Prospects Ramblings – The scoring pedigree of a middle-six forward

by Hayden Soboleski on December 10, 2017

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I got a little distracted from the prospects path for this week's Ramblings, but in the end I do think it's relevant when setting player expectations for young forwards. We know it takes a special talent to be a first-line forward. We also think that second and third line players are better if they can score (2nd liners especially), but that defensive play can make up for offensive shortcomings. In prospect drafts, I see lots of kids picked and their owners already bragging that they got a "future great 3rd liner" or the like. But the reality is that these days, there is a scoring pedigree required just to be considered for the lineup; I wanted to see what that was and whether it has changed in the last 5 years.

 

What I did was select approximately 10 competitive teams from this 2017-18 and 2012-13 (I want this to be about good hockey teams, so didn't consider tanking teams full of unripe prospects). I identified their 2nd and 3rd lines (room for error since things change, but I did my best), and found the career-high scoring totals (at that time) for everyone on those lines. This is NOT the average scoring of a 2nd/3rd liner, this is the pedigree of a 2nd/3rd-liner. For a rookie, this number was set to 0, since they have no scoring history. 

 

2017-18

Average career-high for a 2nd liner: 58 points

Average career-high for a 3rd liner: 37 points

 

2012-13

Average career-high for a 2nd liner: 64 points

Average career-high for a 3rd liner: 38 points

 

There is lots of room for error in this snapshot – like I stated earlier only "competitive" teams were used, and that cutoff was pretty arbitrary. There's also room for debate about which line was 1st, 2nd, or 3rd for a few of the teams in question (the 2012-13 Bruins' top-six was incredible). But there are some good takeaways here:

 

#1: Earning a 2nd-line spot isn't easy, and never was. There were a number of rookies in the mix with no experience that brought the average down, but even then, expecting your 2nd line players to each have a history of scoring 60 points is alot to ask. So when you're considering whether your prospect is going to be able to make that jump, be realistic about the bar that's been set for that spot. This observation may either be caused by or explain the fact that coaches always seem to fall back to veterans in important roles when things get tough.

 

#2: Same as #1 but for 3rd-liners. There is a steep dropoff from the 60-point range to a 35-40 point range, but thats still not an easy target to hit. Again, just because a prospect can "hold his own" defensively doesn't mean he is going to beat out a player who, at one point in his career, scored close to 1/2 a point-per-game. Competition is high for these roster spots and its probably going to go to a guy who used to be quite good.

 

#3: The numbers are pretty similar between 2012-13 and 2017-18, but they have gone down slightly. In my 2nd liner data, there are 2 "zero experience" players in 2017-18 and only 1 in 2012-13. More dramatically, in my 3rd-liner data, there are 6 "zero-experience" players in 2017-18, but only 1 on 2012-13. This is a huge change towards rookies earning 3rd line roles when it used to be reserved for veterans. if you do a little math you've also realized that this means that the quality of non-rookie third liners has also jumped up to make this possible. So, in theory, there are better veterans competing for 3rd-line action, but the rookies are now good eanough to take those spots anyways.

 

The big takeaway here: be realistic about your team's prospects (both real and in fantasy hockey). The competition is stiff and even though we may not perceive middle-six guys to be big scoreres, it turns out there's usually a pedigree of scoring required, making even harder for your guy to mae the jump. 

 

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One first NHL goal to share today:

Thomas Chabot unleashed a helluva one-timer for his first

 

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Thank you for reading, and thank you Hockey-reference.com and FrozenPool by DobberHockey for supplying the historical information used above.

Hayden Soboleski

@soboleskih