After a point per game season in the AHL, Tyler Benson is an Oilers prospect that is getting a lot of buzz lately. Popular topics include what should be expected for his upside and whether he is ready to make the jump to the NHL for the 2019-20 season. To answer these questions, finding comparable players can be a helpful tool.
To start with, I found CHL forwards that were comparable to Tyler Benson based on their production in their draft year. For evaluating CHL forwards in their draft season, my draft model uses the historical rates of return based on draft position and based on a statistical measurement called NHLP, which projects a forward’s career best point per game season in the NHL. For Tyler Benson, based on draft position, he falls into the grouping of forwards selected between 31-71 overall. The historical rate of return for this group of forwards, drafted between 1998 and 2012, are as follows:
Based on NHLP, he falls into the grouping of forwards with a NHLP of 0.65-0.68 P/G. The historical rate of return for this group of forwards are as follows:
Based on his draft position and his CHL production in his draft year, the expectations for Tyler Benson were not that high when he was drafted. If you were making a bet at that point in his career, the safe money would have been to bet on him playing less than 100 NHL games and having a career average point per game below 0.20. Now skipping ahead to three years after his draft season (D+3), we can evaluate how Benson did in comparison to 27 CHL forwards that were in the same two groupings. For the majority of these forwards, this was their first season at the pro level and can be used as comparisons. However, I only want to evaluate forwards that predominantly played in the AHL in their D+3 season, similar to Benson, which ruled out 7 of the 27 forwards.
- Ryan O’Reilly was already established as a top six forward at the NHL level.
- Maxime Tanguay, Randy Copley and Brad Ralph played mainly in the ECHL.
- Robin Leblanc played in the QMJHL as an overage player.
- Ruslan Bashkirov headed back to Russia after his draft season and was playing mainly in the Russia 2 league, which would later become the VHL.
- Olivier Fortier missed the majority of the AHL season, playing only 1 regular season game and 10 playoff games while only managing 1 point.
- If we remove O’Reilly from the equation, the other 6 forwards mentioned above ended up playing a combined 1 game at the NHL level.
Looking at the remaining 20 forwards, these are their results for P/G in the AHL in their D+3 season:
- 13 of the 20 forwards had a P/G of 0.62 or less at the AHL level in their D+3 season. Of those forwards, only 4 of them would go on to play 100 plus games at the NHL level. 7 of them never played in the NHL, 1 of them (Maxime Sauve) played only 1 game and another played in 29 games (Norm Milley).
- The four forwards, with a P/G of 0.62 or less, that did make the jump to the NHL are:
NICK COUSINS 259 GP – 0.28 P/G
KAMIL KREPS 232 GP – 0.26 P/G
TIM BRENT 207 GP – 0.23 P/G
BLAIR BETTS 477 GP – 0.16 P/G
- The players that did not show immediate offensive potential at the AHL level had difficulty making the jump to the next level and those that did only became depth players in the NHL.
- However, that is not the case for the forwards that produced at a rate of 0.71 P/G or better:
BRAD MARCHAND 681 GP – 0.82 P/G
VINCENT TROCHECK 365 GP – 0.68 P/G
ANTOINE VERMETTE 1046 GP – 0.49 P/G
DAVE BOLLAND 433 GP – 0.48 P/G
JARRET STOLL 872 GP – 0.44 P/G
OSCAR MOLLER 87 GP – 0.30 P/G
MICHAL REPIK 72 GP – 0.28 P/G
- 5 of the 7 forwards have found success at the NHL level. While it would be unfair to expect that Benson will have the offensive production of either Marchand or Trochek, it would not be far-fetched to believe that he could produce in the same range as Vermette, Bolland and Stoll. Oilers fans should be ecstatic if that ends up being the case.
- As for expectations for the 2019-20 season, fans should temper their expectations. For most of these forwards, this was a transition year from the AHL to the NHL. These are the NHL results for these players in their D+4 season:
BRAD MARCHAND 20 GP – 0.05 P/G
VINCENT TROCHECK 50 GP – 0.44 P/G
ANTOINE VERMETTE 57 GP – 0.25 P/G
DAVE BOLLAND 39 GP – 0.44 P/G
JARRET STOLL 68 GP – 0.31 P/G
OSCAR MOLLER 13 GP – 0.31 P/G
MICHAL REPIK 31 GP – 0.26 P/G
If Benson has an average season, in comparison to these seven players, one should expect 40 GP and 12 points. That is a reasonable line in the sand. There is evidence to suggest that Benson could end up being a top six forward, just don’t expect it to be this coming season.