Career Probabilities: Curtis Hamilton

Curtis Hamilton has long been an interesting prospect. Though he was injured in his draft year the Oilers rolled the dice on him based on an impressive prior WHL season. Will they reap an NHL player out of that gamble?

Career Probabilities is a new series that attempts to place a likelihood on Oilers’ prospects reaching a given career threshold. For the concept, please see the first post in the series.

One of the difficulties in building a list of comparables for Hamilton is the same as it was in the case of Tyler Pitlick: he jumped to the AHL in the second year after being drafted. This is a rare thing, and it seems to get rarer as one gets further into the past.

I was only able to find nine players who fit into my criteria; here’s the list:

Criteria: Drafted between 33rd and 63rd overall between 1995 and 2007, height greater than 72 inches, broadly similar scoring rates at the same level at the same age.

It is not a particularly impressive list, and the guys with a performance closest to Hamiltons’ 2011-12 work in Oklahoma are people like Burki, Graham, Ralph and Beaudoin, a quartet that combined for a total of one NHL game (on a related note: if anybody wants a super-fancy and totally worthless Brad Ralph rookie card, I’m the guy to get in touch with).

The larger group of guys who weren’t included in the model (mostly players who jumped to the AHL a year after Hamilton) is pretty similar. People like Mike Leclerc (who followed a similar career path but significantly outperformed Hamilton in each season) are the cream of the crop; there are a few more guys like Blunden and a few less like Graham in the mix but the composition is pretty similar.

Here is my assessment of his career probabilities:

The best case scenario from the short list is a career similar to Nick Spaling’s. Again, we are dealing with a small sample here so I would be hesitant to call that Hamilton’s absolute ceiling. As with the piece on Pitlick, James Neal might very well be on the shortlist had he jumped to the AHL (though Neal was extremely young for his draft year and Hamilton was toward the older end). I think that’s an awfully blue-sky projection, though: there is a very good chance that Hamilton never plays a significant number of games at the NHL level.

Most likely outcome: Good minor-league depth player who gets an NHL cup of coffee, similar to Shane Endicott.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • Mantastic

    Hamilton seems to be getting groomed for a 3rd/4th line PKer now on the farm and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he succeeds in that role at the NHL level. In fact his game seems better suited to that than Pitlick’s is — he’s not as fast, but he is better defensively.

    What I like about Hamilton so far this year is that although he isn’t scoring, his shot doesn’t look terrible. To compare, the vast majority of Pitlick’s and Paajarvi’s shots look weak and from the perimeter. I don’t think Hamilton’s possession metrics are as strong as Pitlick and Paajarvi, but I think one or two of the three turns into a useful bottom 6 NHLer, and it could easily be Hamilton.

    As for the comparables, I wonder if it’s affected by the fact that Hamilton’s offense in Junior suggested he could be a scorer, whereas now he’s doing well as a defense-first guy. I haven’t looked into it, but I think it’s very possible that players who scored similarly to him in Junior didn’t have the same defensive skills that he has and thus couldn’t make the transition to 4th-line PKer like Curtis seems to be.

  • Clyde Frog

    Sorry Jonathan, I have to ask, what level of statistical schooling have you had? Academically there are so many issues with the way you set up your analysis.

    At best you can call this an educated guess on a trend.

    • No argument from me. This is rough stuff – I’m working on a more comprehensive database that will answer questions like ‘for players at age X in the AHL scoring between 0.5 and 0.65 point/game, what are the range of career outcomes’ but it takes a long time to put together.

  • Mantastic

    The Oilers really need to find and develop a player like Kirk Maltby. Kills penalties, knows his role, energy guy, takes a regular shift and secure on the defensive side of the puck.

    Although Hamilton has very poor offensive numbers I would peg him to be the best “prospect” the Oilers have to fit that mold. He kills penalties, has a great reputation for a two way game (from junior). Now they need to start molding him into a guy that uses his weight and starts crashing a little more. I think at this point in his career the Oilers wouldnt have any luck packaging him with some prospects to get a proven vet cause he just hasnt shown enough.

  • Mantastic

    Nice series Jonathan. It’s amazing how much scoring and birthdate matter at draft time.

    To think only a few years ago these things weren’t on very many people’s radar. I REALLY hope the Oiler brass are smelling the coffee.

    Hopefully as Oiler first round picks begin to move down the order they can find some guys with more offense to fill out the bottom six better, or stock the farm with good scoring NHL prospects, as opposed to good scoring career AHL’ers. Non-elite players with a much better shot at an NHL career than second+ rounders.

    Given this season is a schmozzle I have to admit I am hoping play resumes, MacTambelowe loads the team up with rookies again, and we get one last kick at a lottery pick.

    Then Whitney and Khabi and Sutton are off the books. There will be some opportunity with a full prospect cupboard and cap space to put the final touches on the team.

  • vetinari

    I remember Hamilton from his time with the Blades and he was a decent selection by the Oil at that place in the draft but I think that he will most likely end up as an “energy” player/depth defensive forward, at best, at the NHL level.

    When I think of him, I can think of a lot of his “good” attributes (determined player, played hard to the puck, had some physicality to his game, good teammate by all accounts) but nothing he did was “great” in any category and typically, to make it to the NHL level, some part or parts of your game has to be a cut above the average. I don’t know why, but if I had to compare him to someone, a mid-career Ethan Moreau is the first player that comes to my mind… and that can be valuable to the Oilers if he can reach his potential.

  • G Money

    – A probabilistic model is almost always more reflective of real world outcomes than a simple projection type of model

    – Using comparables with as many similar variables is the right way to model it, but you have to be careful of overfitting

    – The end result is that in the optimistic eyes of us fans, the realism of a probabilistic model will always look ‘doomy’! That’s because most prospects past the first round do not turn into legit NHLers.

    – Good work @JW.

  • Mantastic

    i like this series a lot more than the canucks prospect series, where they seem to over hype the crap out of their mediocre prospect pool. this at least seems a lot more realistic and it’s probability based, which means he has a chance to become a superstar, it’s just highly unlikely.

  • atleastwehavethekhl

    Wow. Love your stuff, Jon, but this series is pretty doomy.

    If I were Curtis Hamilton reading this, I’d probably take a strong look at hanging ’em up.

    • I’m trying to put an emphasis on realism, and screen out my own tendencies (‘man, I like watching that guy – I hope he has a career’).

      The kind of career I’ve sketched out for Hamilton isn’t a bad one – he’ll probably make six figures playing hockey, either in the AHL or in Europe, for big chunks of his career.

  • Jamie B.

    Yeah, this year he’s at least looked like he could turn into a good fourth-line option, if he can figure out how to be reliable defensively at the NHL level he seems willing to throw his weight around. He won’t score pretty goals but maybe he crashes the net and bangs a few in. Seems a little too early to know one way or the other, but he needs a good season this year to stay on track imo. Fingers crossed, I like him.

  • Oilers89

    The thing is last year Hamilton didn’t play very many minutes and was injured part way through the season. This year he started slowly (likely due to the injury) and he has looked to be much better lately. I have been impressed with his last few games as he is bringing more energy and driving the play somewhat. I could see him turning his awful projection around yet.