Tue Sep 21 10:17am EDT
The Carolina Hurricanes have been far from cryptic or coy about starting Jeff Skinner in the NHL at age 18, so the seventh overall pick's imminent signing falls under the knew-it-all-along heading. The Hurricanes are hoping to be an Eastern Conference version of of the 2009-10 Colorado Avalanche, who made the playoffs after promoting teenagers Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly from the Ontario Hockey League.
"There are only 10 players in training camp who spent all of last season with the Hurricanes, and general manager Jim Rutherford has all but awarded a roster spot to first-round draft pick Jeff Skinner." (Raleigh News-Observer)
The other reason it's no stunner is, by the numbers, Skinner and Boston Bruins second overall pick Tyler Seguin are No. 1 and 1-A — in that order — among the top scorers from the Canadian Hockey League last season. Skinner also gets the benefit of starting out at age 18 minus the crazy-high expectations that await Seguin in New England.
It might surprise many — then again, it might not — that Skinner goes ahead of Seguin, let alone top pick Taylor Hall.
This is where it pays to have run a sports blog with a math whiz from the University of Waterloo. Rob Pettapiece from The CIS Blog, upon request, got to work crunching the numbers, working off Gabriel Desjardins' CHL-to-NHL equivalences. It might be best to explain how it works, below the jump.
1. Took each player's points-per-game (including playoff points, which are weighted about 60% higher given that the competition in playoff games is better).
2. Adjusted for the one-year small sample by regressing points-per-game to the average for that player's age and conference (where age is 2009 minus birth year. Thus Tyler Seguin is 17; Taylor Hall is 18 — not strictly true, but good enough for our purposes).
3. Projected that PPG number for the next seven years of that player's career, given Desjardins' CHL-to-NHL equivalencies.
4. Expressed the seven year average as "points per 82 games," and rounded off to a whole number.
Obviously, this is not a be-all. It does not properly account for the value of players whose purpose isn't to score — defenceman, defensive forwards — and myriad team factors, such good players on weak teams, players coattail-riding talented teammates, players piling up points against weaker teams, and so on. But it's all we have. Here's the top 10 from last year's late-1991 and 1992-birthdate CHL players.
1) 48 — Jeff Skinner: age 17, Kitchener Rangers (OHL); seventh overall, Carolina.
2) 46 — Tyler Seguin: 17, Plymouth Whalers (OHL); second overall, Boston.
3) 40 — Taylor Hall: 18, Windsor Spitfires (OHL); first overall, Edmonton Oilers.
4) 39 — Tyler Toffoli: 17, Ottawa 67's (OHL); second round, 47th overall, Los Angeles Kings.
5) 38 — Greg McKegg: 17, Erie Otters (OHL), third round, 62nd overall, Toronto Maple Leafs.
6) 36 — Jared Knight: 17, London Knights (OHL), second round, 32nd overall, Boston Bruins.
7) 36 — Devante Smith-Pelly: 17, Mississauga St. Michael's Majors (OHL), second round, 42nd overall, Anaheim Ducks.
8) 35 — Sean Couturier: 17, Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL), draft eligible 2012.
9) 35 — Gabriel Landeskög: 17, Kitchener Rangers (OHL), draft eligible 2012.
10) 35 — Brendan Gallagher: 17, Vancouver Giants (WHL), fifth round, 147th overall, Montreal Canadiens. (Gallagher is only 5-foot-9, which accounts for the low draft position.)
It's not everything, so pretty please with sugar on top, don't take this as a projection of how many points Skinner could be expected to notch in his first full NHL season. (Duchene had 24 goals and 55 points for Colorado after taking the great leap forward from the Brampton Battalion.)
It just suggests Skinner and Seguin were well clear of their peers last season, the players in their age bracket. Someone who can be a point producer at the major junior level at 17 or 18 is likely to be able to do so in the NHL. That myth about the great junior scorer who can't carry it to the next level probably applies more to older players who lit it up at 19.
Seguin might rank higher if he had benefit of playing three playoff series, as Skinner did, instead of two. The Plymouth Whalers are also known for a more defensive system than the Kitchener Rangers.
The point is the obvious, though. Carolina's probably not rushing Skinner by putting him with the big club at 18. Those concerns about his skating which were raised last year are melting away fast.
Meantime, the Rangers are reeling a bit with Skinner and Team USA standout Jeremy Morin, a 19-year-old Chicago Blackhawks prospect, both leaving for the pros early. Having Landeskög on the list, among other reasons, suggests Rangers coach-GM Steve Spott should still have a decent team.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.