Reasonable Expectations For The Future: Is Bo Horvat A Top-6 C?

That's Offside!
March 10 2014 10:54AM

bohorvat

If you've been following me on Twitter over the last few days, you'll have noticed that I haven't exactly been too complimentary of the Vancouver Canucks' top prospects. Taking it even a step further, I guess you could say that, overall, I hold a pretty negative view of the long-term future of the franchise. 

It's not that I don't think that guys like Bo Horvat, Brenden Gaunce, and Hunter Shinkaruk can't or won't turn into useful NHL players; it's just that we need to establish what are reasonable expectations for these players moving forward. The fact of the matter is that aside from Hunter Shinkaruk, not a single prospect the Canucks have in the system has produced at a high enough level that you can say with any degree of confidence that they'll be a top-6 NHL forward.

The focus here will be on Bo Horvat since he was recently ranked as the #1 prospect in Vancouver's system, #12 in all of hockey by The Hockey News, and the 6th best prospect with no NHL experience by International Scouting Services and Buzzing the Net, but it also applies to Brenden Gaunce to a lesser degree. We'll look at some of the arguments in favour of Horvat, examine the validity of these arguments, and look at where NHL top-6 centres really come from. I suggest you get comfortable, because this is a pretty hefty read.

Bo Horvat: Man, Myth, Legend

First off, let's establish what the people are saying about Bo Horvat and what some of his perceived strengths are as a hockey player. From The Hockey News' Future Watch 2014:

"He'll always be linked to the draft-day trade for Cory Schneider to get New Jersey's first-round pick, but what put Horvat on the fast track was his excellent play at the WJC in all situations, along with his leadership. He's won't dazzle with speed, but has an uncanny ability to find his linemates. His two-way effectiveness could land him NHL duty next season in the third-line slot, where the Canucks have struggled to find a replacement for Manny Malhotra."

From International Scouting Services head scout Ross MacLean, courtesy of Buzzing The Net:

"The Canucks traded Corey Schneider to the New Jersey Devils to draft Horvat for a reason. Simply put, the 6-foot, 203-pounder is the total package. He plays a strong two-way game, is a wizard in the faceoff dot and possesses the offensive upside to slot in as a first or second-line centre in the NHL. Horvat, who has scored 26 goals and 66 points in 45 games this year, projects to develop into a gritty forward comparable to Vancouver’s own Ryan Kesler."

From Hockey's Future:

"Horvat’s bullish style of play garnered a lot of attention this year both in London and during the Knights’ run through the OHL playoffs. On a young team, Horvat stepped up and assumed a huge leadership responsibility, while showing his offensive bonafides. But what impresses observers most about Horvat is how hard he plays the game. He can score, but his truest strengths are defensive play and skill in the faceoff circle. Though he would be an ideal third-line centre in the NHL, Horvat could find himself on a team’s top six -- as the sandpaper on an offensively gifted line. He could be lethal in that role as he has the hands and nose for the net to take advantage of the dirty areas of the net."

The common theme through all of these articles is that Horvat is an excellent two-way player, and stellar defensively. Given this view of his skillset, it's not at all surprising that the most common defense of Horvat's poor production relative to what his ceiling is supposed to be (we'll touch on that more later) is that London Knights coach Dale Hunter utilizes Horvat in an extreme defensive specialist role; he takes a lot of defensive zone faceoffs and plays against the toughest competition.

There are a couple of problems with this argument. First of all, the CHL does not track any location stats, so it's not possible to determine if Horvat's deployment is really tangibly different than any other top CHL centre. Personally, I find it really difficult to believe that Horvat is being deployed in a Manny Malhotra-like role and starting more than a third of all his shifts in the defensive zone. It's more likely that Dale Hunter will throw him on the ice for occasional faceoff duty in place of Ryan Rupert, Mitchell Marner or Michael McCarron if Hunter doesn't totally trust those guys. That wouldn't really cut into Horvat's offensive time so much as it would be giving him an extra minute or two of TOI per game.

Second of all, there's the question of quality of competition. While I don't doubt the fact that Horvat plays against strong competition, this only matters if he faces competition that is disproportionately strong relative to his peers. The best method we currently have to estimate CHL QualComp is through estimating time on ice for each CHL player, then seeing which players were on the ice when a certain player was also on the ice for a goal. You can read a much more detailed breakdown here, courtesy of Eric Tulsky at Broad Street Hockey.

Tulsky also looked at the quality of competition for a lot of the top prospects from last year's draft, and here's what he had to say about Horvat's performance relative to Max Domi:

"These estimates are not precise enough for me to be confident that Horvat faced much tougher competition, but it almost certainly wasn't easier. Still, Domi significantly outscored Horvat, both overall and per minute. The difference in their performance is larger than would be explained away just by the difference in usage. A scout's eye might help identify skills that will translate to NHL success, but it seems clear that Domi had the superior season this year."

Also included in the write-up was a table ranking the estimated difficulty of competition of opposing forwards and defencemen. I've added a simple weighting (60% forwards, 40% defence since 60% of the players on the ice at 5v5 are forwards) and ranked the players presented in that table based on their estimated quality of competition:

CHLQualcomps

If you believe that these rankings are reasonably accurate, undersized Portland Winterhawk Nic Petan, and a couple of guys who are already NHL top-6 centres in Nathan MacKinnon and Sean Monahan faced tougher competition than Horvat did, and still crushed it offensively. However, you still have to keep in mind that these are estimates, so saying that "Horvat faced easier competition" than them isn't entirely fair either.

The bottom line here is this: there is no evidence to suggest that Bo Horvat has faced uniquely difficult defensively-oriented deployments. He may play against tough competition, but nearly every top player in junior does. The fact still remains that his comparatively weak offensive production cannot be explained away by usage, and as we'll see in the next section, does not bode well if the Canucks are expecting him to be a top-6 NHL centre.

Where Do Top-6 Centres Come From?

When projecting a player as a "first or second-line centre in the NHL," it's most important to define and identify who these NHL first and second-line NHL centres actually are. Originally, I defined a legitimate NHL top-6 centre as a player who is:

1) listed as a C on NHL.com

2) in the top-60 among NHL C's in even-strength TOI per game

3) also in the top-60 NHL C's in scoring. 

To make a fair comparison to the Canucks' top prospects, I then looked for guys that played in the CHL in their draft year, and either in the CHL, NHL or AHL in their draft+1 season. Doing this yielded 27 players, but still excluded some guys that were pretty clearly top-6 centres like Jason Spezza and Mike Richards. As a result, I had to expand my strict definition to a softer one that included guys that took a lot of their team's faceoffs, were in the top-6 of their team in TOI/game, and also were in the top-6 of their team in scoring.

This expanded list includes 44 forwards. At the top end, you get guys like Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, and John Tavares. At the bottom end of this sample, there are guys like Derrick Brassard, Tyler Johnson, Mathieu Perreault, and Steve Ott. The list also includes some top rookies like Nathan MacKinnon and Sean Monahan, and other young guys such as Cody Hodgson. (Ed. note: do not ever mention that name ever again. Ever)

Once compiling this list of NHL top-6 centremen that played in the CHL during their draft year, I looked at their point production in both their draft and draft+1 seasons to see if there was a pattern. I have this running hypothesis that since the NHL is the best of the best, guys who will be good NHLers are usually dominant juniors in all aspects in the game, and this shows up in a ton of scoring relative to their peers. As such, you would expect the vast majority of guys who would become top-6 centres to score a ton when in junior. Here's the list of all ex-CHL top-6 centremen currently in the NHL sorted by points/game in their draft and draft+1 seasons:

CanucksProspectComps

A few important notes:

  • For fun, I included Canucks prospects (and Zack Kassian) that were also wingers just to see where they stack up. Canucks are in bold and italic.
  • Some players played in the NHL in their draft+1 season. To account for this, I did a reverse-NHL Equivalency (NHLE) estimate on their draft+1 NHL numbers to estimate what they would have scored in their CHL league. In most cases, this estimate wasn't out of line with what they'd already done in their CHL careers. In the cases that this provided a clearly inaccurate estimate, draft-1 and draft years were used instead.
  • The asterisk denotes that a players' draft-1 and draft years were used because of a deficiency of good data for their draft+1 year. For Seguin and Thornton, this is because their draft+1 seasons were spent playing minimal minutes in the NHL, resulting in reverse-NHLE numbers that were far below what you would expect given their extremely prolific junior scoring rate. For Crosby, this is the opposite as a reverse-NHLE has him at like 7 points per game. For Shinkaruk, he's missed his draft+1 season due to injury. You would expect Thornton, Seguin and Shinkaruk to all be higher on this list had their draft+1 seasons been available.

The good news for Canucks fans is that there are players who have become top-6 centremen that have scored at a lower rate in the CHL than Bo Horvat has. Dallas' Cody Eakin (who was picked in the 3rd round, 85th overall by the Washington Capitals in 2009) is Horvat's closest comparable, and he looks like he'll contribute about 35 points and a positive Corsi this year while playing average difficulty minutes on a line with Ray Whitney and Alex Chiasson. Ryan O'Reilly is also an excellent player on an up-and-coming Avalanche team, and David Desharnais, Tyler Johnson, Brandon Dubinsky and Adam Henrique are all nice players too.

The bad news for Canucks fans is that the vast majority of guys who became top-6 NHL centremen were elite offensive performers in the CHL. Even with his stronger 2013-14 season, Bo Horvat has not been an elite offensive performer relative to the guys that have developed into top-6 centremen, and players who score at a rate similar to his at the same age still usually tend not to become regular NHL players at all:

Horvat Chart

On average, a player who went on to become an NHL top-6 centre after being drafted out of the CHL scored 1.5 pts/GP over their draft and draft+1 seasons. While this number is inflated a bit by the guys at the top of the list, Bo Horvat is nowhere close. His lack of offensive production can't be accounted for solely through his deployment in London, and still is a pretty serious red flag in terms of him becoming a cornerstone piece of this franchise.

It also has to be noted that for every Ryan O'Reilly drafted, there are multiple Ryan O'Marras - guys drafted for a solid two-way game that are point-per-game players in the CHL, but never amount to anything at the NHL level. This in part shows the folly of drafting for "the next player X" as in a lot of cases, "player X" was never supposed to become the first player X. Milan Lucic, for example, was never supposed to become anything more than a knuckle-chucker. He had 19 points in his draft year, before exploding for 68 the next season. When a team drafts a guy like Lucic, 99 times out of 100 he never develops the "can play hockey" dimension to his game.

Guys like O'Reilly and Dubinsky and Henrique and Eakin are the outliers, and you'll notice that they're also all guys taken in the second round or later (Desharnais and Johnson weren't even drafted at all, despite both eclipsing 115 points in a single season by the time their CHL careers ended). This is the thing with Horvat - although Ryan O'Reilly could be his ceiling, it's not likely that he reaches that level, just as it was unlikely for O'Reilly himself to reach that level. The NHL is an extremely skilled and brutally difficult league, and the majority of the time, guys that become good players were dominating players in junior.

Reasonable Expectations

Bo Horvat will, by all accounts, be an NHL player. He's a very good CHL'er and possesses a skill set that is fawned over by NHL GMs. When prognosticating these sorts of things, though, we need to evaluate what the most likely outcome is moving forward. For Horvat, the most likely route his career takes sees him topping out as a decent 3rd line C, scoring in the mid-40s in points just once or twice, and finishing his career having played for 4 or 5 different teams. Even then, he probably won't be ready to step into that 3rd line role and be effective for another 3-4 years after this one. Nothing he's done in junior screams "I'm ready" for full-time NHL duty, and most players spend significant time apprenticing in the AHL anyways.

There isn't really a reason to conclude that Horvat is better than "most players," so thrusting him into the spotlight and asking him to anchor the 3rd line on a team that wants to be going places isn't really a reasonable expectation at this point in his career.

All in all, Bo Horvat simply is not a player you build your future around, and is certainly not a player you draft with the 9th overall pick when there are players available that are clearly better bets to become impact pros - players like Valeri Nichushkin and Max Domi, and to a lesser extent guys like Josh Morrissey, Alex Wennberg, Nic Petan and Hunter Shinkaruk (thank god he fell to 24th). He's a guy you should feel comfortable taking in the 2nd or 3rd round, as coaches will always give him a second look since he does the defensive stuff well. He more than likely won't make an impact in the next few seasons though.

The Hockey News ranked Vancouver's prospects 28th out of 30 teams, and I tend to agree. Outside of Shinkaruk, there isn't really anyone who projects as an above-average offensive player at the NHL level in the system. Of course, this could change with another top-10 pick in this summer's entry draft, and could really change depending on what the return is for Ryan Kesler if he still wants to be moved in the increasingly probable event that John Tortorella is fired. It's a good idea to take a sober look at this though, and temper our expectations for the kids.

More reading on Bo Horvat:

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Rhys Jessop - CanucksArmy's resident CHL buff/hater of prospects, depending on who you ask. Follow my ramblings on Twitter: @Thats_Offside. Email contact: thats.offside.hockey@gmail.com
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#1 Mantastic
March 10 2014, 11:36AM
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great article, this is what i've been saying since the draft and how Drance had him ranked as the top prospect over such a skilled player like Hunter. with a top 10 pick, you don't pick a defensive player, you pick the most skilled player.

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#2 Dustin
March 10 2014, 11:41AM
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That made me sad. Good write-up though.

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#3 Senrik Hedin
March 10 2014, 11:42AM
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oh the disbelief when i heard they were picking horvat over nichuskin.

never mind the fact that MG got one draft pick. one draft pick. for cory schneider.

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#4 Austin Wallace
March 10 2014, 11:48AM
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I run my own statistics-based ranking for Dobberhockey.com... This isn't an attack on statistics. But how the hell do you draw those conclusions with only your statistics?

Do you really think that NHL teams with many millions of dollars riding on their prospect solutions, DON'T have better statistics than the public?

I think that they have enough man-power to properly document the zone-starts/possession numbers/Qcomp/things-we-haven't-heard-of of the top x prospects.

"There isn't really a reason to conclude that Horvat is better than "most players,"" That is true, when you only have the limited stats from the CHL.

"there is no evidence to suggest that Bo Horvat has faced uniquely difficult defensively-oriented deployments. " Again, there is no evidence that you know of.

You drew very reasonable conclusions from what you had available, and there is nothing more you could have done. That being said, you should not be using absolutes in your dismissals of the existence of evidence for Horvat being a top-six centre.

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#5 Mantastic
March 10 2014, 11:59AM
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@Austin Wallace

no they don't have enough man power to track CHL stats properly. if you read anything about CHL stats you would know that. the Q has the best advanced stats at the moment, tracking dangerous scoring chances but otherwise there are just too many teams, games and players to get the same kind of advanced stats we have in the NHL/AHL

you also clearly don't follow enough prospects to know that so many of them don't pan out.

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#6 GeezMoney
March 10 2014, 12:13PM
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"First of all, the CHL does not track any location stats, so it's not possible to determine if Horvat's deployment is really tangibly different than any other top CHL centre."

If not possible to determine, than how does one reach this conclusion: "I find it really difficult to believe that Horvat is being deployed in a Manny Malhotra-like role and starting more than a third of all his shifts in the defensive zone."

Not to sink this ship, but if your sailing on the winds of statistics, but haven't watched the actual games he's played, and the statistic for zone starts isn't available, how do you determine he is not being used in that way -- or at least be very skeptical about his use?

I feel like I keep slamming my head on these boards. There is a reason teams send scouts to games instead of simply reading stat sheets in some dank warehouse on Terminal. That way they can actually see what's happening. A number is just a number. And while it helps boost an understanding of an athlete, it does not determine it.

A lot of scouts are high on Horvat. Why is that? Are they being paid by Aquillini to put a rose on that stinky Schneider trade? Is Ross McLean an idiot compared to what That's Offside is dredging up in this article? No offence to That's Offside, because he's one of the reasons I love Canucks Army. But it is time to stop using statistical analysis like it forms a total explanation for the game. It's a partial explanation at best.

(see David Booth if you wish for proof).

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#7 CS
March 10 2014, 12:22PM
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Rhys:

Curious if you adjusted the CHL #s based on the league/year they played there. I'd imagine the QMJHL forwards slide up the list based on the higher scoring rate in that league most seasons. I can't see any reason why you would not have, it likely would have helped the data immensely.

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#8 Salient89
March 10 2014, 12:38PM
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This is a good write up. The issue I have with it is the murky statistics as you stated many times. These are conclusions based on bad-average data and thus can only lead your conclusions to be bad-average. I try to watch London games whenever I can to see how Horvat plays. He could top out at a 3rd line 40point center or maybe he doesn't. Projections based on murky data are themselves murky at best.

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#9 NM00
March 10 2014, 12:43PM
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Drafting Bo Horvat at #9 is like taking Ricky Romero (or similar college players) over someone like Troy Tulowitzki.

Impact picks need to be used on impact players.

As Rhys notes, Kesler & O'Reilly are the exceptions not the rule. And neither was taken with a high pick (although Kesler probably would have been higher in another draft year).

The same can be said about acquiring Kassian because he might be the next Lucic...

That said, Austin raises a good point.

Multimillion dollar sports franchises have infinitely more resources than the people who do the work for free and make it publicly available.

Very good post.

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#10 NM00
March 10 2014, 12:47PM
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@GeezMoney

Actually statistics can help you in your anti-Booth campaign:

http://canucksarmy.com/2012/5/16/might-david-booths-style-of-play-suppress-on-ice-shooting-percentage

Aside from that, you raise a number of good points...

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#11 Austin Wallace
March 10 2014, 12:58PM
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Mantastic wrote:

no they don't have enough man power to track CHL stats properly. if you read anything about CHL stats you would know that. the Q has the best advanced stats at the moment, tracking dangerous scoring chances but otherwise there are just too many teams, games and players to get the same kind of advanced stats we have in the NHL/AHL

you also clearly don't follow enough prospects to know that so many of them don't pan out.

I don't know how that is clear. I don't follow them obsessively, and the AHL is my specialty but I do know a decent amount about prospects.

I am a "scout" (word used very loosely) over at dobberprospects.com. Also, as part of my job, I tag video and keep track of stats for a CIS hockey team. Stats that are certainly above and beyond anything publicly available for the CIS or the CHL for that matter.

The Q keeps the best stats, but I guarantee that some WHL teams keep better in house stats.

The Canucks certainly have enough man power to get someone over the course of a year to tag stats for all of horvat's games as well as the top centre for a selection of CHL teams and use whatever statistics they deem useful. In the NHL, you are evaluating all of the players for everything. The Canucks, as part of a scouting report on someone they were highly interested in (Horvat for instance, they traded up specifically to get him)... Could watch a couple hundred games over the course of a year to get his zone-start percentages and any other statistic that they find to be predictive.

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#12 antro
March 10 2014, 01:03PM
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Sobering take. In our night time prayers, we should be hoping that Horvat is Patrice Bergeron. (Wow, the Bruins seem to have a lot of mythical beasts.) The one other mitigating factor that you haven't mentioned however, Rhys, is how many players with gaudy point totals who are picked high in the draft that also don't become top 6 players, or even NHLers. This isn't necessarily a complaint at you, but more generally, to do this right, someone would need to look at the predictability of top 6 forwards based on points per game in a given league and draft position. So, given whatever scouts are seeing in Horvat, others who score like him and get selected in the top 20 or so, how many work out as top 6?

I wonder why you wouldn't mention Scott Reynolds' approach at coppernblue? He adjusted for era for points, and looked at possible draft position to find comparables. Possible draft position helps to fill in a bit for the scouting reports. I don't think it would change your conclusions substantially, just curious why it's not here.

Btw, wasn't Kesler a low scorer in the CCHA? Not sure how much 31 points in 40 games is comparatively.

Given the Darryl Sutter quote that is on twitter (possession not defense), it could also be that teams have started looking for and tracking different things in their prospects. I'm not sure Mantastic is right that a team like the Canucks wouldn't have some of their personnel key in on certain players and track them for something like 10 games.

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#13 Joshua
March 10 2014, 01:16PM
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Ouch. This definitely takes a bit of wind out of the sails of those hoping for a successful full on youth movement rebuild. With what I ask? It also makes this teams transactions so baffling in that they keep trading away assets that contribute now for guys that might produce sometime in the future. A top-6 center in Hodgson and your starting goaltender for the next decade in Schneider for two guys who they hope, at some point in the future, might resemble Lucic and Kesler. Ugh!

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#14 CS
March 10 2014, 01:18PM
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The other thing lost in NHL draft analysis is the role of team's own development program. I mean, are we assuming that the reason a team like Boston hits often on later picks is just scouting?

I know it is not something that as outsiders we can analyze, but for any prospect that doesn't walk right into the NHL at 18, developmental work by the organization matters.

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#15 Ticket to Wellness
March 10 2014, 01:43PM
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CS wrote:

The other thing lost in NHL draft analysis is the role of team's own development program. I mean, are we assuming that the reason a team like Boston hits often on later picks is just scouting?

I know it is not something that as outsiders we can analyze, but for any prospect that doesn't walk right into the NHL at 18, developmental work by the organization matters.

Most picks outside of the top 10-15 are lottery tickets.

If you have a coin flip contest with 30 people, would you call the winner a good coin scout or a coin developer? I would call them lucky.

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#16 Just One Cup
March 10 2014, 01:49PM
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Bo Horvat did lead the OHL playoffs in goal scoring last year.......

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#17 NM00
March 10 2014, 01:56PM
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@Ticket to Wellness

Coin flipping is a fallacious analogy.

Participants in a coin flipping contest have no influence on whether the coin ends up heads or tails and those are the only two possible outcomes.

Implying that organizations have zero influence over the outcome of a draft selection is narrow minded.

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#18 Mantastic
March 10 2014, 02:11PM
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Austin Wallace wrote:

I don't know how that is clear. I don't follow them obsessively, and the AHL is my specialty but I do know a decent amount about prospects.

I am a "scout" (word used very loosely) over at dobberprospects.com. Also, as part of my job, I tag video and keep track of stats for a CIS hockey team. Stats that are certainly above and beyond anything publicly available for the CIS or the CHL for that matter.

The Q keeps the best stats, but I guarantee that some WHL teams keep better in house stats.

The Canucks certainly have enough man power to get someone over the course of a year to tag stats for all of horvat's games as well as the top centre for a selection of CHL teams and use whatever statistics they deem useful. In the NHL, you are evaluating all of the players for everything. The Canucks, as part of a scouting report on someone they were highly interested in (Horvat for instance, they traded up specifically to get him)... Could watch a couple hundred games over the course of a year to get his zone-start percentages and any other statistic that they find to be predictive.

why would they be using advanced stats to track players they have already drafted?!

you use advanced stats to scout potential draft picks and that makes way more sense, and better use of your time but like I said, they don't have enough man power to scout every player in the CHL. they just don't. the teams keep track of faceoffs and old standard NHL.com counting stats but not shot location, zone entrys, QoC, QoT, etc. etc. that the advanced stat community uses.

and news flash, scouts have enough time to see players 10 times max per season, as like i mentioned again, there are so many games to watch.

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#19 Mantastic
March 10 2014, 02:14PM
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@antro

"...The one other mitigating factor that you haven't mentioned however, Rhys, is how many players with gaudy point totals who are picked high in the draft that also don't become top 6 players, or even NHLers. This isn't necessarily a complaint at you, but more generally, to do this right, someone would need to look at the predictability of top 6 forwards based on points per game in a given league and draft position. So, given whatever scouts are seeing in Horvat, others who score like him and get selected in the top 20 or so, how many work out as top 6?"

this will make you more sad, if you see how many don't work out

Kesler is an outlier, a low pt producing forward in junior which produced a lot in the NHL

10 games is also a terrible sample size

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#20 Mantastic
March 10 2014, 02:20PM
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Just One Cup wrote:

Bo Horvat did lead the OHL playoffs in goal scoring last year.......

can you name the last 10 OHL playoff leading scorers and how they turned out in the NHL?

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#21 Just One Cup
March 10 2014, 02:49PM
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@Mantastic

I could but why don't you go ahead.....

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#22 Cam Charron
March 10 2014, 02:53PM
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Austin Wallace wrote:

I run my own statistics-based ranking for Dobberhockey.com... This isn't an attack on statistics. But how the hell do you draw those conclusions with only your statistics?

Do you really think that NHL teams with many millions of dollars riding on their prospect solutions, DON'T have better statistics than the public?

I think that they have enough man-power to properly document the zone-starts/possession numbers/Qcomp/things-we-haven't-heard-of of the top x prospects.

"There isn't really a reason to conclude that Horvat is better than "most players,"" That is true, when you only have the limited stats from the CHL.

"there is no evidence to suggest that Bo Horvat has faced uniquely difficult defensively-oriented deployments. " Again, there is no evidence that you know of.

You drew very reasonable conclusions from what you had available, and there is nothing more you could have done. That being said, you should not be using absolutes in your dismissals of the existence of evidence for Horvat being a top-six centre.

One of the scary things about NHL scouting is just how little teams pay attention. Teams tend to have three CHL guys, one for each league.

The Canucks have 20 guys listed on their scouting staff. Of those 20, only 12 are amateur scouts.

What teams should have is a team of four or five data junkies who simply watch CHL games and collect data, so you wind up getting 50 or 60 for every team in a way to uncover hidden gems. I'm interested to see in how the Montreal 2012 draft class shakes out, because if it's successful, there's a pretty good argument to end specialized scouting altogether and just go by the NHL's central rankings.

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#23 Cam Charron
March 10 2014, 02:57PM
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Mantastic wrote:

can you name the last 10 OHL playoff leading scorers and how they turned out in the NHL?

This is an excellent point.

For those who don't have the time to check:

-Tobias Rieder

-Devante Smith-Pelley/Robby Mignardi

-Jeff Skinner/Adam Henrique

-Taylor Hall

-Mike Duco/Matt Halischuk

-David Meckler

-David Bolland/Daniel Ryder

-Mark Mancari

-Ryan Callahan/Brett Trudell

-Corey Locke

I count five players who are above-replacement players in the NHL... "playoff goal-scoring" is just a quirk in the numbers and not exactly a sign of great things to come.

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#24 Rob
March 10 2014, 03:24PM
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Cam Charron wrote:

This is an excellent point.

For those who don't have the time to check:

-Tobias Rieder

-Devante Smith-Pelley/Robby Mignardi

-Jeff Skinner/Adam Henrique

-Taylor Hall

-Mike Duco/Matt Halischuk

-David Meckler

-David Bolland/Daniel Ryder

-Mark Mancari

-Ryan Callahan/Brett Trudell

-Corey Locke

I count five players who are above-replacement players in the NHL... "playoff goal-scoring" is just a quirk in the numbers and not exactly a sign of great things to come.

Don't necessarily disagree with that, but to play devil's advocate, most of those non-NHLers/sub-replacement-level players you list there look to have been at least a year older than Horvat was during their respective playoff runs.

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#25 Mantastic
March 10 2014, 03:35PM
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@Rob

better teams also last longer in the playoffs (play easier teams in the beginning, therefore padding stats) so even if their ppg tally might be low they can outscore opponents with higher ppg. playoff scoring leaders is such an arbitrary value, just like in the NHL. it comes down to sample size, it's like basing off of WJC performances

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#26 CS
March 10 2014, 03:36PM
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Ticket to Wellness wrote:

Most picks outside of the top 10-15 are lottery tickets.

If you have a coin flip contest with 30 people, would you call the winner a good coin scout or a coin developer? I would call them lucky.

That's a really poor analogy. I really think development matters. It's obviously hard to quantify, but given we are dealing with males aged 18-24, it's a pretty fair assumption that who they are at 18 does not remain static or set them on a clean linear path to who they will or won't be as hockey players.

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#27 mmm
March 10 2014, 04:28PM
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I've watched over 30 London Knight games this year. To me...and this is just to my hockey eye Horvat is a surefire first line nhl center. I'd put more than my life on the line. Just because a player cares as much about his defensive game as his offensive game doesn't mean he's not skilled. He's always concernced about where he is without the puck. He's always there to help his defenseman. He has an incredible shot, great vision and a fantastic passer. He makes NHL caliber plays and makes all of his teammates better. He scores highlight reel goals all the time. Great hands and an absolutely filthy toe drag. The pucks follows him around the ice. I don't see a single flaw in his game, not one. He may not have game breaking speed or agility but his skating is fine. He has good technique and his bio mechanics show he'll improve on it. He's not short and choppy like Cody Hodgson. Did I mention he's the most dominate faceoff man in the league. He's got skill, hockey sense and intangibles out the ying yang. He's the type of center you put your best offensive winger with.

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#28 mmm
March 10 2014, 04:36PM
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Oh yeah and I forgot to mention. Wanna take a guess at the only players to win the OHL playoff MVP award in their draft years??? Mario Lemieux, Taylor Hall and.......Bo Horvat. Did I mention he completely shut down current NHL top 6 center Mark Schiefle in the finals that year????

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#29 Rob
March 10 2014, 04:38PM
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Mantastic wrote:

better teams also last longer in the playoffs (play easier teams in the beginning, therefore padding stats) so even if their ppg tally might be low they can outscore opponents with higher ppg. playoff scoring leaders is such an arbitrary value, just like in the NHL. it comes down to sample size, it's like basing off of WJC performances

Like I said, I don't necessarily disagree. I just think that the proper rebuttal is just what you say: not everyone has an equal opportunity at the playoffs, and funny things can happen in small sample sizes. Listing a bunch of never beens who led the OHL playoffs in goals isn't that useful, because most of those guys did it in their draft+1 or overage seasons.

In terms of Horvat specifically, I thought that Scott Reynolds' pre-draft analysis was pretty solid, so I was pretty disappointed with the Horvat pick when it happened. It'd be interesting to see what, if anything, would change in Scott's analysis if you added in Horvat's almost complete draft+1 year (which is honestly a lot better than I'd expected).

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#30 Mantastic
March 10 2014, 04:54PM
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@mmm

i hope you pay up when he doesn't become a 1st line center. and i hope you realize that this is also a team game.

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#31 Mantastic
March 10 2014, 04:56PM
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@Rob

yeah, i like Reynold's pre-draft analysis as well. it's as solid as you can get while being subjective.

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#32 GeezMoney
March 10 2014, 05:26PM
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Have you folks at Canucks Army seen what Bill Barnwell or Zach Lowe put together for Grantland? They don't shy away from using statistical analysis. But they don't rely solely on it, either. They couple trending statistics with video evidence to show player tendencies to give a complete picture of a player. Again, no analysis is perfect, and numbers or past history can not attribute for future changes in attitude, knowledged or physique -- aspects that aren't measured in percentages or TOI.

Stats are a good thing, don't get me wrong. But I'd like a little more picture here than strict figures.

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#33 Ruprecht
March 10 2014, 05:26PM
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Mantastic wrote:

great article, this is what i've been saying since the draft and how Drance had him ranked as the top prospect over such a skilled player like Hunter. with a top 10 pick, you don't pick a defensive player, you pick the most skilled player.

Because pretty much everybody else in the hockey world did and still does. Ya know, objective people that watch hockey instead of troll other teams' sites. Take off your Alberta coloured glasses once in awhile. Kids pretty soft still.

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#34 Mantastic
March 10 2014, 05:57PM
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@Ruprecht

wtf are you talking about? i've never lived in alberta.

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#35 mmm
March 10 2014, 06:32PM
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Mantastic wrote:

i hope you pay up when he doesn't become a 1st line center. and i hope you realize that this is also a team game.

That doesn't make any sense. "I hope you realize that this is also a team game" Could you elaborate? We're talking about a guy that does all the little things. Works extremely hard and is a leader. He's everything you'd want in a teammate. He wears the #53 because a player who was drafted by the Knights with him died in a car accident. He wore #35. He cares about his teammates. You're completely out to lunch in your article and clearly have barely seen him play.

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#36 Cam Charron
March 10 2014, 06:48PM
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Let the record show that Comment 28 called Mark Scheifele a "current NHL top 6 center".

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#37 Cam Charron
March 10 2014, 06:50PM
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Let the record show that Comment 35 mentioned Bo Horvat's sweater number as a comment on Horvat's play.

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#38 van
March 10 2014, 07:26PM
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Do we have his EV/PP points split compared to the top 6 guys? Or is that completely irrelevant?

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#39 andyg
March 10 2014, 07:32PM
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Cam Charron wrote:

Let the record show that Comment 35 mentioned Bo Horvat's sweater number as a comment on Horvat's play.

So if Hunter becomes a top 6 forward and say a 30 goal scorer.

Then lets say Bo becomes a solid 3 line center that gives us 40 points a year and is a solid 2 way player.

5 years from now will you really care?

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#40 Austin Wallace
March 10 2014, 07:57PM
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Cam Charron wrote:

One of the scary things about NHL scouting is just how little teams pay attention. Teams tend to have three CHL guys, one for each league.

The Canucks have 20 guys listed on their scouting staff. Of those 20, only 12 are amateur scouts.

What teams should have is a team of four or five data junkies who simply watch CHL games and collect data, so you wind up getting 50 or 60 for every team in a way to uncover hidden gems. I'm interested to see in how the Montreal 2012 draft class shakes out, because if it's successful, there's a pretty good argument to end specialized scouting altogether and just go by the NHL's central rankings.

Wait, they don't have a data team? Are you sure of this?

I wasn't thinking that they would go watch the games live and scout. I would think it might work like this:

Acquire video from each game you are interested in (if that isn't available... it must be... pay a student to film). Have a team of interns go through and do preliminary tagging; at least who is on the ice at some time. The Canucks have software to do this.

Then have some "scouts" watch just his shifts in succession and record relevant stats. That would be 20 minutes a game for ~70 games a year per player. I could personally do that on fast forward in about 10 hours, more or less depending on the detail of statistics they were interested in. Again, this could all be done by somebody without years of experience.

Hire 50 interns at 10 bucks an hour for 100 hours, and you could thoroughly track a couple hundred (at least) players at 50,000. That is a pittance for an NHL team.

I'm sure the Canucks have it figured out much more than I do... Maybe one person involved in the process involved would be high up enough to warrant being shown on the team website.

I don't follow the draft overly much, what did Montreal do in 2012?

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#41 Austin Wallace
March 10 2014, 08:01PM
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Mantastic wrote:

why would they be using advanced stats to track players they have already drafted?!

you use advanced stats to scout potential draft picks and that makes way more sense, and better use of your time but like I said, they don't have enough man power to scout every player in the CHL. they just don't. the teams keep track of faceoffs and old standard NHL.com counting stats but not shot location, zone entrys, QoC, QoT, etc. etc. that the advanced stat community uses.

and news flash, scouts have enough time to see players 10 times max per season, as like i mentioned again, there are so many games to watch.

I meant they would track his predraft year before they drafted him.

They certainly do (or should) have the man-power to track the top 100-200 prospects they are interested. I laid out a quickly thought up solution in the previous post, and I am sure the Canucks have come up with a better one. You don't need a real scout to go watch each game, just parse the video from each of them at high speed.

For a CIS team, we track zone entries and shot location (both where the shot was taken from, and what part of the net it has hit).

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#42 Ruprecht
March 10 2014, 08:09PM
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Mantastic wrote:

wtf are you talking about? i've never lived in alberta.

Trust me, you'd have no problems fitting in.

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#43 Cam Charron
March 10 2014, 08:09PM
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andyg wrote:

So if Hunter becomes a top 6 forward and say a 30 goal scorer.

Then lets say Bo becomes a solid 3 line center that gives us 40 points a year and is a solid 2 way player.

5 years from now will you really care?

If Bo becomes a solid 3 centre, the Canucks got good value.

I think a lot of people miss just how good checking centres in the NHL were in junior. Manny Malhotra was taken 6th. Dave Bolland was a superstar and on Team Canada's second line at the 2006 World Juniors.

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#44 NM00
March 10 2014, 08:49PM
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@Cam Charron

On what basis are you defining "good value"?

The Canucks had the 9th pick in what was supposedly a deep draft.

If Bo Horvat becomes the 25th best player in the draft and a checking centre for example, that's a loss as far as I'm concerned.

The draft is a zero sum game. Everybody is not a "winner".

Not to mention that bottom of the roster players are the easiest to acquire via free agency...

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#45 andyg
March 10 2014, 09:33PM
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@Cam Charron

Sorry, I have to admit that I breezed through the article and so missed the point.

You are not suggesting that he is a bad pic but may not be the proverbial 100 point center that people are dreaming about.

So I will just agree with you and say good article.

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#46 Mantastic
March 11 2014, 09:23AM
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@Austin Wallace

how many teams do you have in the CIS? how many teams do you have in the CHL? how many games of the CHL at video taped in HD?

please don't compare CIS to CHL, when CIS is 1/3 the size and play 8 times as many games.

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#47 Senrik Hedin
March 14 2014, 01:13PM
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just wait a couple of years guys

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#48 Ted
March 14 2014, 03:09PM
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Ugh. Anyone can post these things. The author isn't really a qualified source to gauge prospects so I wouldn't worry too much about Bo. At the end of the day, Bo could be a #1 centre or never stick in the NHL. The draft is a crap shoot.

GM's need to get assets in other ways. Gillis fails here as well. He doesn't flip a roster player in his prime for prime time prospects/NHL ready players. He fails to win most trades. Trading other level NHL players for prospects that become solid NHLers.

Gillis also sees to over react to trends - when the Bruins won the Cup he wanted to get rough and tough after wanting to be quick and skilled. I'm not sure he has a set, sound philosophy.

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