Wright, Slafkovsky or Cooley? | What science says


The former, a 17-year-old Canadian forward, has come close to a 100-point season in the youth academy. The second, the giant winger of the Finnish Liiga, has dominated his opponents in international tournaments.

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Shane Wright and Juraj Slafkovsky?

Well seen. But these definitions also apply to two gifted individuals drafted one after the other in 2016: Pierre-Luc Dubois and Jesse Puljujärvi.

At the time, with the third overall pick, the Columbus Blue Jackets preferred Quebecer to Finnish. This decision stunned observers, who saw in Puljujärvi the reincarnation of Teemu Selänne. Their favorite had dominated the Junior World Cup, with 17 points, the title of top scorer, that of most valuable player and the gold medal. Also, he was already playing in an adult league. While Dubois, cut off from the Canadian team, enjoyed himself in the juniors against weaker opponents.

Looks a little, a lot, like the current Canadian first choice debate, doesn’t it?


Jesse Puljujärvi, Edmonton Oilers

Today there is no doubt that the Jackets were right. Dubois dropped to 239 points. Puljujärvi, 98 points. How is it possible that so many observers have been so wrong?

La Liiga is a stronger league than the QMJHL. Nobody will contest it. Except that analysts overestimated Puljujärvi’s performance in Finland, and underestimated Dubois’s in Cape Breton.

Researcher Katerina Wu of the University of North Carolina studied this specific case. Her conclusions: “Puljujärvi had scored 28 points in 50 games. He was the fifth total of the under 20 Liiga. Dubois was playing in a youth league, but still scored 99 points in 62 games. According to the equivalence coefficients, Dubois was statistically ahead of Puljujärvi.

“Of course, this is not the only criterion for evaluating recruiters. Dubois’s height and his physical play certainly also weighed in the decision. But presumably the Blue Jackets had a better idea of ​​how each player was than another when they preferred Dubois to Puljujärvi. ”


Let’s take a step back three lines.

“According to the equivalence coefficients. ”

What is that ?

It is the Rosetta Stone of hockey. The algorithm that translates the production of a prospect, in Serie A, into points in NHL. The problem is that no one has yet found THE right recipe that certainly guarantees the best selections.

All teams work with the same basic ingredients. They first assign a strength to each league, based on the history of its players’ performance in the NHL. For Liiga, for example, the index could be 44%. For the QMJHL, 11%. Then we multiply this index by the number of points per game of hope. That’s it, an equivalence coefficient.

Now, as with cabbage soup, the secret is in the seasoning. Analysts will augment the formula with a player’s size, playing time, output with equal forces, etc. They can also take into account the specific characteristics of each league. Examples? The age of the players. The number of parts. The format of the championship. The size of the track. The quality of the goalkeepers. The reliability of the statistics. In short, it is a difficult exercise, complicated by the fact that hockey players always depend on the gestures of their teammates – except on penalty shots.

You will have understood that these algorithms are imperfect. However, they provide a good basis for discussion.

And what do they tell us about this season’s draft?

Many, many interesting things.

I have a big weakness for the Byron Bader model. Calculate the odds of a prospect becoming an NHL star. A star, according to his criteria, is a forward who will average 0.7 points per game in the NHL, or a defender who will finish his career with 0.45 points per game.

According to his model, in 2016 four players had more than a 50% chance of becoming a star: Auston Matthews (99%), Clayton Keller (74%), Matthew Tkachuk (70%) and Alex DeBrincat (70%). Jesse Puljujärvi was at 38% and Dubois at 27%. On the other hand, Dubois had a slightly better chance of establishing himself in the NHL.

What does the model suggest for the 2022 cohort?

Six potential customers have more than half the chance of becoming a star.

  • Daniela Yurov (RW): 70%
  • Lane Hutson (R): 57%
  • Denton Mateychuk (King): 57%
  • Simon Nemec (R): 56%
  • Shane Wright (C): 53%
  • Logan Cooley (C): 53%

Nemec, Wright, and Cooley are the three players most likely to start. And Slafkovsky? Bader’s model only gives him a 12% chance of becoming a star. It’s not much. Less than for Nick Suzuki (27%), Jesperi Kotkaniemi (37%) or Cole Caufield (66%). It must be said that the Slovakian had little time to play at the beginning of the season.

Chace McCallum, who worked on the equivalence coefficients, also raised the red flag last week on Slafkovsky and potential Liiga colleague Brad Lambert.

“The argument against statistical models is that we find it perfectly normal that Slafkovsky and Lambert didn’t produce much because they played in a professional league. That these guys faced such stiff competition at a young age is a good sign. Except it’s wrong. Due to their low production [dans la Liiga], players like Slafkovsky and Lambert are unlikely to meet expectations of the degree to which they are drafted. The quality of the championship does not compensate [leur production]. ”

In another equivalence model, Thibaud Chatel’s DRAFTe, Simon Nemec and Joakim Kemell occupy the first two ranks. Logan Cooley is 8 years oldAndShane Wright is 10 years oldAnd and Juraj Slafkovsky, 18And.

My prediction?

Since their appointment, the new Canadian bosses have been hammering the importance of advanced statistics. In this context, a front row selection of Juraj Slafkovsky would be surprising. It would be the result of an irresistible crush on Jeff Gorton or Kent Hughes.

It’s possible.

But the most likely scenario for the Habs remains a selection of Shane Wright or Logan Cooley.

Their 2021-2022 season

  • Shane Wright: 35 goals, 73 assists, 108 points in 74 games
  • Juraj Slafkovsky: 7 goals, 10 assists, 17 points in 49 games
  • Logan Cooley: 13 goals, 23 assists, 36 points in 24 games

League, season and playoff statistics included. Does not include international tournaments and exhibition matches.


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