Prospect Ramblings: USDP Stars; Svozil; Top AHL Goalies by G.S.A.A.
Cover credit: unionandblue.com
Welcome back to my weekly ramblings, where I will provide news and updates, highlight intriguing prospects, and generally track the development of junior players across the hockey world.
Checking in on the NHL Rank King PNHLe rankings, I notice that eight of the top 15 prospects outside the NHL right now are 2023-eligibles. In order, they are: Connor Bedard (1st), Adam Fantilli (3rd), Gabe Perreault (5th), Matvei Michkov (6th), Lukas Dragicevic (8th), Will Smith (11th), Zach Benson (12th), and Andrew Cristall (14th). Comparison across different leagues and ages is challenging to say the least, but all eight of these players are outperforming blue-chip prospects like Olen Zellweger (16th), Logan Cooley (21st), and Logan Stankoven (23rd)—at least in terms of PNHLe, which translates junior production to the NHL.
Of that bunch, I am least familiar by far with Gabe Perreault, so let’s dig into him and his teammates a bit. I have slowly been getting to know this year’s USDP crop: Will Smith is pushing for a top-five slotting on many public rankings and is generally considered the top player in the program. But Perreault, Oliver Moore, and Ryan Leonard are all likely first-round picks in their own rights. Scoring isn’t everything, but Perreault’s high PNHLe rating reflects the fact that he currently leads the team in scoring, with a slight edge over Smith in both total points and points per game.
Here is how the top UNDP players from this year measure up to last year’s:
Perreault: 76 points in 40 (1.90 ppg)
Smith: 69 in 37 (1.86)
Leonard: 54 in 35 (1.54)
Moore: 49 in 38 (1.29)
Howard: 82 in 60 (1.37)
Cooley: 75 in 51 (1.47)
Nazar: 70 in 56 (1.25)
McGroarty: 69 in 54 (1.28)
To be fair, last year’s group was much deeper overall: seven players from 2021-22 finished over a point per game, whereas there is quite a drop off in production (ie. well below a ppg) after the top four from 2022-23. The top players from last year also seem like more dynamic prospects in terms of individual skillsets and upside, while descriptions like “two-way,” “versatile,” and “intelligent” litter the scouting reports of the 2022-23 top four.
Still, it is notable that Logan Cooley (ARI), last year’s third overall pick, would currently be in fourth in points per game on this team, trailing Perreault and Smith by a fair margin. So Perreault is certainly producing at historic levels—not far behind Jack Hughes’ 2.04 ppg in his draft year—but zooming in on his individual skills, it is not exactly clear how Perreault is accomplishing these numbers. He does not have Moore’s incredible speed and elusiveness or Leonard’s nose for the middle of the ice. Somewhat like Smith, just without the flashiness and high-end shot, Perreault does a little bit of everything. In particular, he has excellent vision, processing, and positioning.
Gabe Perreault: right place, right time. What is the right draft position for him?
After shining at the 2023 World Juniors for Czechia, Stanislav Svozil (CBJ) continues to make impressive strides towards the NHL. He slipped to Columbus in the third round of 2021 likely because of his limited production (3 points in 30 games) in the top Czech league. That made it difficult for scouts to project his offensive upside but his defensive prowess and strong play-driving ability were never in doubt.
It was encouraging for Svozil owners when he put up 41 points in 59 WHL games in his Draft+1 year, but he still wasn’t exactly a hot fantasy commodity. He was playing second fiddle to Ryker Evans (SEA) at that point and acclimating to the North American game.
This year, on a middling Regina Pats team featuring the dynamic Connor Bedard, Svozil has been the top dog on defence and currently boasts an impressive 50 points in 37 games. Even accounting for a modest Bedard bump, Svozil has clearly added a meaningful offensive dimension to his already well-rounded skillset.
It is always a risk to roster defensively competent defenders like Svozil in fantasy because they might receive a steady diet of defensive zone deployment against high-quality competition just because they can handle it so well—vital minutes from a team perspective but challenging in terms of production.
And there is the situation on the Columbus blue line to consider too: Zack Werenski, Adam Boqvist, David Jiricek, Denton Mateychuk, Jake Bean, etc. That is a ton of offensive talent that will be jostling for offensive zone starts and time with the man advantage. It is difficult to see a way for Svozil to produce at the NHL level, even if everything breaks right for him.
His NHLe rating for this year (32) is solid and represents a significant step forward in his offensive development. But Svozil’s Hockey Prospecting star potential remains quite low because his progress is happening relatively late in his development (his D+2).
Although he has not yet cracked Dobber’s Top 50 Prospect Defensemen list, I am nevertheless increasingly high on Svozil as a fantasy asset. I sense his stocks heading up, and I anticipate a complete player like him will be able to transition smoothly to the AHL in 2023-24, which will only boost his value further.
One of the best publicly available tools we have for assessing goaltender performance is Goals Saved Against Average (G.S.A.A.). As opposed to the more traditional measure, Goals Against Average (G.A.A.), which measures performance on a strictly individual basis, G.S.A.A. provides a more accurate way to “truly measure where a goalie stacks up against their level of competition and how well other teams are playing.”
You can read this primer by GoalieCoaches.com if you would like to dig deeper into the differences between the two. For the purpose of this article, I calculated the total number of shots faced and goals allowed by AHL goalies, used those numbers to establish a league-average save percentage (0.904), then determined each goalie’s G.S.A.A. using the following formula: GSAA = [Shots against x (1 – league-average save percentage)] – goals allowed. It would be fantastic if this could become a basic stat calculated for leagues at every level but for now we just have to do a bit of legwork on our own.
If a goalie has a positive G.S.A.A., that means they are performing better than a league-average goalie would in the same situation (ie. playing for the same team and facing the same opponents). A negative number means the opposite. Sorting by G.S.A.A.—versus the more prevalent G.A.A. or Save Percentage (SV%)—gives us a more accurate picture of which goalies are truly dominating in the minors because it accounts for team strength and quality of competition.
Because the AHL is the proving ground for up-and-coming NHL talent, a strong G.S.A.A in the AHL is an excellent indicator that a goalie is close to making an impact at the highest level—keeping in mind, of course, that this is just a single season. These would be goalies to invest in now before they make the jump and see their fantasy value spike.
Conversely, although we should also take low G.S.A.A. numbers with a grain of salt, if you own a prospect goalie that is struggling in that category, you can use that information to decide if now is a good time to sell high on them if their name value is outstripping their on-ice performance. I am a strong proponent of using prospect goalies exclusively as trade bait given their long wait times and uncertain success.
With all that context out of the way, here are the top ten goaltenders in the AHL by G.S.A.A. as of early February.
Tune in to this week’s edition of The Journey over at the Dobber Hockey main site this coming Saturday to dig further into some of the names in this top ten, as well as some other young AHL goalies that should be on this list but are not—such as one whose last name starts with “A” and rhymes with “Skarov.” Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @beegare for more prospect content and fantasy hockey analysis.
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