A few months ago, I used Gabe Desjardins' NHL equivalency values to project how some of the Hurricanes prospects might perform at the NHL level. The general idea behind equivalency values is that it is more difficult to play in one league than it is another and the NHL is top league in the world. Therefore, it is harder to score in the NHL than it is in the AHL, Swedish Elite League, the CHL or any other league in the world and the difficulty of each league is represented by a translation rate. For instance, a player in the AHL is expected to keep 44% of his scoring in the NHL during the same year, so a point-per-game player in the AHL is equivalent to a 35-40 point producer in the AHL according to Desjardins' translations. It might seem like a crude method but these translations have been very accurate in past history.
However, an issue that arises with these translations is that they are all based on goals and points, which aren't the most accurate ways to judge a player. Why? Because both stats are largely driven by luck and can be misleading in some cases. A forward in the AHL may have a year where he has a ridiculous shooting percentage or played with very strong teammates and could be projected to be something higher than what his true talent level might be. The opposite can also happen where a player may go through a scoring drought for a number of reasons and look worse than he actually is.
We talk about this all the time with NHL players and explain how luck plays a big role in the performance of certain players, but it isn't talked about often in other leagues. A big reason is that there is a limited amount of information available in other leagues compared to the NHL. In the NHL, we can breakdown shot and zone start data to show how a player might be creating a lot of offense but falling on some bad luck (see Eric Staal from October to December) and be able to determine that he has more value than what his goal and point total indicates. Unfortunately, we can't do in-depth analysis like this for other leagues because of the limited amount of information available but there is a way to look beyond goals and points to project the performance of AHL players.
Things like Corsi and Scoring Chances may not be available to the public in the AHL, but basic shot on goal data is and that can be somewhat useful for determining what players are creating the most offense. Much like goals and points, AHL players are expected to keep a certain amount of the shots they create when they jump to the next level, so a player who is able to get more shots on goal can be expected to have a decent amount of success in the NHL, even if it is only as a third line/energy player. Stephen Cooper of Habs Eye on the Prize recognized this and used Desjardins' translations to see what percentage of shots a player in the AHL is expected to keep when being promoted to the NHL.
Cooper determined that a player in the AHL is expected to keep 56% of his shots when going from the AHL to the NHL and listed the top players in the AHL by this metrics in his post. One of the players on the list was Carolina's highly regarded prospect Zac Dalpe, which is good news for him even if he didn't light it up for the Checkers this season. Seeing that got me thinking, who are some other players in Charlotte that could be better than their boxcar numbers are predicting. Chris Terry had the highest NHL equivalency point total with 29 but could there be some players that we might be underrated due to a bad year? We will take a look at that after the jump.
|Player||GP||G||A||Pts||SOG||Sh%||NHLE||ShotE||NHL E Shots/82|
It looks like the Hurricanes had the right idea in mind by hanging onto Jerome Samson. He is 24 and a bit older than some of the other players here but he has gotten the job done in the AHL when it comes to goal scoring and getting shots on net. He has shown to be a great top-six option there and it's one of the reasons why the Hurricanes have called him up multiple times in the last few years. He hasn't been able to turn this production into success at the NHL level but he has shown promising signs during his time with the Hurricanes. In his last 39 games in the NHL, Samson has been a very good player at controlling possession at even strength and driving the play forward. Albeit, this is a small sample size but he was given top-line minutes during his most recent call-up stint and wasn't bad when playing in that situation. I've had my doubts about Samson being able to turn into a top-six winger in the NHL but the numbers give me more hope than I had previously. I think he could be a dark horse to possibly make the team out of camp this fall because Carolina might have some use for a player like him even if he can't fit in the top-six.
Training camp should feature a couple good position battles and the most intriguing one is going to be between Jeremy Welsh, Zac Dalpe and Drayson Bowman for likely two third line spots. You can probably add Samson into that mix, as well. Three of these four players were very good at getting shots on net while they were in Charlotte and both Dalpe & Bowman were producing at about the same rate. Bowman may have the inside edge here because he has the most experience playing with teh Hurricanes and has been solid in a third line role there. I said that he should be a lock to make the team out of camp in this coming season but with so few roster spots available, he could end up being an odd-man out when all is said and done. Both he and Dalpe had similar shooting rates in Charlotte last year, which is pretty interesting because the latter hasn't been able to stay in the NHL for more than a few games. Bowman's defensive game and ability to drive the play is likely what has kept him in the NHL for a longer duration.
As for Charlotte's leading point-producer, Chris Terry, his success isn't unsustainable but he wasn't exactly the team's most effective player when it came to getting shots on net either. Most of his points came from assists so we can assume that he is either a great play-maker or his teammates were shooting bullets every time he was on the ice. Someone who is able to watch the Checkers on a more regular basis might be able to answer that. I have always wondered why Terry hasn't been able to make the jump to the NHL and his size is usually the first thing that is pointed to. He isn't exactly tearing up competition in the AHL either despite being one of the Checkers top players so maybe there is something keeping him back. I'm interested in what next year brings for him, though.
A player who was riding a good luck streak in Charlotte is Zach Boychuk, who had a very high shooting percentage of 12.7% despite not having that impressive of a shot rate compared to some other players here. He was still one of the team's better players in both categories but not as impressive at getting shots on net as the likes of Samson, Dalpe and Bowman. The 21 goals are going to keep him in consideration for a roster spot, though and he has been able to drive the play forward in the NHL, so maybe he can take advantage of this opportunity. The numbers surrounding him aren't nearly as impressive as they used to be, though and he's probably going to be kept on an even shorter leash, as bad as that sounds.
Another interesting observation here is that the Checkers traded a player with a very high shooting percentage in Jon Matsumoto for Evgenii Dadonov, a player with a low shooting percentage. Even though Dadonov is leaving for the KHL, I do like this move in retrospect. Matsumoto is a good performer at the AHL level but you can see here that he doesn't project to be anything great at the NHL while Dadonov presented a lot of potential and was worth taking a shot on. Both players had a similar shot rate but Dadonov had fewer bounces going his way and somewhat of a higher upside, which made this a potentially good trade for the Canes. It ended up being a wash for both teams in the end, but I do like the idea behind the deal.
Bobby Sanguinetti is another player who many think will have a chance at earning a roster spot out of camp this coming season and he was certainly good enough in Charlotte last year to earn a promotion. I'm not sure if he'll make the team because of the potential logjam the Hurricanes could have on the blue line to start next year but he should be in consideration. Defensemen's shot rates are much different than forwards, so it's unfair to compare him to the rest of the pack here, but the fact that he is projected to have 96 shots in a full NHL season is interesting. That is more than Gleason and Allen had last season but much less than what Faulk or McBain had. It makes me wonder how effective he would be as an offensive defenseman even if his point-production is impressive. Although, this could change depending on what kind of ice time he gets in the future.
Again, this isn't meant to serve as a prediction for what a player will do at the NHL level but it does provide some more context for a player's AHL performance and give us a better idea of what his ceiling could be. Remember, goals and points are important but they aren't the best tools for predicting future success. This applies to more than just the NHL and AHL.