Projecting the Newest Phantoms' Contributions

You might want to learn the name Shane Harper.

One thing that always interested me was Gabe Desjardins' NHL Equivalencies.  It's really phenomenal work - trying to forecast what a players' production in a different league is equal to in the NHL.  Scott Reynolds from The Copper & Blue has been running a series of great looks at every forward drafted by an NHL club from 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007 which are well worth reading.

Earlier this week, fellow Flyers blog Flyers Faithful ran a story looking at the Flyers prospects and what their NHL Equivalencies would be.  Honestly, it's an idea I wish I had come up with first.  Check that out, especially since it contains history that should put some skeptics in the "lean trust" column.

Instead of looking at what the Flyers' prospects could be expected to produce in the orange and black next year, we're going to look at what they can be expected to produce in Adirondack, since that's where they'll almost certainly be.

In looking at those players who will likely make their professional debut in Adirondack this year, there were only four leagues to pull them from:  WHL, OHL, QMJHL, and NCAA.  After converting their production to a per game rate and multiplying by 82 (to equate a full AHL season), Gabe's AHL Equivalency numbers come into play.  Here are the multipliers to equate the leagues: WHL = 0.43; OHL = 0.45; QMJHL = 0.41; NCAA = 0.55.  Obviously, these equivalencies don't take into account ice time, teammates, role, etc.  They are, however, pretty accurate as evidenced by the Richards, Carter, and van Riemsdyk equivalencies found in the Flyers Faithful piece.

Two additional things:  First, the NCAA equivalency is an estimate from Gabe Desjardins for all NCAA players.  In doing this article, there was no equivalency from the NCAA to the AHL, so I spoke with Gabe about it.  Just like in Canadian Major Juniors, the Conferences (or Leagues, in Canada) vary by difficulty.  The Central Collegiate Hockey Association - which housed Andrew Rowe and Erik Gustafsson - has a 0.60 equivalency, one of the better conferences in the NCAA.

Second, age plays a huge role in these equivalencies.  This in particular hurts Testwuide and Holmstrom, as they were 22 for their last NCAA seasons, as well as Andrew Rowe who was 21.  As such, these three players are less likely to exceed, or even meet, these equivalencies.  This is largely due to the fact that if a player was good enough to succeed in the AHL, they would play there sooner than age 22.  The older a player is making his debut, the less successful they are likely to be.

With that said, these numbers should give you an idea of what we can expect out of the newest Phantoms next year.

To look at the full table, including age, league, and previous year's performance, click here.

Player G A Pts
Mike Testwuide 26.3 12.5 38.8
Andrew Rowe 22.0 14.2 36.3
Ben Holmstrom 10.4 16.2 26.6
Luke Pither 19.8 31.9 51.8
Shane Harper 20.6 18.6 39.2
Eric Wellwood 17.6 21.0 38.6
Zac Rinaldo 6.2 9.2 15.4
Dave Labrecque 12.3 21.3 33.6
Erik Gustafsson 3.8 36.6 40.4
Tyler Hostetter 1.3 15.0 16.3

Looking at this, we see that the Flyers added a few solid players to their roster.  Let's break it down:

Mike Testwuide, W

There was a lot of talk about Testwuide possibly competing for a job with the Flyers this year, but look at the roster.  Where would he fit in? Plus, his $900,000 cap hit isn't exactly easy to squeeze in unless he somehow beats out Jody Shelley or Dan Carcillo.

Even still, a guy who's expected to chip in 39 points in the AHL at age 23 isn't exactly forcing his way into the NHL lineup.  Last year, Jason Ward scored 29 points for the Phantoms in 56 games, equaling 42 points over an 82-game season.  Testwuide would be on track to replace Ward's production, which would still be a net-win for the Phantoms since Testwuide is more likely to improve upon that expectation than Ward is.  But that isn't an improvement for the Flyers, at least not this year.

Andrew Rowe, W

Rowe is somebody who really impressed me at camp, and these numbers back that up as he's projected to score 36 points in the AHL.  The closest player to that production last year was Jon Kalinski, who had an 82-game mark of 33.3 points.  While the two play a similar grinder-type of hockey, Kalinski is more defensive minded while Rowe is more of a power-forward.

Really, Rowe looks to fill a void in Adirondack, providing depth to a team that sorely needs it.  At 22, he isn't expected to have a breakout year, but he just might.  While Mike Testwuide gets all the press, Rowe is expected to score 3 fewer points despite being a year younger.  For this reason, I'm a lot more excited about Rowe than Testwuide.

Ben Holmstrom, LW

While Rowe impressed at camp, Holmstrom disappointed me and these projections just add to that.  He scored 3 goals in 13 games for the Phantoms last year, but he's 23 years old and has never scored more than 10 goals in a single season during his career, and that was 5 years ago.  And he played in 56 games. 

I guess this is a case of high expectations tarnishing what you get, but Holmstrom chipping in 27 points isn't all that exciting.  To give some reference, defenseman Joonas Lehtivuori scored 23 points in 66 games, good for 28.58 per 82-games last year.  As a 23-year old, his window is closing fast and he needs to exceed these projections if he wants to have Philadelphians learn his name.  Well, that or become a defensively responsible forward, something his even mark in plus/minus through 144 NCAA games doesn't bode well for.

Luke Pither, C

Pither is projected to immediately become the Phantoms first-line center, based on these numbers.  At age 21, he's expected to put up 51 (51.77 to be exact, it matters later) points in the AHL, a pretty solid professional debut.  Here's someone who could conceivably be an undrafted gem. 

Even better news is that he seems to perfectly replace Jared Ross, who scored 46 points in 73 AHL games (51.67 pts/82 GP).  That's almost an exact match in production, which is fantastic since the Flyers would have gotten 7 years younger and only spent an additional $100k in cap space to do it.

Shane Harper, RW

Harper is someone who is still young enough to be considered a prospect.  This will be his age 21 season, and scoring 39 points at that age is pretty good.  Stefan Legein just scored 37 points in the AHL (39 over an 82 game season) at age 21, so Harper should have some company.  While Legein should score more next year (hopefully), Harper will make a pretty solid third-line winger.

Eric Wellwood, LW

Wellwood looks to slot into the second/third line winger role, just like Harper.  The production is expected to be remarkably similar, which is good depending upon how you look at it.  Personally, I'd like to see more out of Wellwood, but here's where age is important:  Wellwood will be 20, a year younger than Harper.  So while the expected production is the same, Wellwood is a full year ahead of Harper and three years ahead of Testwuide.

Which brings me back to:  If Testwuide is expected to challenge for a roster spot, why isn't Wellwood?  Well, that's probably because neither is realistically going to push their way past Andreas Nodl, David Laliberte, Jon Kalinski, Pat Maroon, and Stefan Legein.  But hey, we can trumpet the new free agent signing, right?  Why not a (rare) late-round draft success?

Zac Rinaldo, LW

Yes, the second-most talked about rookie will not score much.  Such is the life of a Flyers fan.  Still, 15 points for a 20 year old agitator is not bad at all.  That's as much as Ryan Dingle would have put up over an 82 game season, but Rinaldo will also pester the opposition. 

There's still room for growth with Rinaldo, and hopefully he can become a 25 or 30 point AHL player who learns restraint in the process (attn: Riley Cote).

Dave Labrecque, C

Another 20-year old (possible) Phantoms rookie, Labrecque is a guy not many people know.  Personally, I know very little about him.  The 2009 6th-rounder is probably going back to the Q this year, but possibly getting 33 points out of him in the AHL is pretty promising.  Andreas Nodl only put up 34 points in 65 games last year, so Labrecque may turn out to be a solid AHL player.  After two straight point-per-game seasons in the Q, this could be the defining year for Labrecque.

Defense

I'm not a big fan of breaking down defensemen's points, since that's not really what matters out of them.  Yes, Marc-Andre Bourdon should probably be scoring more than 19 points in 61 games, but the Phantoms as a whole should have been scoring more last year.

With that said, Gustafsson looks solid.  I wish I could watch him play next year since a 40-point projection puts him at a higher 82-game pace than any defenseman who dressed for the Phantoms last year except Danny Syvret.  Last year, Gustafsson scored 7 points in 5 AHL games showing that he truly is an offensive-defenseman.  I think this officially gives us reasons to get excited about the Phantoms defense.

Tyler Hostetter is a guy who's probably going back to the OHL (he'll only be 19 when this season starts), but after watching him at prospect camp for two years, I'm kind of excited to see what he becomes.  His projected 16 points kind of surprised me, but he does seem to jump into the play a lot.  Another good year in the OHL and he may find himself in Glens Falls sooner than later.

Conclusion

The Phantoms are losing Jon Matsumoto and Jared Ross down the middle, but they seem to have Ross' replacement in Luke Pither.  Matsumoto's production will probably have to be replaced by veterans such as David Laliberte, Pat Maroon, or Stefan Legein (all wingers) since the team doesn't have anyone coming in who will score 62 points in the AHL.

But the team has done a good job filling out the bottom half of their roster while also getting some potential second-line players into the fold.  Purely speculation at this point, but the Phantoms could roll out lines similar to this next year:

Maroon - Pither - Laliberte
Nodl - Kalinski - Legein
Wellwood - Moore - Testwuide
Rinaldo - Rowe - Harper
Holmstrom, Klotz, Clackson

Bourdon - Bartulis
Lehtivuori - Marshall
Gustafsson - Jancevski
Hostetter

Backlund
Bobrovsky/Riopel

Suddenly, the team looks pretty solid.  At least one decent forward will be scratched every game (In my scenario, it's Holmstrom) and neither Klotz nor Clackson are in the lineup.  The defense is a little unsettled because they only have 6 signed, one of whom is the 19-year old Hostetter.  With the Flyers having 8 d-men on their team, one of them (Bartulis) could be joining the team.

Now, the Phantoms still may not make the playoffs, but that's a fairly formidable lineup:  130 points are expected to come out of your third line and 90 out of your fourth line.  In addition, You have three players with NHL experience in your top six, one on the third line, two on defense, and one in net.

All in all, I think I'm getting excited about the Phantoms.  Maybe not the forwards (a ton of right wings, not enough centers), but definitely the rearguard.  What about you?

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