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Using stats to try and find hidden draft gems

Two things I am not going to pretend to be: the first is a scout. There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to watch as much junior hockey as I’d like let alone also check out European hockey. As much as I love the draft, I’ve learned to form my opinions based on the numbers and the opinions of writers that I’ve come to trust.

The second thing I’m not is a statistical prodigy. I like numbers. I use numbers. I know the value of numbers (and their shortcomings), but I’m not putting together anything overly complex. I like simple straightforward adjustments.

That’s why last year I put together my draft “Hunter Score”. Unlovingly named for Mark Hunter, the Hunter Score is an adjustment on points per game and goal differential that adjusts for birthday, position, size, league, and draft year to give (in theory) an all things being equal score.

Here’s the brief writeup from last year:

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The NHL Draft: Consolidated Rankings, Where the Leafs sit, and introducing the Hunter Score

The main thing I’m hanging my hat on is the fact that Hunter Score tipped me off to the breakout year from Olen Zellweger, and think we’ll only see him go on to bigger things in the coming years. Arguably I think the best usage is still when combined with some traditional scouting that will account for how the player achieves their results. If they have an identifiable skill set that makes it clear they can repeat these outcomes at a higher level, that’s what we’re hoping to see. Still, I think balanced numbers are a good place to start and that’s what I’m doing here.

Below are the top first year draft eligible players based on their Hunter score, and next to it is either their consolidated draft ranking from Elite Prospects or their highest draft ranking.

NAME POS LEAGUE GP G P EV GF% eTOI/GP HUNTER RANKINGS
Danila Yurov F MHL 23 13 36 79.49 19.17 3.37 8
Matthew Savoie F WHL 65 35 90 77 15.06 3.20 5
Lane Hutson D USDP 32 4 31 0 3.18 27 (FC)
Denton Mateychuk D WHL 65 13 64 58.39 20.78 3.07 14
Vladimir Grudinin D MHL 18 2 13 75 17.86 3.04 25 (McK)
Kevin Korchinski D WHL 67 4 64 68.22 17.9 3.00 19
Alex Sotek F Slovakia U20 17 10 31 79.31 17.06 2.93 45 (NHL EU)
Gleb Trikozov F MHL 35 23 45 64.91 16.82 2.86 26
Jordan Dumais F QMJHL 68 39 109 54.67 19.34 2.85 52 (McK)
Artyom Duda D MHL 52 14 41 61.46 22.03 2.81 43 (McK)
Ilya Kvochko F MHL 51 17 48 71.79 18.36 2.73 70 (EP)
Alexander Perevalov F MHL 44 25 51 60.29 16.7 2.61 29
Shane Wright F OHL 63 31 92 60.45 21.18 2.60 1
Ty Nelson D OHL 66 9 50 60.29 25.01 2.60 32
Noah Ostlund F Sweden U20 32 9 42 74.58 18.18 2.59 27
Logan Cooley F USDP 26 13 37 0 2.56 2
Jagger Firkus F WHL 66 36 78 58.82 16.55 2.53 22 (EP)
Vadim Fattakhov F MHL 58 23 54 62.12 18.37 2.46 (Not Ranked)
Christian Kyrou D OHL 68 18 59 48.39 25.03 2.44 37 (EP)
Petr Hauser F Czechia U20 41 25 59 79.1 15.15 2.44 100 (NHL EU)
Ludwig Persson F Sweden U20 41 25 61 60.67 19.73 2.42 42 (McK)
Conor Geekie F WHL 63 24 70 70.09 16.37 2.39 15
Dominik Rymon F Czechia U20 37 27 46 68.35 19.72 2.38 90 (NHL EU)
Yaroslav Tsulygin D MHL 53 10 27 65.33 18.56 2.38 (Not Ranked)
Adel Safin D MHL 57 5 26 67.92 15.98 2.37 (Not Ranked)
Adam Dvorak F Czechia U20 45 23 49 70.59 15.62 2.36 (Not Ranked)
Isaac Howard F USDP 32 21 42 0 2.35 23
Vinny Borgesi D USHL 57 5 37 67.01 21.13 2.33 (Not Ranked)
Aleksanteri Kaskimaki F Finland U20 30 19 40 67.92 17.42 2.32 53 (McK)
Michael Buchinger D OHL 63 5 44 55.4 21.73 2.31 58 (TSN BM)
Vyacheslav Malov F MHL 58 17 39 67.16 15.57 2.30 (Not Ranked)
Joel Jonsson F Sweden U20 30 7 33 63.04 17.65 2.30 (Not Ranked)

So of the top 32 Hunter scores, 12 of the players are also in the top 32 for consolidated draft rankings, and 3 more had received first round consideration from at least one draft ranking publisher. In contrast, there are also 7 players that weren’t ranked at all.

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For the second straight year, I’m also realizing that either Liiga and SHL don’t like my conversion rates or it just doesn’t fit with what I’m trying to do here. NHLe doesn’t cut it in this instance. Most likely is there isn’t much accounting for the way 18 years are used in these leagues, and that tends to be 10 minutes or less a night with linemates that won’t elevate their play.

What is interesting is there are a few prospects on here that are ranked fairly close to when the Leafs are slated to pick and through the adjustments on their numbers I feel more confident in the potential of these players.

Noah Ostlund and Isaac Howard are the two most notable names, and to the delight of many Leafs fans, they are sub 6’0 forwards.

The biggest value in this exercise is the finding players who are intriguing swing for the fences options in the later rounds of the draft and I’m now going into the draft having strong feelings about taking Petr Hauser in the 7th round as a result.

When looking at how the Hunter Score has performed from 2019-21, I would say the results are fairly strong as these are the top 20 Hunter Scores of that period:

Player Draft Year Hunter
Jack Hughes DY 4.37
Marco Rossi DY 3.90
Dylan Guenther DY 3.89
Olen Zellweger DY 3.84
Seth Jarvis DY 3.53
Sean Behrens DY-1 3.42
Alex Turcotte DY 3.41
Cole Perfetti DY 3.32
Marco Rossi DY-1 3.31
Alexis Lafreniere DY 3.24
Domenick Fensore DY 3.23
Bowen Byram DY 3.22
Alexis Lafreniere DY-1 3.20
Cameron York DY 3.17
Cole Caufield DY 3.15
Jack Hughes DY 3.01
Rodion Amirov DY 3.00
Lukas Cormier DY+1 2.99
Alexander Kisakov DY 2.95
Alexander Pashin DY 2.93

So while the overall theme continues of top players mixed with players with the potential to surprise.

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The next step as draft rankings are completed will be putting this number alongside scouting assessments to capture a more complete understanding of the player. This is what I do instead of trying to watch Liiga games at 3 in the morning.

Prospect Statistics Sourced from Pick224.com

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