20-Year old AHL Forward Performance

The two best seasons to evaluate for prospects are 17 (the season they are drafted) and their 20-year old (usually first year pro) season.

By the time the prospect reaches 18 and 19 years old he should be dominating junior (Eberle for instance should score over 50 goals in junior this season).

And if the Oilers send out Rob Schremp this fall (unlikely with Glencross not being signed) he should kick the crap out of AHL goalies in 08-09.

So it’s a nice measuring time. Vic Ferrari from IOF suggested a few years ago that 20 year old forwards who can deliver 1 point per game at the AHL level are probably going to be top 2line forwards in the NHL. Not a hard and fast rule, but a nice line in the sand.

Over the years Edmonton hasn’t had that many forwards who’ve been close to 1/1 and the 2 players from 07-08 who qualify weren’t close. Here’s a look at the last dozen seasons and the players who performed in the minors at age 20.

  1. LW Steve Kelly (96-97 Hamilton Bulldogs). 48gp, 9-29-38 .792ppg Kelly was a speed demon who the Oilers liked a “hair” more than Shane Doan at the draft in 1995. His pro debut wasn’t Doan-like (Doan had played over 130 NHL games by the spring of 1997) but he held his value better than did Bonsignore and ended up having a better (if hugely disappointing) NHL career. Kelly’s career GP stands at 149, compared to Bonsignore’s 79. Kelly’s 38 points in 48 games represented 28.6% of the Bulldogs offense that season.
  2. C Jason Bonsignore (96-97 Hamilton Bulldogs). 78gp, 21-33-54 .692ppg Bonsignore’s career has been well documented and his 20-year old AHL season placed in context (he was the 4th player chosen two years previous and 96-97 was the year Ryan Smyth popped 39 goals in the show) was a pretty good predictor of his future. Desjardins NHLE would have had him 11-17-28 and six months after the 96-97 season Sather offloaded him (and Steve Kelly) to the Lightning. Bonsignore’s Bulldogs scored 220 goals in 96-97, so his 54 points that season represents 25% of his team’s offense (adjusted for gp).
  3. RW Georges Laraque (96-97 Hamilton Bulldogs). 73gp, 14-20-34 .466ppg Laraque is the only one of the three 20-year old AHL prospects in 96-97 to become an NHL player and contribute to his team’s wins. Laraque’s ppg total in the AHL indicated he was marginal offensively (plus it’s extremely unlikely he saw the PP or many skill linemates) but he was an enforcer of some quality and in that role has had a very good NHL career. Laraque has now played 634 NHL games. His 34 points in 73gp for Hamilton that season represented 16.9% of his team’s offense.
  4. LW Dan Lacouture (97-98 Hamilton Bulldogs). 77gp, 15-10-25 .325ppg Lacouture was a big kid with speed when he arrived in pro hockey. I remember him scoring a goal scorers goal against Boston (probably fall 2000) as he came in over the blueline and ripped a beauty by the goalie. Lacouture learned how to stay in the NHL after a time as a role player and although it’s a stretch to say he’s been a difference maker he has been able to play 326 NHL games. His 25 points in 97-98 represents 10% of the Bulldogs’ offense 97-98, and like Laraque he didn’t likely get a lot of powerplay time.
  5. RW Michel Riesen (99-00 Hamilton Bulldogs). 73gp, 29-31-60 .822ppg Riesen’s quality AHL season at 20 is somewhat misleading in that it was his second year in the league. He played well no matter the circumstance, so well that his entire line (Swanson-Riesen-Cleary) won jobs in the fall of 2000 on the big club. His 99-00 AHL season and the pre-season in fall 2000 represent the highlight of his NHL career (plus the 12 games he actually got into 00-01). His 60 points in 73gp represents 29.2% of Bulldog offense that season. He is somewhat unique on this list in that he (and Bonsignore) were on the top line as rookie pro’s.
  6. C Peter Sarno (99-00 Hamilton Bulldogs). 67gp 10-36-46 .687ppg Sarno was an interesting prospect who ended up with 7 career NHL games for two different teams (Oilers and Columbus). He gained a solid reputation as a powerplay specialist and got a couple of long looks from the Oilers. His 46 points in 99-00 represents 24% of his team’s offense (no doubt helped by PP time).
  7. LW Jason Chimera (99-00 Hamilton Bulldogs). 78gp, 15-13-28 .359ppg Chimera is best known among Oilers fans as being the guy Kevin Lowe would talk up every summer as being a lock for the roster only to be sent out each fall by Craig MacTavish. To this day he rarely passes on a chance to dig at the Oilers. He was a speed demon with size and an energy player as a rookie pro, and has built on that since. He has played 373 NHL games and has over 65 goals in the show. Chimera is an established NHL player now and would rank among the best on this list. His 28 points represent 12.8% of Bulldog offense.
  8. LW Jani Rita (01-02 Hamilton Bulldgos) 76gp, 25-17-42 .553ppg Rita is probably the most famous prospect on this list, as he spent 4 years as the top prospect in the organization. Rita scored pretty well in the AHL (63 in 204 AHL games) but he never made it. Rita has played in 66 NHL games, I’m still hoping he finds a career. His 42 points in 01-02 represents 17.9% of Bulldog offense.
  9. C Jarret Stoll (02-03 Hamilton Bulldogs) 76gp, 21-33-54 .711ppg The two things I remember about Stoll in the AHL are a goal he scored maybe 5 seconds after the faceoff at center-ice and that the “shared” Habs/Oil team that year was a beauty. Stoll played with really good players and had an excellent season, which he has built on to become a solid NHL player. His career went a little sideways when he suffered two concussions in short order and hasn’t been the same since. Stoll has played 286 NHL games and has scored 59 goals. His 54 points represents 20% of the Bulldog offense that season.
  10. RW Kyle Brodziak (04-05 Edmonton Roadrunners) 56gp, 6-26-32 .571 His AHL debut at 20 came on a very poor offensive team, and his 32 points reprsent 18.6% of the Roadrunner offense. His slow and steady rise through the organizational depth chart was given a huge boost when he arrived in TC fall 2007 in top condition and with an attitude that suggested he belonged. Brodziak has played 96 NHL games so far and has scored 15 goals with the big club.
  11. C Marc Pouliot (05-06 Hamilton Bulldogs) 65gp, 15-30-45 .692ppg Pouliot played on a shared team (like Stoll) and put up similar offensive results. The difference was that Stoll’s team was much better, and Pouliot’s 45 points represents 25.2% of the Bulldogs offense. He has now played in 78 NHL games and is NHL ready. However, we’ve been saying that for awhile.
  12. LW Jean Francois Jacques (05-06 Hamilton Bulldogs) 65gp, 24-20-44 .677ppg Jacques had a helluva pro debut and his unique set of skills. He was an important part of the Bulldogs as a 20-year old rookie pro for all kinds of reasons, and his point total represents 24.6% of the Bulldog offense. Notice how close he is in terms of offensive output to Pouliot (and Stoll) and yet he cannot make things happen in the show. He has played in 53 NHL games (and still has no points).
  13. RW Zack Stortini (05-06 Iowa/Milwaukee) 64gp, 2-8-10 .156ppg Stortini is less skilled than all of the 2003 selections taken before him, but he’s passed them all on the way to NHL employment. He had a quality season in a defined role and looks to have a solid future. Stortini has played in 95 games in the NHL.
  14. C Rob Schremp (06-07 SWB Penguins) 69gp, 17-36-53 .768ppg Schremp had a tough first year pro, getting benched a few times and was a healthy scratch a few times too. Word is the organization told the head coach that “tough love” might be required. His coach did have some nice things to say about him but he spent another year in the minors (partly due to offseason surgery). His 53 points represent 22.8% of his team’s total.
  15. LW Slava Trukhno (07-08 Springfield Falcons) 64gp, 14-21-35 .547ppg Trukhno fell well short of what we might consider acceptable for 20-year old AHL players. In fact, the only prospects who were “in the range” are Rita, Chimera and Brodziak. Trukhno is not similar to those players, so it doesn’t look promising. About the only positives are a very nice run after Pouliot was called up (better skill linemates) and that he performed well when given PP time. His 35 points represents 21.1% of his team’s offense.
  16. C Ryan O’Marra (07-08 Springfield Falcons) 31gp 2-7-9 .290ppg My daughter has a phrase: epic fail. It applies to O’Marra’s season. I don’t think he’s this bad but it’s a long trip to mediocre from where he played this year. It would be very interesting to find out exactly what the issues were this year because this fellow is a mid-first rounder who acted like a NP. His 9 points represents 10.8% of his team’s offense.

Overall PPG rankings

  1. Michel Riesen .822
  2. Steve Kelly .792
  3. Rob Schremp .768
  4. Jarret Stoll .711
  5. Marc Pouliot .692
  6. Jason Bonsignore .692
  7. Peter Sarno .687
  8. JF Jacques .677
  9. Kyle Brodziak .571
  10. Jani Rita .553
  11. Slava Trukhno .547
  12. Georges Laraque .446
  13. Jason Chimera .359
  14. Dan Lacouture .325
  15. Ryan O’Marra .290
  16. Zack Stortini .156

This is actually a fairly disconcerting list. Schremp’s season falls in nicely with two failed first rounders (Riesen and Kelly), which is followed by a group in the 675-711 range that is a mixed bag (Stoll made the show, Bonsignore did not, and Pouliot/Jacques are paddling like buggers).

Kyle Brodziak is on something of an island, but remember that team was awful offensively and may have hidden a better offensive player (and he certainly appears to be good enough to be a role player in the NHL). Rita and Trukhno are paired off, and then we come to Laraque (good numbers for his role) and Chimera (his AHL rookie season did not suggest the player who emerged later).

What does this tell us?

  • Skill guys don’t play in the AHL much or at all. The best forward prospects in the organization (Hemsky, Gagner, Cogliano) skipped the AHL completely and we know from history this is often the case.
  • The enforcers/physical players on the list (Lacouture, Laraque, Stortini) are judged on things other than their offense.
  • Skill players who spend time in the AHL must expand their range of skills to include responsible play. For those who don’t make the show immediately, it’s sink or swim and from this list we can probably just call it sink.
  • Trukhno is either not much or another Chimera.
  • O’Marra has the worst score based on skills.
  • When we look forward to the next group of prospects in the AHL, the PIM column is probably as important as the point totals.
  • If Rob Schremp emerges as a quality NHL player in a one-dimensional role (which is what he is), it will be the first time in more than a dozen years the Oilers have successfully produced an NHL player of that variety in this way.

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17 Responses to "20-Year old AHL Forward Performance"

  1. toqueboy says:


    not to be critical, but the point percentage u are giving these prospects are not accurate. it looks at though you’re taking their total points and putting it up against the teams goals only, which wildly distorts the percentage to the ‘high’ side.

    bonsignore actually had less than 10% of the actual goals (21 out of 220), but his 54 pts need to be compared to the total points of the team including assists…your total of 25% is not a true indicator of his ‘team’ contribuution….this becomes particularly poignant when u look at someone like steve kelly’s numbers because his goal total really only represented 5% of the team goals that season…i have no idea what the total pts with assists were for that team, but i think it will give a better reflection of their true value as a point producer…

    in both the above, as u said, it’s obvious from their 20 year that they were not quality prospects.

    as for o’marra, i think we really have to parallel his injury with sugartits…i expect that he’ll have a significantly improved ahl season this year with a little humility and health under his belt.

    nice analysis as always.

  2. mike w says:

    Does anyone know what the back story was behind drafting Michel Riesen 14th overall?

    I realize that the Swiss Elite league is pretty good, but how can you accurately rate a player based on 25 points in a mere 32 games + a good World Juniors? I don’t imagine the Oilers had their ears that close to the ground in Switzerland.

    1997 wasn’t a very good draft, but still…

  3. Lowetide says:

    toqueboy: I’m saying each player was “in on” said percentage of team’s offense. Goals for really diminishes some players contribution (Sarno would be an example). I guess you could add in assists but my main point was that these players were a part of xx% of the overall offense.

    It came out of Brodziak’s season. That club he played on couldn’t score into the ocean.

    mike w: Riesen was well thought of in his draft season iirc. CSB had him at a high number, and I remember Henrich was like #5 CSB North American in his draft year.

  4. mike w says:

    I remember Henrich was like #5 CSB North American in his draft year.

    So I guess it’s not the homerun wiffle on par with Jesse Niinimaki that I thought it was.

    I do wonder if the World Juniors becomes too much of a late-season TV showcase for lazy scouts, though, especially with so few games played.

    PS: Looking at the 1997 draft, it’s a graveyard after the top dozen picks, really.

  5. Traktor says:

    Some solid NHLers that failed to hit 1/1 PPG in the AHL as 20 year olds (unless otherwise noted)

    Mike Ribeiro – 0.89 PPG
    Chris Higgins – 0.71 PPG
    Brian Rolston – 0.58 PPG
    Patrick Sharp – 0.62 PPG
    Vaclav Prospal – 0.75 PPG
    Brian Gionta – 0.67 PPG (22 years old in first season in the AHL)
    Brad Boyes – 0.78 PPG
    Ryan Kesler – 0.74 PPG
    Johnathon Cheechoo – 0.88 PPG
    Sean Avery – 0.39 PPG
    Mike Knuble – 0.56 PPG (23 years old in first year in AHL)
    Antoine Vermette – 0.77 PPG
    Erik Cole – 0.62 PPG (21 years old in first year of IHL)
    Trent Hunter – 0.61 PPG
    Brandon Dubinsky – 0.60 PPG
    Ladislav Nagy – 0.73 PPG
    Tomas Vanek – 0.91 PPG
    Zach Parise – 0.79 PPG
    Michal Ryder – 0.24 PPG
    Mikko Koivo – 0.71 PPG (21 in first year in AHL)
    Jochen Hecht – 0.75 PPG (21 in first year in AHL)
    Nigel Dawes – 0.87 PPG
    Matt Lombardi – 0.60 PPG
    Kyle Calder – 0.48 PPG (IHL)
    Marek Svatos – 0.43 PPG
    Chuck Kobasew – 0.68 PPG

  6. Lowetide says:

    All of the numbers during Parise’s season can be taken off the list right away, since the AHL during his 20-year old season was probably the toughest AHL season in the league’s history (lockout).

    Others on the list are interesting but almost all of them have more dimensions than a player like Schremp. Just do.

  7. Lowetide says:

    mike w: I don’t think it’s possible to measure how far off the charts the Niinimaki picks was in 2002.

    He was rated #50 Euro, which means he should have gone in the 100′s.


  8. Traktor says:

    Meh… you can pretty much say any comparison now to players 10-15 years ago is useless too, as it was easier to score in junior/ncaa/ahl ect

    Sure Parise played against better players, but he also played with better linemates than a AHL player normally would (Dean McAmmond), it should even out in the end. I would think it would have much more of an effect on the bottom tier guys then your top end players like Parise.

  9. Lowetide says:

    In Parise’s AHL season (04-05) the average AHL game saw 5.35 goals-per-game.

    In Pouliots AHL season (05-06) the average AHL game saw 6.2 goals-per-game.

    That’s close to a goal more. A game.

  10. doritogrande says:

    Liam Reddox:

    2005-06 OHL 68 19 45 64 74
    2006-07 ECHL 70 8 18 26 49
    2007-08 AHL 65 16 28 44 48

    Ryan O’Marra

    2006-07 OHL 13 8 6 14 26
    2006-07 OHL 33 18 19 37 48
    2007-08 AHL 31 2 7 9
    2007-08 ECHL 24 11 9 20 45

    My point in all this? That Ryan O’Marra is exactly on pace as your favourite Oiler forward prospect. Both seem to be players who thought themselves too good for the AHL, and suffered like hell because of it. Liam managed to have a light click on this year, and given O’Marra’s draft pedigree I suspect he’s got more in him than career AHLer.

  11. Lowetide says:

    dorito: If O’Marra can have a season like Reddox just did, he’ll be back on track. However, it’s pretty unusual for a first rounder to lay an egg that bad.

  12. Dennis says:

    As a guy that saw Kelly play in the A and who knows what MacT likes, he would’ve been a regular with MacT behind the bench.

    Not saying he would’ve been Shane Doan, but he would’ve played for sure.

    And I don’t think there’s anyone in the world who wasn’t optimistic about Rita after his rookie A season.

  13. doritogrande says:


    Bonsignore, Kelly, Riesen, Rita, Niinimaki….

    Wait. Were we listing Oiler first rounders, or busts? Shit, I forgot.

  14. Lowetide says:

    dorito: Same bleep, different pile. :-)

  15. oilswell says:

    Nice. Probably deflated a lot of baloons if people would care to read.

    But I think you misrepresented Vic’s 20yo rule. His rule, as I recall it, is NOT that you can likely project a 2nd liner if the 20yo season is PPG. There are plenty of players that score in the AHL but will never in the NHL. The rule was that if the player on the 20yo season DID NOT score a PPG then their hopes of ever being a 2nd liner/specialist at the NHL level is essentially nil. There’s a huge difference between the two. The first is akin to saying “if you have sex, you’re likely to get pregnant” whereas the second (Vic’s) is “you can’t get pregnant if you don’t have sex”.

  16. Bruce says:

    The rule was that if the player on the 20yo season DID NOT score a PPG then their hopes of ever being a 2nd liner/specialist at the NHL level is essentially nil.

    Traktor’s list above includes an awful lot of exceptions to this “rule”.

  17. Hawerchuk says:

    Traktor – Most really good players always look really good. That you can find some guys who didn’t look very good but ultimately succeed does not negate the first sentence.

    But lots of the guys on your list came close to 1 PPG in their age 20 season, then played 20-30 games at age 21, dominated, and were in the NHL for good. Eg – Ribeiro, Rolston, Prospal, Nagy, etc…

    There are a couple guys on your list who played pro in Europe and put up good numbers there but got assigned to the AHL to ease the transition. And there are a bunch of guys who played out their college eligibility and also got eased into the NHL. These are not typical players by any means – the “rule” applies to WHL/OHL/QMJHL players who get their shots at age 18, 19 and 20, not to guys who don’t show up until later.

    The number of guys who don’t produce at age 20 or the early part of age 21 but ultimately become good, you can count on one hand. Zetterberg, for all the claims that we was a late-bloomer – finished 4th in Swedish scoring when he was 20.

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