For the 2015 draft, I looked at what factors were strong predictors for future NHL point potential in regards to first year draft eligible CHL forwards. Through my research, I created a career NHL season point prediction model (nicknamed NHLP for short). The research found that points-per-game was a moderately strong predictor for both power play and non-power play scoring. Meanwhile, age was only a factor for power play scoring, suggesting that older players are either more proficient at power play scoring and/or receive more power play ice time. However, due to time constraints, I was unable to look at another factor, which is a forward’s contribution to team scoring.
In the case of this study, the contribution to team scoring is the percentage of a team’s regulation and overtime goals that a player receives either a goal or an assist on the play, excluding games missed by that player. Forwards who have a high percentage of their team’s scoring are the ones that are able to put up points even though they are the opposition’s main target. In juniors, often there are very good forwards that play on weak teams who are involved in a high percentage of their team’s scoring meanwhile other good players play on strong teams and have a lower percentage. Does this matter or does the fact that a strong forward on a weak team likely receives a higher amount of ice time even out for the fact a strong forward on a strong team may receive less ice time due to their team rolling four lines? Is it better to be a player who carried a weak team like Leon Draisaitl or to be the best player on a strong team like Sam Bennett? Will looking at percentage of team contribution help alleviate the problem with only looking at points per game, as sometimes forwards are carried by playing with other top forwards (e.g. Phillips-Huberdeau, MacLean-Tavares, Gagner-Kane)?
To test whether percentage of team contribution is a factor in predicting future NHL scoring, the correlation between a forwards percentage in their first eligible draft season and their career point-per-game season in the NHL were compared.
The NHLP formula created used a sample of forwards who have played in 250 NHL games as well as played in their first draft eligible season in the CHL between 1998 and 2006. Expanding the sample to include the 2007 and the 2014-15 season games played has increased the sample size from 126 forwards to 136. The players joining are Pat Kane, Sam Gagner, Logan Couture, Nick Spaling, Matt Halischuk, Brandon Sutter, Jakub Voracek, Nate Thompson, Ryan Reaves and Mathieu Perreault. The results for correlation when percentage of team contribution is used:
While not as strong a predictor as points-per-game, there is still a moderately strong positive correlation between percentage contributions to team scoring and a forwards’ career NHL season. So what does that mean? It means that CHL players that have a higher percentage contribution to team scoring have a higher likelihood of future offensive success in the NHL. Therefore, my prediction model I used for the 2015 draft did not compensate forwards that played on weaker teams who were involved in a higher percentage of team scoring. Meanwhile, forwards who put up a lower percentage of team scoring on a stronger team were over-rated due to playing with better linemates, better matchups and better power play units, which leads to inflated scoring. One only needs to look at examples of what great forwards like Gretzky, Lemieux and Crosby could do to elevate their wingers point totals. Therefore, teams not only need to target forwards that can put up points but also forwards who contribute to a large portion of their team’s scoring. These forwards drive a team’s offense and are able to contribute despite being target #1. So when draft day rolls around and your looking at forwards worth drafting, it is wise to ask yourself, does he do the heavy lifting? Just remember, points alone don’t cut it.