Prospect Ramblings: Easier in the East?

by Hayden Soboleski on November 11, 2018

image courtesy of ESPN

 

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Last week I rambled about the old-school bias I had of preferring heavier fringe prospects to lightweights, assuming that they would at least provide more hits and PIMs if they earned a 4th-line spot. I was wrong, and I learned something new. So, this week I’m tackling another bias I have – assuming the Eastern conference is easier to break into that the West.

 

What I’ve done to determine this is look at how many rookie players per team played over 30 games in 2017-18 and 2016-17. This is an arbitrary cutoff point I made to ensure only the real role-players get counted and not just frequent injury call-ups. The list still includes some frequent healthy scratches, but if you play over 30 games in a season, safe to say you’ve got your foot in the door more than most will. The numbers come out as follows:

 

Average rookies per team

 

Eastern Conference

2016-17: 2.75

2017-18: 2.44

2018-19 (pace): 1.44

 

Western Conference

2016-17: 2.50

2017-18: 2.13

2018-19 (pace): 1.47

 

*Note: Determining the count for the current pace of 2018-19 was subjective, and likely irrelevant given how many games are left in the season still. Take with a grain of salt

 

Before we dive into this – obviously the biggest factor in the ability for rookies to join the team is the available space. Teams can always make room if they really want to, but grabbing an existing spot is easier than forcing the team to make one for you. This occurs regardless of conference, but we will have to hope that these team-based opportunities (or lack thereof) occur at a similar rate in each conference (another assumption to look into later).

 

So what do we see?

So far this season, the numbers are incredibly close, making it look like there is no difference between the conferences. A big caveat here – these numbers are significantly lower than previous seasons because most teams have not required injury call-ups yet. Most players who will be returned to Junior already have, but many AHL call-ups are still yet to occur, so the numbers should rise as the season progresses. If one conference has more frequent call-ups than the other, a discrepancy could become visible by year’s end.

 

As for 2016-18, the Eastern conference did have a slight edge, averaging about 1/4 more rookies per team than the Western Conference (this amounts to roughly 4 more rookies in the East than the West). This isn’t a hugely impactful number, but it’s enough to make me consider the East a slightly easier path. It will still always come down to roster opportunity, but for one reason or another, it looks like it happens more often on one side of the continent. If I had more time to play with this idea, I’d dig even further back in the archives to see if the difference has always existed, and if it was more drastic at any point. 

 

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FIRST NHL GOALS TIME!

 

Only two first NHL goals happened this week, but they still gets its own section in my Ramblings.

 

Mathieu Joseph was in the news more for getting hunted and punched by Lucic, but he finishes off this play with a beauty:

 

Nick Seeler with a blast from the point for his first ever – this is why you practice those slapshot!

 

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Thank you for reading, and best of luck hoping your fantasy rookies don’t get returned to Junior or loaned to national teams in the upcoming weeks!

 

Hayden Soboleski

@soboleskih