Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Dominant seasons by CHL veterans poor predictor of pro successBrendan Shinnimin's dominant performance down the stretch led to a contract with the Phoenix Coyotes. It's unfortunate, but I doubt he makes that team any time soon, but virtue of the fact that the NHL has become a young man's game, and the general theme among top scorers who make it to the pro ranks "score early, score often".

A while ago I compared Emerson Etem to other dominant WHL scorers since 1997, and, using a similar method, I'm looking to compare recent junior players (I went back to 2008) and adjust their point totals for both league and year. One goal in the 2012 WHL (where there were 6.74 goals per game), for instance, is worth more than one goal in the 2011 OHL (which had 7.26 goals per game).

The closest comparable to Shinnimin is Yannick Riendeau, an undrafted winger who put up 126 points, scoring 58 goals, for the Drummondville Voltigeurs in 64 games back in 2009. Riendeau was a consistent scorer throughout his "Q" career but broke out at age 20. He's now a point-per-game player in the ECHL with the Reading Royals.

The era adjustment all boils down to how a player does relative to Jeff Skinner's 2010 season, when he scored 50 goals and 90 points in 64 games for the Kitchener Rangers. Every Buzzing the Net ranking is obliged to incorporate Jeff Skinner in some aspect, and adjusted for league and era, Shinnimin had 59.8 goals and 138.2 points for the Tri-City Americans last season, which would rank him 1st in scoring since 2008.

One problem, however: Skinner was 17 at the time, and Shinnimin is an overage player. The top-10 consists of five 20-year olds: Shinnimin, Riendeau, Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Yanni Gourde and Adam Hughesman. Pierro-Zabotel, the only one other than Riendeau who wasn't in junior this year, is also in the ECHL.

It's rare for players who played their 20-year old season in the junior ranks to make the NHL. No top CHL scorer has in quite some time. Most of those players are snatched up and are playing in the professional ranks before they hit 20 to hone their skill-set against larger men in the AHL or reaping rewards for the team that drafted them in the NHL. Examples there include John Tavares, Mathieu Perreault, and Jordan Eberle.

The other thing we need to adjust for is games played. Much of the best talent is scooped up every December to compete in the World Juniors, leaving some of the older guys behind to rack up goals in their absence. By normalizing every player's games played to 64 games (Jeff Skinner in 2010) we can find out who were the most dominant scorers each year.

Tavares in 2008 and Sven Bärtschi from this season are tied with 128 PRS (or Points Relative to Skinner). Keep in mind Tavares was 17 at the time, and Bärtschi is 19.

Here they are, sorted by age. The 16-year olds:

Year League Player Team G+/64 Pts+/64
2012 QMJHL Nathan MacKinnon Halifax 33.2 86.1
2008 OHL Taylor Hall Windsor 46.1 85.3
2011 OHL Alex Galchenyuk Sarnia 28.0 78.1

Only three of them were top-20 scorers in the respective leagues in the last five years, but the one who has made the NHL is already arguably a star. This bodes well for Nathan MacKinnon, whose 78 points in 58 games were judged to be more impressive than Hall's 84 in 63.

That slacker Alex Galchenyuk is far behind this season after losing pretty much all of it due to injury.

17-year olds:

Year League Player Team G+/64 Pts+/64
2008 OHL John Tavares Oshawa 43.8 128.0
2008 OHL Steven Stamkos Sarnia 61.4 110.2
2010 OHL Tyler Seguin Plymouth 48.8 107.7
2011 OHL Ryan Strome Niagara 31.1 104.4
2009 WHL Evander Kane Vancouver 53.8 100.7
2011 QMJHL Jonathan Huberdeau Saint John 42.5 100.3
2009 OHL Ryan Ellis Windsor 25.0 99.9
2011 OHL Nail Yakupov Sarnia 46.2 99.4
2011 WHL Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Red Deer 29.6 98.3
2012 QMJHL Mikhail Grigorenko Québec 42.1 92.2

Two top prospects from this season and three from last season, so a pretty impressive showing by the 17-year old age group. The guys who have broken in are already stars, unfortunately, Ryan Ellis hasn't been able to keep up his torrid junior scoring pace. Of course, he falls under a different category since he's a defenceman.

18-year olds:

Year League Player Team G+/64 Pts+/64
2008 QMJHL Jakub Voracek Halifax 40.5 122.0
2010 OHL Taylor Hall Windsor 44.9 119.0
2012 WHL Ty Rattie Portland 54.5 112.2
2009 OHL Cody Hodgson Brampton 52.6 111.1
2010 WHL Brayden Schenn Brandon 39.3 107.4
2011 QMJHL Sean Couturier Drmmndvlle 41.1 105.9
2011 OHL Tyler Toffoli Ottawa 51.4 101.6
2010 OHL Taylor Beck Guelph 40.9 97.6
2009 WHL Brandon Kozun Calgary 38.0 96.0
2011 OHL Christian Thomas Oshawa 50.2 96.0

The Philadelphia Flyers control 30% of this list, but unfortunately, it's only Jakub Voracek who has become a regular NHL scorer. He had 49 points this season in Philadelphia plus 10 more in the playoffs. Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn are waiting for their NHL breakouts. Cody Hodgson had 41 points in 83 games this season and Taylor Hall is still Taylor Hall, but Taylor Beck and Brandon Kozun are AHLers, and Christian Thomas is likely to end up there next season.

19-year olds:

Year League Player Team G+/64 Pts+/64
2012 WHL Sven Bärtschi Portland 46.3 128.0
2008 OHL Brett MacLean Oshawa 64.5 124.9
2008 QMJHL Claude Giroux Gatineau 44.9 123.3
2012 WHL Mark Stone Brandon 41.0 119.3
2010 WHL Jordan Eberle Regina 59.8 119.0
2009 OHL John Tavares London 67.1 118.9
2008 OHL Justin Azevedo Kitchener 41.4 118.4
2009 OHL Chris Terry Plymouth 47.7 113.5
2008 QMJHL Mathieu Perreault Bathurst 34.0 112.2
2011 OHL Ryan Ellis Windsor 25.4 111.4

Repeat names on the list include Tavares and Ellis. Claude Giroux is one of the best players in the NHL right now and Mathieu Perreault has become a very good player in Washington, but that's about it for NHL talent. As Neate reminded me, Brett MacLean played with Tavares in 2008, so his stats were bumped up. Justin Azevedo and Chris Terry are both AHLers. Mark Stone ought to be in the NHL next year, as should Bärtschi.

Finally, the 20-year olds. Spot the NHLers:

Year League Player Team G+/64 Pts+/64
2009 QMJHL Yannick Riendeau Drmmndvll 60.3 126.0
2012 WHL Brendan Shinnimin Tri-City 55.5 124.3
2012 QMJHL Yanni Gourde Victoriaville 33.8 116.7
2011 QMJHL Philip-Michaël Devos Gatineau 45.8 107.3
2011 WHL Tyler Johnson Spokane 49.1 103.7
2009 QMJHL Dany Masse Drmmndvll 43.1 103.5
2011 OHL Jason Akeson Kitchener 22.0 103.2
2012 WHL Adam Hughesman Tri-City 45.8 103.1
2009 QMJHL Cedric McNicoll Shawinigan 38.9 102.4
2009 WHL Casey Pierro-Zabotel Vancouver 34.2 102.2

A disturbing trend is the amount of hyphenated names making their way into hockey.

Oh, I also looked at Sidney Crosby to compare, whose dominance with Rimouski was the reason I began paying attention to the junior ranks:

Year League Player Team G+/64 Pts+/64
2004 QMJHL Sidney Crosby Rimouski 60.6 146.4
2005 QMJHL Sidney Crosby Rimouski 74.2 173.4

He was 16 and 17 those years, if we want at all to compare him to MacKinnon and Tavares at all.

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