Sunday Minor League Report

History tells us the home run hitters skip Triple-A. From the current Oilers forward group, Ales Hemsky, Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner never played a game in the minors, Shawn Horcoff very few, Raffi 60 before playing an entire NHL season.

The AHL is the home of the role players, the plumbers, and on rare occasions top end skill players who need development time.

Among the group of players classified as “AHL rookies” this season, only Liam Reddox among the top 20 scorers has been called up. He isn’t the most qualified (an LA Kings’ prospect named Teddy Purcell is 22, 6-3 and has 25 points in 15 AHL games after signing out of Maine-NCAA), and he isn’t likely to play much (if at all).

Among Oilers prospects who are rookies, Colin McDonald is tied for 17th (15gp, 2-7-9) in the AHL. I’ve followed his career closely since draft day and the best comp I’ve had for him up to this season was Brad Winchester (with Pisani well clear at every level).

Here are Winchester, Pisani and McDonald on a line and at the same age:

Age 19

Pisani 35gp, 12-18-30 (.857ppg) NCAA
Winchester 33gp, 9-9-18 (.545ppg) NCAA
McDonald 37gp, 10-6-16 (.432ppg) NCAA

Pisani was an excellent AJHL player and had a top drawer freshman season. He was 4th in team scoring out of the box. Winchester was 8th on his team, which included Dany Heatley and Steve Reinprecht. McDonald was 7th on his team in points. I know we’re talking about different NCAA divisions over a 10 year period, but we can safely say that Pisani was superior to Winchester and McDonald at age 19.

Age 20

Pisani 36gp, 16-18-34 (.944ppg) NCAA
McDonald 26gp, 11-5-16 (.615ppg) NCAA
Winchester 41gp, 7-9-16 (.390ppg) NCAA

Pisani was 2nd on his team in scoring, Winchester 12th. McDonald’s 16 points were good for 5th on his club, and I think it’s important at this point to make note of the fact that Providence during McDonald’s career was just awful offensively. When Pisani was in Providence at 20 years old, his team scored 110 goals, McDonald’s team scored 85 in the season we’re looking at here. IF McDonald ends up being a better offensive player as a pro than predicted, I think one of the major reasons we’ll be able to point to is the horrific Providence offense.

Either way, at age 20 I think we can safely state that Pisani is superior, and there’s some clearance for McDonald over Winchester.

Age 21

Pisani 38gp, 14-37-51 (1.34ppg) NCAA
Winchester 38gp, 14-20-34 (.895ppg) NCAA
McDonald 36gp, 9-19-28 (.777ppg) NCAA

McDonald’s 28 points were good for 4th on a team that had an improved offense (105 goals), Winchester led his team in points (123 goals for Wisconsin in 01-02) and Pisani was second on his team (159 goals for that Providence team). All three had good seasons, but Pisani’s the better player again.

Age 22
Pisani 38gp, 14-24-38 (1.00ppg) NCAA
McDonald 36gp, 13-4-17 (.472ppg) NCAA
Winchester 38gp, 10-6-16 (.421ppg) NCAA

The 99-00 Providence Friars stopped scoring (114 goals) but Pisani was still a leader, 2nd in scoring (he was 6 points behind Doug Sheppard). Winchester was 4th for Wisconsin (93 goals), behind Rene Bourque and a kid named Tom Gilbert. McDonald was 3rd on his team, as Providence scored a ridiculous 76 goals. Pisani was still the king, and in fact based on their college careers, McDonald and Winchester are nice comps but Pisani was clearly a more effective offensive player.

Age 23
McDonald 15gp, 2-7-9 (.600ppg) AHL
Pisani 52gp, 12-13-25 (.481ppg) AHL
Winchester 65gp, 13-6-9 (.292ppg) AHL

It’s early, and we don’t really know the time on ice, the role of each player and there is certainly a difference in the offense of each team. McDonald is 4th on his team in points so far, Winchester was 15th in team scoring as an AHL rookie (this was not a shared farm team) and Pisani was 8th on his club.

McDonald’s early season success is encouraging, especially when compared to Brad Winchester. The news we’ve read on him is that he’s a solid player who has an idea about playing the game without the puck, and early on at least McDonald is delivering enough offense to stay in the lineup and among the top 6 forwards.

Encouraging.

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6 Responses to "Sunday Minor League Report"

  1. Black Dog says:

    Great stuff LT.

    How is his skating?

    Off the top of your head can you name a player or two who made the NHL and had a good career despite similar numbers to MacDonald? Just curious.

  2. Lowetide says:

    BDHS: I saw him at TC, and had never actually seen anything about his footspeed. Here’s what I wrote:

    Colin McDonald: O lord, I like him again. He’s not as big as some of the other Coke Machines and he needs a year in the AHL (at least), but he does some nice things. Battles, has average to above average speed and handles the puck well. Good passer.

  3. Lowetide says:

    As for your other question, the answer is “not really.” I’m sure I could find a few guys (the Bob Corkum family) who loosely fit the description but most of the guys who make the NHL–even in a checking role–have had superior NCAA careers to Colin McDonald.

  4. Black Dog says:

    Thanks LT.

    Maybe he’ll break the mold. :)

  5. Vic Ferrari says:

    Godd stuff as always Lowetide. I love the comps.

    It reminds me to pass on a link you might find useful. Drop Your Gloves has an incomplete listing of the goals-per-game for different leagues in different years.

    So, by way of example, Marchant’s 1.24 PPG season as a 21 year old AHL rookie looks a lot better than Cammalleri’s .95 PPG. But if you correct for the deadball era in the AHL, it’s an impressive 1.31 for him. And a cracking 1.81 the next season in the AHL for Cammalleri (doubtless he would have been on the big squad that year if not for the lockout).

    Makes sense, no?

  6. Lowetide says:

    Terrific Vic, thank you. Looking at the QMJHL numbers, lordy. You’d have to score 170 points in some of those seasons to be an elite player.

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