Potential 2014 NHL Draft Picks: Statistical Comparables

So many choices, only one choice... - Derek Leung

One of the things that has been pretty much established in sabermetrics (baseball analytics) is that when dealing with young players and making projections and decisions, you need to use a combination of scouting and statistics. Using one on its own gives you an incomplete picture, and results in a team falling in love with a guy who could have some fatal flaw the other could pick up on (scouting example: beautiful swing, rarely makes contact. Stats example: Great strikeout and walk rates in minors, but cant hit 90 on fastball).

Hockey has an edge to baseball in this regard. Statistics for baseball draft picks are often quite worthless - high schoolers' #s are near impossible to compare and even college #s can be very different between conferences. By contrast, with nearly half (48% last year!) of drafted players coming from the CHL, we actually have pretty decent statistics on kids who are barely 18. So we should really be using that more than we have to analyze draft picks.

Rhys J, aka That's Offside, is a guy who's been doing that for a while. Today on twitter and on his blog, he took the points per game of the current top CHL prospects, including the guys likely to go into the top 5, and adjusted them for age and league, and then came up with the top 5 statistical comparable for each guy. I'm putting them all down below, they're pretty interesting. Please read Rhys' post as well:

The Big 4 + 1 (Not counting Ekblad, the 5th member of the expected top 5 as the only D Man):

Most draft projections have us linked to Dal Colle: He's generally the 5th ranked of the top 5 guys, and if no one goes off of this board, he's likely to be the one left for the Isles (it's possible someone will go off board for someone like Nylander, who has as much potential as one of these 5).

But note that statistically Dal Colle lags a bit behind the others - his comparables include one of only two outright busts of any of these guys in Zagrapan, with Grigorenko not being great so far either, although it's early (Gilbert Brule, a Draisaitl comp, is another bust). By contrast, Strome and Reinhart compare to a bunch of top 3 picks and stars (Ryan Strome's great CHL #s make him show up a lot in these comps).

Ehlers is the guy of interest who might be worth going off the board with. He's not really that far off the board obviously, he's an almost certain top 10 pick, but will probably be there at 5. Corey Pronman incidentally has him ahead of MDC and Draisaitl. The statistical comps are insane too. The reason he's probably lower is due to his size (hockeydb has him at 5'11"), but the skill is clear.

REGARDLESS, if you want to know why the Isles would be interested in trading this pick, like Staple suggests is possible, this is a good reason: The only of the top 4 forwards who statistically stand out are the two we've been talking about for a while, Bennett and Reinhart. And neither is likely there at 5. At that point, rather than drafting MDC, a trade for more established talent may look very appealing.

Again, obviously the above is very limited information. For Ehlers, for example, we're dealing with only one season of data. And you CANNOT forget the importance of scouting. But this stuff is important too - it does seem like, contrary to what people do say here and there, that there are a clear top 2 forwards in this draft in Reinhart and Bennett. It may be worth moving up after all.

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