Friday, April 10, 2015

Tracking Point Production Fluctuation

While drafting a player who is “trending upwards” offensively doesn’t always guarantee you a legitimate NHL prospect, it definitely seems to be something that teams latch onto each year.

A player like Travis Sanheim is a great example from the 2014 NHL Draft.

Sanheim burst onto the scene in 2013-14 as an undrafted prospect of the Calgary Hitmen, but only had 7 points in 29 games by the time Christmas rolled around. He came back from the holiday break and promptly had a few strong games, finding his name on the scoresheet more often than not. He closed out the year with 22 points in his final 38 regular season games, put up a pair of points in one round of playoff action and then had a strong showing at the World Under-18 Hockey Championships as a member of Team Canada.

A couple of months later he was taken 17th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

Fast forward to this season and Sanheim put up 65 points in 67 regular season games, leading all WHL defencemen in points in 2014-15.

Team’s are constantly on the lookout for players with steep development curves, guys who are growing by leaps and bounds as they get more experience and confidence throughout the season. Aside from watching them constantly, tracking their offensive production is one way to find players who may just be trending in the right direction.

With that in mind I have gone ahead and sorted through a bunch of data from 70 WHL players who are in their first year of being eligible for the NHL Draft in 2015. The players include those listed by Central Scouting, plus a bunch of others that I feel are worth investigating more for the 2015 NHL Draft and well beyond.

The below information sorts the players into two categories, forwards and defencemen. I then broke down their offensive numbers from the regular season, chopping the year in half. The first half includes all games played between September and December 31st. The second half includes all games from January 1st through to the end of the regular season.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Round Two Playoff Predictions For 2014-15

Now that the first round is in the books, it’s time to look ahead to second round predictions in the WHL while also recapping how the opening round went.

In case you missed it, I began a bit of a project at the start of the playoffs that put a new spin on predictions. I set aside not only my own personal predictions for the first round, but also predictions based on a few metrics including comparing each team’s goal differential from the regular season, their Estimated Fenwick Close from the regular season and also just their “seed”. 


So before we get to round two predictions, let’s look back at round one. Which of the four above-outlined methods did the best job through the first 8 matchups of the WHL playoffs?

By Estimated Fenwick Close (regular season)

This method predicted Kelowna, Victoria, Everett and Seattle to win in the Western Conference. It then predicted Brandon, Regina, Calgary and Medicine Hat to win in the Eastern Conference.

In the end, this method went 7-1 in round one.

It correctly predicted Brandon, Regina, Calgary, Medicine Hat, Kelowna, Victoria and Everett. The only series it didn’t correctly predict was Seattle over Portland, with the Thunderbirds having the better Estimated Fenwick during the regular season when comparing the two teams.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Notes On Central Scouting's Final Rankings

NHL Central Scouting recently released their final rankings for the 2015 NHL Draft.

This list is always great to review as it has been months since their last publication. That obviously allows fans and team management to see who Central Scouting perceive as rising or falling, relative to the middle of the year projections.

I browsed this final list – from a WHL perspective – and have made some notes and observations. Here’s how their final list looks (while keeping in mind that the order is for WHL players only, with Provorov being #1 among WHL skaters). Note that it also includes where the player was ranked by CS at the midterm and how much the player’s spot has changed since that time:


Observations:

- Before we start, note that I plan on unveiling my final rankings some time near the end of May. I will reference them briefly throughout these notes, but be aware that they are not at all a finished product. My final rankings this year are going to be absolutely massive and extremely detailed and I am very much looking forward to unveiling them for you all.

- The top 3 for NHL CS is actually identical to mine, Provorov, Barzal and then Harkins. Will that change for me before the actual draft? Possibly, but not likely.

- Noah Juulsen moving up 6 spots from midterm to #5 overall is very interesting, but not terribly shocking. He’s had a very good season, played very tough minutes and has an extremely projectable skillset, even if I don’t have him quite as high as they do right now.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Who is the WHL's top playmaker for 2015?

While the WHL features some solid goal-scoring forwards for the 2015 NHL Draft, I think it’s pretty clear to me that playmakers are the strength.

In fact, the top three WHL forwards on my current draft ranking all have a heavy play-making, pass-first lean to their game.

But looking at the entire draft class from the WHL, which players are the best playmakers? Let’s try and find out.

I started by assembling the below chart. It takes the top 30 draft-eligible assist guys among WHL forwards from the 2014-15 regular season. Each of them had at least 15 assists and each are in their first year being eligible for the NHL Draft. No overagers were included here.

The chart identifies their number of primary assists, secondary assists, total assists, percentage of primary assists relative to overall assists, assists per game, even-strength assists and even-strength assists per game. As you can see, it’s sorted by assists per game.

I felt it was very necessary to factor games played into the chart. A guy like Mathew Barzal is a great example why. He missed nearly half the season yet still finished 3rd overall in total assists among first-year WHL draft-eligible forwards. He’s not the only player on the list to be hurt by a similar situation, either.

So how do we go about trying to determine a ranking of who is the best playmaker, considering the amount of data on the above chart?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Ranking WHL Team's By Import Production

I always enjoy looking at the different ways good (or great) teams are built.

Regardless of what level of the game you are looking at, there are always different strategies and ways to ice the best team you can. While the NHL has to deal with a salary cap, teams at the CHL level have plenty of other restrictions including overage and underage player limitations plus the fact that each team is only allowed to carry a pair of import players during the regular season and playoffs.

Now that the WHL’s regular season is complete I am going back and analyzing all the teams in various ways, with the above-mentioned Europeans under the microscope in this piece.

Which teams got the best production from their import slots?

Let’s start with the overall points-per-game average from each team’s imports:


Before we highlight a few things about the teams, it’s worth noting that this type of import situation can fluctuate greatly from year to year for a variety of reasons. First of all, some of these teams have young imports who are new to North America. There is obviously an adjustment period for many players in that situation. The other thing to remember is that not every team has two forwards, who usually generate more points than defencemen. So with that in mind, a team ranked low on this list isn’t necessarily a bad team or did a bad job in building their team. Context always needs to be considered.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Round One Playoff Predictions For 2014-15

Over my time following the WHL, I’ve come to understand that attempting to make predictions is essentially a fool’s game.

Even if you manage to be correct with your predictions, you still manage to piss off a group of fans or team employees for betting against their team. People are passionate about their team (or career) and I can understand that completely.

Despite what I have just stated, I have decided to once again post a prediction piece ahead of the 2015 WHL Playoffs. I guess I am a fool. But, along with providing my own predictions and reasoning for round one results, I have also taken a more advanced approach.

I will also include predictions for the first round of the postseason based on which team in the matchup had the better estimated regular season shot differential (Fenwick), the better overall goal differential for the regular season and simply, which team is the higher seed.

The Fenwick number was grabbed from the fantastic CHLstats.com and the goal differential was calculated manually using the WHL’s standings page. Seed is rather straight forward, simply choosing the higher-seeded team to advance to the next round. My personal predictions are based on my own knowledge of each team’s roster, playing style, strengths, weaknesses, injuries, etc.

It is my intent to do this process for all four rounds of the WHL postseason in 2015, and in the end, see which of the prediction method ends up with the best results.  

In case you missed it, I did a piece last week that outlined how well regular season estimated Fenwick (shot differentials) can predict WHL playoff success. You can read it here as it turned out that over the past three WHL postseason’s, the team with the better regular season shot differential won 77.7% of all series. We’ll see how this year’s numbers stack up to that once it’s all said and done.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

WHL Lines - Mar. 23


These lines provide an outline of each team’s depth chart through player usage.  




They are not projections. They are based on the actual lines used in the team’s last game played.  










Note that the * signifies a repeated trend. If the star is located at the top of a team’s header it signifies

an identical lineup has been used for at least two games in a row. A star beside a specific line


or defensive pairing means the group has been together for at least two consecutive games, with the

number beside the star saying exactly how many games it’s been.




“Others” are players who were not in the lineup last game due to being injured, scratched or recently traded.
Questions and comments are greatly appreciated. Reach me at cnickolet@gmail.com.























BRANDON (Last updated Mar. 22)  















Forwards















#10 Clague (98) #23 McGauley (95) #15 Quenneville (94) *2




#18 Klimchuk (95) #19 Patrick (98) #8 Hawryluk (96) *3




#13 Bukarts (95) #17 Quenneville (96) #22 Shmyr (97) *2




#29 Matsuba (97) #24 Mattheos (99) #21 Coulter (96)













Other F:  #16 Kaspick (98) #28 Lisoway (95) #27 Duke (96)






#25 Campbell (96)
















Defence
















#9 Provorov (97) #6 Pilon (96) *12





#5 Waltz (95) #7 Roy (94) *17





#12 Gow (94) #20 Erkamps (95)













Other D:
#3 Taraschuk (97)
















Goalies
















#33 Papirny (96)







#35 Moodie (95)














Notes:  24- came in for 25. 12 came in for 3.






17-27-15 have been together for 11 of the past 41 games.





13-17-8 have been together for 6 of the past 14 games.





18-19-15 have been together for 10 of the past 26 games.





18-23-15 have been together for 10 of the past 14 games.





28-25-21 have been together for 5 of the past 13 games.





5-7 have been together for 50 of the past 52 games.





9-6 have been together for 40 of the past 46 games.





12-20 have been together for 24 of the past 31 games.





12-3 have been together for 4 of the past 18 games.















HC: Kelly McCrimmon







GM: Kelly McCrimmon








Saturday, March 21, 2015

WHL Lines - Mar. 22


These lines provide an outline of each team’s depth chart through player usage.  




They are not projections. They are based on the actual lines used in the team’s last game played.  










Note that the * signifies a repeated trend. If the star is located at the top of a team’s header it signifies

an identical lineup has been used for at least two games in a row. A star beside a specific line


or defensive pairing means the group has been together for at least two consecutive games, with the

number beside the star saying exactly how many games it’s been.




“Others” are players who were not in the lineup last game due to being injured, scratched or recently traded.
Questions and comments are greatly appreciated. Reach me at cnickolet@gmail.com.























BRANDON (Last updated Mar. 22)  















Forwards















#10 Clague (98) #23 McGauley (95) #15 Quenneville (94) *2




#18 Klimchuk (95) #19 Patrick (98) #8 Hawryluk (96) *3




#13 Bukarts (95) #17 Quenneville (96) #22 Shmyr (97) *2




#29 Matsuba (97) #24 Mattheos (99) #21 Coulter (96)













Other F:  #16 Kaspick (98) #28 Lisoway (95) #27 Duke (96)






#25 Campbell (96)
















Defence
















#9 Provorov (97) #6 Pilon (96) *12





#5 Waltz (95) #7 Roy (94) *17





#12 Gow (94) #20 Erkamps (95)













Other D:
#3 Taraschuk (97)
















Goalies
















#33 Papirny (96)







#35 Moodie (95)














Notes:  24- came in for 25. 12 came in for 3.






17-27-15 have been together for 11 of the past 41 games.





13-17-8 have been together for 6 of the past 14 games.





18-19-15 have been together for 10 of the past 26 games.





18-23-15 have been together for 10 of the past 14 games.





28-25-21 have been together for 5 of the past 13 games.





5-7 have been together for 50 of the past 52 games.





9-6 have been together for 40 of the past 46 games.





12-20 have been together for 24 of the past 31 games.





12-3 have been together for 4 of the past 18 games.















HC: Kelly McCrimmon







GM: Kelly McCrimmon







WHL Lines - Mar. 21


These lines provide an outline of each team’s depth chart through player usage.  




They are not projections. They are based on the actual lines used in the team’s last game played.  










Note that the * signifies a repeated trend. If the star is located at the top of a team’s header it signifies

an identical lineup has been used for at least two games in a row. A star beside a specific line


or defensive pairing means the group has been together for at least two consecutive games, with the

number beside the star saying exactly how many games it’s been.




“Others” are players who were not in the lineup last game due to being injured, scratched or recently traded.
Questions and comments are greatly appreciated. Reach me at cnickolet@gmail.com.























BRANDON (Last updated Mar. 21)  















Forwards















#18 Klimchuk (95) #19 Patrick (98) #8 Hawryluk (96) *2




#10 Clague (98) #23 McGauley (95) #15 Quenneville (94)





#13 Bukarts (95) #17 Quenneville (96) #22 Shmyr (97)





#29 Matsuba (97) #25 Campbell (96) #21 Coulter (96)













Other F:  #16 Kaspick (98) #28 Lisoway (95) #27 Duke (96)















Defence
















#9 Provorov (97) #6 Pilon (96) *11





#5 Waltz (95) #7 Roy (94) *16





#3 Taraschuk (97) #20 Erkamps (95)













Other D:
#12 Gow (94)
















Goalies
















#33 Papirny (96)







#35 Moodie (95)














Notes:  10-3 came in. 16-12 came out. 10 played F.






17-27-15 have been together for 11 of the past 40 games.





13-17-8 have been together for 6 of the past 13 games.





18-19-15 have been together for 10 of the past 25 games.





18-23-15 have been together for 10 of the past 13 games.





28-25-21 have been together for 5 of the past 12 games.





5-7 have been together for 49 of the past 51 games.





9-6 have been together for 39 of the past 45 games.





12-20 have been together for 23 of the past 30 games.





12-3 have been together for 4 of the past 17 games.















HC: Kelly McCrimmon







GM: Kelly McCrimmon







Thursday, March 19, 2015

WHL Lines - Mar. 19


These lines provide an outline of each team’s depth chart through player usage.  




They are not projections. They are based on the actual lines used in the team’s last game played.  










Note that the * signifies a repeated trend. If the star is located at the top of a team’s header it signifies

an identical lineup has been used for at least two games in a row. A star beside a specific line


or defensive pairing means the group has been together for at least two consecutive games, with the

number beside the star saying exactly how many games it’s been.




“Others” are players who were not in the lineup last game due to being injured, scratched or recently traded.
Questions and comments are greatly appreciated. Reach me at cnickolet@gmail.com.























BRANDON (Last updated Mar. 18)  















Forwards















#18 Klimchuk (95) #19 Patrick (98) #8 Hawryluk (96)





#22 Shmyr (97) #23 McGauley (95) #15 Quenneville (94)





#13 Bukarts (95) #17 Quenneville (96) #21 Coulter (96)





#16 Kaspick (98) #25 Campbell (96) #29 Matsuba (97)













Other F:  #26 Lycar (97) #28 Lisoway (95) #27 Duke (96)
























Defence
















#9 Provorov (97) #6 Pilon (96) *10





#5 Waltz (95) #7 Roy (94) *15





#12 Gow (94) #20 Erkamps (95) *10












Other D:
#10 Clague (98) #3 Taraschuk (97)















Goalies
















#33 Papirny (96)







#35 Moodie (95)














Notes:  17-19 came in. 26-3 came out.






17-27-15 have been together for 11 of the past 39 games.





13-17-8 have been together for 6 of the past 12 games.





18-19-15 have been together for 10 of the past 24 games.





18-23-15 have been together for 10 of the past 12 games.





28-25-21 have been together for 5 of the past 11 games.





5-7 have been together for 48 of the past 50 games.





9-6 have been together for 38 of the past 44 games.





12-20 have been together for 23 of the past 29 games.





12-3 have been together for 4 of the past 16 games.















HC: Kelly McCrimmon







GM: Kelly McCrimmon