CHL forwards by NHLE 2016

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). 

  • everton fc

    I think Mascherin has grown into the 5’10” “space”. Debrincat’s skating isn’t as good as Mascherin’s. Both are intriguing.

    I think Gauthier’s going to be a good NHL player. Not great, but 2nd line-power forward-RW-“good”. To bad Debrincat and Mascherin are sub 6′. One on each wing with Bennett would be something to see. And I still think we take Nylander over Chychrun, at #6…

  • RickT

    I want all of the first round picks. And then to pick up either PLD, Nylander, Chychrun in the first go.

    Abramov and Debrincat in the second.

    I know that Burke would not be a fan. But I was a huge proponent of the idea that Feaster espoused (but did not enact entirely) in IQ, skill, and character being the drivers for a good team.

    A small, fast, super skilled team can beat the lumbering teams. See: Johnny G, and how hard he is for other teams to contain.

    Plus, with the looming lawsuits on concussions, I expect that alone would protect our players.

  • McRib

    Adam Mascherin would be a fantastic target for a second round pick (he should be a first rounder, but that’s looking doubtful). He is only 5’9″-5’10”, but he has insanily good leg/core strength. During the last two summers at the U17/18 Hockey Canada camps, I watched him regularly go up against bigger opponents and put them on their butts. He also has one of the best snap shots in the draft and his set play passing improved greatly this season. He was a model of consistency game in and game out for Kitchener this year, which was a concern for scouts last year. He could end up as a Brad Marchand type down the road, obviously that’s best case scenario, but he has the strength on skates to still be a valuable bottom six to fall back on if that isn’t achieved, making up for height. I have heard some scouts say they wish he was a slightly better skater for his height, but considering how strong he is that more than makes up for it for me.

    Will Bitten is another great second round target, despite playing in a dismal situation in Flint with the added of pressure of it being his Draft year he still managed to lead the team in scoring (17 more points than next closest teammate). If he was in a better situation point totals would have been more impressive. He is blazing fast even considering he has to be a good skater due to size and is also relentless on the forecheck. He has underrated strength on skates as well. When are NHL Scouts going to wake up and recognize skill, effort and strength means more than height in inches….

    Lastly… Dear Flames, please take hometown product Matthew Phillips in the 4-7 Rounds (see Johnny Gaudreau if you have any questions why it’s not worth the risk), kids upside is insane. Only Alex Nylander and Vitalii Abramov had more PPG as CHL Rookies this year. Phillips didn’t even miss a game this year playing in all 72 Games, size shouldn’t be a question and it will be. I remember when people were still doubting Gaudreau going into his first NHL season, after he had only missed something like two games in his past four seasons of Hockey.

  • Petzl

    Adam Mascherin looks like a great prospect, would be happy if we are able to grab him in the second round. Guy looks like a stud and doesn’t play small by any means. Also I think we need to stop using height as “the” size metric. The guy is 5’10 200lbs is “bigger” than a guy that is 6’1 and 180.

  • McRib

    Julien Gauthier is “an inglorious puck hog”… This is true, just rewatch the Top Prospects Game if anyone thinks differently. Hahah. He constantly had his linemates open in the slot all game and instead took weak angle shots from the goal line. I can’t believe he is considered a consensus Top. 20 pick. If I was a betting man I would have Colorado taking him all day. NHLe does a great job of highlighting potential steals, but I think it may even tell a better story of who will be a bust.

    Michael McLeod is also a highly polarizing prospect, he honestly can’t hit the broadside of a barn (least accurate shot in the draft class, considering how many chances he gets totals are bad), but he is one of the best skaters in the draft. I think he has a chance of ending up as a high possession, average producer like Ryan O’Reilly. McLeod really has some truly elite laterall elusiveness, he is also a dynamic stick handler in space, however he cannot finish in tight with those same hands due to bad pass/shoot decisions. But considering he went pointless over Christmas without Alex Nylander in the lineup he could also very easily be a bust.

    I don’t feel like scrolling down enough to see where Logan Stanley is on this list… But he is a surefire first rounder… *sighs loudly*

      • McRib

        Yeah, obviously a Ryan O’Reilly comparable is best case scenario, McLoud has plenty of work to do to become that productive of an NHLer (especially on his shot) and I think realistically he ends up somewhere between those two comparables. Lombardi was a great north/south skater, but McLoud is a better cut/slasher with more lateral elusiveness. I don’t think McLoud is a bad gamble at 20-25 (considering draft talent begins to fall off at 20-25), but if he goes Top. 15 (which he will) that’s too high for me.

  • EhPierre

    I’d be happy with either Nylander or Keller at our 6th. If Tre can somehow get Debrincat I’d be so damn excited! Abramov and Mascherin would get me excited too

  • McRib

    Just noticed Craig Button now has Clayton Keller 6th, Logan Brown 7th on his most recent list (mention it because brother Todd Button is our Head Scout). So it sounds like Clayton Kelller has more of a chance to be selected by us at 6th. I wouldn’t mind either Keller or Nylander, but Keller was better at recent World U18s from my viewings.

    I have said it once and I’ll say it again, Clayton Keller is one of only four players to crack 100 points with the US National Program in history. Others are Patrick Kane, Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews (Phil Kessel was also close). I mean just look at Dylan Larkin’s recent accent if you are not excited about Clayton Keller. Don’t get me wrong PLD is my first choice, but considering he just obliterated the NHL combine its becoming less likely he will be around (only chance now is if Edmonton reaches for a defender, but I could totally see them moving that pick for a Tyson Barrie as well).

  • Derzie

    De Brincat is this year’s Mangiapane. Small with a blazing NHLE. A Smart GM will get him before it is too late. Speed kills. Small guys need to be fast to be good. The Penguins are showing that speed wins over size if there is depth and goaltending.

    • everton fc

      I like Debrincant, as well. But do we need two Mangiapane’s?

      All things equal, say Mascherin, Pu and Debrincat are all available at #35, I still take Mascherin, though I know we need help ojn the right-side. He may be 5’10”, but he’s 200lbs, built like a tank, very mature, physically ready for the NHL. Read this, on Debrincat – two inches SHORTER than Johnny Hockey:

      “The fact that he is two inches shorter than Johnny Gaudreau, and that he had a disappointing WJC with USA are the only reasons why he is not in the top ten. DeBrincat is an electrifying offensive wizard with the puck. His skills, hockey sense and creativity are off the charts good. Survives the physical side of the game by virtue of always playing with his head up, keeping his feet moving and has excellent agility and quickness making him very difficult to hit. All these traits should translate to success at higher levels, if not all the way to the NHL.”

      -Peter Harling (Dobber Prospects)

      As for Gauthier, with the right coaching in the right organization, he’ll not be a “puck hog”. Also seems quite “truculent”!

      “An explosive power forward who boasts an elite-level skill package. Takes nothing for granted and plays with hard-nosed work ethic. Tremendous vision and outstanding hockey sense; thrives under pressure and doesn’t stray from the high-percentage play. Willingness to play physical and win battles in his own end makes him a vital asset, stepping up at the game’s key moments. Exceptional skating ability allows him to stay with, if not ahead, of each unfolding play. Refined puckhandling skills allow him to maintain puck control at breakneck speeds. All-in-all, a prolific scorer whose attitude and innate abilities will constantly propel him into dominance. (Curtis Joe, EP 2016)

      Julien Gauthier has drawn well-deserved comparisons to current NHLer Rick Nash. He has an imposing frame, dazzling puck skills, and the drive to win. Learns from his past mistakes and implements new strategies to counteract them. [EliteProspects 2016]

  • Burnward

    Would you guys trade the 6th pick and next year’s first to move up to Columbus’ spot?

    Keep thinking they need to swing hard for Puljujarvi. Huge step in the rebuild to get a guy like that.

    Him and Bennett to back up Mony and Johnny would be pretty amazing.

    Great article by the way Kent.

  • Parallex

    I think you have an error on your chart you have Nathan Bastian listed as projected 7th round. He’s not projected to go that low based on anything I’ve seen (For example CSS has him ranked 35th).

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Great analysis. Experts rave about Mascherin and Bitten. But to me it depends on what we do with our first pick, if we go Nylander or Keller then we should likely look at players that are harder to move off the puck. We do need some big bodies to work the boards and get in front of the net. I am not a huge Tkatchuk fan, but he is as good as any young player inside the hashmarks and a master at deflecting pucks.

    We really don’t have anyone on the team that can get us those type of goals, Johnny and Monny have the skill to deflect but their not usually in front of the net. There appear to be some bigger somewhat skilled players available in the second round which might give us some size to complement our under sized forwards

    I will never belive that you can’t win a cup with small skilled players as your core, like Johnny, Mangi, Nylander, or Keller. I realize that these types of players are limited when it comes to playing along the boards or puck protection, but these types of players often play 2 moves ahead of the bigger imposing players resulting in being able to draw penalties.

    The one notable on Keller, is his anticipation which I don’t believe can be taught. He could neutralize a larger player like Brown or Getzlaf with quickness and tenacity. Once the clutching and grabbing was targeted for elimination the marketability of small skilled player improved dramatically.

    I would take Keller or Nylander in a heart beat. Keller is one of the youngest in the draft and has accomplished more than most player have in the USDP league at a younger age. Just looking at the list of players that have had similar success, Keller does not seem like a risk at all. In fact, he is less of a risk than Kane was when he was drafted because of the change in dynamics.

    Sometimes even the biggest supporters of the big bruising truculant players have to accept there are other ways to play the game just as effectively.

    • freethe flames

      As I watch the finals the more I think we need guys who can skate. They need to have skill obviously but they need to be able skate. Who are best skaters in the draft? Who are the best available skaters when we draft? The game seems to be going that way; guys who can skate with a good hockey iQ are the wave of the NHL.

  • freethe flames

    There are a number of very good candidates between 6-12 and maybe not as much difference as we have been led to believe. Keller, Jost, Nylander, the three defenders all will likely be productive nHLer’s; it may come down to preference. All will likely take 2-3 years to make the NHl. If that is a case don’t be surprised if the Flames trade down a fews spots and meet a team need. Lot’s will depend on what happens ahead of them on Draft day.

  • KiLLKiND

    Take Debrincat at 6 if necassary!!! Kinda joking I think he will be available much later, but I also think he will turn out to be much better than almost everyone in this draft Matthews and Laine aside.

    I would trade all our 2nds if that’s what it takes for Debrincat. He puts up points and controls the puck so well, during the world juniors when he got sent off for spearing was the best thing that could happen for Canada as Debrincat looked deadly every time he touched the puck. Look at the numbers aside from his height and weight and ask yourself where you would draft a kid with back to back 50 goal seasons while being among the younger players in the league and not plying on a super team like Tkachuk.

    Nyander vs Debrincat and tell me who you honestly think the better player is… I think Debrincat has far and away better hands and hockey sense than Nylander, he makes the other team target him and even then they can’t keep up, with his speed and deceptiveness. Gaudreau plus Debrincat would be the deadliest line in the league, no 1st overall required.

    Gaudreau – Bennett – Debrincat

    Anybody else see this line absolutely dominating, or am I crazy? Gift them 60% O-zone starts and let them put up the points they have throughout their lives.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I Agee that skating ability cannot be understated, however there are some great skaters in the draft that remind me of Mathew Lombardi. IMO McLeod falls in this category, likely one of the best skaters but a questionable offensive upside.

    A lot of players have really good North/south skating but lack the lateral ability which leads to better elusiveness. I feel that McLeod and Porier are good examples. Keller, Johnny, Kane have the ability to change directions effortlessly putting them in an elite category.

    Nylander is more of a north/south skater than his brother but he still has great excelleration and elusiveness.