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Thread: Predicting if a first year rookie will exceed expectations

  1. #1
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    Dobber Sports Genius

    Default Predicting if a first year rookie will exceed expectations

    Determining if a rookie will have a great first NHL season
    By: Scott Maran

    One of the hardest things to do in fantasy hockey is to predict which first year players will have a great rookie season. Identifying rookies who will most likely have a big year can be extremely beneficial to any fantasy team and can provide a crucial advantage over opponents. Some years there are can’t miss rookies who enter the NHL and will obviously produce at a high level (A certain rookie on the Oilers comes to mind) but every year there are usually rookies that exceed expectations. While there is no 100% accurate way to predict whether a first year rookie will have a big year, I have found that there are usually three important factors that determine whether a rookie has the potential to make a significant impact. These factors are past production of the rookie, teammate opportunities, and productive ice time availability. As examples, I will use last year’s top three rookie point leaders. Last year’s rookie point leaders were Mark Stone (64 points), Gaudreau (64 points), and Forsberg (63 points).

    First of all, while not all prospects that have had good AHL and CHL numbers make a significant impact in the NHL, rookies who do make a big impact in the NHL usually have had above average minor league stats. There are some NHL players who have carved out productive careers in the NHL while only putting up modest points in lower leagues but it is more likely that a prospect will have a stellar rookie season if they have shown scoring potential in minor leagues. For example, both Forsberg and Stone scored at an excellent rate of points in the AHL. In Forsberg’s first season in the AHL, he scored at a rate of .72 points per game. For players 19-21 years old in the AHL, the benchmark for a forward prospect likely becoming successful in the NHL is .7 points per game. When Stone was 21 years old in the AHL, he also produced at a .7 point per game rate but unlike Forsberg, he stayed in the AHL for one more year. In his next AHL season, when he was 22, Stone scored 41 points in 37 games, a 1.11 point per game rate. The benchmark for future NHL success for AHL forwards either 22 or 23 is about a point per game. Both Stone and Forsberg cleared these benchmarks and gave a good indication that they would become good future NHL players, suggesting that they had the potential to have a good rookie season.

    Also, a rookie’s teammates play an important factor in whether he can succeed or not. While a rookie might be extremely talented, he needs to be placed with other players that can help him score. For example, last year Forsberg played 68% of his even-strength shifts with Ribeiro and over 37% of his even-strength shifts on a line with Ribeiro and Neal. Forsberg was able to play with first line talent when he was on the ice and was able to produce at a first line rate. In addition, Gaudreau got to play on a line with Hudler and Monahan for 38% of his even-strength shifts and Stone was able to play with Turris for over 55% of his even-strength shifts in both of their rookie seasons. In comparison, one of the reasons Horvat only managed 25 points in his rookie season last year was because he spent 33% of his even-strength shifts on a line with Kenins and Hansen and 29& of his even-strength shifts on a line with Hansen and Dorsett.

    Lastly, similarly to which teammates a rookie will play with, ice time availability is another important factor that can greatly influence a rookie’s production. In order to produce points at a top-six level, any player has to receive a consistent amount of ice time. It would be much harder for a rookie to score points if he is only playing ten minutes a night rather than 17 minutes a night. How much ice time a rookie receives is usually dictated by the roster spot openings and if there are any spots available in the top six of a team. For example, last year there were only three rookie forwards who averaged over 17 minutes of ice time a game. Those three rookie forwards were the rookies who ended with the most points, Gaudreau, Stone, and Forsberg. They were all able to get that much ice time because there were spots open in the top six of their respective teams. Last year, Nashville needed a scoring winger to play next to Neal and Ribeiro and Nashville let Forsberg play with them in the preseason. He performed well in the spot and was able to keep it and gain ice time. In Calgary, Gaudreau was afforded the opportunity to play with Monahan and Hudler and produced at a high rate on the line, forcing Calgary to keep him on the line and play him big minutes. The same goes for Stone and most of the other rookies who are able to score a high level of points in their first NHL season. If there are already six or seven really good forwards that can take away from a rookie’s potential playing time, it can be difficult for a rookie to produce.

    While determining whether a rookie will have a great first season or not can be very important, it is also very hard to predict. However, a rookie forward is more likely to have an above-average season if there are open roster spots where he could get a significant amount of playing time, has shown past production in lower leagues, and has a chance at playing next to good teammates.
    Geek of the Week columnist for DobberHockey and writer for BlueshirtBanter. Twitter- @realallinhockey

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Predicting if a first year rookie will exceed expectations

    Solid writing skills. Great points. You'd think that poolies would know this already, but in fact many don't so this is a good topic. At a quick glance, my only suggestion is to state the player's full name the first time he's mentioned, then just the last name in subsequent mentions. But man, this is a great piece - a forum king and a writer, I'm happy you signed up!
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  3. #3
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    Dobber Sports Genius

    Default Re: Predicting if a first year rookie will exceed expectations

    Quote Originally Posted by Dobber View Post
    Solid writing skills. Great points. You'd think that poolies would know this already, but in fact many don't so this is a good topic. At a quick glance, my only suggestion is to state the player's full name the first time he's mentioned, then just the last name in subsequent mentions. But man, this is a great piece - a forum king and a writer, I'm happy you signed up!
    Thanks Dobber, I'm glad I signed up too. Thanks for the compliements and the advice
    Geek of the Week columnist for DobberHockey and writer for BlueshirtBanter. Twitter- @realallinhockey

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