Though there’s no NHL hockey right now, we’re hoping that the two sides come to a compromise soon that will cut losses for all three sides: the owners, the players, and most importantly, all the rest of us. In the meantime, we’ve got a Halloween treat for you, a sample chapter from our upcoming Hockey Prospectus 2012-13.
In the Pittsburgh Penguins chapter, you’ll see more than our usual advanced stats breakdown for the team and its players, including our famed VUKOTA projections. This year, we’ve added Rob Vollman’s Player Usage Charts for each team, giving you a visual depiction of the role of each player by level of competition and zone start percentage, plus their success or failure in the critical puck possession game (big colored circles are good, big white circles are bad).
We’re putting the finishing touches on this year’s annual, and should have the .pdf version ready for download within two weeks*.
Renowned sabermetrics guru Gabriel Desjardins provides the Foreword this year, and you’ll want to check out Eric Tulsky’s essay on Zone Entries. I’ve got a couple in there as well.
*We’ve got the product page up, but you won’t be able to order it yet.
In case you missed it yesterday, here is my first chat of “the season” with Mick Kern of NHL Network Radio’s The War Room (which airs on XM Radio channel 92 on weekdays, from 11-12 in the morning). I’m pleased to be a regular guest on the show again.
As I mentioned to Mick, we’re looking to have Hockey Prospectus 2012-13 ready for you by Halloween, regardless of the current labor situation. I’ll update you all in a couple weeks once we’ve got a better idea of the exact timing.
What’s in store for you this year?
A great new feature in this year’s annual is Rob Vollman’s Player Usage Charts, included in each chapter, for each team. They give you an immediate snapshot of who was driving positive shot differentials and under what circumstances (competition and zone starts), augmenting our projected player values in Goals Versus Threshold (GVT).
For you big fans of Corey Pronman’s work, Top 100 NHL Prospects is back. You’ve seen the list here on the website, but you’ll get a breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of each player that led to their ranking.
And we’ve got a surprise or two up our sleeve. Stay tuned for that.
A few days ago, the inimitable Joe Posnanski asked for my help in assessing the fifth best player in the sport for an article he was working on for his latest project - Sportsonearth.com. The article can be found here - http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/37922178/,
When he asked me the question, my first concern was how to measure it. After some hemming and hawing, I came up with a methodology that, while it could be questioned and is by no means scientific, I was comfortable with.
Essentially, we work with GVT. I looked at the past two seasons as well as the VUKOTA projections for this one, which include a fair bit of regression of past stats.
As last season was the most fresh and real, I weighted last year’s GVT fully. As this year is still speculative (in more ways than one) and two years ago is a little stale, in that players may have gained or lost skill as time has elapsed, I weighted them as having 75% of the value of last season.
In order to avoid penalizing a player who suffered from grievous injury (the Crosby Corollary), instead of raw GVT, I used GVT per game. Also, as goalies can have an outsized effect on a given season but tend not to maintain a given level of performance from season to season, I limitied the study to skaters.
In each season under consideration, I took the top 30 or so skaters as measured by GVT per season, and then made sure to include all three seasons of each player who appeared even once on the list (so Ryan Whitney was in my consideration poor, among other candidates). Finally, I weighted the per game results.
Here are the top 20:
Rank Player Position Weighted Score
1. Sidney Crosby F 95.43
2. Evgeni Malkin F 71.71
3. Steven Stamkos F 69.59
4. Claude Giroux F 66.77
5. Jonathan Toews F 60.91
6. Daniel Sedin F 57.93
7. Pavel Datsyuk F 57.21
8. Marian Hossa F 53.19
9. Patrick Sharp F 52.51
10. Anze Kopitar F 51.72
11. Andy McDonald F 50.85
12. Ilya Kovalchuk F 50.75
13. Erik Karlsson D 50.1
14. Jason Spezza F 50.02
15. Jordan Staal F 49.7
16. Corey Perry F 49.23
17. Alex Ovechkin F 48.95
18. Marian Gaborik F 48.86
19. Alex PietrangeloD 48.8
20. Henrik Sedin F 48.27
Other than Andy McDonald, I think my “system” passes the sniff test. McDonald makes it in as he has consistently been very productive while healthy, but has rarely was healthy enough to slump.
What do you think? Anyone my system unfairly overlooks?
The Senators extended Kyle Turris for five years at an average annual value of 3.5 million. While that may seem like a long deal for a player whose proven very little coming into this past season and only had a 6.4 GVT mark in 2011-12, this is a good risk for the Senators that could potentially have major value. With the current unrestricted free agent market per Gabe Desjardins, a win (or roughly six GVT) is equal to about three million. Seeing as this deal eats up two UFA years in a five year term I think a reasonable argument would be to evaluate it close to UFA market value. I also see it as very likely he will be a 1 win player or better for the duration of the contract which is what he’s being paid to be with that average annual value.
Back last December at the time of the trade, I mentioned that Turris seemed to have no legit reason he has not broken through. He has the top-end skill, he put in the work on and off the ice and the only real issue seemed to be between him and Phoenix. While with Ottawa, his Corsi Rel QoC rank with the team jumped from last with Phoenix in 2010-11, to first with Ottawa. His offensive zone start % team rank from went from 1st with Phoenix, to 10th with Ottawa. His ESTOI/60 also went from 10th to 3rd. Ottawa saw the talent, dealt an elite prospect in David Rundblad to get that talent, and let Turris flourish. Not only did he see tough minutes, but he performed under them, having a 4.3 Corsi Relative to his team.
Turris was arguably worth about that 3.5 million to the Senators this year, and that was with a cut off season due to the debacle in Phoenix. Over 82 games based on his performance in Ottawa, his raw totals come out to 20 goals and 48 points. There’s certainly risk from Ottawa’s standpoint, Turris was 22 this season which is young, but you still have some level of expectation from a player at that age and the fact it’s taken him this long to get going puts some doubt if he can ever hit his true upside. Even if he doesn’t his skating, skill and hockey sense have all the making of a consistent, quality top six player with the upside to get a tick or two higher.
In summary, I think it’s a near lock he hits even value on his contract, a good chance he provides surplus value, and slight to moderate chance this is a homerun for Ottawa. Five year deals for someone with 75 points in 185 NHL games are usually not a good investment, but for someone of Turris’ age and talent level, I’d completely endorse it as a very smart risk.
Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle extensions:
The Oilers signed two of their top young players, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle to multi-year extensions with average annual values on both contracts coming out to six million, with Taylor Hall’s deal going for an extra year.
Taylor Hall is going to be a star in this league and there’s an argument he already is. Although his offensive zone start % was 56.5, Hall was 1 of 3 Edmonton forward with a positive Corsi and did so while facing top competition. His Corsi Relative of 15.2 was nearly double the next best forward on Edmonton. He’s got all the tools to be confident in his future too, he’s a tremendous skater and shooter with high-end skill, hockey sense and a great work ethic. If Hall gets a little more luck with health, and Edmonton approaches being an NHL average team offensively or better, he could hit or surpass the 80 point mark. Stars are underpaid in the NHL and with how Taylor Hall is performing at 20 years of age and what he’s tracking to be, it’s quite possible six million a season over his age 22-28 seasons could be a significant underpay.
The Jordan Eberle extension is one that requires more of a debate. Eberle has been Edmonton’s leading scorer the last two seasons and had a 76 point season to his name before his 22nd birthday. The percentages he’s been riding is concerning though, he had an 18.9 shooting % last season, and a career 15.4 mark. He also had a team on-ice shooting percentage of 12.84% at even-strength this past season. It’s very rare for players not named Steven Stamkos to maintain that kind of shooting percentage and non-elite playmakers to have that kind of on-ice mark. Andrew Brunette and Alex Tanguay have shot that well but as low volume shooter throughout their careers.
Anyone I’ve ever asked that has scouted Eberle have raved about his shot and finishing ability. Given the significant amount of scouting information I have that points to him being a high-end shooter, and the fact he does have a career 15.4 % finishing mark through 338 shots, I think it’s reasonable to assume Eberle is a very good finisher. However even very good finishers tend not to shoot at that kind of rate, and while I think Eberle’s shooting % will regress, I don’t think his true talent shooting percentage is 10% or under, but historically most of the best shooters tend to finish a few points below Eberle’s career mark.
Eberle’s production last season has been aided by some luck (the high percentages), a 60.7 offensive zone start % and average competition faced. But the thing with him is, he was 21 last season. It’s very plausible as enters into his prime he’ll get more ice time, he will be able to log tougher minutes zone starts and competition wise and still maintain a positive possession flow while finishing at an above average rate. I think there’s significant evidence that Eberle most likely won’t be a star, but a player with his elite hockey sense, great puck skills and shot still has enough tools to be a consistent first line forward. I think the average annual value of six million he was given could be a slight overpay for that kind of player as a UFA, and certainly for an RFA, but I could see the argument he hits even value for 1 or 2 seasons in the six year extension.
I was able to catch a game of Oilers 2012 draft pick defenseman Erik Gustafsson in a recent European Trophy game. I did not comment on him at the draft or in Edmonton’s organizational write-up due to lack of notes. Mind you it was only one match, but from what one can gather from a singular game, I understand why Edmonton used a fourth round pick on him. Gustafsson, who was in his third draft eligible season, certainly has a fair amount of skill and mobility. Several times he showed the ability to be an effective puck carrier who can make impressive plays and be a starting point for offense. He’s a little undersized which won’t help him, but considering that I thought he defended at an ok level as his reads were fine.
Top Canucks prospect Nicklas Jensen was officially loaned out to AIK in Sweden. This is a move I completely endorse and wish more prospects would do in their 19 year old seasons if the options for them are simply CHL or NHL. Jensen will learn a lot more from a development stand-point in a pro league as opposed to a league where he produced a point per game last season. Top Bruins prospect Alex Khokhlachev also did a one year loan to Russia where he’ll receive similar benefits.
For a second year in a row, David Staples of Edmonton Journalcompared projections of Oilers’ players. And for the second year in a row, the VUKOTA system created by Tom Awad of Hockey Prospectus came out on top.
According to Staples:
“On average, Awad was just 12.2 points out on his predictions for the 15 most commonly rated Oilers players. Mitchell was at 15.7, Katsaros, 16.9, the Hockey News, 17.4, Willis and The Sports Forecaster, 17.5, and Dobber Hockey, 18.3.”
The Ivan Hlinka is the unofficial kick off to the draft season as a fair amount of top draft prospects converge in the Czech Republic and Slovakia for a short tournament. I was not able to see much of the action, but I did talk people who were there. The following are notes on key prospects for the 2013 NHL draft who were at the event:
Max Domi, Left Wing: Domi is a great prospect. He’s arguably got high-end skating, puck skills and vision and while I heard he was forcing plays in the first few games, towards the end of the tournament his playmaking I heard was arguably the most impressive at the event.
Anthony Duclair, Right Wing: Duclair didn’t have his best tournament as he was spotted on a scoring line at the beginning, but scouts said he just wasn’t creating enough and his ice time got cut pretty quickly. His speed and work ethic were on display, but that was it.
Jonathan Drouin, Left Wing: Drouin was part of the very dangerous top line for Canada that was made of Curtis Lazar, Nathan MacKinnon and himself and I heard he was Canada’s most consistently dangerous player behind Nathan MacKinnon. Asides from his size, he has all the tools as he’s a great skater, puck handler and passer who at the tournament was forechecking and backchecking pretty hard.
Curtis Lazar, Right Wing: Lazar stood out at the tournament for his great forechecking and two-way work ethic with a scout saying despite his size he projects as a power forward. When I asked about what kind of offensive potential he showed, I had heard he showed above-average offensive tools, but not high-end with a scout saying he’s a player who does all the little things well.
Nathan MacKinnon, Center: He was MacKinnon, plain and simple. On his first shift in his first game of the tournament, he barreled down on the wing, beat a defender crisply with a nice move and generated a scoring chance, which he created a lot of. One scout said, “You saw the skating and the talent, but what was really impressive was his work ethic was one of it not the best of any player there. When you see the players he will be compared to such as Crosby and Stamkos, his work ethic is up there with those elite players.” That same scout I talked to still felt though that between him and Seth Jones it is still a very close call for the top prospect in the 2013 draft class.
Josh Morrisey, Defense: He was Canada’s best defenseman in what I had heard was an underwhelming display by the Canadian blueline as a whole. Morrisey got off to a rocky start, getting a 2 and a 10 for mouthing off at the start of the tournament and was benched afterwards. He took off though in the latter part of the event as he’s a top-end thinker with impressive four-way mobility. Canada ran four forwards on the power play and he was the sole defender.
Darnell Nurse, Defense: As stated in the Morrisey profile, most of the defenders didn’t impress but Nurse came in with notable expectations after playing quite well at the Under-18’s in April. That’s not to say he played bad, but scouts told me he was just average and that was below their expectations.
Pavel Buchnevich, Center: I had Buchnevich at 10 on my 2013 draft board prior to the draft season starting. Time will tell over the season if he can maintain that slot, but he certainly stood out to observers at the Ivan Hlinka. “He’s an outstanding player,” said one scout who praised his high-end hands and hockey sense. I heard his speed looked only average though which is contrary to what I’ve heard from reports out of Russia.
Nikita Zadorov, Defense: Zadorov really stood out at the Under-18’s in April, with one scout I talked to after saying he would be in his top ten on his 2013 draft board. He was a little up and down at the Hlinka with scouts saying he bounced between average, above average and great. He’s a big defender who skates and moves the puck well, but also has some toughness which was on display as he knocked an opponent out of the game with a big hit.
Andre Burakowsky, Right Wing: Behind MacKinnon, scouts told me Burakowsky was clearly the second best forward at the tournament and showed top-end potential. One scout said his skating is right up there with the top Swedish players that have been drafted the last few years. His speed and top-end skill showed, but what I also heard really stood out was an elite on-ice work ethic to go along with the talent. It’s still early, but from what I’ve seen and heard about Burakowsky over the last six months, he should firmly be in the top ten discussion for this coming draft.
Jacob De La Rose, Left Wing: De La Rose spotted on the top line at the Under 18’s last April with Burakowsky as underage players played along Filip Forsberg, but when Elias Lindholm came he steadily dropped down the depth chart in that tournament. He’s been used at center recently, but at this tournament he played on the wing. A scout told me he projects currently as a power forward with playmaking ability.
Robert Hagg, Defense: Hagg was one of the top three defensemen at the tournament, and arguably the top one with one scouting director telling me he looked like a top half of the first round player. Hagg didn’t show a whole lot in terms of impressive power play skill, but he’s a very smart defender who showed strong play in his own end and moves the puck well. I heard he did show signs of fatigue towards the end of the tournament though.
Adam Erne, Left Wing: Erne was clearly USA’s top player at the tournament and as one scout put it, “[The USA] was only going, when Erne was going.” He showed top-end speed and work ethic, as well as the ability to create offense.
Michael Downing, Defense: Downing impressed scouts I’ve talked to who saw him in the USHL as a 16 year old, but at the Hlinka he was average from what I heard with a source saying he thought he would bring more to the table.
Tom Vannelli, Defense: Vanelli I heard was the USA’s top defender. He’s a big player with very impressive skating for his size in terms of his mobility and mechanics. He doesn’t currently project as a power play guy, but he showed the ability to move the puck at a fine level.
You may already have noticed Tom Awad’s latest VUKOTA projections available for purchase here on our website. In addition to providing the most accurate player projections as usual, this year we’ve included team projections (as teams are currently composed).
Who’s our top ranked team? Well, let’s say that Vegas isn’t exactly crazy with who they’re favoring to win the Cup. On the other hand, those who expect the Wild to immediately become a championship contender with the additions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter should temper their expectations. You won’t see it in these final projections, but the first pass of VUKOTA, pre-July 1, had Minnesota as one of the handful of lowest-projected teams. It’s reasonable to at least consider them a bubble team now.
On the player side, we give you projections of games played, goals, assists, points, offensive GVT, defensive GVT, total GVT, PIM, and save percentage. Needless to say, it’s a great tool for fantasy hockey players.
Finally, if you subscribe to ESPN Insider, you can take a look at some of the most interesting VUKOTA projections in their Summer Skate series, which beginning this week. They’ve kicked off the series with the Pacific Division, with Rob Vollman letting you know who’s expected to trend up and down, while ESPN’s Craig Custance providing readers with a Name To Know (prospect). We’ll be reposting our portions of the series here at Hockey Prospectus.
Many of you are no doubt anticipating our third annual, Hockey Prospectus 2012-13. I’m pleased to report that we’ve been working on the material for the last month and a half, and have most of the team chapters written.
Authors include much of the regular cast, such as Rob Vollman, Tom Awad, Corey Pronman, Matthew Coller, Ryan Popilchak, Ryan Wagman, Jonathan Willis, and of course, myself.
We’ll have some additional innovations included this year-we’ll keep them under wraps for now-that will definitely make you want to pick up this year’s annual.
As with everything in the hockey world, we need to wait and see when the season will be starting before we give you a definitive date on when Hockey Prospectus 2012-13 will be available. I’ll update you when I know more. Let’s hope it’s soon!
With the 2013 draft season about to kick off shortly with the summer camps and the Ivan Hlinka tournament, I thought I would ask a few NHL sources to reminiscence a bit on the 2012 NHL draft, specifically the top of the draft for their thoughts on some of the main headlines from the event. I also tend to get more interesting quotes after the fact than before the event as well.
On the draft as a whole: Seeing the reactions from fans to some of the picks in the top ten and throughout day one was pretty interesting. Usually drafts do not go along the mainstream consensus and nothing usually surprises me however 2012 was somewhat of an exception. As one NHL scouting director said, “That was the craziest draft I have ever been a part of. From the first pick onwards nobody really knew who was going where.” One NHL exec said, “Usually, and you’ll never get teams to admit this obviously before the draft, but we all tend to have the same 4-5 guys within the same range [referring to within the first round]. This time was different though.”
On the injuries: This was a well documented draft injury wise due to all the top to above-average prospects who either got hurt for lengthy or moderate amounts of time. One scouting director said, “I have never seen that many top names get hurt in a single season.” Another scouting director said it was a frustrating season and the injuries threw a wrench into their operations, “You plan your schedule out before the season starts to go to this part of North America or Europe to see a top player, and you either have to reschedule because the player is hurt, or you make the trip and he gets scratched the day of.”
On individual selections:
Hampus Lindholm, 6th overall to Anaheim: One NHL exec said there was no surprise at all to their team that Lindholm went that high. That source said, “You watched him develop as the season went on, and he was playing in a mens league, and every week or two you go back and he’s playing 2-3 more minutes, and a few weeks later 2-3 more minutes again. By the end of the season when Rogle was pushing to get promoted to the top division, he was a key reason why.” By midseason he said their team knew that Lindholm was going to go very high. When I asked him to comment on his upside he said, “I don’t think he’s going to be this great offensive player, but you watch him and he does so much.” Leading into the weeks of the draft I had heard from several scouts who thought Lindholm was top 10 quality, and a few who put him ahead of Filip Forsberg for top Swede in the draft.
Derrick Pouliot, 8th overall to Pittsburgh: When I asked a scouting director if he was surprised to see Pouliot go at 8 he said firmly, “No” and continued by saying, “That’s basically where we had him. We though he was right there with the other top Canadian defensemen.” Scouts of course don’t discuss their draft boards with each other, but they do get a feel from their colleagues on what they think of certain players. From talking to NHL sources about what they had heard from their peers, it seems there were certainly some teams that had Derrick Pouliot in their top 10, but most did not.
Slater Koekkoek, 10th overall to Tampa Bay: Continuing on the injury topic above, when I again asked a source if they were surprised to see Koekkoek go that high, he responded, “This was a draft where players like Galchenyuk and Rielly who barely played went in the top five and they were being drafted based on their underage season. If you were evaluating Koekkoek based on his underage season, he would go that high.” Koekkoek was a player who drew a lot of divide from scouts I talked to. Several did not have him in their top 20, or even top 30, whereas I know a few who did consider him a top 10 prospect.
Mark Jankowski 21st overall to Calgary: Jankowski played in an obscure league and certainly did not get the limelight of some other top round prospects. When I asked one scout before the draft where he thought he would go he said somewhere in the mid 20’s. The indication I had gotten was Jankowski was a love him/hate him type of player and those kinds of prospects tend to go high because all it takes is one team to love him. Calgary’s next pick was at 42, but from what I was hearing there was little to no chance Jankowski was going to be available at that spot.
On how the first round played out: I’ve written about how I think forward prospects should be given an edge over defense prospects of close or equal talent levels due to projection uncertainty. When I asked an NHL executive for their thoughts on the first round, they echoed that, “All those defensemen going so high, it was crazy.” When I asked that same exec on where Filip Forsberg and Mikhail Grigorenko went he said, “Well we certainly had both players going higher.”
Ryan Wagman asked me for my take on the Rick Nash trade to the New York Rangers, and as I responded to him, I might as well share what I said with you all, too…
New York didn’t completely “give up the farm”, so that at least is pleasantly surprising compared to what had been rumored over the past several months. I saw Erixon a few times this year-mostly with the Whale-and he didn’t pop out to me. With Erixon being formerly disgruntled in Calgary and forcing his way out, it’s odd that Columbus would want to deal with any potential issues. Then again, no one will ever want to deal with Erixon if he ever does anything like that again.
Dubinsky’s undervalued by the mainstream, but I understand that his cap and Anisimov’s were part of making the deal work. Anisimov was overvalued a couple years ago by the mainstream because of counting stats; now he’s overvalued by the stats community based on advanced stats. I’ve seen him play a lot. Yes, he drives play somewhat, but he’s nothing to write home about. He’s decent. Dubinsky can be a fairly good centerman, not just a wing. Gritty player for a skill guy, too-he cleaned Ovechkin’s clock two seasons ago in a fight. All season long they talked about Dubinsky’s swoon in points, and particularly goals, but he received really tough checking assignments, high defensive zone starts, lost over a minute of PP time (while being moved to the 2nd unit) and two minutes of ES time. The dropoff wasn’t as big as it appeared. He’ll be a good player for Columbus.
The first round pick isn’t as big a deal because Rangers will be a playoff team.
Nash is on the decline already-slowly-and no, I don’t buy into the fact that better linemates on the Rangers will change his counting stats. Didn’t improve Richards. Nash’s contract doesn’t look great now but who knows what the next CBA will make everything look like. Most people don’t understand that a forward’s peak scoring is around age 25, so saying that Nash is in his prime is a bit off, and I read plenty of that.
While the trade is okay for New York, I don’t fundamentally like this add, as the Rangers seemed to have turned the corner, have gotten rid of underperforming older players over the past couple seasons while developing/trading for a nice, young, skilled core. While talented, Nash comes across about as dull as plain toast. If the Rangers were going to add a major piece, even a slightly aging one, I would have liked what would have felt like a better fit for a team looking for finishing piece to a championship roster, not just 25 or so goals worth of hired gun. I suggested Doan as a trade to the Rangers in February (before the Coyotes went on a hot streak) and many people turned up their noses at the thought. Doan would have been the right type of fit, without giving up any young players. You hold onto those for something special, ideally.
Hosts Matthew Coller and Timo Seppa discuss what’s been a somewhat slow offseason to this point, where we’re still waiting for potential trades of Bobby Ryan, Rick Nash, and Roberto Luongo to happen, and free agents like Alexander Semin and Shane Doan to sign. Also, the impact of Parise and Suter signing in Minnesota, development camps, and the Draft.