RAJALA RISING?

For some time now, we’ve been talking about equivalencies, using Gabriel Desjardins’ NHLE’s going back several years. The boys over at NHL Numbers have had a lash at updating the equation, and now Rob Vollman from Hockey Prospectus gives it a try. The results–when applied to the Oilers prospect base–suggest there are some very talented offensive players bubbling under.

AHL PROSPECTS

(photo by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved)

Vollman’s system for the AHL is multi-tiered based on age and the recent past (in terms of AHL to NHL progression) suggests young players who are 19-21 are more likely to carry their offense to the NHL. This isn’t a new idea, but the severity of the progression is more pronounced in the Vollman model. Here’s an overview of the AHL forwards from 2012-13 and their NHL equivalencies using Rob Vollman’s work.

NHL EQUIVALENCIES, OKC BARONS F, age 19-21 (per 82 games)

  • Toni Rajala 14-22-36 (this is a solid number at 21 years old)
  • Anton Lander 9-11-20
  • Ryan Martindale 7-8-15

These are the 19-to-21 year olds in the current group run through Vollman’s NHL equivalency.

  • Vollman: Our study found that particularly high-scoring 19- to 21-year-olds are virtually guaranteed scoring success in the NHL.

Toni Rajala–at 21–narrowly missed scoring at a point-per-game clip and is certainly a candidate for NHL employment based on his season with the Barons. Lander is a checker, so his offense here would correctly suggest we’re looking at a role playing C whose value is more defensive. Martindale at least makes the list, something Tyler Pitlick and Curtis Hamilton didn’t score enough to do this past season.

NHL EQUIVALENCIES, OKC BARONS F, age 22-26 (per 82 games)

The group 22 to 26 years old are less likely to build an NHL career based on Vollman’s work, meaning a player like Mark Arcobello (or Teemu Hartikainen) is less likely to make it.

  • Mark Arcobello 11-23-34
  • Teemu Hartikainen 11-18-29
  • Phil Cornet 12-14-16
  • Vollman: While a super-high AHL scorer under age 22 might ultimately turn out to be a legitimate NHL level scorer as well, that’s quite unlikely when the AHLer is 23 or older. There may be the occasional late bloomer, but most older players who are good enough to dominate the AHL level aren’t good enough to win a regular top-six shift at the NHL level, possibly due to their small size, weak skating abilities, or lack of defensive commitment.

Vollman’s look at 27+ year olds is not encouraging for that group; for instance, the odds that Colin McDonald (as an example) remains in the NHL at a high level are unlikely–a much better outer marker would be a role player like Toby Petersen.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Many of the AHL numbers used by Vollman match Desjardins’ original, with a small adjustment for the 19-to-21 year old mid-level talents like Lander being the major item. Much of the information above would be very similar (or identical) to the Desjardins’ numbers run a decade before, but that in and of itself has value.

I do think Vollman’s ‘line in the sand’ at 22+ is a more pronounced judgement than we’ve assumed in the past, and it’ll be interesting to see how this rolls out into the future.

My personal thanks to Mr. Vollman for his permission in using information from his book in preparing this article. You can preview the book here.

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