Yesterday, we looked at one of the undrafted players that the Oilers are going to take a closer look at – undrafted defender Wesley Vannieuwenhuizen. He isn’t the only unsigned player hoping to earn a professional contract that the Oilers have invited, though. Brett Ferguson, a teammate of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in Red Deer, is another – and he’s an interesting prospect.
Ferguson first came to my attention when I was researching Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Back in June, I sat down and went through the scoring numbers for all of the decent offensive forwards in Red Deer, and found something interesting about Ferguson: he was the highest scorer on the team at even-strength. The reason his point totals weren’t more impressive was because he wasn’t getting power play time.
That’s basically where I left things. Ferguson’s scoring numbers at even-strength were nice, after all, but he’s also an older player – he was eligible for the 2008 NHL Draft, and at his age he should be putting up big WHL numbers.
What makes Ferguson more interesting is some of the work that Scott Reynolds has been doing lately. The gang at Copper & Blue do a lot of good work, but Reynolds’ statistical work with junior players is almost unparalleled. He went back through WHL game-sheets and ran a modified version of my Quality of Competition strategy for the Red Deer Rebels, trying to determine the calibre of opposition each player was on the ice against.
I’m going to quote Reynolds’ paragraph on Ferguson in its entirety (there’s lots of other good stuff there on Nugent-Hopkins, including his surprisingly good goal-scoring rates at even-strength that’s worth looking at too):
Finally, one last non-Nugent-Hopkins note: Brett Ferguson looks fantastic by the numbers. I know that he was twenty years old during 2010-11, and maybe every junior club has a guy that plays the toughs, drives offense for his line, and leads his team in even strength scoring, but I kind of doubt it. At 6’1”, the guy isn’t tiny either. He’s a free agent now, and even though I didn’t think about it much at the time, I’m now pretty pleased that the Oilers invited the left winger to their development camp earlier this summer. If he’s back in the fall, I know that I’ll be cheering for him to make the AHL roster and work his way up.
That’s the gist of it: Ferguson was on the top even-strength line, playing a power-vs.-power role while running up impressive offensive numbers and posting a plus-31 rating (far and away the best of any forward not on Nugent-Hopkins’ line).
It might be nothing more than the natural dominance of an older junior player largely competing against youngsters. On the other hand, there’s the distinct possibility that Ferguson is a late-bloomer, and might someday develop into a reliable NHL checker. Either way, it’s nice to know the Oilers are going to take a longer look at him.