Prospect Grades

That’s Jordan Eberle before the top prospects game at Rexall in February. Over at Hockey’s Future boards they are debating what numbers to hang on all the new draftees in terms of what level of prospect they are and how likely each player is to deliver on promise.

I admire the HF bunch for trying but it’s too much. They are projecting into the future five and ten years down the road with an extremely limited amount of information to go on.

Because of this, their ratings are universally panned and no one I know takes them seriously. No one has ever said to me “hey, Theo Peckham is a 6.5B. How come you like him so much?” because the language of the numbers tries to do too much.

I have a better plan. It works like a charm. No one listens.

Let’s take two players we know to be outstanding and see if we can find common ground. Let’s pick Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner.

First, a grading system. The names and numbers along the way aren’t important but it is vital to have many steps and levels so we can see where players are along the line. Here’s an example:

  1. Player of unknown quality.
  2. Junior/College/Euro 2nd division regular, marginal Euro elite league player
  3. Junior/College/Euro 2nd division quality player, average Euro elite league
  4. J/C impact player, regular in Euro elite league
  5. Marginal pro player/quality in Euro elite league
  6. AHL/Elite league regular
  7. Fringe NHL player
  8. NHL regular
  9. Quality NHL player
  10. Impact NHL player

That’s it, that’s all. We can discuss some of the levels and that’s fine but this is the basic idea. Now, let’s take Ales Hemsky’s career and place it in context with the 10 levels.

Ales Hemsky

  • Age 17- #4: Impact junior player (100 points in 68 games)
  • Age 18- #4: Impact junior player (97 points in 53 games)
  • Age 19- #8: NHL regular
  • Age 20: #8: NHL regular
  • Age 21: #8: NHL regular (strike)
  • Age 22: #9: Quality NHL player
  • Age 23: #9: Quality NHL player
  • Age 24: #9: Quality NHL player

Hemsky could play another decade at this level, or maybe he steps up in the next season or two. Anyway, you get the idea. Hemsky was an NHL regular at age 19 and a quality NHL player at 22.

Sam Gagner

  • Age 17: #4: Impact junior player
  • Age 18: #8: NHL regular

So they were at the same level at age 17 and Hemsky ran in place at 18 while Gagner because an NHL regular. I don’t know that Gagner is a significantly better player than Hemsky at the same age but he did get a job in the NHL so if Gagner becomes a quality NHL player earlier than Hemsky (who did so at age 22) then maybe there’s some clearance. Anyway, it’s a bit of an indicator about Gagner’s future.

What doesn’t it tell you? It doesn’t tell you what player type Hemsky and Gagner are and it doesn’t tell you how likely Gagner is to succeed. But you already knew what kinds of players they were, right? We’re not debating whether or not Hemsky can check. And although we don’t really know that Gagner is going to keep moving forward like Hemsky did, we can say that their career paths are similar so far and that we can feel really good about his future.

Those are easy ones. Someday I’ll do a bunch and we can find some nice comps for current Oiler prospects. That’s how I found out Stoll was an excellent comp for Pouliot btw.

It can also give you a nice idea about the most recent draft:

  • Jordan Eberle: 17 years old-#4 (impact junior, finished top 5 in goals)
  • Johan Motin: 18 years old- #4 (regular in Euro elite league)
  • Philippe Cornet: 17 years old- #2 (regular in junior)
  • Teemu Hartikainen: 17 years old- #2 (regular in Euro 2nd division)
  • Jordan Bendfeld: 19 years old- #2 (regular in junior)

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20 Responses to "Prospect Grades"

  1. Peter says:

    Hi LT,

    I agree wholeheartedly with your basic argument (as I see it); that the player ratings at HF yield little in the way of objective evaluation of what the future holds for the prospects of today.

    However, I believe you miss a key reasoning here. The ratings, while I’m sure they are best-efforts, are necessarily subjective. Open to discussion. Discussion as in the HF forums.

    At least we can all take heart that BBO is not the one ranking the Oiler prospects.

    Peter (Engineer)

  2. Lowetide says:

    Peter: I’m all for discussion. However, Rob Schremp’s designation (8.0D) says he’s a future one line center who has almost no chance of being a one line center.

    And that’s using the HF language!

  3. Dennis says:

    I’m not trying to orchestrate a threadjack here or anything but after viewing Rishaugh’s web-special “Oilers heading into UFA season” segment, I felt like organizing a meeting for Oilers fans with a clue.

    There were talks of both Malone AND Redden; it’s a good thing I viewed this AFTER I read where TB’s gone about dealing away a pick for exclusive negotiating rights for Malone and Gary Roberts.

  4. IceDragoon says:

    Good day.

    I have a better plan.

    Yes… yes, you do.

    It works like a charm.

    Makes perfect sense to me.

    No one listens.


    This, too, shall pass, Lain.

    Before you know it the kids will grow up and move out. They’ll have children of their own and start to realize that, “Dad was a pretty smart cookie”. A then, the older they get, the smarter you were.

    I assure you, that you’ll be able to look back and know that they listened to you… at least some of the time.

    Jokes aside… Who do you want to listen? The writers at HF? They’re all about the future… projections, not benchmarks. Whereas you embrace all aspects of the game we love, and it’s players.

    Your readership, for the most part, I think, like the way you draw lines in the sand, and look for comparables. So… don’t fret about “who’s listening”. Just keep doing what you do so well.

    Please and thanx.

    I think you’ll see Gagner reach ‘quality’ much younger than Hemsky. I learned this tendency a long time ago… Smart people keep learning, and extremely smart people do so faster.

  5. Peter says:


    I hear ya. The opinions of his ability to help the Oilers (in a PP dynamo/ ES hold-his-own kind-of-way) are suitably divided, though.

    Essentially, what you’re saying this this blog entry is that it is impossible to forecast player careers based on subjective player evaluations? The plan you propose – if I understand you correctly – has you using comparables, afaict.

  6. Coach pb9617 says:

    Essentially, what you’re saying this this blog entry is that it is impossible to forecast player careers based on subjective player evaluations?

    Given LTs previous post on length of career and drafting position, you’ve got much better odds if you just roll some bones to figure it out. Outside of the top 20-odd kids in each draft class, I mean.

  7. IceDragoon says:

    Dennis: Thanx for the heads up, I just watched it.

    Methinks the media is just making stuff up, because it’s been ‘all is quiet on the Oiler front’, according to Stauffer’s sources.

    I have no doubt that Lowe is willing to trade Stoll in the right deal. That said, I highly doubt he’s being “shopped”. You shop someone that you’ve polished up nicely, like Brewer, not someone coming off their worst season. Same applies to Pitkanen.

    What more than likely happened is… GMs enquired about Stoll and Pitkanen in the hopes of ‘buying low’.

    I guess we’ll see soon enough.


  8. Lowetide says:

    I’ll go on record here as saying at least one Senator will be on our doorstep by this time next week.

    Just a feeling.

  9. Lowetide says:

    Louise: Thanks, kiddo. :-) I’m just hoping people are more grounded when the next Schremp comes along. ALL of the players who will one day be useful from the last 3 drafts are moving forward and MANY have passed the 2003-04 group.

    How can any measuring stick question it?

  10. IceDragoon says:

    Good grief!
    I do know how to spell ‘inquired’.

    So… Lain…

    Who is your “feeling” pointing to?

  11. Lowetide says:

    Wade Redden. He’s coming here and they’re trading Pitkanen and Stoll, maybe Torres.

    Tuesday, Kevin Lowe settles all family business. :-)

  12. Lowetide says:

    If they have to get a big, dumb guy then they should pick Bertuzzi over Malone. He’ll cost less, and be suspended more.

  13. IceDragoon says:

    I’m just hoping people are more grounded when the next Schremp comes along.

    People are people. Some are guided by rational thought. Some… not so much.

    ALL of the players who will one day be useful from the last 3 drafts are moving forward and MANY have passed the 2003-04 group.

    How can any measuring stick question it?

    Agreed. We’ve added some really fine prospects since the lockout.

  14. IceDragoon says:

    I hope your “feeling” is wrong.

  15. Dennis says:

    Louise: Lowe’s an absolute donkey when it comes to FA’s and the like; so, there’s every reason to be worried that he’s gonna fuck shit up/overpay someone.

  16. Black Dog says:

    LT – why did Motin’s stock fall? Anyone? Because he may be a steal unless I am reading things wrong.

  17. Lowetide says:

    Black Dog: I get ISS every year and with each draft issue they list the top 20 for the following year. For the 2007 draft issue Motin was #11 and they said “rearguard with good size and uses it effectively. Punishes players in the defensive zone, If beaten this player doesn’t give up on the play and works hard to recover. Moves the puck well, generally makes the safe play.

    My guess would be that he was exposed in the higher league (ala Smid in EDM as a rookie) and scouts didn’t “see him good.”

  18. Eetu says:

    Actually Hartikainen played in the Finnish top junior league, which isn’t as high quality as the second division (which is currently called Mestis).

    I like his grade though, and your grading system in general. One part I didn’t quite get though:

    “4. J/C impact player, regular in Euro elite league
    5. Marginal pro player/quality in Euro elite league
    6. AHL/Elite league regular”

    So if you’re a regular in Euro elite league, are you a four or a six? What level of play does “pro player” in grade 5 suggest? Aren’t the top Euro leagues professional in every sense of the word?

    Desjardins NHLE suggests that AHL and the top European leagues are pretty much on the same level*, so maybe some rephrasing would make sense.

    * The NHLE numbers of European leagues are inflated somewhat by the fact that the few players who actually jump directly to the NHL have some exceptional talent. Everyone else goes through the AHL. It would be nice if someone did similar translations from top Euro leagues to AHL (and vice versa, though that stat would only be of interest to us Euros…)

  19. Lowetide says:

    Eetu: Right on all counts. Mistake by me in the first part and secondly a strong point about the inflated number because only the best arrive.

    I would love to create a list (say 1-14) based on a realistic idea of where these leagues are. The NA leagues and junior I have a handle on, but the Euro leagues are plentiful and there’s no real way for me to know the difference between Swe-2 and Fin Jr.

  20. Eetu says:

    My top 14 ranking would be as follows:

    1. NHL
    2. KHL (formerly RSL, Russia (with Kazakh, Belarus and Latvian representation))
    3. Elitserien (Sweden)
    [That was easy. Now the hard part...]
    4. SM-liiga (Finland)
    5. AHL
    6. NLA (Switzerland)
    7. DEL (Germany)
    8. Extraliga (Czech)
    [Ok, now I no longer claim to know anything, these are guesstimates...]
    9. Extraliga (Slovakia)
    10. Vysshaya Liga (Russia, with Kazakh and Ukranian representation)
    11. Allsvenskan (Sweden)
    12. ECHL
    13. NLB (Switzerland)
    14. Mestis (Finland)

    It is really hard to rank leagues because there so many factors to think of. Junior leagues have to be ranked separately, IMHO.

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