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Prospect Tracker: Player development in NHL adjusted points per game

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Nik Ehlers, Nic Petan, and Jacob Trouba are amongst the elite.

Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Prospects are fun. We get to watch players who tend to be one of the top performers on their teams and leagues while holding hope for the future.

There is limited data in these leagues though and so you have to make the best with what is available. In addition, not all leagues are created equal. Dominating a lower junior league against kids, the Canadian major junior leagues against teens, the NCAA against young adults, or a European professional league with full grown men are all not equal. The best way to level the playing field is to adjust a player's scoring by the percentage of their points per game the average individual retains when moving to the NHL.

Full Disclosure Caveat

It is unfortunate that any discussion on the matter requires the following, but tis life.

NHLE's are simply a player's point per game production adjusted for the differences in league quality. It is not a WAR statistic or any other attempt to fully represent a player's overall value. Having a higher NHLE does not mean that the player is better.

We are fully aware that a player that scores more may not be the relatively better overall player. We are fully aware that a player can provide value out side of scoring (just look at Corsi for one example). We are fully aware that usage, team quality, age, and deployment factors affect scoring. We are also well aware (and usually first to point out) that player streaks in on-ice percentages can over or under value a player's input into their scoring.

However, we are also fully aware that there is a relationship with scoring talent both with future scoring talent and also overall talent.

This brings us to a bit of "moneyball" theory. Scoring and finishing talent is fairly expensive; a player's scoring is one of the major drivers of their contract worth. All the more reason why it is advantageous to use the draft in accumulating cost controlled (with ELCs and RFA status) high-end scoring talent and use free agency to fill possible holes (bottom six talent, penalty kill, size, etc.) with free agency, rather than the opposite.

For more on NHLEs and draft theory, read this article.

Strict NHL Translations

Forwards Draft to Draft+5

Fwd1

Fwd2

There are some obvious standouts. First off, Nikolaj Ehlers' sophomore season in the QMJHL looks to be something extraordinary. Mark Scheifele's third season in the OHL was something special too. JC Lipon and Andrew Copp had large growth in their early years. It likely isn't a coincidence since both Lipon and Copp had hockey as a secondary sport until their draft season, with Lipon's primary sport being wakeboarding and Copp's being football.

There is a general trend with later picks having lower scoring numbers. For the most part scoring numbers trend upwards as a player ages but there is some obvious exceptions. These exceptions could come from stagnation in development, but also from shooting percentages and large jumps in competition levels when moving to pro or the NHL.

Defenders Draft to Draft+5

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I always find it funny that Josh Morrissey is thought of offensive only defenseman and (at the time of his draft) Jacob Trouba was thought as more of a defensive defenseman. Relatively speaking Trouba has the highest scoring draft season. Underrated defensive defenseman Jan Kostalek has been flying under the radar as usual.

Peter Stoykewych, Brennan Serville, and Tucker Poolman all played in leagues too low to have NHLEs in their first draft eligible season. Tucker Poolman actually played in that league for his Draft+1 season as well.

Cumulative NHLE

One way to deal with the fluctuations of on-ice shooting percentages is to combine the sample. Of course, the trade off with this method is any significant changes in development may be understated.

Fwd3

We see here the developmental curves look a little more smooth with less fluctuation.

I want to emphasize the Jets 2013 draft, which I believe to be one of the better drafts in recent years in terms of process (results are still pending). Nic Petan (2nd round), Jimmy Lodge (3rd round), JC Lipon (3rd round), Andrew Copp (4th round), and Axel Blomqvist (UFA) provide a large amount of offensive production value relative to their draft position. Add an elite CHL goaltender in Eric Comrie and the defenders and you have a very well rounded draft that is also highon upside.

Def3

Brennan Serville probably should never had a third round pick used on him. Aaron Harstad -who has been disappointing himself- has outperformed Serville as two defenders from the same draft.

There is also Jacob Trouba, who is an amazing specimen of his. There is a good possibility that Trouba could become one of the best -if not the best- from his draft class.

Again I would like to further emphasize the 2013 draft class for the Jets. Josh Morrissey is quite the blue chip prospect, but again it is the depth that makes the draft. Jan Kostalek (4th round) is an underrated defender with more upside than any of the Jets non-first round defenders -with the possible exception of Jack Glover-. Tucker Poolman (5th round) is a very raw prospect but still has three more seasons available of NCAA development. The Jets took a wise flyer on an offensively gifted Brenden Kichton (7th round). There is also Marcus Karlstrom (not seen here as no NHLE's for any Swedish leagues other than the SHL) to add to the selections.

Prospects can be fun as they offer lots of excitement and hope. Of course, far more prospects fail to reach the show than those who have promise. Still, the Jets have been trending towards drafting high on upside, and that is both an exciting thing to see as a fan and an advisable decision to view as analyst.