Using stats to try and find hidden draft gems

Photo credit:Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 year ago
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:
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.
Danila YurovFMHL23133679.4919.173.378
Matthew SavoieFWHL6535907715.063.205
Lane HutsonDUSDP3243103.1827 (FC)
Denton MateychukDWHL65136458.3920.783.0714
Vladimir GrudininDMHL182137517.863.0425 (McK)
Kevin KorchinskiDWHL6746468.2217.93.0019
Alex SotekFSlovakia U2017103179.3117.062.9345 (NHL EU)
Gleb TrikozovFMHL35234564.9116.822.8626
Jordan DumaisFQMJHL683910954.6719.342.8552 (McK)
Artyom DudaDMHL52144161.4622.032.8143 (McK)
Ilya KvochkoFMHL51174871.7918.362.7370 (EP)
Alexander PerevalovFMHL44255160.2916.72.6129
Shane WrightFOHL63319260.4521.182.601
Ty NelsonDOHL6695060.2925.012.6032
Noah OstlundFSweden U203294274.5818.182.5927
Logan CooleyFUSDP26133702.562
Jagger FirkusFWHL66367858.8216.552.5322 (EP)
Vadim FattakhovFMHL58235462.1218.372.46(Not Ranked)
Christian KyrouDOHL68185948.3925.032.4437 (EP)
Petr HauserFCzechia U2041255979.115.152.44100 (NHL EU)
Ludwig PerssonFSweden U2041256160.6719.732.4242 (McK)
Conor GeekieFWHL63247070.0916.372.3915
Dominik RymonFCzechia U2037274668.3519.722.3890 (NHL EU)
Yaroslav TsulyginDMHL53102765.3318.562.38(Not Ranked)
Adel SafinDMHL5752667.9215.982.37(Not Ranked)
Adam DvorakFCzechia U2045234970.5915.622.36(Not Ranked)
Isaac HowardFUSDP32214202.3523
Vinny BorgesiDUSHL5753767.0121.132.33(Not Ranked)
Aleksanteri KaskimakiFFinland U2030194067.9217.422.3253 (McK)
Michael BuchingerDOHL6354455.421.732.3158 (TSN BM)
Vyacheslav MalovFMHL58173967.1615.572.30(Not Ranked)
Joel JonssonFSweden U203073363.0417.652.30(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.
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:
PlayerDraft YearHunter
Jack HughesDY4.37
Marco RossiDY3.90
Dylan GuentherDY3.89
Olen ZellwegerDY3.84
Seth JarvisDY3.53
Sean BehrensDY-13.42
Alex TurcotteDY3.41
Cole PerfettiDY3.32
Marco RossiDY-13.31
Alexis LafreniereDY3.24
Domenick FensoreDY3.23
Bowen ByramDY3.22
Alexis LafreniereDY-13.20
Cameron YorkDY3.17
Cole CaufieldDY3.15
Jack HughesDY3.01
Rodion AmirovDY3.00
Lukas CormierDY+12.99
Alexander KisakovDY2.95
Alexander PashinDY2.93
So while the overall theme continues of top players mixed with players with the potential to surprise.
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
More from TheLeafsNation.com
PointsBet Canada has officially launched in Ontario! Get a $25 free bet just for signing up right here!

Check out these posts...