The first thing we need to know about Sam Gagner moving forward is that he played last season for the London Knights.
London is famous for riding their top players for extreme minutes every night so their numbers need to be deflated even more than usual in order to get a general idea about what we can expect.
Desjardins’ NHLE deflates offense at a pretty aggressive clip from junior to the AHL and NHL, but as we found out with Rob Schremp there may be a need for a “London Rule” in regard to projections.
Let’s do that. Rob Schremp’s final season of junior: 57gp, 57-88-145 (2.54ppg). Desjardins tells us to nick that total (.45) which brings us to 65/57gp. Although the Desjardins rule is that we can’t project one season onto another (the NHLE is designed to tell you what that player might do in a higher league with identical circumstances otherwise in said season), the ppg from 65/57gp is 1.14 which is certainly well clear of his actual AHL season (.768ppg).
So, what can we do to make sure that expectations of Sam Gagner are tempered? The actual percentage of offense Schremp took to the AHL was 30% (a fair drive from 45%). Remember now, we’re not adjusting Desjardins completely, just trying to get a line in the sand for a kid playing in the equivalent of an extreme hitter’s park (like John Ducey, for instance). Desjardins’ numbers are the best I’ve seen at estimating future offense, so tinkering with them is a pretty dangerous thing and all results should be flagged.
That said, let’s assume that Sam Gagner would take 30% of his offense from junior to the AHL. His 06-07 numbers in the OHL: 53gp, 35-83-118 (2.23). This compares favorably with Schremp’s 17-year old OHL season, and using the new 30% number we come up with a ppg of .66 at the AHL level for Gagner. So, if he were to have played in the AHL last season, we might have expected 53gp, 10-25-35 (.66). If we then use Desjardins AHL-to-NHL conversion we come up with an NHLE of 82gp, 8-19-27 (.329). It’s still an impressive number, and probably much closer to reality than straight Desjardins (which would be 82gp, 16-39-55, .671).
The NHL rookies last season who scored at a .329 or better clip included Malkin (1.09), Paul Stastny (.951), Anze Kopitar (.847), Drew Stafford (.659), Wojtek Wolski (.658), Joe Pavelski (.608), Alexander Radulov (.578), Dustin Penner (.549), Travis Zajac (.525), Jordan Staal (.519), Ryan Clowe (.586), Phil Kessell (.414), Gilbert Latendresse (.363).
The closest major league equivalent to Gagner’s NHLE ppg at 17 years old (that I could find quickly and with little effort) was Jiri Hudler (76gp, 15-10-25, .329). Hudler played most often with Lang and Filppula last season and he played the softest minutes among DET forwards (again, from Behindthenet.ca).
Jiri Hudler was 22 years old in the 06-07 season, Gagner’s comp comes from his 17-year old season in the OHL. He is clearly a better prospect that Hudler, but that isn’t really the issue right now.
The issue is this: is it reasonable to suggest (based on his OHL season, and the deflating of his numbers described in this post) that Sam Gagner could put up similar numbers to the ones Jiri Hudler did this past season (given similar circumstances)?
The fact that we can nick him Desjardins + 15% and he can still be compared to a player 5 years his senior who has played an NHL season (and is regarded as a fine prospect) is probably a reflection of the quality we’re talking about in Sam Gagner.