FanPost

Expanded List: Analysis of WHL forwards going top-10 in NHL drafts 2003-2013 (Reinhart, Draisaitl, Virtanen Comparables)

Two of the top-selected WHLers had to go through Atlanta... - Jeff Gross

Let me first make clear that there is a vast difference in the general quality of a typical top WHL forward drafted since 2003, compared to OHL forwards. Here are the OHL forwards drafted top-5 since 2013:

1st overall: PKane, Tavares, Hall, Stamkos, Yakupov

2nd overall: Seguin, EStaal, BRyan, Landeskog, JStaal

3rd overall: Duchene, Horton, Galchenyuk

4th overall: Pouliot

5th overall: Strome

Compare that to the WHL since 2003:

1st overall: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

2nd overall: (None)

3rd overall: (None)

4th overall: Johansen, EKane, Ladd

5th overall: Niederreiter

That's right: thirteen top-3 picks from OHL forwards, and only one from WHL forwards. That said, Johansen, Evander Kane, and Ladd haven't disappointed at 4th overall, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has somewhat at 1st overall.

On to the charts! New, improved charts. Crispy.

Player Pre-draft Year Age start season Team Goals For NHL draft pos Points-per-game
SReinhart 2013-2014 17Y11M 235 2014 draft 1.75
Draisaitl 2013-2014 18Y0M 243 2014 draft 1.64
RNHopkins 2010-2011 17Y6M 268 1st overall 1.54
EKane 2008-2009 17Y2M 319 4th overall 1.46
Hamill 2006-2007 18Y1M 239 8th overall 1.30
Glennie 2008-2009 17Y8M 295 8th overall 1.27
Brule 2004-2005 17Y9M 212 6th overall 1.24
BConnolly** 2009-2010 17Y5M 173 6th overall 1.19
Mueller 2005-2006 17Y6M 203 8th overall 1.12
Ladd 2003-2004 17Y10M 220 4th overall 1.06
Virtanen 2013-2014 17Y2M 287 2014 draft 1.00
Johansen 2009-2010 17Y3M 266 4th overall 0.97
Setoguchi 2004-2005 17Y9M 234 8th overall 0.93
Niederreiter 2009-2010 17Y1M 266 5th overall 0.92

** BConnolly only played 16 games his pre-draft season, scoring 19 points. Due to this very small sample size, he is left off the rest of the charts.

With this first chart, we can already see that it is pretty much four players above the rest for their pre-draft season. Reinhart's PPG/age combination is clearly above that of Draisaitl. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is comparable to each because he is quite a bit younger. Evander Kane is even younger, but his team scored 50+ more goals than that of the other three.... According to the data from this chart, I'd say Reinhart is clearly ahead of the other three, who are all around the same.

After that, there is a group of players who were selected 6th-8th overall and largely haven't done much in the NHL. Using the data from this chart, perhaps order of impressiveness goes something like: Brule, Hamill, Glennie, Connolly, Mueller. (Note that Connolly's data is only from 16 games played, due to injury.)

The bottom group has actually had quite a bit more NHL success than the middle group. Both Ladd and Johansen (CLB now) went 4th overall and have had great success in the NHL (Johansen just breaking through this season), while Setoguchi went 8th overall and has been a useful NHLer, and Niederreiter was 5th overall and his NHL career is very much to-be-determined....

Yet none of these four put up points anywhere close to that of the top-4.

Comparing Draisaitl's 1.64 PPG with Setoguchi's or Ladd's PPG is like comparing a Tavares 80-pt season with a Callahan 50-pt season-- it really is silly to try to compare the two. In other words, the bottom group-- and even the middle group-- aren't really good comparables for Reinhart, Draisaitl, RNHopkins, and EKane. But I will leave everyone in for all the charts (except Connolly), because there haven't been many good pre-draft comparable seasons by WHL forwards the past 12 years, unlike the OHL.

Player Pre-draft Year Age start season Team Goals For NHL draft pos Points-per-game
Niederreiter 2009-2010 17Y1M 266 5th overall 0.92
EKane 2008-2009 17Y2M 319 4th overall 1.46
Virtanen 2013-2014 17Y2M 287 2014 draft 1.00
Johansen 2009-2010 17Y3M 266 4th overall 0.97
RNHopkins 2010-2011 17Y6M 268 1st overall 1.54
Mueller 2005-2006 17Y6M 203 8th overall 1.12
Glennie 2008-2009 17Y8M 295 8th overall 1.27
Brule 2004-2005 17Y9M 212 6th overall 1.24
Setoguchi 2004-2005 17Y9M 234 8th overall 0.93
Ladd 2003-2004 17Y10M 220 4th overall 1.06
SReinhart 2013-2014 17Y11M 235 2014 draft 1.75
Draisaitl 2013-2014 18Y0M 243 2014 draft 1.64
Hamill 2006-2007 18Y1M 239 8th overall 1.30

Here is the same data sorted by age. Out of the older players, there has only been one top-5 pick. But none of the older players have had near the points-per-game as Reinhart or Draisaitl. If nothing else, this chart helps to reinforce*** the lack of comparables. Reinhart and Draisaitl scored too much.

***Keep "ReinForce" in the memory bank, incase Isles can figure out how to collect all three: Griffin, Sam, and Max.

Player Pre-draft Year Age start season Team Goals For NHL draft pos Points-per-game
EKane 2008-2009 17Y2M 319 4th overall 1.46
Glennie 2008-2009 17Y8M 295 8th overall 1.27
Virtanen 2013-2014 17Y2M 287 2014 draft 1.00
RNHopkins 2010-2011 17Y6M 268 1st overall 1.54
Niederreiter 2009-2010 17Y1M 266 5th overall 0.92
Johansen 2009-2010 17Y3M 266 4th overall 0.97
Draisaitl 2013-2014 18Y0M 243 2014 draft 1.64
Hamill 2006-2007 18Y1M 239 8th overall 1.30
SReinhart 2013-2014 17Y11M 235 2014 draft 1.75
Setoguchi 2004-2005 17Y9M 234 8th overall 0.93
Ladd 2003-2004 17Y10M 220 4th overall 1.06
Brule 2004-2005 17Y9M 212 6th overall 1.24
Mueller 2005-2006 17Y6M 203 8th overall 1.12

Same data, this time sorted by team-goals-scored. As we see, Draisaitl's and Reinhart's teams scored about an average number of goals despite their incredible production, while Virtanen's team scored quite a few more goals.

Player Pre-draft Year Age Top-5 points % NHL draft pos PPG Breakthrough NHL
Draisaitl 2013-2014 18Y0M 29.70% 2014 draft 1.64 TBD
SReinhart 2013-2014 17Y11M 28.40% 2014 draft 1.75 TBD
Brule 2004-2005 17Y9M 28.20% 6th overall 1.24 Bust
RNHopkins 2010-2011 17Y6M 27.00% 1st overall 1.54 1st season 52 pts in 62
Hamill 2006-2007 18Y1M 23.60% 8th overall 1.30 Bust
EKane 2008-2009 17Y2M 23.00% 4th overall 1.46 2nd season 43 pts in 73
Ladd 2003-2004 17Y10M 22.70% 4th overall 1.06 5th season 49 pts in 82
Glennie 2008-2009 17Y8M 21.10% 8th overall 1.27 Bust
Mueller 2005-2006 17Y6M 21.10% 8th overall 1.12 2nd season 54 pts in 81
Virtanen 2013-2014 17Y2M 20.00% 2014 draft 1.00 TBD
Johansen 2009-2010 17Y3M 19.70% 4th overall 0.97 4th season 63 pts in 82
Setoguchi 2004-2005 17Y9M 19.30% 8th overall 0.93 4th season 65 pts in 81
Niederreiter 2009-2010 17Y1M 18.70% 5th overall 0.92 TBD

Out of the top five scorers on his team, Draisaitl had 29.7% of the points, according to the individuals' points-per-game. This chart is another indication that Evander Kane had more help scoring than the other three top prospects. That is not necessarily a big red flag, though. Johansen scored less than 20%, but he had a heck of a 2013-14 NHL season. He had a good enough pre-draft season to be selected in the 2010 draft before Connolly and Skinner (OHL), who each showed more offensive promise their pre-draft seasons-- especially the much smaller Skinner.... But this chart does suggest that Draisaitl and Reinhart faced the toughest shutdown opponents night after night, without a ton of offense help from their line mates. That is worth something, especially for Draisaitl, who wasn't as highly regarded as Reinhart coming into the 2013-14 season.

Also note that RNHopkins is the only player to put up considerable NHL points his immediate post-draft season. (But he's also the only one to have close to the points-per-game pace as Reinhart and Draisaitl.) Kane was able to produce in the NHL in his 2nd post-draft season. So the only two real comparables transitioned rather quickly to the NHL from the WHL.

Player Pre-draft Year Age WHL goals stretched NHL goals stretched Breakthrough NHL
EKane 2008-2009 17Y2M 65 33 2nd season 43 pts in 73
Virtanen 2013-2014 17Y2M 52 N/A TBD
Draisaitl 2013-2014 18Y0M 49 N/A TBD
SReinhart 2013-2014 17Y11M 49 N/A TBD
Brule 2004-2005 17Y9M 46 21 Bust
Niederreiter 2009-2010 17Y1M 45 N/A TBD
Glennie 2008-2009 17Y8M 42 Bust Bust
Mueller 2005-2006 17Y6M 41 15 2nd season 54 pts in 81
Setoguchi 2004-2005 17Y9M 39 31 4th season 65 pts in 81
Hamill 2006-2007 18Y1M 38 Bust Bust
RNHopkins 2010-2011 17Y6M 37 24 1st season 52 pts in 62
Ladd 2003-2004 17Y10M 35 29 5th season 49 pts in 82
Johansen 2009-2010 17Y3M 29 33 4th season 63 pts in 82

Here is each forward's WHL pre-draft season's goals-per-game, stretched to 82 games so that we can compare it with his best NHL season thus far (also stretched to 82 games). Evander Kane blew everyone else away, but do remember that he had more offensive support than all the others.... Virtanen also had more team-support scoring his goals than Draisaitl or Reinhart.

If anything, there is an inverse-correlation between goals scored in the WHL and goals scored at the NHL level. Kane scored more than 2x the pace of Johansen their pre-draft WHL seasons, yet, they scored equally their best NHL seasons, thus far. Ladd, Nugent-Hopkins, and Setoguchi (cough-Thornton) each had good seasons scoring goals in the NHL after scoring at less than a 40-goal pace their pre-draft seasons.

One thing to note is that none of these forwards seem to have successfully transformed his game to more of a grinding role after struggling not to score in the NHL, enabling him to stick as a bottom-6 forward. Setoguchi is probably the closest to this description. And Niederreiter could possibly end up fitting that. But for Brule, Glennie, Mueller, and Hamill, their games didn't quite translate to the NHL. And perhaps Hamill and Brule simply don't have the physical ability to play in a more defensive role.... Of course, this probably won't affect Reinhart or Draisaitl. Each promises to put up at least good 2nd line point-totals in the NHL.

Player Pre-draft Year Age Top-5 points % NHL draft pos PPG Breakthrough NHL
6'3"
Ladd 2003-2004 17Y10M 22.70% 4th overall 1.06 5th season 49 pts in 82
Johansen 2009-2010 17Y3M 19.70% 4th overall 0.97 4th season 63 pts in 82
6'2"
EKane 2008-2009 17Y2M 23.00% 4th overall 1.46 2nd season 43 pts in 73
Mueller 2005-2006 17Y6M 21.10% 8th overall 1.12 2nd season 54 pts in 81
Niederreiter 2009-2010 17Y1M 18.70% 5th overall 0.92 TBD
6'1"
SReinhart 2013-2014 17Y11M 28.40% 2014 draft 1.75 TBD
Draisaitl 2013-2014 18Y0M 29.70% 2014 draft 1.64 TBD
Glennie 2008-2009 17Y8M 21.10% 8th overall 1.27 Bust
Virtanen 2013-2014 17Y2M 20.00% 2014 draft 1.00 TBD
6'0"
RNHopkins 2010-2011 17Y6M 27.00% 1st overall 1.54 1st season 52 pts in 62
Setoguchi 2004-2005 17Y9M 19.30% 8th overall 0.93 4th season 65 pts in 81
5'11"
Hamill 2006-2007 18Y1M 23.60% 8th overall 1.30 Bust
Brule 2004-2005 17Y9M 28.20% 6th overall 1.24 Bust

Ah, and now we come to the height chart. Does this one show anything? It is interesting to compare this one along with the OHL chart at the bottom of this FanPost. For instance, all the players taller than 6'2" (who have been drafted top-10 the past 12 years) have been selected higher than their points-per-game would suggest drafting them, and all of them have done very well at the NHL level: Ladd, Johansen, EStaal, Carter, and JStaal.... Yet Jordan Staal is the only one of the five to have his breakout season within two years of being drafted: 42 pts his immediate post-draft season.

And how about the shortest forwards? The shortest forwards selected top-10 the past 12 years are/were 5'11": Hamill, Brule, Yakupov, Duchene, Skinner. Each of these five either had a very good immediate post-draft NHL season-- as the OHLers did-- or they busted-- as the WHLers did. And Yakupov may pull off both! I guess if a forward is a little under-sized, he better be playing near an NHL-level already to use a top-10 pick on him.

Meanwhile, the sweet-spot for high-scoring forwards in the NHL seems to be around 6'1" right now. There are scorers of all different heights, but forwards around 6'1" (or 6'0" with abnormally strong legs-- the shorter the player, the stronger the legs have to be-- Crosby 5'11" needs very strong legs, St Louis 5'8" needs freakish legs) are often the most dynamic, able to use a combination of power and finesse to score. (Seguin, Stamkos, Tavares, Kessel, Hall, Sharp.)... At 6'1", Reinhart, Draisaitl, and Virtanen are a good height to succeed as scorers in the NHL.

Also a big thing to consider: Virtanen (210 lbs) and Draisaitl (209 lbs) are already NHL-weight. Compare with some of larger Isles forwards listed on NYI website right now: Lee (225), Martin (206), McDonald (214), Okposo (216), Nelson (196).

<em>Submitted FanPosts do not necessarily reflect the views of this blog or SB Nation. If you're reading this statement, you pass the fine print legalese test. Four stars for you.</em>

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