Cautionary Tale

This is Chris Hajt, a decade ago. Before Hockey’s Future and Guy Flaming and before we thought of ways to apply Bill James’ math to hockey, we were promised an NHL defender in Chris Hajt.

He had pedigree (top 50 pick) and genetics (his Dad was an excellent, steady defender for Buffalo in the 1970s) and whenever the Hockey News wrote something about him it was good.

Hajt didn’t turn out to be an NHL calibre defender (but there’s still time!) and serves as warning for Oilers fans when viewing this generation of kids.

Especially AHL kids. When a Sam Gagner can play well in the NHL at 18, when an Andrew Cogliano can play in the highest league at 20 it’s an indicator that a nice NHL career is straight ahead.

The AHL is the melting pot. Some make it, some do not.

Four years ago, I had a look at the 99 Hamilton Bulldogs and compared them to the 03-04 Toronto Roadrunners. You can see the HF thread here.

I thought it might be an idea to look back at those two teams and then apply the same analysis to the current AHL team.

Most Promising Players

  • 99-00: Daniel Cleary, Michel Riesen, Dan Lacouture, Chris Hajt, Alex Henry
  • 03-04: Jani Rita, Tony Salmelainen, Joe Cullen, Doug Lynch, Jeff Woywitka.
  • 07-08: Rob Schremp, Liam Reddox, Marc Pouliot, Theo Peckham, Devan Dubnyk.

The 20-Year Old Regulars

  • 99-00: 4 regulars: LW Michel Riesen (29-31-60), C Peter Sarno (10-36-46), LW Jason Chimera (15-13-28) and D Alex Henry (1-0-1).
  • 03-04: 2 regulars: D Doug Lynch (11-25-36), D Jeff Woywitka (4-22-26), and part time forward C Dan Baum (4-6-10), D Mathieu Roy (0-2-2).
  • 07-08: 2 regulars: LW Slava Trukhno (13-20-33), D Theo Peckham (6-5-11) and part time forward F Ryan O’Marra (2-7-9).

In spring 2004 I wrote “The best player of that group is probably Lynch, although Woywitka might end up being better down the line. Chimera is a fine young player, and had Riesen been drafted by an organization more focused on skill he likely would have had a career imo.” Lynch got hurt and Woywitka incredibly is still trying to gain traction on an NHL job. Chimera is established as a contributing NHL player. So of the 6 AHL regulars who were 20 on the 99 and 03 clubs, 1 has become a useful NHL player and another hung around for a couple of seasons. Something to keep in mind when projecting Trukhno, Peckham and O’Marra.

The Regulars 21-25

  • 99-00: D Chris Hajt(21) (0-8-8), RW Dan Cleary(21) (22-52-74), C Brian Swanson(23) (19-40-59), LW Dan Lacouture(22) (23-17-40), D Brad Norton(24) (5-12-17), D Sergei Yerkovich(25) (2-28-30), D Alex Zhurik(24) (2-16-18), D Ryan Risidore(23) (3-13-16), D Matthieu Descoteaux(22) (5-7-12), D Elias Abrahamsson(22) (1-3-4), D Kevin Bolibruck(22) (1-4-5), G Eric Heffler(23) 3.13 .910, D Alain Nasreddine (24) 1-6-7.
  • 03-04: RW Tony Salmelainen(22) (19-25-44), LW Jani Rita(22) (17-24-41), C Joe Cullen(22) (14-16-30), C Mike Bishai(24) (11-22-33), D Bobby Allen(25) (5-10-15), LW Nate DiCasmirro(25) (17-18-35), C Chad Hinz(24) (11-23-34), C JJ Hunter(23) (12-16-28), RW Sean McAslan(23) (12-15-27), RW Michael Henrich(23) (14-10-24), RW Brad Winchester(22) (13-6-19), G Mike Morrison (24) 2.52 .913.
  • 07-08: C Rob Schremp (21) 20-50-70, C Marc Pouliot (22) 20-22-42, LW Liam Reddox (21) 16-25-41, LW Jean-Francois Jacques (22) 11-14-25, RW Colin McDonald (23) 12-11-23, F Tim Sestito (23) 6-9-15, Stephane Goulet (21) 9-5-14, LW Troy Bodie (22) 7-6-13, D Mathieu Roy (24) 2-8-10, Sebastien Bisaillon (21) 3-7-10, Tyler Spurgeon (21) 1-7-8, D Danny Syvret (22) 2-15-17, C Fredik Johansson (23) 4-1-5, C Jonas Almtorp (24) 2-2-4, D Bryan Young (21) 0-4-4, Jeff Deslauriers (23) 2.91 .911, Devan Dubnyk (21) 2.99, .908.

I’ve bolded the players from the first two teams to indicate those who have had an NHL career of at least a couple of seasons. There were 23 prospects this age on those two clubs, and 4 made some kind of NHL impact. That means if the math holds then three of the current crop will have an NHL career (based on a very liberal requirement level).

Anyone Else?

  • 99-00 featured RW Alexandre Volchkov(22) (2-6-8) and there was a big whoop about him once upon a time (He was a top 5 pick in 1996). RW Vlad Vorobiev(27) (9-9-18) and RW Max Spiridonov(21) (5-2-7) were on that team. So was Paul Comrie(22) (3-3-6) and who knows what he might have done and what his being an Oiler would have meant to his brother. LW Sean Selmser(25) (14-12-26) played 1 game.
  • 03-04 featured LW Jamie Wright(27) (23-27-50), D Mikko Luoma(27) (3-16-19), G Steve Valiquette(27) (2.59).
  • 07-08 features a few older players, including D T. J. Kemp (26) (6-36-42), C Ben Simon (29) 12-10-22, D Allan Rourke (28) 3-11-14, D Rick Berry (29) (2-8-10).

Valiquette has had a little success at the NHL level and was a waiver draft pickup a couple of years back. Allan Rourke would seem to be the most qualified of the current group in this category. Finally, here’s the list of NHL games played (career) for each club since their minor league seasons:

Hamilton Bulldogs since 1999

  1. Daniel Cleary 496
  2. Jason Chimera 371
  3. Dan Lacouture 323
  4. Alex Henry 175
  5. Brad Norton 124
  6. Brian Swanson 70
  7. Alain Nasreddine 59
  8. Michel Riesen 12
  9. Peter Sarno 7
  10. Chris Hajt 6
  11. Matthieu Descoteaux 5
  12. Sean Selmser 1

I haven’t included Alexei Semenov on the list because he was a late signing, kind of like Cody Wild on this year’s team.

Toronto Roadrunners since 2003

  1. Brad Winchester 116
  2. Jeff Woywikta 84
  3. Tony Salmelainen 70
  4. Jani Rita 53
  5. Bobby Allen 50
  6. Mathieu Roy 29
  7. Mike Morrison 29
  8. Mike Bishai 14
  9. Peter Sarno 7
  10. Mikko Luoma 3
  11. Doug Lynch 2

I think the current group of AHLers is much better than the 1999 and the 2003 group, but I said the same thing about the 2003 group.

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10 Responses to "Cautionary Tale"

  1. Asiaoil says:

    The reality is that most guys who play more than 20 games in the AHL don’t have much of a NHL career. Sure there are numerous exceptions – but that’s what they are – exceptions. I’ll confine my comments to the forwards because all but the true elite goalies and dmen need plenty of AAA seasoning.

    MAP – looks to be a solid 3rd liner with some 2nd line upside – but growth depends on how much he wants it – he’s a NHL player though

    JFJ – bust unless he fixes his toolbox by October

    Schremp – suited for a really bad American team where his obvious flaws will be overlooked in favor of entertainment value. Impossible for him to break the Oiler’s top 6 next year so ship him to FLA with Pits and Greene for JayBo or some such deal where he’s an add-on

    Reddox – 4th line guy at best

    Trukhno – nice 2nd half but must continue to develop and force his way onto the big club next year if he’s to be more than a 4th liner

    O’Marra – shocked at his season as I thought he would be the guy that would have the light bulb turn on and not Rowbear. He has to be a lot better next year right out of the gate or he’s Brad Winchester. Looking like a 4th liner though

    All the rest of the forwards are cup of coffee guys at best – so not much there if you are being realistic. Other than MAP and maybe Truk – the rest are huge question marks to ever have much of a career.

  2. Muller says:

    The AHL is the melting pot…good call. Jeff Sharples[hometown hero]had a promising career with the Red Wings,but was considered a little soft. Was traded to Edmonton, had a cup of coffee there and then spent a good ten years in the IHL/AHL. Jeff got into too much of a comfort zone in the minors and never made it back up.

  3. Sean says:

    If you could have made this post last year (ie we had an AHL team) the results would have been much more appealling. Gilbert, Nilsson, Brodziak, Stortini were all AHL regulars last year.

    I’d agree with AsiaOil though, anything over 20 games (college player) or a season (junior player) is a bad sign that the player wont become an NHL player.

  4. doritogrande says:

    “The reality is that most guys who play more than 20 games in the AHL don’t have much of a NHL career. Sure there are numerous exceptions – but that’s what they are – exceptions.”

    Not true. Look at the Wings.

    Dan Cleary’s the 5th leading scorer.

    Brian Rafalski needed 182 games of seasoning in Europe before he was noticed. 4th on the team in scoring.

    Jiri Hudler, 185 AHL games. 7th in scoring.

    Mikhael Samuelsson, 74 AHL games.

    Valterri Filppula, 77 AHL games.

    Niklas Kronwall, 103 AHL games (25 games not counting the Lockout year, when he may or may not have played AHL hockey, your call.)

    Kris Draper, 181 AHL games.

    Kris Maltby, 71 AHL games.

    Now that’s 8 players, all on the same team that have seasoning at the AHL level. Were they nicked because they played AHL hockey and haven’t gone straight to the NHL? Hell no. They’re all important parts to the Big Red Machine. Rafalski’s an elite defenseman, Hudler and Filppula both have the chance to be 60+ point scorers at the NHL level. Kronwall’s top-pair material when Lidstrom leaves. Draper and Maltby have been among the league’s elite specialists for the last decade. Detroit’s got it right guys, take your time with prospects and you’ll get better results.

  5. kamus says:

    Penner 134
    Nilsson 98
    Brodziak 173
    Glencross 159
    Reasoner 124
    Pisani 172
    Stortini 113
    Nothing wrong with playing in the AHL.

  6. Dennis says:

    It’s been a long time since I thought about Alexander Volchkov! Fuck, anyone else remember reading the stories about how he always wore his hat backwards and insisted on being referred to as the Volchinator?

    Truk did finish strong but considering it was built on the PP — and that should be an Oilers strenght for years to come — he’s gonna have to show a lot more at evens come ’09 before anyone considers him worth a real look.

  7. Stuart van says:

    I second Dorito Grande’s point.

    And for Oilers examples:
    Brodziak: 173 AHL games
    Pisani: 172 AHL games
    Grebeshkov: 166 AHL games
    Pouliot: 148 AHL games
    Penner: 134 AHL games
    Glencross: 128 AHL games
    Reasoner: 122 AHL games
    Stortini: 117 AHL games
    Nilsson: 103 AHL games
    Torres: 91 AHL games
    Staios: 64 AHL games
    Gilbert: 48 AHL games

    Based on the Oilers, experience, looks like if you can’t get it figured out in the AHL by 180 games, it’s not going to happen.

    Notably, most, with the exclusion of Penner and Nilsson, are bottom 6guys.

    That gives Pouliot and Jacques to mid-season next year. Schremp’s got another full season.

    Move Gagner to the first line, Penner to the third line, and slot Schremp in as the new kid on the kid line. Now we’ve got 4 lines that can score.

  8. PunjabiOil says:

    I’m not all that high on Trukhno. He’s effectively a Rob Schremp lite.

    Liam Reddox may make a career out in the bottom 6.

    O’Marra will be a bust – the numbers weren’t high enough in junior, and have been why he’s been flirting in the ECHL (in which he couldn’t even hit a PPG). What a waste of a 15th overall pick.

    You reallyl hope Chorney and Petry turn out. Chorney may possibly be another Jeff Woywitka.

    I don’t agree with Asia’s point. I think you can play longer in the AHL and have a career. I think the statement more refers to impact NHL players. The 1 PPG at 20. Typically, the best players don’t stay in the AHL for long, and those that do, don’t end up staying for more than half a season. A full season at most.

  9. Asiaoil says:

    I didn’t say playing in the NHl was the kiss of death or that players who start there never make the NHL. But while a handful of players listed made it – I’ll give you hundreds and hundreds who didn’t. The guys who have strong careers after playing more than a season are exceptions.

  10. doritogrande says:


    Reddox played a full season in the ECHL, and put up barely 0.5 PPG, and you say he’s got a legit shot at bottom-6 minutes where Ryan O’Marra does not?

    Uh, sorry man, but that’s got Double Standard written all over it.

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