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Reviewing Winnipeg Jets Player Projections

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It takes guts to put your predictions out there for everyone to see, but perhaps it takes more guts than brains to bring them back for review.

On the other hand, it really is a win-win situation. If the predictions are way off, the information can be used to improve the system, and if the predictions are accurate, well then there will doubtlessly be a line-up of ladies at our doors wanting to get with us. Or some other kind of suitable reward, I’m sure.

We’ll start with the top-six forwards (as they were seen before the season began) today, the defensemen next week and then all the other forwards later this month.

Andrew Ladd

The Snepsts system, which searches NHL’s history for players with similar era-adjusted scoring as our target player, and then spits out the average of their next season’s scoring (along with the low and high-water marks), called for a 23-goal, 48-point season from Andrew Ladd, though we added that "his scoring should be at the upper end of this list of historical comparables"

As you for you readers, there was a strong preference for the 60-70 point range, meaning that his season totals probably came as a tremendous disappointment for the majority. But, as you see, it shouldn’t have been.

GP G A Pts
VUKOTA 74 23 28 51
Worst (Creighton) 82 13 12 25
Best (Sorrell) 82 42 30 72
Average 82 23 25 48
Actual 82 28 22 50

We don’t want to seem too cocky with the accuracy of our first result, because we were feeling optimistic as well, "In any event, if the expectation is 48-51 points, we'll obviously take the over." Next year we’ll be a bit more trusting.

One of the best parts of the Snepsts system is the way it finds comparable players, the most interesting of which was Dustin Penner. "As a more recent example, Edmonton's powerful left-winger and Stanley Cup champion Dustin Penner jumped up to 32 goals and 63 points from his usual 37-47 points, only to retreat right back down to 45 last season."

Those of you who were disappointed with his season should take comfort in knowing that he was nowhere near the worst-case scenario. Penner had just 18 points in 65 games this year, but fortunately they really are two different players. Ladd is a gifted two-way player while Penner played 14 minutes of highly-sheltered minutes per game, and got absolutely no puck luck (5.9% shooting percentage).

Evander Kane

Tom Awad’s VUKOTA system has the advantage of predicting games played, and also tends to have more optimistic projections than the Snepsts System – it consequently nailed Evander Kane’s production within 3 points.

The big question pre-season was whether Evander Kane would get 30 goals, something that appeared to have roughly a 30% probability - "out of the ten closest comparables, three of them wound up on pace for 30 goals." ("The three 30-goal men were Stephane Richer, Corey Perry and Adam Deadmarsh.")

Our wonderful readers felt the odds were a little higher than that - 43% of readers felt that he’d be close, but require one more year at most. 30% of readers correctly predicted he’d score 30 and lead the team in goals, and 14% said he might get 30 some day, but not now.

Though we felt that "he may take another season or two to hit 30 goals" ultimately we concluded that "a 30-goal season from Kane is going to depend on how fast he develops, whether he gets the top-unit ice-time he needs at even-strength and with the man advantage, and if his shooting percentage can improve from the lowly 8% range" - Evander Kane shot at 10.5%, and led the team with 6 power play goals.

GP G A Pts
VUKOTA 75 25 28 53
Worst (Nesterenko) 75 8 12 20
Best (Richer) 75 38 22 60
Average 75 20 23 43
Actual 74 30 27 57

Again, the fun part is looking at his historical comparables - Corey Perry had 29 goals and 54 points in 70 games. Adam Deadmarsh was the closest match though, he had 31 goals and 57 points in 78 games.

Here’s what we said about that: "Perry is a more modern example of what Kane could be, first breaking out at age 22 when making the jump from 12 minutes a game to 18, and hovering in the 30-goal range before finally busting loose in his Hart trophy 50-goal season last year." Stay tuned for next year!

Blake Wheeler

We were feeling confident about our projection for Blake Wheeler, after all "last year Wheeler had 143 matches, and Snepsts projected 18 goals and 23 assists – easily one of the easiest cases, being off by just 3 assists."

While we acknowledged his upside (which he exceeded), we really blew it by projection only 43 points. "Wheeler is a pretty consistent scorer, but has the potential for 25 goals and 60 points, according to his hot finish last year – something he could achieve with some time on the power play. Otherwise the 18-goal, 43-point projection will likely be accurate."

GP G A Pts
VUKOTA 71 17 25 42
Worst (Cyr) 82 9 14 23
Best (Bure) 82 15 34 49
Average 82 18 23 41
Actual 80 17 47 64

This is definitely one we can study for review – we correctly projected his goals but were way off on his assists.

Nik Antropov

There are going to be both hits and misses, and fortunately we got another hit with Nik Antropov. "In all there were 105 historical matches, averaging 16 goals and 24 assists for 40 points in 76 games. While he's likely to enjoy lots of opportunities both at even-strength and with the man advantage in Winnipeg, odds are he has become more of a 35-40 point player."

To those with a more optimistic view of Antropov’s potential we added that "unfortunately there doesn't appear to be a great deal of historical basis for another 67 point season."

GP G A Pts
VUKOTA 74 23 28 51
Worst (Goring) 76 12 14 26
Best (Martin) 76 24 31 55
Average 76 14 21 35
Actual 69 15 20 35

Before the ladies start lining up, remember that our personal response was that "In Antropov's case, if the expectation is 35-40 points, we'll still take the over."

And the other bad news is that "unfortunately for Antropov, a drop-off like his last season has often signaled a permanent drop in scoring."

Bryan Little

80% of readers felt Bryan Little would score at least 20 goals this year, including us. "Regardless of whether he hits 20 goals or not (I think he will), he'll still be around for years to come."

Statistically we felt that "Bryan Little, who turns 24 this November, has a roughly even chance of scoring 20 goals, according to both Vukota and Snepsts."

GP G A Pts
VUKOTA 71 18 28 46
Worst (Burns) 79 11 18 29
Best (Langkow) 79 14 47 61
Average 79 19 25 44
Actual 79 24 22 46

This is close enough to chalk another one in the win column, as he landed roughly halfway between pessimistic Snepsts and optimistic VUKOTA. The interesting comparable in this case is Mario Tremblay’s era-adjusted 80 game, 22-goal, 28-assist season with the Habs.

"Mario Tremblay, also a right-winger, a 12th overall selection, and easily Little's closest statistical match, broke into the NHL as an 18-year-old, but had his break-out, 30-goal season at 22, just a bit later than Little's. We should hope Little is on this track, because Tremblay eventually returned to that plateau, hitting it 3 times in four seasons starting in 1981-82, though adjusted for era that would be 22 goals today."

Eric Fehr

Someone had to round out the top six, and we went with Eric Fehr. "In Winnipeg Fehr may have the opportunity for a significant jump in playing time, which could easily translate into another 20-goal season, if he can fully recover from off-season shoulder injury and stay healthy."

"Will Eric Fehr score 20 goals? Vukota has him on a 20-goal pace if he stays healthy, three of his historical comparables did (Kennedy, Sulliman and Czerkawski), with four others coming reasonably close. He's going to get a lot more top-six opportunity on the Winnipeg Jets than he would back in Washington (or practically anywhere else), giving him every chance to finish the year at the top end of the projection – if he's healthy."

But don’t be too hard on us - 50% of readers were willing to pay $20 and get $1 back for every goal Eric Fehr scores. 37% were wise enough not to bet their $20 against either Fehr’s 20 goals (or Thorburn’s 20 points).

GP G A Pts
VUKOTA 58 15 16 31
Worst (Lacroix) 70 2 2 4
Best (Kennedy) 70 18 21 39
Average 70 13 15 28
Actual 35 2 1 3

Unfortunately we were wrong when we said that "it's unlikely Fehr will get anywhere near the worst case scenario - the bizarre case of Eric Lacroix. Lacroix had three straight 30+ point seasons, scoring 99 points in 235 games, struggled with some conditioning issues and then bam – only 22 points in his last 189."

Next Time

We were close enough with Andrew Ladd, Nik Antropov and Bryan Little, caught Evander Kane only near the high-end of expectations, and completely blew Blake Wheeler and Eric Fehr.

Based on our experience, that may sound bad, but unfortunately it’s about as good as it gets – we were probably closer than most fantasy hockey magazines. Hopefully we’ll be closer next week when we take a look at the defensemen (sneak peek: we weren’t).