Common Misconceptions: "Too small to play in the NHL"

Byron Bader
July 21 2016 02:00PM

Every year we hear some derivative of "skilled, but is he too small to play professionally?" or "has the tools, but can he make it work in the NHL at his size?" 

These types of statements portray that short players almost never make the NHL and the ones that do must be very special. However, what's actually happening tells a different story from this common misconception.

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Diamonds in the Rough: Finding Elite Talent Late

Byron Bader
July 11 2016 02:00PM

The later round picks (round three on) in the NHL draft have provided very few true NHLers. From 1980 to 2015, 6,127 selections were taken after the second round. Of those, 815 of the 6,127 have gone on to play in the NHL in a meaningful way (150 games or more) thus far. That's a success rate of roughly 13%. 

As a result, late round picks are not treated as a high commodity by teams. Late round picks are mostly used as filler in larger trades or used to acquire energy players or "room guys." Or GMs take complete gambles on extreme low-probability players with those picks.  

The belief seems to be that finding an NHLer or even an elite NHLer late is a stroke of luck. You pick a player with little upside and a few years down the road, he's turned a switch and turned into something. How can you predict that? 

However, if you look closely at the elite talent, namely forwards, selected late... there's a few things that stand out which suggest it's possible to improve on the extremely low probability (1.6%) of finding great talent later in the NHL draft. 

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Predicting Future NHL Scoring Success with NHLe Thresholds & Related Factors

Byron Bader
July 17 2015 12:00PM


NHL Equivalency (NHLe) is a formula used by some in the hockey analytics community to normalize scoring rates in different prospect feeder leagues. The object of finding a similar "score" for players across different leagues is to help project future NHL scoring/performance. It’s a method developed by Gabe Desjardins of behindthenet.ca a number of years ago and has been expanded upon by hockey analytics pioneers like Rob Vollman and Kent Wilson. Here's Gabe's original piece to give you a context if you're not fully versed in NHLe.

Previously, I looked at draft year NHLe and forwards drafted in the first round from 2005 to 2010. In that investigation, I found that of players who had scored a career 0.6 PPG or higher in the NHL (approximately 50 points or more a season) 22 of 32 in total had an NHLe of at least 34 in their draft year.  

In fact, of all the first round forwards who had an NHLe of 34 or more in their draft year, only five hadn’t scored at a rate of 0.6 PPG or higher in the NHL to that point, though all had already made the NHL. While draft year NHLe provides certain insights, I was curious how you could project future impactful point producers (0.6 PPG or higher) overall, beyond the 1st round and beyond a player’s draft year equivalency.  

The following analysis provides insights into the following questions:

  • Are there differences between players who score a high equivalency in their draft year compared to later on? 
  • Do elite scorers tend to hit certain NHLe thresholds (e.g., 30+ or 40+) more often and/or more frequently than average, replacement-level scorers and busts?
  • What impact does age have in hitting an equivalency threshold and future NHL success? 

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AN ARGUMENT FOR NHLE

Byron Bader
June 24 2014 08:00AM

NHLe is an equivalency formula used by some in the hockey analytics community.  It’s a method of standardizing scoring across various major and junior leagues.  Standardized scoring gives an idea of how players, generally younger prospects, perform at the NHL level. Some argue its merit as a valuable metric in assessing future performance.  The following provides a framework of how it can be used as a possible drafting qualifier.

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DRAFTING FOR SUCCESS

Byron Bader
May 09 2014 08:30AM

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-via Dave Shaver

The NHL draft is one of the most important parts of any NHL team’s year. It is a team’s opportunity to pick up players that, down the road, may turn into franchise cornerstones or at least pieces that will them be successful. Unlike free agency or trades, the draft is an opportunity to add pivotal assets at basically no charge, with the added bonus of (likely) having the player through his prime playing years.

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