Is there Hope for Colin McDonald?

Bill James taught us about comparables (comps) and what they can tell us about specific prospects. If a #4 overall pick begins to sputter and make funny noises, Jason Bonsignore might be a comp. If the kid your team drafted in the middle of the first round starts to make ridiculous plays with the puck and make veterans miss while still a teenager, then names like Hossa, Middleton and others come to the fore.

It should be mentioned that not all comps go on to have long and productive careers. When we talk about using comparables and cite NHL players we are really talking about “best case scenario” for these players using logic and good sense.

There have always been surface things that tie Colin McDonald to Fernando Pisani:

  • Both were drafted out of tier 2 junior (AJHL and EJHL).
  • Both played 4 full years for Providence (NCAA).
  • Both had extended AHL careers (172-164 Pisani so far).
  • Both have good size for the NHL.
  • Both have good shots.
  • Both spent periods of time being “long shots” to make the show.
  • Both eventually gained some reputation as being checkers.

The foundation for comparables is math. Similarity scores. Did the fellow we’re looking at now perform at a level similar at the same age as the player we’re comparing him to? Let’s have a look at McDonald, Pisani and Brad Winchester’s college and AHL careers to see what’s happened.

College Numbers

  1. Fernando Pisani 147gp, 56-97-153 1.04points-per-game
  2. Colin McDonald 135gp, 43-34-77 .570points-per-game
  3. Brad Winchester 150gp, 40-44-84 .560points-per-game

Pisani’s college team averaged 131 goals per season, Winchester’s 129 and McDonald’s 93! Pisani is clearly the better player here, but if we factor in the strength of each team’s offense (and obviously these men contributed) McDonald’s college career is better than it appears above. McDonald scored 12% of his team’s college goals during those years, a number that compares with Pisani’s and is clear of Winchester.

AHL numbers

  1. Fernando Pisani 172gp, 55-62-117 .680points-per-game
  2. Brad Winchester 195gp, 65-40-105 .538points-per-game
  3. Colin McDonald 164gp, 26-24-50 .305points-per-game

Pisani’s AHL teams averaged 251 goals, Winchester’s 212 and McDonald’s 195. That’s a fairly large gap, but the offensive output for McDonald at the AHL level contributed to the poor offense and even if we make adjustments I don’t think he approaches Pisani (although Winchester improves greatly).

Conclusion? I don’t think Colin McDonald’s career thus far allows us to reasonably use Fernando Pisani as a comparable. Fernando began to emerge as a legit NHL prospect in 2001-02 (age 24), and McDonald has had a nice start to his AHL season this year (age 24). McDonald scored his 4th goal of the season last night (13gp, 4-1-5).

If Colin McDonald can approach Fernando Pisani’s AHL season in 2001-02:

79gp, 26-34-60 +24

we can begin talking about him as being a legit NHL prospect. However, we should keep in mind that (based on math) the foundation isn’t there and that a reasonable career for this player involves more AHL seasons, Europe and possibly a cup of coffee similar to the one enjoyed by his father Gerry in the early 1980′s.

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