Curtis Hamilton drew a point again last night (now 3, 4-1-5 this week) and it brings two ideas together: that 5-year window for prospects to show their stuff (Hamilton’s +5 after draft is summer ’15) and measuring success in minor league development. Ordinarily, that 5-year window would include two years of junior and three years AHL, but sometimes players turn pro early or later and five years is a really good line in the sand.
I like to use Detroit when talking about the minor leagues, I’ve compared these kids a lot over the years and so have some familiarity. Let’s take a 5-year period and see if we can find something—anything—that can give us hope for the slow developers and injured men from 2010 (Hamilton, Pitlick and Martindale).
The 2008-09 Grand Rapids Griffins boasted some nice rookies, led by 21-year old college grad Justin Abdelkader. Abdelkader was a 2nd rd pick in 2005, so in many ways is a nice comp for Pitlick, Hamilton and Martindale: similar draft number, 5 years earlier, the big difference being he arrived at age 21. His AHL rookie scoring rate (.684) and size (6.01, 212) suggested that if Abdelkader was going to have an NHL career, it would be as a two-way player. His resume had some nice things (agitator, could play center or wing) and he adjusted quickly to the AHL game (he made the AHL All-rookie team in 2008-09). He arrived as a semi-regular in 2009-10 and moved up the depth chart until he arrived at the projected role (two-way depth forward who could chip in offensively) and that’s a useful player.
Since 2008-09, the Oilers haven’t had very many AHL rookies who have scored at Abdelkader’s .684 rookie rate. Here’s the list:
- Toni Rajala 12-13 (.978) is in no way related to Abdelkader but is a very skilled player we may see in the NHL someday. A pint-sized skill player, something happened for the organization to let him go so quickly, and it’s a damn shame Rajala isn’t a part of the current Oiler depth chart.
- Mark Arcobello 10-11 (.846) An older AHL rookie (22, one year past the Red Wing) he is similar to Abdelkader in that he’s a college guy and that he hit the ground running in the AHL. The size difference is an issue, but Arco was a better offensive player off the hop. Abdelkader had the far better draft pedigree.
- Rob Hisey 09-10 (.676) Undersized skill C who was 24 by the time he arrived in the AHL and delivered a fine season.Now in Europe.
- Teemu Hartikainen 10-11 (.636) big winger with speed issues, he was recalled to Edmonton as one of MacT’s first transactions but didn’t deliver at all. He’s still in the organization, and some of us hold out hope for a return.
So that’s 4 ‘in the range’ with Abdelkader, I think both Arco and Harski are “somewhat similar” as prospects and at least one of them does look like he might have an NHL career.
There’s another way to approach this subject, and that’s “age” specific. In Rob Vollman’s new book Hockey Abstract he talks about these players (I’m quoting more than I normally would from the book, but it’s been out awhile and gives me a chance to suggest you buy the book, it’s such an interesting read)
- Vollman: The first group, aged 19–22, are young players either getting some extra seasoning in the AHL or being kept down for contract-related purposes. As a group, based on the age-relatedperformance in the graph above, they should use a translation factor of not 0.45 but rather 0.53 when they ultimately make the move up to the NHL. This is partly because of the natural development of younger players, but also because they’re more likely to be legitimate NHL players instead of more typical replacement-level call-ups.
We’re not going to worry about NHLE’s today, but I wanted to frame it as a ’19-to-22 year old’ cluster and see if we can get an idea about the three amigo’s and whether or not it’s too late. Here’s both Detroit and Edmonton 2008-09 through this season, and all 19-to-22 year old forward seasons of .400 or more (20 game minimum).
2008-09 GRAND RAPIDS AND SPRINGFIELD FORWARDS OVER .400/PPG (19-22)
- Francis Pare (21) .762
- Evan McGrath (22) .691
- Justin Abdelkader (22) .684
- Darren Helm (21) .672
- Matias Ritola (21) .631
- Gilbert Brule (21) .615
- Rob Schremp (22) .609
- Corey Emmerton (20) .507
- Slava Trukhno (21) .464
- Bryan Lerg (22) .404
Interesting to see the four Oiler prospects appear in the lower portion of the list, this was the period when Edmonton was cobbling together their minor league system as they left the ‘lending players’ era behind. Pare scores the best, but is undersized and that’s a lesson to all of us who fall in love with smaller minor league skill players: every team has one and the really good versions have NHL careers, but many more fall by the wayside (deserved or not). McGrath also missed, but the wins on this list are all Detroit’s: Abdelkader, Helms and Emmerton.
2009-10 GRAND RAPIDS AND SPRINGFIELD FORWARDS OVER .400/PPG (19-22)
- Justin Abdelkader (22) .727
- Matias Ritola (22) .575
- Tomas Tatar (18) .552
- Jan Mursak (21) .532
- Francis Pare (22) .506
- Cory Emmerton (21) .487
This time there are six Red Wings and no Oilers. Abdelkader moves the dial and Tatar shows up at 18 (!!!) and posts a good number. Emmeron runs in place, while Pare struggles compared to his previous season.
2010-11 GRAND RAPIDS AND OKC FORWARDS OVER .400/PPG (19-22)
- Mark Arcobello (22) .846
- Tomas Tatar (19) .814
- Jan Mursak (22) .648
- Teemu Hartikainen (20) .636
- Cory Emmerton (22) .585
Just three for the Red Wings this time, and Joakim Andersson doesn’t reach the .400/ppg range (.278/age 21). Tatar is clearly talented enough by now to be an obvious NHL candidate, while Mursak plays in the tweener department and Emmerton improves from his first two seasons.
Oilers have two in the group, and Arcobello is the first really good AHL performer in this five year glance.
2011-2012 GRAND RAPIDS AND OKC FORWARDS OVER .400/PPG (19-22)
- Gustav Nyquist (22) 1.04
- Tomas Tatar (20) .763
- Magnus Paajarvi (20) .735
- Joakim Andersson (22) .699
- Teemu Hartikainen (21) .628
- Phil Cornet (21) .552
A nice group for both teams. Nyquist arrives and plays at above 1/1 (age 22) and Tatar actually goes backwards from his 19-year-old season. Paajarvi shows himself to be a little shy offensively compared to other top 10 forward picks, but his range of skills makes him a bona fide prospect. Andersson is interesting in the same way—he’s a guy teams can use because there are so many situations he can play in a game. Hartikainen runs in place, and Cornet really did have a nice season.
2012-13 GRAND RAPIDS AND OKC FORWARDS OVER .400/PPG (19-22)
- Toni Rajala (21) .978
- Tomas Tatar (21) .803
- Teemu Hartikainen (22) .787
- Phil Cornet (22) .717
- Landon Ferraro (21) .653
- Magnus Paajarvi (21) .526
- Riley Sheahan (20) .500
- Anton Lander (21) .425
Red Wings have a nice NHL prospect in Tatar, I don’t know how high he’ll fly but there’s probably a solid career there. Ferraro and Sheahan show up and give Detroit interesting options. Edmonton has flushed pretty much everyone on this list! Incredible. I should say this often happens when a new GM takes over, but we’re five years in to this little exercise and I’d wager the best numbers belong to this group. Rajala was released, Hartikainen is still a member of the organization on paper, Cornet and Paajarvi continue their careers in other cities and Lander is the last man standing. Disappointing.
2013-14 GRAND RAPIDS AND OKC FORWARDS OVER .400/PPG (19-22)
- Tomas Jurco (20) 1.00
- Anton Lander (22) .833
- Teemu Pulkkinen (21) .824
- Roman Horak (22) .684
- Riley Sheahan (21) .615
- Landon Ferraro (22) .548
- Mitch Callahan (22) .529
- Calle Jarnkrok (21) .471
- Curtis Hamilton (21) .444
- Ryan Martindale (21) .421
- Tyler Pitlick (21) .375
A lot to talk about here, let’s start with the Red Wings. Jurco is having a terrific second season, he was below .400 one year ago as a 19-year-old. Pulkkinen looks like a player, and Sheahan has moved up a little. I’m not sure what they have in Ferraro and Callahan, with Jarnkrok being often mentioned as a strong prospect.
On the Oiler side, Lander has developed well season over season over season if we look at his AHL numbers, that’s sort of a Detroit Red Wing progression(.425 to .833) so maybe they have a player there. Horak looks like a player with some promise too, especially considering his wonky development line (similar to Lander). Hamilton, Martindale and Pitlick are on the outskirts of show business, but maybe it’s not too late.
And I’d really like to see Hartikainen back in the fall, seems like there was a player there once upon a time. Oh, and Rajala? Leading his team in scoring over there.