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FlightZone: Cheer for Sami Niku, Michael Spacek and Pavel Kraskovsky

Despite U.S.A. Hockey's best efforts, there may still be reason for Jets fans to watch the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Winnipeg Jets fans, take heart. Whilst yesterday's snub of Kyle Connor and Jack Roslovic came as a mild shock, not every Jets prospect has been left by the wayside. In Sami NikuMichael Spacek and Pavel Kraskovsky, three of the organization's lesser known prospects will have a chance to shine for their respective national junior squads.

Selected 108th overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Michael Spacek was among 34 players invited to the Czech Republic selection camp. The skilled and versatile playmaker, who ranked 20th in our Top 25 Under 25 series, is in the midst of a stellar beginning to his North American hockey career with the Red Deer Rebels. Playing pivot to undrafted and undersized Russian sensation Ivan Nikolishin, Spacek has 30 points in 29 games, good for 2nd on the team (behind the aforementioned Nikolishin) and 4th in WHL rookie scoring. He'll be gunning for his second go around on the Czech WJC U20 squad, having had 1 assist in 5 games at last year's tournament.

Sami Niku too will be looking to make his second appearance at the WJC, and he'll undoubtedly hope for more than the 0 points in 5 games he posted last year.

An absolute steal at 198th overall in the 2015 draft, Niku is again playing against men in the Finnish Liiga. While his 3 points in 21 games may seem underwhelming, it actually ranks 2nd among U20 defencemen in the league, and the player above him in Niko Mikkola has but 4 points in 29 games. Few things can depress a young prospect's point totals like playing in a top-flight European professional men's league, and the fact he's there at all is the real takeaway. Niku, who may be our best LHD hope behind only Josh Morrissey, ranked 25th in our Top 25 Under 25 series.

Last on our list of World Junior hopefuls is the 6'4" giant of a 19-year-old, Pavel Kraskovsky. While he was already an extremely likely candidate, confirmation of his inclusion came just recently from Corey Pronman:

Google Translate tells me there's a "Paul Kraskovsky" from Lokomotiv, and considering how there's only one Kraskovsky on the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl roster, I'm going to guess that Paul is in fact our very own Pavel. An Honourable Mention for two years running, Kraskovsky is one of the more intriguing and under the radar prospects in the system.

So never fear, hope remains that we shall have Jets-related reasons to watch the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. Having said that, let's end off with some final retching over yesterday's omissions:

And my personal favourite:

And now the news.

Pavelec is Better than Hutchinson

Now that I have your attention, allow me to explain. Over the summer, Nick Mercadante (@NMercad) wrote an article entitled "Goalies are Voodoo...But Improving Comparative Analysis Tools Can Help", in which he introduced 5v5 adjGSAA/60.

Time for a quotation or three. Goals Saved Above Average, or GSAA, is a stat whereby you "take the league average sv% and apply it to the total shots faced by the particular goaltender. Out of that, you get a number of goals that the average goaltender would have given up had he faced the same number of shots as the goaltender in question". This results in a goaltending plus/minus, one relative to what might be expected of a league average netminder.

I encourage folks to take a look at the article and read the full explanation, but long story short, 5v5 adjGSAA/60 is an attempt to address the shortcomings of basic GSAA. It does this by removing special teams, weighting SV% by danger zone and adjusting everything to a per 60 minute rate.

While the conversation started thanks to Mike Smith, my attention was soon drawn towards a rather curious observation: Ondrej Pavelec being on the positive side of the ledger, far and away above Michael Hutchinson, who was languishing at the bottom.

While the image on the left is the nice and clean final statistic, the one on the right presents the data which goes into that end point. There, we see a Pavelec whose 5v5 save percentages are better across the board, regardless of low, medium or high danger zone. I found the difference between Pav and Hutch in the high danger zone to be particularly striking: 84.09 vs. 79.49.

While Pavelec's high danger zone GSAA is still below average, at roughly -0.3637, it is much preferable to Hutch's -3.9133. The end result is a Pavelec whose +0.181 5v5 adjGSAA/60 is rubbing shoulders with Devan Dubnyk, versus a -0.739 Hutchinson who is enjoying the company of Karri Ramo and Semyon Varlamov. It's also worth noting that according to this metric, Pavelec had the superior numbers in 2014-15 as well.

Now before we go and put Pav on a pedestal, I would be remiss if I didn't also embed this bit of fun from Mr. Mercadante. The sample size needed to be heavily reduced in order to facilitate his inclusion, but we can summarize the results as such: the Hellebuyck hath cometh.

I think any attempt to bring greater understanding to statistical analysis of goaltenders is laudable, and personally can't wait until this stat is available for folks to poke at. And on that note:

To wrap things up, I will make an admission, one I find humorous in light of the methodical spreadsheet action above: that the Pavelec / Hutchinson comparison as illustrated does jive with my 2015-16 eye-test. What about you folks? Do you think there could ever be any truth to a stat which places Pavelec above Hutchinson? Should we simply ride Hellebuyck all the way to the 2016 Stanley Cup? Chime in your two cents below...after perusing the links, of course.

Central Division

St. Louis Blues prospect Jake Walman, who had been named to Team Canada's selection camp roster, has unfortunately been ruled out of consideration due to injury. In the meantime, between WalmanJordan SchmaltzVince Dunn and Dmitri Sergeyev (not to mention NHL rookie sensation Colton Parayko), the future of St. Louis' d-corps could be very bright indeed. (TSN)

Pumping up Blues' prospect pool may be just the kind of positive talk they need at the moment, as our friends at St. Louis Game Time have published not one but two articles lamenting both their play and their record. As a Jets fan, "Blues are known for their puck possession and if things keep heading in a similar direction, the Blues will be on the wrong side of corsi by the end of the month" may be the most delightful thing I've read today. (Former and Latter)

From object of ridicule and scorn to nice guy you want to have a beer with, the rehabilitation of NHL referee Tim Peel continues. In this case, it's not sending James Neal off for diving/embellishment which puts Peel on the positive side of the ledger. It's the succinct, swear word-laden chewing out he gives while making the call. I won't embed the video because it's NSFW (won't somebody please think of the children and all that), so click the link and have yourself a listen. But beware: you may find yourself falling in love with Tim Peel. (The Hockey News)

Top-flight NCAA prospect and pending UFA Jimmy Vesey says that he still has a great relationship with the Nashville Predators, which of course means it's only a matter of time until he signs with Toronto. (ProHockeyTalk)

Here's some food for thought, Jets fans. If you're pining for Winnipeg to address the situations of their pending UFAs, it's a rather encouraging tweet:

If you haven't yet listened to Episode 12 of the AIH 20416 Podcast, you really should. What can I say, shameless plugs are shameless:

And All The Rest

Thanks to Lada Togliatti and CSKA Moskva's inability to reach an agreement, undrafted and undersized Russian phenom (that sounds familiar) Egor Babenko is currently plying his trade with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Remember how I mentioned Michael Spacek was 4th in WHL rookie scoring? Babenko is 1st. (The Hockey Writers)

Daniel Nugent-Bowman of Yahoo! Sports had a fantastic interview with New York Islanders lightning rod of a prospect, Josh Ho-Sang. On being constantly asked about being rather unceremoniously cut from training camp: "I’m not playing in the NHL. I don’t need you to tell me I’m not playing in the NHL. I know. If you want to bring that stuff up next year when I’m in New York at training camp (you can say), ‘Don’t be an idiot.’" (Buzzing the Net)

Dustin Tokarski is back with the Montreal Canadiens, and is by all accounts being both a consummate teammate and professional about everything that's happened this season. I'm just wondering about when it was I blinked and he turned 26. #NeverForget (Montreal Gazette)

With both reputation and underwhelming point production working against him, Alexander Semin has cleared waivers and subsequently been reassigned to the St. John's IceCaps. (Eyes on the Prize)

There's no moaning and groaning coming from Viktor Tikhonov after being claimed off waivers by his old NHL club, the Arizona Coyotes. As he put it, "Long term, I want to stay in the (NHL), and if it's with Arizona that's even better". (The Score)

Regina Pats defenceman and New York Rangers prospect Sergey Zborovskiy is excited to compete for a spot on Russia's WJC blueline. With the evaluation camp held in Moscow, it also doubles as a chance for the far-flung 18-year-old to spend time with his family. (Regina Leader-Post)

Darren Dreger tweeted out a high end projection for next year's cap ceiling, which Rick Ralph subsequently translated for Canadians. I wonder if this has anything to do with Winnipeg ranking 30th in total cap hit and 28th in total salaries:

With shutouts in both his games played, sending Jonathan Bernier on an AHL conditioning stint to help find his groove is looking like a pretty smart move. I'll withhold the "Michael Hutchinson AHL conditioning stint" suggestion considering his relatively strong start against Chicago Sunday. (The Hockey News)

And finally, here is the #TeddyBearToss video you need in your life:


Phew, that was a long one. Thanks for reading!