Just two major topics for this posting, PAR, and Prospects. Here we go;
Way back when I had more time on my hands than common-sense in my head I spent a few off-season summers trying to solve the ancient riddle of 'how do we compare players across positions?' My first attempts at this were terrible, but eventually I settled on a mathematical process where I ranked all the players by position, and then ran a calculation that would compare the expected offense vs the average player of that position.
Intuitively this seemed to make sense, but in practical terms the results were very counter intuitive. For example, in every year I ran that process it would produce a list of players (hooray!) but that list would have a massively disproportionate number of defensemen at the top (uh oh). It would literally tell me that I should be spending my first six picks of the draft on defensemen and ignore all other positions till that what was done.
Needless to say these were the drafts where by the 3rd round I was muttering out loud 'my list is lying to me'. Not my finest hours at the draft table to be sure.
Since then I had settled on a more laissez-faire approach, players are broken out by position, and then ranked internally to see if they are a FUNHL 1st liner, 2nd liner, etc. with an easy to assess highlighting of how many others were at the same position so I can best judge whether I am able to get a player of similar caliber by waiting. I can't complain about this process much since it won me a Cup, but I still wondered if there were a way to rank and compare a goaltender vs a center vs a D-man in a way that made sense.
Enter Fantasy Football. Turns out this problem of ranking across positions is a problem for Football as well. How do you compare selecting a quarterback vs a team's defense? (fantasy football pools don't split out defensive players, though wow, it would be awesome if they did), or determine which of a gazillion potential running backs is best to be taken and when?
The solution? Points Above Replacement.
Rank all players by their position and sorth them by last years stats (I'll use RW as an example). The key is to determine who the WORST player you might conceivably dress at RW is (i.e. who is the 48th best RW), and this becomes the 'replacement' level player. In this case it would have been Tuormo Rutuu for 34 points. To figure out a players PAR then, you would take his stats (say Kessel with 82 points, the top RW from last year) and subtract the replacement level player (34pts) to get Kessel's PAR = 48pts. Once you do this for every position you can then compare across positions to see which players have the greatest impact vs the guy you can find at the end of your bench or off the waiver wire.
I ran the PAR for my own player projections and it gives a VERY intuitive result. The best player in the league? Malkin. 2nd best? Crosby. Karlsson's huge offensive season put him in the top 5 (but not first overall!), and it shows where a run on D-men should take place, which two goaltenders should go in the first, etc.
I'm sold on it, but you can decide for yourself once those of you interested have had a chance to do your own projections.
The second thing I wanted to do was to review who I thought were the top prospects for our upcoming Prospect Draft. I have had several long conversations with Bob, have read through all the profiles on Hockey Prospects, Hockey Prospectus, and Dobber (and others), and come up with what I think is a pretty fair grasp of how things will look (which is still very probably wrong, but there you go).
The first thing I should say is that unlike last year, this year we have a VERY deep prospect pool to select from. Not sure why this is the case, but I have more top-end guys in this draft than in the last two combined. Just how it goes I guess.
1st Overall: Galchenyuk-C Mtl
It makes way too much sense. He was the top forward in the NHL ED who has yet to be picked (Brian has Yakupov already), he is a pure offensive weapon, the team has holes he can fill sooner rather than later, and he was even a candidate to go 1st overall. That said, he missed most of last year with injury, but is otherwise the obvious guy to take at #1.
2. Justin Schultz-D Edm
Former Ducks 2nd rnd pick is NHL ready, has a spot waiting for him, and is already well developed as a prospect - he could play right away for a FUNHL defense.
3. Seth Jones-D USNTDP
Compares to Larry Robinson, a huge, physical and mobile defender who can run a powerplay and log massive minutes.
I rank the above as 1-2-3, and honestly expect Rob (who has the first three picks) to consider taking all of them (in some order). The represent the best overager (Schultz), the best underager (Jones), and the best of this years NHL ED (Galchenyuk). He can cover all his bases right off the hop.
For the rest I won't assign a specific ranking, because preferences (how old a prospect is, team they play for, style of play, etc.) don't make for clear favourites. Any of these guys could go in just about any order once you scoop the above three off the top.
Charlie Coyle-R Min
A big strapping powerforward with oodles of offensive ability. Downside is that suddenly the wing position just got crowded in Minny, and he may be broken in more slowly. Plus, it's Minnesota, a place prospects normally go to die.
Roman Cervenka-C Cgy
Brought over from the KHL to jumpstart Calgary's offense, he's a tad undersized, but at 26 is way more mature as a player than anyone else you might select. Upside is similar to the PV's use of Plekanec, downside is he might not even be in the league after one season. Low risk, high reward makes him a likely first rounder.
Calle Jarnkrok-C Det
Somewhere in a lab in Sweden (probably in Ornskoldsvik) Red Wing scientists continue their efforts to create a Zetterberg/Datsyuk hybrid. Jarnkrok is the latest result. Downside is you may have to wait a few years for him to arrive.
Derek Pouliot-D Pit
Lots of offensive defensemen this year, but Pouliot will get special attention because he plays in Pittsburgh. Biggest issue is the number of quality prospects the Penguins already have on D (Despres, Maata, Morrow, etc.)
Morgan Reilly-D Tor
Two red-flags for Reilly, he missed most of the year with knee injury, and he's a tad undersized (and he's a Leaf, but whatever). That said, he has sick skating ability and looks like a future powerplay QB. Is he the next Brian Leetch, or the next Drake Berehowsky?
The overseas scoring ace signed a deal with Detroit in the off-season and will likely be given an ample shot at the 3rd line and 2nd unit PP. Rumours of his having been hatched from a pod in Ornskoldsvik by Red Wing scientists cannot be confirmed.
Peter Holland-C Ana
A big strapping scoring pivot that Anaheim has been handling with kid gloves by stashing him in the AHL rather than rushing him to the bigs. On the slow track, but has prototype skills.
Mark Stone-C Ott
Canada's best forward at the WJC, Stone lead the team in scoring, and flashed a Brett Hull like skill-set, including a below average skating stride that may prevent him from making an impact at the NHL level.
Nathan Beaulieu-D Mtl
An offensive defenseman in junior, Beaulieu has a wide range of scoring abilities and with Montreal's thin blue-line (Rafael Diaz? Really?), Beaulieu could get a shot sooner rather than later.
Cody Ceci-D Ott
One of the seemingly endless supply of offensive defensemen in this years NHL ED, Ceci was one of the few who went injury free. Bonus points for getting drafted by his hometown team.
Griffin Reinhart-D NYI
Prototype #1 defenseman with size, skating ability and all-round game, he was a high pick and went to a team that desperately needs to develop an elite defender. The bad news is that his offensive ceiling may not be that of a Pouliot, or Reilly (on the other hand, it well may), but his circumstances are all but ideal for making an impact sooner rather than later. Bonus points for his excellent playoff performance.
Ty Rattie-R StL
The Blues may have found the modern version of Darcy Tucker, or Pat Verbeek. Rattie is an agitating winger with loads of skill, but its an open question as to how well his skills will translate at the next level given his size.
Andrei Loktionov-C LA
Played a strong two way game for the Monarchs the last two years and flashed enough skill to be considered a likely 2nd line center when he hits his prime. Unfortunately, there is a sick logjam of guys ahead of him on the Kings (Kopitar, Richards, Carter, Stoll).
The Panther Pivots:
Nick Bjugstad-C, Quinton Howden-C, Grimaldi-C
Bjugstand and Howden are large framed guys with good offensive ability who will likely compete for the slot behind Huberdeau as the Panthers develop. Unless the uber-Dwarf Grimaldi snatches it away from them. Either Howden or Bjugstad could bust out and be a grinder, but if Grimaldi busts he will be the AHL's or Europe's top scorer for a decade.
The Next Ones:
Jones is the Pronger clone, Monahan and Barkov skill pivots with size, Shinkaruk is the smurfy burner, and Lazar is the longshot. Pick your (slow acting) poison.
The 5 Dwarves:
Cory Conacher-L TBay
Teuvo Tervainen-C Chi
Johnny Gaudreau-L Cgy
Hunter Shinkaruk-F WHL
Rocco Grimaldi-C Flo
Conacher has already had a solid AHL season as an offensive weapon, and looks close to making the Bolts where he'll have Martin StLouis around to mentor him. Tervainen is Chicago's most recent 1st round pick, he has loads of skill and speed, but is a lightweight and less likely to be ready for at least another year, and maybe more. Gaudreau was Calgary's 4th round pick a year ago, he was a ppg in college hockey as a rookie and looks to have already covered the bet for where he was drafted. He's further away than Conacher or Tervainen, but could have as much upside as either. Hunter Shinkaruk is a scoring dynamo in the Dub, and is angling for a high spot in next years draft. Grimaldi is the smallest of the 5 in stature (5'6"), but may well be the heaviest as he has a thick frame (ala Theo Fleury back in the day). He'd be closer to making the Panthers but lost the entire season to injury. Downside is he is a compulsive twitter-holic and a Tebow fanatic, unless you like those things in which case, he's your guy. Highest ceiling is Shinkaruk. Most ready is Conacher. Most likely to succeed in the medium term is Tervainen. Most entertaining might be Grimaldi, and most fun to have as a prospect (because he is a Flame) is definitely Gaudreau.
The Flames Cupboard
Since Phaneuf, the best prospects from the Flames have been serious question marks until Sven Baertschi came along - a long drought. But Feaster's drafting has been paying off and there appear to be a handful of potential offensive performers coming down the pipe;
Johnny Gaudreau (see above) -L
Roman Cervenka (see above)-C
Gaudreau is the smurf I mentioned above, and Cervenka has already been discussed. Jankowski was the 'didn't see that coming' 1st rounder from this year. He destroyed inferior competition at a Canadian High School after sprouting 5 inches in a little over a year. He's highly skilled, but is a pencil and badly needs to pack on weight and prove himself against his peers. Boom or bust, he's a project and he's at Providence this coming year. Ferland is from the Rick Tocchet school of how to make friends and win bar fights. In his draft year he wasn't considered a steal when taken, but he exploded last year on the top line with Stone and Rattie in Brandon, and flashed unexpected scoring ability while also being an all-round mean son-of-a-gun. Off-season assault charge only adds to his allure. Probably has the lowest floor of all the Flames prospects, but he already looks to be on a better track than Greg Nemisz. Reinhart is being groomed as a 2nd/3rd line center, so his ceiling isn't terribly high, but he also looks to be a sure-fire NHLer, and with his high IQ could surprise. Granlund is a bit of a wild card and the least attractive of the bunch IMO. He's got decent size (over 6'ft), great bloodlines (Michael's brother), and a very solid offensive resume. The downsides are that his totals may have been floated upward by playing with uber-skilled Michael, and his performance at prospect camp showed a preference for staying around the perimeter. Cervenka is the only one I'd guarantee gets picked, but any or all of these Flames could be taken.