When it comes to projecting junior age prospects into the future, there are a few tools at our disposal. Among them are Desjardins’ NHL equivalencies and "comparables." The better the NHLE, the more impressive the comparable, the more excited we can be about the current prospect. Hold on to your hats!
DAZED AND CONFUSED
The inspiration for this post came from Scott Reynolds at Copper and Blue. A learned blogger, Scott tackles difficult issues and comes up with logical answers. That may have been part of the confusion for me in regard to this post about RNH and his comparables. I’m not going to double check Scott’s work, but any fool can see that Sam Gagner towering over Nugent-Hopkins suggests there’s something missing in the equation.
Answer: TIME ON ICE
Scott’s look at comparables took great pains to be fair, but we are all limited by the information available. Without time on ice, there’s no real way to know how well Nugent-Hopkins was doing in Red Deer. We can say that "all these kids play a lot, 30 minutes a night I bet" but we’re really pissing in the wind and making a guess.
Is there a better way?
I’ve always felt the best way to gather comparables is to set a reasonable set of rules and then gather information from there. We don’t know about anyone’s time on ice, but we can:
- look for prospects at the same age
- look for prospects who played in the same league
- look for prospects with similar skill sets
- look for prospects who were active more than 5 years ago
The reason for the final one is that it gives us a nice idea about how ell the prospect performed AFTER their draft year. We’re looking for a nice sized map of the future. Let’s take a look at RNH:
- RNH at 17 (WHL) 69, 31-75-106 (1.54)
Nugent Hopkins played in a conference that scored 3.37 goals for per game and he was a part of 39.6 per cent of Red Deer’s goals in 10-11. This gives us a nice template to go out and find a player similar to RNH as a 17-year old.
Now, we’re looking for WHL forwards who were drafted at the top end of the draft, were playmakers and active in the league more than 5 years ago.
What did you find?
I couldn’t find a playmaker who fit the bill. RNH is a unique player and among the group 1997-04 I could find only one match.
- Patrick Marleau at 17 (WHL) 71, 51-74-125 (1.71)
Marleau played in a conference that scored 3.75 goals for per game and he was part of 40.2 per cent of Seattle’s goals in 96-97. I believe this is a solid comparable because RNH is playing in a lower scoring league. Each player had an enormous impact on his team and both of them were very high selections. Marleau was more of a scorer, but I think the comparable is close enough for us to consider it.
So, would a center whose style matches someone like Doug Weight and has the offensive output of Patrick Marleau (more assists, fewer goals) have a chance to impact NHL games?
We’ll look at this more closely in the seasons to come, but RNH is in some fine company. Until the CHL releases their TOI numbers, I think this is the best way to find comparable players.