With the recent improvements made to the Projectinator, it's high time we expand the system's purview. To begin with, let's take a trip to central Europe, and visit Switzerland, Germany, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The hockey leagues of these countries share some characteristics which allow us to apply basically the same method to evaluate their draft-eligible players.
Applying a projection system to European junior-aged players has difficulties not encountered in North American junior years. Specifically, the best European draft-eligible players tend to play in their country's senior league. A 17-year-old player's statistics when playing against men can be quite different than when playing only against players of similar ages. This makes countries such as the Czech Republic a good place to start in adapting the Projectinator to such situations. Although the best draft-eligible players in these countries play in senior leagues, the leagues in question are of low enough quality that those players can be among the best players in the league despite their age.
Another important difference between these countries and the big boys (Russia, Sweden and Finland) is that nearly all of the best draft-age players play senior hockey, rather than junior. When you're evaluating Swedish players, for example, you need to look at the junior teams as well as the senior, or else you'll miss an awful lot of quality players. The same is not the case in the Czech Republic, and wasn't the case even when that country was producing great numbers of high-quality players in the 1990s. If you skip over the Czech juniors, which is easy to do since the stats are difficult to find, you won't miss too many good players. From 1989 to 2000, for example, the only Czech player of significant quality that did not play senior hockey before being drafted was Vaclav Prospal. Many of the best players do play junior, but only before being eligible for the draft. Jaromir Jagr scored 84 points in 35 junior games in 1987-88, but this was two years before being eligible for the draft. Petr Sykora apparently scored 50 goals and 50 assists in 30 junior games in 1991-92 (which was his age-14 season), but those nice round numbers make them appear to be estimates anyway.
Most of the same factors go into producing the projection for these players as we use for North American junior players. We do adjust for situations where the player was clearly receiving very little ice time; for example, Jan Marek in 1999 played 38 games in the Czech senior league, scoring two goals, two assists and two penalty minutes. We give him credit for more than that, since he clearly spent more time on the bench than most. Age is also very important, of course. Unlike North American junior leagues, however, we consider more than just players in their age-17 seasons. Quite a few European players don't play in the highest leagues at age 17 (Ziggy Palffy for one), so the following season is the first opportunity we have to evaluate their numbers.
Also unlike CHL players, we must consider whether the players played in the World Junior Championships, either the under-20 or the under-18 variety. Playing in these championships is a big clue that a player is among the best in his age group. In particular, an age-17 player in the under-20 tournament is typically of high quality. The best 17-year-old Czechs at the under-20 championships between 1989 and 2000 were Jagr in 1990 (18 points), David Vyborny in 1993 (15 points) and Palffy in 1991 (13 points; yes, he's Slovakian but the two countries were still unified at that time).
One final reason to group the Czechs, Slovaks, Swiss and Germans together is that they produce about the same quality of players currently. This is something of a sad reality for the Czechs and Slovaks, who once produced extremely high-quality hockey players. And as often as not, the best prospects from these countries now come to North America to play major junior hockey. In the 2010 Entry Draft, there were four Czech players drafted (Petr Straka, Jakub Culek, Petr Mrazek, and Adam Polasek), all of whom played in the CHL. There were four Germans drafted as well (Tom Kuehnhackl, Phillip Grubauer, Konrad Abeltshauser and David Elsner), two of which played in the CHL and two in Germany. One of the two Swiss players drafted (Nino Niederreiter and Mauro Jorg) also played in the CHL. Only one Slovak was drafted, who played in a domestic league.
Finally, let's get to the results. Using a data set of players first eligible for the draft between 1989 and 2001, the following players are ranked highest by the Projectinator.
Rank Player Pos Year Country GVT82 PGVT PGVT+
1 Jagr, Jaromir F 1990 Cze 31.3 24.7 24.7
2 Reichel, Robert F 1989 Cze 13.8 18.9 18.9
3 Petrovicky, Robert F 1992 Cze 5.7 15.8 15.8
4 Gaborik, Marian F 2000 Svk 18.9 15.1 15.1
5 Vyborny, David F 1993 Cze 7.3 14.4 14.4
6 Hossa, Marian F 1997 Svk 20.0 12.5 12.5
7 Holik, Bobby F 1989 Cze 14.2 11.9 11.9
8 Hamrlik, Roman D 1992 Cze 12.1 12.6 10.0
9 Sturm, Marco F 1996 Ger 10.5 9.8 9.8
10 Palffy, Ziggy F 1991 Cze 21.1 9.3 9.3
11 Caloun, Jan F 1991 Cze 15.0 9.2 9.2
12 Dvorak, Radek F 1995 Cze 11.1 9.0 9.0
13 Stumpel, Jozef F 1991 Cze 13.5 8.9 8.9
14 Cereda, Luca F 1999 Sui 13.5 8.9 8.9
15 Nedorost, Vaclav F 2000 Cze 4.4 8.5 8.5
16 Hamrlik, Martin D 1991 Cze 6.0 10.4 8.3
17 Goc, Marcel F 2001 Ger 3.7 8.2 8.2
18 Hejduk, Milan F 1994 Cze 17.4 7.9 7.9
19 Marha, Josef F 1994 Cze 3.6 7.9 7.9
20 Demitra, Pavol F 1993 Cze 20.5 7.8 7.8
21 Hecht, Jochen F 1995 Ger 11.2 7.8 7.8
22 Straka, Martin F 1991 Cze 14.7 7.6 7.6
23 Bicek, Jiri F 1997 Svk 2.3 7.6 7.6
24 Kraft, Milan F 1998 Cze 3.7 7.6 7.6
25 Zalesek, Miroslav F 1998 Svk 4.2 7.6 7.6
26 Prochazka, Martin F 1990 Cze 5.0 7.5 7.5
27 Varada, Vaclav F 1994 Cze 5.9 7.5 7.5
28 Kratena, Ondrej F 1996 Cze 9.2 7.2 7.2
29 Rob, Lubos F 1989 Cze 5.0 6.8 6.8
30 Neckar, Stanislav D 1994 Cze 2.6 8.5 6.8
We won't be dwelling on these results too much at present; the primary purpose of developing the system is to project junior-aged players. A few notes are appropriate, however:
1. Most of these players were also seen by the scouts as being draft-worthy. Robert Petrovicky may seem like a big miss by the system, but he fooled the scouts as well; he was drafted ninth overall in 1992.
2. Although all four of the players drafted ahead of Jagr in 1990 had very good careers, if you had this system you'd have him rated far ahead of anyone else:
Drafted Player PGVT+
1 Nolan, Owen 8.4
2 Nedved, Petr 7.9
3 Primeau, Keith 9.0
4 Ricci, Mike 9.1
5 Jagr, Jaromir 24.7
As good as Nolan, Nedved, Primeau and Ricci were, presumably you'll agree that Jagr was the best players to come out of the 1990 Entry Draft.
3. There was one heck of a crop from Czechoslovakia in 1991: Zaggy Palffy, Jan Caloun, Jozef Stumpel, Martin Straka and Martin Hamrlik (Roman's older brother). Even if all you did was draft Czechoslovakian players that year, you'd have come away with quite the haul.
4. This part of the world seems much more adept of developing forwards than defensemen. Of the top 30 players, only three are defensemen; one is ranked 30th and the other two come from the same family. Without the Hamrliks, you'd have no elite-level blueliners.