Senators News: July 9th

Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus provides his organisational rankings for NHL prospects.  You’ll recall his unorthodox theories regarding the lesser value of defensemen and goaltenders (here; his methodology was not reflected in this year’s draft).  He also tells us about his cut-off point for a prospect, “The Calder Trophy uses a 25-games-played cutoff to determine eligibility and that’s partly what I’ve chosen to use. However, to make sure prospects who played a good number of NHL games in previous seasons and were sent down in the next season were not disqualified, I am using 25 GP in the 2011-12 season. I also think the Calder Trophy’s cutoff of six games in any two seasons was too strict, so I’ve decided to use 50 games. Also for dealing with Russian transfers, I’ve decided if a player is signed in the KHL past their age-22 season they become ineligible for the purpose of these rankings as a prospect until they sign in North America. I use 22 as it’s the age most prospects drafted out of the CHL have their entry level contracts end. Also per the Calder requirements, an age cutoff of 26 or younger as of September 15th is used so a player like Roman Cervenka is eligible. The second change has been to my ranking philosophy. Last year, I predominantly favored whichever team had the most “top prospects”. While am I still valuing that very heavily, I put more emphasis than last year on teams who have systems that have significant talent throughout. That doesn’t mean the teams that have a lot of bottom-six type prospects, but just talented players who may not be top-tier prospects.”  The list:
1. Florida
2. New York Islanders
3. Detroit
4. Minnesota
5. Ottawa
6. Chicago
7. Tampa Bay
8. Anaheim
9. Edmonton
10. Montreal
11. New York Rangers
12. Pittsburgh
13. Dallas
14. Washington
15. Toronto
16. Boston
17. Columbus
18. Buffalo
19. St. Louis
20. Calgary
21. Los Angeles
22. Nashville
23. Winnipeg
24. Vancouver
25. Carolina
26. Colorado
27. New Jersey
28. Phoenix
29. San Jose
30. Philadelphia

His specific comments about the Sens: “Ottawa has a ton of good players throughout its ranks and its depth can rival the Panthers and Islanders. They lack the top-end prospects outside of Mika Zibanejad to get into that same tier with the four systems I have ranked in front of them, but they have quite a few very good ones.”

-A good illustration of why size in the NHL is not indicative of anything is made by Jonathan Willis who lists team’s by size and where they finished (for example, Edmonton had the league’s biggest blueline; the Cup winners were middle of the path at 13th, while Ottawa was 16th).

Brad Kurtzberg posted his list of the 25-worst free agent signings.  Alexei Kovalev is the only Sen to make the list (#16).  Glen Sather is the GM with the most members on this list with five (including three in the top-ten).

-I’ve always been fascinated by European leagues and how they compare to the NHL, so I took a look at the success of post-lockout players signed out of Europe (either as free agents or older prospects), with a particular emphasis on their production.

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Translating Production from European Leagues to the NHL

I’ve often wondered how to translate production from the various European leagues, since for every diamond in the rough (Ville Leino despite last season) there are so many failures (Fabian Brunnstrom).  Here I’ve takeen a look at every free agent pro signed out of Europe (or draft picks who came over as mature players) post-lockout who has played at least one NHL game and compared their production (I’ve divided them by league; their ages are in brackets next to their names).  I’ve excluded players who had previous NHL experience between stints in Europe because the transition has already been made; I’ve set the “European pro” bar at age 23 (anything earlier and the player is still a prospect).  For goaltenders the comparisons are slightly less apt (in terms of numbers), but it’s interesting to look at the relative success enjoyed by them.

SEL (11)
2006-07
Joel Lundqvist (24) 49-11-21-32 (ppg 0.65) – 36-3-3-6 (0.16) [ppg difference -0.49]
Third-round pick played 134 NHL games (0.19 ppg)
Patrick Thoresen (23) 50-17-19-36 (0.72) – 68-4-12-16 (0.23) [-0.49]
Undrafted Norwegian free agent played 106 NHL games (0.23 ppg)
Bjorn Melin (26) 49-16-19-35 (0.71) – 3-0-1-1 (0.33) [-0.38]
Sixth-rounder played just 3 NHL games in one season
2007-08
Erik Ersberg (25) 41GP, 2.39, .908 – 6-5-3, 2.48, .927 [0.09, +.019]
Undrafted free agent played 69 NHL games over three seasons with LA
2008-09
Fabian Brunnstrom (23) 54-9-28-37 (0.68) – 55-17-12-29 (0.52) [-0.16]
Hyped free agent out of Farjestad has played 104 NHL games over four seasons (0.39 ppg)
Per Ledin (30) 52-16-17-33 (0.63) – 3-0-0-0 (0.00) [-0.63]
Undrafted pest played 3 NHL games in his only season
2009-10
Jonas Gustavsson (25) 42GP, 1.96, .932 – 16-15-9, 2.87, .902 [0.91, .030]
“The Monster” is undrafted free agent has out of Farjestad who has played 107 NHL games over three seasons and is signed for another with Detroit
Mika Pyorala (28) 55-21-22-43 (0.78) – 36-2-2-4 (0.11) [-0.67]
Undrafted free agent played 36 NHL games in his only season
Henrik Karlsson (27) 34GP, 2.45, .914 – 4-5-6, 2.58, .908 [0.13, .006]
Undrafted free agent has played 26 NHL games thus far (he remains under contract with Calgary)
Johan Backlund (28) 49GP, 2.56, .907 – 0-1-0, 3.00, .917 [0.44, +.010]
Undrafted free agent played 1 NHL game over three seasons in the Flyer organisation
2010-11
Mats Zuccarello (23) 55-23-41-64 (1.16) – 42-6-17-23 (0.54) [-0.62]
Undrafted pint-sized Norwegian played 52 NHL games over two seasons (0.50 ppg)

SM-Liiga (14)
2006-07
Niklas Backstrom (28) 32-9-10, 1.68, .940 – 23-8-6, 1.97, .929 [0.31, .019]
Undrafted free agent out of Karpat has played 327 NHL games and is arguably the best goaltender on this list
Fredrik Norrena (30) – 36GP, 2.16 – 24-23-6 2.78, .904 [0.62]
Seventh-round Finnish vet was signed out of Linkopings and played 100 NHL games over three seasons in Columbus
Mikko Lehtonen (29) 43-6-8-14 (0.32) – 15-1-2-3 (0.20) [-0.12]
Ninth-rounder played 15 NHL games in his only season
Janis Sprukts (24) 35-18-10-28 (0.80) – 13-1-2-3 (0.23) [-0.57]
Eighth-rounder played 14 NHL games over two season (0.21 ppg)
2007-08
Cory Murphy (30) 45-13-37-50 (1.11) – 47-2-15-17 (0.36) [-0.73]
Hyped signing hampered by injury problems; played 91 NHL games over three seasons (0.40 ppg)
2008-09
Ville Leino (24) 55-28-49-77 (1.4) – 13-5-4-9 (0.69) [-0.71]
Undrafted forward has played 220 NHL games over four seasons (0.45 ppg)
Antti Niemi (25) 26-14-6, 2.35, .926 – 1-1-1, 3.40, .864 [1.05, .062]
Undrafted free agent from the Lahti Pelicans, he won a Stanley Cup with Chicago (2010) and has 170 NHL games to his credit; he remains as San Jose’s starting goaltender
Tim Stapleton (C/RW) 55-29-33-62 (1.13) – 4-1-0-1 (0.25) [-0.88]
Undersized NCAA grad played two years in Finland before coming back to North America; he played 118 NHL games over four seasons (0.31 ppg)
Anssi Salmela (25) 56-16-16-32 (0.57) – 26-1-5-6 (0.23) [-0.34]
Undrafted blueliner played 112 NHL games over three seasons (0.19 ppg)
Janne Pesonen (27) 56-34-44-78 (1.39) – 7-0-0-0 (o.oo) [-1.39]
Ninth-rounder played 7 NHL games in his only season
2009-10
Alexander Salak (23) 20-20-9, 2.40, .923 – 0-1-0, 5.37, .850 [2.97, .073]
Undrafted free agent played 2 NHL games in his only season with the Florida organisation
2010-11
Jussi Rynnas (23) 14-13-1, 2.71, .911 – 0-1-0, 4.24, .925 [1.49, +.014]
Undrafted free agent out of Assat has played 2 NHL games over two seasons with Toronto’s organisation; he has one more year left in his ELC
2011-12
Lennart Petrell (27) 56-13-22-35 (0.62) – 60-4-5-9 (0.15) [-0.47]
Sixth-rounder played 60 NHL games last year and was re-signed for the coming season
Iiro Tarkki (26) 20-20-14, 2.09, .924 – 1-0-0, 4.39, .700 [2.30, .242]
Undrafted free agent out of Blues Espoo spent one year with Anaheim’s organisation

KHL/Russia (4)
2006-07
Jan Hejda (28) 50-3-13-16 (0.32) – 39-1-8-9 (0.23) [-0.09]
Fourth-rounder has played 422 NHL games over the past six seasons (0.23 ppg)
Alexei Mikhnov (24) 40-14-8-22 (0.55) – 2-0-0-0 (0.00) [-0.55]
Former first-round pick played just 2 NHL games in his only season
2010-11
Johan Harju (25) 55-4-14-18 (0.33) – 10-1-2-3 (0.30) [-0.03]
Sixth-rounder played 10 NHL games in his only season
2011-12
Alexei Emelin (25) 52-11-16-27 (0.52) – 67-3-4-7 (0.10) [-0.42]
Third-rounder played 67 NHL games in his rookie season

NLA (4)
2006-07
Patrick Fischer (30) 44-21-32-53 (1.20) – 27-4-6-10 (0.37) [-0.83]
Undrafted Swiss vet played 27 NHL games in his only season
2007-08
Jonas Hiller (25) 28-16, 2.60, n/a – 23-10-7-1, 2.06, .927 [+0.54, n/a]
Undrafted Swiss star from HC Davos has played 250 NHL games and remains Anaheim’s starting goaltender
2010-11
Roman Wick (25) 37-15-16-31 (0.83) – 7-0-0-0 (0.00) [-0.83]
Fifth-rounder played 7 NHL games in his only season
2011-12
Raphael Diaz (25) 45-12-27-39 (0.86) – 59-3-13-16 (0.27) [-0.59]
Undrafted blueliner out of EV Zug has played 59 NHL games in his (so far) only season

Czech Elite League (1)
2007-08
Jaroslav Hlinka (30) 46-19-38-57 (1.23) – 63-8-20-28 (0.44) [-0.79]
Undrafted Czech vet played 63 NHL games in his only season

DEL
Players fitting this category haven’t come out of the DEL (the league tends to be a haven for former AHL and ECHL players), as Marcel Muller is the only one who comes close, but signed as a 22-year old he’s really more of a prospect.  There was NHL interest in Tomas Greilinger in 09-10 (who would qualify for my purposes), but nothing came of it.

Slovak Elite League, Erste Bank Liga, Get Ligaen, Al-Bank Ligaen
Players have not been signed directly out of these leagues unless they have prior NHL-experience.

Conclusions: the vast majority of the players signed (24 of 33) come from either the Swedish or Finnish leagues; slightly more than half of the non-goaltenders have played fewer than a season’s worth of NHL games (12 of 23; I’m not including the re-signed Petrell, sophomore Emelin, or RFA Diaz); only two players (Leino and Hejda) have more than two seasons worth of NHL games to their credit.  Those two players are (so far) the only regular NHLers to come out of Europe as veterans post-lockout (seven seasons).  Among the goaltenders there’s been more success (7 of 11 have managed to have an NHL role for at least two seasons), and they compose a significant percentage of the signings (33%).

In terms of the translation of production the stats for players with less than 30 NHL games played just isn’t representative and I’ve tossed them out, which only leaves only the SEL (as a league) open for comparison (none of the other leagues have more than two who qualify):
SEL (5 players): -0.49 ppg
Combining all the non-SEL players (7): -0.55
Putting all the players together (12): -0.52
These numbers only look at players in their first season out of their European leagues, so for the numbers of players with at least 50+ games played in the NHL over their careers (12) their average North American production is: 0.29 ppg (Zuccarello and Leino have the highest).

The conclusion drawn is an obvious one: the scouting community doesn’t make many mistakes and there are very few diamonds in the rough overseas.  The most overlooked players are undersized forwards, which matches the tendency with players in North America.