AHL Report: May 2018

Brayden Olafson

2018-05-08

Brayden Olafson breaks out the math in this month’ AHL Report

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We’re quickly nearing the end of the hockey season – playoffs in most leagues are still going strong, but if you’re anything like me, you’re already starting to get anxious about drafting again.

As I mentioned above, this month, I really brought out the spreadsheets and got into some figures. Disclaimer, I’m not a satiation – hell, I just found out this month that there are actually two different ways to calculate standard deviation in excel… If you care what the difference is, it’s here <https://support.office.com/en-us/article/stdev-s-function-7d69cf97-0c1f-4acf-be27-f3e83904cc23>.

The question I kept asking myself was this, “Sure, it looks like there are a ton of great prospects in the AHL this year, but how many of them are REALLY going to be worth owning?” How many of these players should I really try to convince all of you readers you should be drafting? Well, today folks, I hope to answer that, or if nothing else make the answer just a little bit clearer.

The first thing that I did was define my parameters. What actually makes a player a relevant “own “in a points-only league?

Well, first let’s suppose a 12 team league featuring 15 active skaters and a minimum of 4 defenders. That would give us 48 defensemen. The 48th highest scoring defender in the NHL this year, Ryan Ellis scored 32 points, which seems typical, so to give us some leeway from year-year we’ll set the cut-off for “relevancy” at 30 points. As for forwards in that same league, we’d be looking at the 96th highest scoring forward – Sam Reinhart who had exactly 50 points. Since there’s a little higher standard deviation with forwards, we’ll be generous and set the cut-off at 40 points.

Now the question is, “How many former AHL forwards manage 40 NHL points in their first year removed from the minor-pro league, and how many defenders manage 30?” To make the numbers manageable, I narrowed the window of what we call a “former AHL player” to a player who was featured in a minimum of 30 AHL games the prior season. Since the 2010-11 season there are exactly 22 players who fit in that window.

Not a single one of those players was over the age of 26 when they broke out, and the only ones older than 23 were Anders Lee (2014), Mike Hoffman (2014), and Yanni Gourde (2017). The average age of a player to have this magnitude of a breakout from the AHL was almost exactly 22 years old, with a very narrow standard deviation of 1.46 years. This means, once a player turns 24, his chances of breaking out in his rookie NHL season are significantly reduced. With that in mind, we’ve just discussed three key exceptions who have all become significant fantasy presences. They’re just that though, exceptions. For this exercise we really want keep things as consistent as possible, and in turn making our predictions that much more reliable.

The next question, “In each of those players’ prior seasons that they played in the AHL, how did they do?” After all, those are the numbers that a lot of us are currently looking into for our draft lists. This answer is a little less concrete than the age factor, however not totally open ended. The year prior to his 39 point rookie campaign in the NHL, Brady Skjei only scored 28 points in 68 AHL games – a lower scoring rate in the lesser of the two leagues just a summer earlier. Sure, development plays a part in this, but that again is an exception. On average, between forwards and defensemen, in the year prior to their NHL breakout those 22 players scored at a rate of 0.80 points per game, give-or-take a standard deviation of 0.22 points per game. So there, every AHL player to score 0.58 points per game this year WILL break out next year. Er… Not so fast I guess. How many other players in that age range do you think ALSO made that impact in the AHL? On average, 44 AHL players under the age of 24-years-old scored better than 0.7 points per game each year… EACH YEAR! Meaning a measly 6% of them “broke-out” into the NHL the following year (the standard deviation was high on this, in 2015 0% of those players “broke-out”, and in 2010 19% did). Now eventually, more will. A 40-point rookie season is truly exceptional, but around 45% of those players can be expected to eventually be fantasy relevant, that number also seems to be increasing. Since 2013, around half of AHL players under the age of 24 who score more than 0.7 points per game will become fantasy-relevant in the NHL, not bad.

We’re not done yet though, the most important question of the day, “Which ones are going to make a go of it next?!” Well, unfortunately, as far as I can tell, this is where is