Prospect Ramblings: How long will my guy be in the AHL?

by Hayden Soboleski on November 18, 2018

image courtesy of NHL.com

 

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One of the most important factors when drafting in prospect drafts is knowing how long of a wait there will be before you see production. Is your pick going to be a bubble player right away or slowly groomed into a full-timer? Or something in between? So, this week I’m taking a look at how long players in different roles spent in the AHL.

 

What I’ve done is go through every team in the NHL and pick out the players who have graduated from the AHL to the NHL within the last 3 seasons. I’ve broken those down by which line they are playing on in the NHL, to see if there is a major difference in AHL seasoning time between a 1st-liner and a 4th-liner.

 

There are a few sources of error here I can’t control and just have to deal with:

  • A player currently on the 4th line may turn into a 3rd or 2nd liner down the road. But I have to categorize by what we see now.
  • 3rd and 4th line players are not necessarily safe. I may be dangerously assuming some players are in the NHL for good when they could still be sent down. I used my best judgement to try and avoid this.
  • I did not count post-NCAA AHL tryouts as a year of AHL experience
  • I rounded AHL experience to the nearest 0.25 seasons (roughly 20 games played)
  • I tried to categorize players properly, but we all know the difference between the 3rd and 4th line is hard to draw on some NHL squads

 

That being said, here we go:

 

1st liners

Average AHL seasons: 1.04

Sample size: 7

 

2nd liners

Average AHL seasons: 1.61

Sample size: 16

 

3rd liners

Average AHL seasons: 1.55

Sample size: 26

 

4th liners

Average AHL seasons: 1.76

Sample size: 36

 

So what do we see?

  • 1st-line-calibre players clearly require less time in the AHL to become NHL-ready. This makes sense – elite players are smart and physically prepared to jump right in. So if you’re drafting a top player, don’t expect a long wait time (if the AHL is his route). That being said, if your “top guy” is middling in the AHL after a couple seasons, maybe he isn’t going to be a top guy like you thought.

 

  • There doesn’t seem to be a distinction between 2nd and 3rd line players. These lines do tend to get shuffled a bit more, and some teams prefer scorers in the middle-six while some prefer a more physical or veteran edge on them, so maybe this is the cause. In both cases however, the average graduate spent less than 2 full seasons in the AHL (naturally there are outliers like Gourde who bring up the average). This is worth keeping in mind when deciding whether to hold on to your pick for one more year or cut bait.

 

  • 4th line players, as expected, seem to be players with a few more miles on the odometer. There is a big mix here between fresh prospects fighting for a spot and guys who have been around the block before and have finally locked down a depth role. While the previous category was brought up by just a few players who beat the odds after several AHL seasons, this grouping is filled with lots of players who have over 2+ full AHL seasons under their belts. So, if you have a multi-category player that you’re just hoping will land a bottom-line spot on the cheap for you, don’t give up on that guy. He has more time to develop in the AHL while still having a reasonable chance at earning that spot out of camp.

 

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FIRST NHL GOAL TIME!

 

Joey Anderson smartly got his shot off before the goalie was ready to tally his first as a Devil:

 

Drake Batherson also gets one through traffic and though an unsuspecting netminder for his first in Ottawa:

 

One of the players in the dicusion above, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson gets himself right in front of the net to chip in his first in the NHL:

 

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Thank you for reading, and best of luck as we hit the time in the season where teams start to show their true colors…time to sell high and buy low before its too late.

 

Hayden Soboleski

@soboleskih