Do you know about the Mendoza line? It’s a baseball invention for ‘bad, bad hitter who is somehow a regular’ and is described by Wiki thusly:
- The Mendoza Line is an expression in baseball in the United States, deriving from the name of shortstop Mario Mendoza, whose mediocre batting average is taken to define the threshold of incompetent hitting. The cutoff point is most often said to be . 200 (although Mendoza’s career average was .215) and, when a position player’s batting average falls below that level, the player is said to be “below the Mendoza Line”.
THE VANDEVELDE FAULT
Chris VandeVelde has found his way to the NHL in spite of poor offensive ability. He didn’t make it with the team that drafted him, and the Flyers didn’t have to give up anything to acquire the player. That’s not unusual for this player-type, because their value isn’t high until they’re established and even then most teams have one or two replacement candidates kicking around in the minors.
VandeVelde’s positives include size, penalty kill and faceoffs but math doesn’t pretend to like him.
- 5×5 points per 60: 1.26 (10th among regular forwards)
- 5×4 points per 60: nil
- Qual Comp: 11th toughest among D (fourth line)
- Qual Team: 13th best available among D (fourth line)
- Corsi for 5×5 %: 46.5%
- Corsi for 5×5 % REL: -8.6
- Zone Start: 50.9%
- Zone Finish: 50.7%
- Shots on goal/percentage: 70 shots/12.9%
- Boxcars: 72GP, 9-6-15
Nothing about VandeVelde suggests (via the numbers) he is helping Philadelphia in any way. He’s fourth line all the way, delivers some offense (most often lines up with P.E. Bellemare and Vincent Lecavalier) but would absolutely be a candidate for ‘worst actual player in the NHL in 2015-16’ and I’m not trying to be rude. Forwards have to deliver at least some offense or they’re not going to last. If VV can’t find a way to post more offense, and that’s not likely, he won’t have a long career in the NHL.
JUJHAR KHAIRA’S OFFENSE
Eric Rodgers’ estimates give us a grand look at the AHL centers in OKC a year ago. If you and I were employees of the Las Vegas North Stars (NHL’s new entry beginning 2017) and asked to recommend future NHLErs from this list, Khaira wouldn’t be on it. Anton Lander and Bogdan Yakimov are the possible players here, I don’t honestly think there’s much to argue over.
KHAIRA V VANDEVELDE NHLE
If we can agree that VandeVelde is a good candidate for the NHL’s Mendoza Line, then perhaps VV’s past will give us some insight into Khaira’s possible future. Let’s review the NHLE’s for both men at the same age:
- Age 17: VandeVelde (USHL); Khaira (BCJHL)
- Age 18: VandeVelde (USHL); Khaira (23 points)
- Age 19: VandeVelde (8 points); Khaira (18 points)
- Age 20: VandeVelde (25 points); Khaira (9 points-AHL)
- Age 21: VandeVelde (27 points);
- Age 22: VandeVelde (33 points);
- Age 23: VandeVelde (9 points-AHL);
It’s miles too early to know, but Khaira has two more years to build on the AHL offense (VV’s NHLE at 24 years old was 12 points) and could develop into a more useful offensive player. As with VV, there are some things beyond offense that make him an interesting player.
- Red Line before the draft: We believe this kid could be the biggest/best sleeper of the entire draft. Prince George is so far off the beaten path teams don’t even travel there for WHL games, much less BCHL contests, so he gets zero exposure. But this kid is big, mean, aggressive, nasty, and guess what… he can score too. Does the dirty work in the corners, bangs bodies and wins battles, and loves to initiate heavy contact. Powerful stride with great balance and gets leverage on his hits. Has surprisingly soft hands and puck skills with playmaking ability. Creates lots of space for smaller teammates and makes everyone braver. Very raw defensively.
- Todd Nelson: “He thinks the game really well on the ice and when you couple that with the size and skill he has, it’s going to be a very bright future for him. He’s an intelligent guy. He knows what he has to do to get better and he works hard at it. With his size and maturity and the way he approaches the game, who knows where his top level is, but I think the future is looking really positive for him.”
- Todd Nelson: “We’ve seen flashes of what JJ can be. He just needs time to mature. We’re trying to mould JJ into a two-way centreman, somebody who can kill penalties, late in games trying to preserve a game. He has the size. He just needs experience.” Source
- Neal Livingston, Tend The Farm: “I see him as a Hartikainen 2.0. If you were concerned about Hartikainen’s foot speed, Khaira has no problems. He’s a quick skater, he’s very fast and good on faceoffs.”
This player could end up in Europe or the AHL, but after a year in the AHL there’s enough to suggest he’ll increase his role in year two and may yet have a career in the NHL. He isn’t batting well beyond the VandeVelde Fault Line, but he has some miles of blacktop before his entry-level deal forces a decision from the Oilers.