.
– Perhaps the strangest stat line belongs to big RW Julien Gauthier. His output actually fell from 73 last year to 57 points this year despite the fact that he managed to score 41 goals. That’s because he collected almost no second assists – just two (2!) in 54 games. As a result, his assists fell from 35 in 2014-15 to just 16 in 2015-16.
This suggests he’s either an inglorious puck hog or had one of the unluckiest seasons of any player in recent memory. If it’s the latter, it’s possible his NHLe and such are under-representing his skill and therefore value as a prospect. He’s marked in red for now though.
Using numbers like this obviously doesn’t replace in-depth scouting and they aren’t quite as useful as the underlying stats we use to evaluate NHLers these days. Nevertheless, they do bring some context which can help to identify potential value (and non value).