ST PAUL, MN - JANUARY 21: Philip Larsen #36 of the Dallas Stars falls after a check from Clayton Stoner #4 of the Minnesota Wild during the third period on January 21, 2012 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. The Wild defeated the Stars 5-2. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Evaluating prospects in any sport is difficult. Hockey prospects, in particular, are very difficult to evaluate for the masses in the United State because there aren't many opportunities for fans to actually see the players play. Fortunately, based on years of statistical history it's fairly easy to determine how a given level of production translates from one league to another. Thanks to the work of Gabriel Desjardins of behindthenet.ca and Arctic Ice Hockey fame we have the ability to translate the performance of a given player in a particular league to an NHL equivalency.
A league equivalent point total basically says "based on what this player did in this league we would expect that production to translate to ____ in the NHL". I've applied the conclusions he's drawn to the Stars prospect pool. For other examples of where these translations have been applied click here, here, or here.
The equivalencies aren't guaranteed to come to fruition due to various factors such as ice time, usage, powerplay time, injuries, etc. The assumption is that over time the most productive players will get the most ice time. For each player I've taken their scoring totals and divided them by games played to get the scoring rate per game then multiplied that by 82 to estimate for a full NHL season.
I've more or less ignored age since scoring rates remain pretty constant once they get established. They generally get established in a player's early 20's. The outliers are your high variability teenagers and guys over 24. This isn't to say that the following players can't develop more. They certainly could. This is just an approximation of where they are now.
I've broken the players into two groups to make viewing the information easier. The first group is all defensemen. The second group is all forwards. To see who the next stars of the Stars are follow the jump.
The translation factors I've used can be found here. The actual translation factors are .83 (KHL), .78 (SEL, Swedish Elite League), .54 (SM-Liiga, Finland), and .29 (Canadian Juniors). In each table the first numbers you will find are the player's updated stats as of Monday February 6th. The second batch of numbers are translations based on their actual production this season. The first group of players we're going to consider are the Stars defensive prospects. They're a diverse group. Some feel they have a lot of potential. Others feel that they offer limited upside. The projected points for each Stars defensive prospect over an 82 game NHL season are as follows:
|POS||NAME||LEAGUE||GP||G||A||P||Eq G||Eq A||Eq P|
Philip Larsen heads the Stars defensive group. I used his AHL numbers from this season for the projection. It's a small sample, and only slightly higher than you would otherwise suspect. In his final European season he translated to roughly a 20 point NHL defenseman. Currently, his NHL pace is in the 18-20 range. He's young and can develop though. Most of his development will probably come defensively though since he hasn't ever shown an elite offensive ceiling. 20-30 points from a defensively responsible defenseman who performs well in transition would be a nice late round find by the Stars brass.
Of the remaining defenders on the list Jordie Benn, Jyrki Jokipakka, and Brenden Dillon offer the most current offensive promise despite not exactly setting the world on fire. Benn, the elder statesmen of the group, has performed at a much higher rate this season than any previous season of his career. When he was up he looked very steady defensively. He looks like he fits in at the back of a roster, and there's nothing wrong with that. Dillon, while three years younger than Benn, has a similar ceiling. In his final year of juniors with the Seattle Thunderbirds he was producing at a 20 point NHL pace vs. a slight drop off in the AHL to a 13 point NHL pace. Solid, but unspectacular with room to grow given his age. Jokipakka is having a solid season playing against grown men in Finland. His strengths reportedly are his hockey sense and poise. Translating that to English: he's going to need to make the NHL on the strength of his defensive game barring a developmental leap.
Jamie Oleksiak is the lightning rod of the group. He hasn't produced much offensively in his young career. This season has been his best offensive year, and that has been good for only 17 points in 42 junior games. He's a developing project with good mobility, but he has a long way to go to develop the kind of offensive upside the Stars think he has. He has age on his side, but if he's going to develop the offensive game that is ultimately expected to arrive then you would like to see him take a few more steps forward over the next season and a half.
|POS||NAME||LEAGUE||GP||G||A||P||Eq G||Eq A||Eq P|
The forward group is much more promising. The Stars, who severely lack depth scoring, appear to have a lot of it coming. The most interesting name going for Stars fans currently is all-of-a-sudden offensive dynamo Austin Smith of Colgate. Collegiate hockey is a tough business. Prospects are playing against physically mature players instead of other kids as they would in the Canadian CHL. The bulk of the Stars forward prospects are playing in collegiate leagues, and a few are excelling. 23 year old Austin Smith currently leads the NCAA in scoring.
Smith leads the NCAA in scoring on the strength of his giant shot totals. The kid loves to shoot. He has 30 goals in 28 games which puts him on a 36 goal NHL pace. His assist total, I imagine, would do nothing but go up playing with superior teammates since he probably grips it and rips if 90% of the time with Colgate. 36 goals is a ridiculous translation, and would be much more impressive if he were a few years younger. However, he's been on 40+ point paces for the rest of his collegiate career, and now he's shooting more so he's definitely a legitimate prospect. How high his ultimate ceiling is can be debated though.
Reilly Smith is worth keeping an eye on too. So far in his college career he has proven to be a lethal goal scorer. His NHL equivalent goal total for this season sits at 24 with the same lagging assist total as Austin Smith. Alex Chiasson is another potential depth scorer to keep an eye on. His tough physical game lends itself to the bottom six of an NHL forward corps. If he is able to chip in offensively he can be a very nice roster addition in the near future. The Stars are also very high on Alex Guptill. He and Scott Winkler both project for 30 points. Ditto Matt Fraser.
The two other forwards I'd like to focus on are Tomas Vincour and Colton Sceviour. We all know what Vincour brings defensively, and I wanted to point out that those offensive projections are based on a small sample of games. They're encouraging though. I think in his limited NHL time he's at least proven that he can play the NHL game. Sceviour is an interesting case too. He's known for his defensive ability, but he doesn't seem to be very high in the pecking order with the Stars brass. He has 29 points in 44 AHL games to go with a defensive skill set. He's also only 22 years old. These are the type of guys a rebuilding-type team needs to break in on the bottom lines going forward. There is little reason to spend extraneous money on the fourth line when you have AHL talent with the ability to perform. The point of a farm system is to make sure the NHL roster stays deep. I'd like to see the Stars tap into that depth soon.
I hope this has been informational. While none of these translations are guaranteed to predict future production, they do describe where the particular players are at on the development curve fairly accurately. Obviously various factors can influence those one way or the other, but I think these projections give an interesting baseline of what the Stars have in their system. The lack of actualized offensive production, particularly from the blueline, is a major reason why most pundits feel the Stars system isn't anything special. I think the Stars forward depth is getting overlooked though. They don't have elite talent in the forward core, but if you can fill out most of your bottom of your roster cheaply it's easier to go find more expensive top tier talent (though ideally you'd develop cheap elite talent). The Stars have the makings of a decent prospect pool, but the risky offensive potential of Oleksiak, the lowered stock of Scott Glennie, and the lack of premium picks in both 07 and 08 limit the value of the Stars system in quite a few eyes. There is some potential here though, and I hope this exercise sheds a little more light on from where it could be coming.