The reason we're analyzing junior players, of course, is to use the information to project the careers of young players. Future Entry Drafts are the ultimate focus of this work. With that in mind, I'd like to take a preliminary look at this year's crop of draft-eligible OHL forwards using our database of 521 players who were first draft-eligible from 1989-1998. The results will certainly not be definitive, given the early stage of this research, but interesting nonetheless.
For purposes of comparison, we should look at how the Central Scouting Bureau (CSB) views this group of players. In their midseason rankings, released in January, OHL forwards were ranked among North American skaters as follows:
OHL Fwd Nth American
Rank Rank Name
1 1 John Tavares
2 2 Matt Duchene
3 9 Peter Holland
4 11 Nazem Kadri
5 24 Zack Kassian
6 35 Ryan O'Reilly
7 42 Michael Latta
8 43 Ethan Werek
9 48 Alex Hutchings
10 50 Taylor Beck
11 53 Jordan Szwarz
12 66 Garrett Wilson
13 86 Zach Tatrn
14 90 Philip Varone
15 95 Tyler Randell
16 96 Michael Fine
17 98 Marcus Foligno
18 131 Jordan Mayer
19 132 Casey Cizikas
20 133 Luke Judson
21 143 Adam Payerl
22 150 Matthew Tipoff
23 177 Kyle Clifford
24 201 Andy Andreoff
The CSB ranked 210 North Americans skaters in its midseason rankings. Combined with the European skaters and goaltenders, there are more than enough ranked players to fill an Entry Draft. We can reasonably infer that if a player is not ranked, the CSB does not think he should be drafted. We'll come back to that point in a bit.
Using the Career Score described in our last column, we can calculate how good a player's career might be, based on his most comparable players. For each player on the above list, I determined his 10 most-comparable players using an arcane formula. Dropping the player with the highest and lowest Career Score, I then calculated the average Career Score. During the calculations, I also noted the high and low scores among the range as well as the score of the most-comparable player, which may be one of the dropped players. The results are below, followed by commentary on certain players. To give you an idea of what a Career Score means, I used the following grades:
600+ A+ (NHL superstar)
300-599 A (NHL star)
150-299 B (NHL regular)
75-149 C (some NHL games, minor-league star)
25-74 D (minor-leaguer)
0-24 F (no significant career)
Rank Player Avg Low High Best Match
1 Tavares , John 347 181 645 391 (Mike Ricci)
2 Duchene, Matt 203 104 432 178 (Ralph Intranuovo)
3 Holland, Peter 52 15 88 15 (Todd Norman)
4 Kadri, Nazem 205 107 391 322 (Cory Stillman)
5 Kassian , Zack 78 24 139 139 (Jason Ward)
6 O'Reilly, Ryan 72 15 158 55 (Trevoe Gallant)
7 Latta, Michael 85 33 159 24 (Curtis Bowen)
8 Werek, Ethan 113 23 282 69 (Colin Miller)
9 Hutchings, Alex 88 52 127 124 (Norm Milley)
10 Beck, Taylor 103 33 162 44 (Brent Gauvreau)
11 Szwarz, Jordan 84 37 159 159 (Manny Malhotra)
12 Wilson, Garrett 67 19 153 287 (Mike Fisher)
13 Tatrn, Zach 14 1 29 1 (Shawn Caplice)
14 Varone, Philip 57 12 124 12 (Shane Nash)
15 Randell, Taylor 37 10 97 61 (Larry Courville)
16 Fine, Michael 29 3 135 16 (Steve Parson)
17 Foligno, Marcus 21 5 43 61 (Larry Courville)
18 Mayer, Jordan 73 5 142 3 (Jason Doyle)
19 Cizikas, Casey 59 16 142 16 (Steve Parson)
20 Judson, Luke 19 4 53 14 (Chad Cavanagh)
21 Payerl, Adam 6 1 17 17 (Kiley Hill)
22 Tipoff, Matthew 27 1 68 29 (Ryan Black)
23 Clifford, Kyle 28 4 68 61 (Larry Courville)
24 Andreoff, Andy 17 2 43 6 (Travis Riggin)
John Tavares: Unsurprisingly, Tavares comes out on top. Now, while I fully expect Tavares to have the best career of these players, I think the estimate above is low. He's very difficult to project using this method because even the most comparable players are really not comparable to him. His junior career does not match with anyone in the database. He's a unique player that should have an outstanding career.
Matt Duchene and Nazem Kadri: These players have very similar projections and should both have very good NHL careers. They should at least be NHL regulars, with the potential to be stars.
Peter Holland: These projections are not nearly as high on Holland as the CSB is. While he managed nearly a point per game this year, last year he scored only 23 points in 62 games, which does not compare well to players like Duchene and Kadri. There is a strong chance that Holland will flop.
Alex Hutchings: While Hutchings has a similar average score to Latta and Szwarz, his range of comparables is much tighter. This implies he is a lower-risk player, more predictable in where he will end up. Latta and Szwarz are probably more likely to flop, but more likely to exceed expectations as well.
Zach Tatrn: Tatrn is the first player on this list to really stick out as being out of place. I suppose you could say that about Holland, but Tatrn is a tad more misplaced. Even the best projection for him is a poor career, devoid of NHL time. While he has battled injury this year, the fact is he scored one goal and three points in 28 games and had but 10 points in 60 games last year. I don't need to spell out that Tatrn is a large player, whose physical abilities are esteemed by scouts. Adam Payerl is a similar type of player and his projects are even worse than Tatrn. Larry Courville is the most comparable player here, as well as Kyle Clifford. Never heard of Larry Courville? Precisely.
By these projections, the CSB does a decent job ranking these players. The three best are all in the top four and the truly bad projections are lower down the list. This only considers the ranked players though. What about players who did not even make the top 210 skaters in North America. There are at least five players of note, whose projections are below. Now remember, the CSB does not believe these players should be drafted at all.
Player Avg Low High Best Match
DeSousa, Chris 80 23 193 130 (Rob Shearer)
Agozzino, Andrew 66 24 130 130 (Rob Shearer)
Erlich, Daniel 53 16 159 50 (Mike Oliveira)
Carnavale, Taylor 50 6 142 1 (Brian Scott)
Sisca, Matt 44 13 130 25 (Richard Uniacke)
At this point, I'm sure I don't need to tell you that none of these players are even 6 feet tall. Carnevale is the tallest at 5-11, while the others are all 5-8 or 5-9. The CSB believes that Adam Payerl is a safer bet than any of these individuals.
These projections certainly don't imply that the CSB is missing out on any sure-fire NHL stars here. However, DeSousa's average Career Score of 80 would rank 9th in the first list, if he were included, and Agozzino would be 13th. It's baffling why these players aren't even ranked at the bottom of the list. It's not like these players play small. Agozzino drives to the net well, doesn't shy away from contact, and apparently plays solid defense. Erlich is held in high esteem by his GM Mark Hunter, who played in the NHL with Theo Fleury and Mats Naslund. DeSousa's nickname is “The Jackhammer”, for Orr's sake, and this describes his playing style well.
Despite the typical comment that only small players who “play small” are shunned by NHL scouts, we have a group of small players who do not play small being shunned by NHL scouts. To me, DeSousa in particular looks like a strong mid-round pick. If the CSB rankings are to be believed, he should still be around.
When looking at these projections, bear in mind they are very rough and should not be relied upon for making any important decision. Even so, they have proved useful in picking out some players who seem to be overrated, and some who are underrated, by Central Scouting. If your team skips over Zach Tatrn this summer to snatch up Chris DeSousa, you should be glad. A small player who has a good chance to have a solid career is more valuable than a large player who has little chance to do anything in professional hockey.
Who wouldn't want a player called “The Jackhammer” on his favorite team? He has “future fan favorite” written all over him. He could easily wind up being Sean Avery, but without the personality problems.