Hockey is back, not only at the NHL level but across the globe. This means we can start getting a look at 2016 draft hopefuls. As we wrote about over at Hockey Graphs, we’ve been making some impressive progress with our PCS tool, so over the course of this multi-part series I’ll take a look at how PCS views next year’s draft hopefuls based on what they did in their 16-year-old season.
As a system, PCS looks back through time to match a prospect with his closest comparable peers, then returns the percentage of those peers who went on to NHL careers. By virtue of this approach, the highest compliment we can pay to a potential prospect to simply state that they have no peers. We have five players like that this year.
Auston Matthews – (Center, 6’2, 194 lbs, PCS – No Comp, ISS rank #1)
On any preseason draft lists, you’ll see Auston Matthews at the top. This aligns perfectly with what we’re seeing with PCS, as our database was unable to find any peers for Matthews in either USHL or USDP history.
Since joining Zurich in the NLA, Matthews has scored 8 goals in his first 9 professional games, continuing his path of being without historical comparison. Here is a snippet from his first few games in Switzerland:
Jesse Puljujarvi (RW, 6’3, 196 lbs, PCS – No Comp, ISS #5)
Puljujarvi was impressive last year, splitting his season between the Karpat (Finish Elite League), Hokki (Finish second division – on loan), and the Karpat U20 team, where he had no peers at any of these levels. He started the 2015-16 season with Karpat’s, and if he continues to play like he does in this clip, he should be there for the remainder of the season. Here’s a clip of Puljujarvi breaking ankles and scoring goals:
Patrik Laine (RW, 6’4, 210 lbs, PCS – No Comp, ISS #6)
Laine had a very similar 2014-15 season to Puljujarvi, playing at all three levels in the Finish system, but played predominantly with Leki of the Finish second division. Like Puljujarvi, Laine started the year with Tamppara of the top division and has been productive early. What strikes you when you watch Laine play is his NHL size and well developed offensive game, which is pretty reminiscent of what we saw from Mikko Rantanen last year.
Vitali Abramov (LW, 5’9, 175 lbs, PCS No Comps, ISS #23)
The MHL has only been around since 2009, so its much less impressive to not find a comparison in our database base on Abramov’s 2014-15 MHL season than the situations with Matthews, Laine, and Puljujarvi. However, when we look at Abramov’s international career with the Russian national team, we’re again unable to find a peer for him based on is 21 points in 13 international games last season. At 5’7/175lbs size if of obvious concern, and I’m honestly surprised ISS didn’t penalize him more for that in their initial rankings, but when you watch him play you can see what they like about him. He’s has explosive speed, and elite offensive creativity, which has helped him jump out to an outstanding start in his rookie year with Gatineau (19 points in 11 games). If this pace were to continue for the remainder of the year, which is obviously far from a certainty, he’s be looking at a PCS of around 50% despite his small stature. Here is a look at his first QMJHL goal:
Mikhail Sergachyov (D, 6’2, 205 lbs, PCS No Comps, ISS #12)
Like Abramov, we shouldn’t get too carried away by the lack of PCS comps for Sergachyov based on his MHL year, but we can say the big Russian defender has looked good early in his rookie year for the Windsor Spitfires. He’s scored 5 points in his first 7 games, and if he can continue that pace he’d be looking at a PCS of 34% for the year, which is top 15 territory. For a big defensemen, he has excellent speed, and the offensive tools are definitely there. Here is his first goal of the year for the Spitfires: