A Rational Prospect Ranking System

This is the latest photo I could find of Dragan Umicevic. I think maybe he should join a rock band, he has kind of a “Boomtown Rats” Bob Geldof look going on.

Umicevic has signed in the RSL, will play for one of the Moscow teams (CKSA. Do the Dynamo exist anymore?) after 174 games in the SEL (174gp, 28-47-75). He’s 6-1, 196 and I think he might be a player but who knows and the Oilers had other options so he’s down the line now.

His scouting report was always nice: A technically skilled forward. Umicevic is very flashy and entertaining from a spectator’s point of view. He likes to challenge his opponents and stickhandles smoothly through traffic. Is, however, inconsistent and lacks intensity and endurance. He is not much of a goalscorer either, but a skilled playmaker. His defensive work needs improvement. Still, Umicevic’s upside is huge.

I quote this (from elite prospects) because it’s kind of a fan’s scouting report. You read that and think there’s hope, but each season the player puts up similar numbers in the same league and after awhile a new bunch comes along and then one day you find out your NHL team didn’t sign him before the deadline. And for a few days you might think “dammit, now ANYONE can get him” which is kind of funny and sad at the same time.

If anyone had really wanted Dragan Umicevic, wouldn’t they have called up and offered a 7th rd pick? Yeah, probably.

If you’re reading this then you’re probably at least partly a prospect fan, or an Oilers fan. Or both. What I’m about to embark on is really boring (even for this blog) so if the beer is calling (or the meatloaf, my wife is making meatloaf. I think she wants it to be fall) then you are excused.

What do really good prospects do? They progress really quickly. I know it’s obvious but sometimes we (I) overlook that simple fact on the way to fooling ourselves into thinking Dragan Umicevic is something other than a mid-level talent who may or may not make an impact down the line. In late May I wrote about him “Over the past three seasons, his point-per-game total in the SEL (.40, .51, .55) has shown a steady climb, and the 22-year old would have to be considered among the better skill prospects at LW in the Oilers organization.”

Clearly not skilled enough. Someone on HF mentioned that the Oilers are close to the 50 man cap on pro signings, but there’s always some guy who can be bumped off that list if you really want the guy. Umicevic was improving, but not enough to get a contract from the Oilers.

Umicevic, like many prospects in any organization, was running in place during the key development years and at 22 is at that age where an NHL team has to decide if he’s worth signing. In fact, most North American kids sign at 20 and then the team must make a decision on them by 23 (after their entry level, 3 year deal coming out of junior).

I’ve been down this road before but would like to try again. I’d like to think we can create a rational prospect ranking system that can give you an idea about a player’s progress from year to year (say from age 17-23). As with “comps”, which I do from time to time as an indicator, it would seem to me that we could recognize quickly players who “stall” or “come quickly” among the group of players in the Oilers prospect pipeline.

HF does a variation of it, but imo they try too hard to project the player forward instead of looking at what he has done and then looking for similar progression among similar player types from the past.

Let me give you a list of player levels:

  1. Player of unknown quality (Mark Pysyk)
  2. Entry level junior/college player(Lyon Messier)
  3. Fringe level junior/college/2nd div Euro player (Mike Cann)
  4. Regular in junior/college/2nd div Euro player (Brett Sutter)
  5. Quality junior/college/2nd div Euro player (Brandon Sutter)
  6. Impact junior/college/2nd div Euro player (Sam Gagner)
  7. Minor League/Elite Euro league Depth Player (Jeff Deslauriers)
  8. Minor League/Elite Euro league Regular (Rob Schremp)
  9. Quality Minor/Elite Euro league Player (Kyle Brodziak)
  10. NHL Fringe Player (Jean Francois Jacques)
  11. NHL Role Player (Marc Pouliot)
  12. NHL Regular (Ethan Moreau)
  13. Above Average NHL Player (Ales Hemsky)
  14. Impact NHL Player (Iginla)

We can quibble over the numbers and the description (I have no idea how an SEL player compares to an AHL player) but it’s a start. What would Ales Hemsky look like using this graph age 17-23: 6, 6, 11, 12, 12, 13, 13. Is that fair? So at age 19 Ales Hemsky was at 11. That’s going to be the best progression on this list by a little bit.

Hemsky

  • 17-6 (impact junior)
  • 18-6 (impact junior)
  • 19-11 (NHL role player)
  • 20-12 (NHL regular)
  • 21-12 (NHL regular)
  • 22-13 (Above average NHL player)
  • 23-13 (Above average NHL player)

Compare that to Jarret Stoll

  • 17-5 (Quality junior)
  • 18-6 (Impact junior)
  • 19-6 (Impact junior)
  • 20-8 (Minor League Regular)
  • 21-12 (NHL regular)
  • 22-12 (NHL regular)
  • 23-12 (NHL regular)

and Marc Pouliot

  • 17-5 (Quality junior)
  • 18-5 (Quality junior)
  • 19-6 (Impact junior)
  • 20-8 (Minor League Regular)
  • 21-11 (NHL Role Player)

and Rob Schremp

  • 17-5 (Quality junior)
  • 18-6 (Impact junior)
  • 19-6 (Impact junior)
  • 20-8 (Minor League regular)

finally, Andrew Cogliano

  • 17-5 (Quality junior)
  • 18-5 (Quality college player)
  • 19-6 (Impact college player)

From the list, each of Stoll, Pouliot and Schremp arrived in the pro’s at 20 and played well but did not shoot lights out. Stoll became an NHL regular at 21, Pouliot a role player the same year and we’re waiting to see what Schremp does.

Sam Gagner matches Hemsky at 17 (impact junior). His draft pedigree is even a little better than Hemsky’s because NHL scouts don’t usually miss when they get a pick in the top 6 (Gagner made a stunning pass a minute ago to Turris so I’m feeling brave about him).

What have we identified? The prospects who have progressed really quickly. We’re not worried about trying to figure out if a kid is going to be a third liner of a first liner (although the players I’ve chosen are somewhat similar in position and quality).

We don’t imply a third liner cannot possibly have a value greater than a 1st liner, we don’t care. We don’t imply we “saw him good”, we concern ourselves only with what they’ve accomplished and what good players have accomplished in the past at the same age. We’re dealing with prospects across leagues and ages and putting them on a line based on their established level of ability.

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9 Responses to "A Rational Prospect Ranking System"

  1. uni says:

    Waaaay off topic, but it’s official, the gods of hockey hate the Oilers:

    http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/news_story/?ID=217604&hubname=nhl

  2. PDO says:

    LT:

    I should hijack your threads on here more often so I get posts of what I want you to talk about ;).

    I think this is definitely one of the best systems. I think it would need to be a bit more refined and the levels would use some tinkering… but it’s a very nice system.

    Bill James started it, didn’t he?

  3. Lowetide says:

    PDO: This post was completely your fault lol. I’ve been mulling it over for years to be honest, but it just makes so much sense.

    uni: You are kidding me. Oh my gentle lord.

  4. Mr DeBakey says:

    Call for Mr Johnsonnnn
    Call for Mr Mike Johhhnson
    Please pick up the Copper & Blue phone

    Jesus H Christ

    On another topic
    That rating system looks good

  5. Art Vandelay says:

    I’m pretty sure that guy asked me for spare change downtown today.

  6. zeus says:

    So basically what you’re trying to do is find comparables based on how well they’ve performed in the minor leagues. This is in order to make projections, right?

    There are really only four categories that are consistently known by us fans who have only seen the prospects a few times: type of player, goals, assists, and level of competition (ie ahl, college…). There are a few others such as strength of team/linemates that are somewhat less important. So basically your system would base everything on level of competition and points, ignoring the “type of player” type thing that hf uses to project players? (thus making one Ryan Smyth goal equal to one Sidney Crosby goal) That sounds rational. The one possible flaw would be whether different types of players face different hardships in changing their game to the NHL level. Is one reason that rob schremp’s dejardins’ numbers OHL -> AHL were so far off because of the type of player he was?

  7. Lowetide says:

    zeus: Not really. Crosby would have been a 13 or 14 at age 18, and that alone makes him unique.

  8. LittleFury says:

    I think maybe he should join a rock band, he has kind of a “Boomtown Rats” Bob Geldof look going on.

    Geez LT: way to date yourself. A better, more contemporary reference would be to ex-Libertine Pete Doherty

  9. IceDragoon says:

    I really like this, Lain… especially if you are going to pull it out around this time every year. :-D

    Might ding a few late bloomers/big boys a bit, but if they have any ‘quality/above average/impact’ in them, they’d show something in this 7 year span, I think.

    Good stuff.
    :-D
    thanx

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