Last year I decided it would be super interesting and pretty informative to take a deep dive into some micro-stats with a focus on transitional play for some top players, specifically European defenseman. I thought at the time that this was one of the more under-utilized means of finding talent. It proved to have great results, opening my eyes to some of the more underrated defenders across the continent. I discovered new ways of evaluating players because of this. This year, I decided to expand my tracking project to all players across Europe, not just defenseman. After 102 games tracked another batch of information revealed itself with some players performing exactly how you would expect and others with very surprising results. That said, I thought it would be good to take a look at a some of the standouts and letdowns of the project.
Much like fellow countryman Lucas Raymond, Alexander Holtz excelled as an 18 year old in the SHL this season. His offensive threat was on full display during the season achieving 16 shot assists per 60 including 7.5 high danger shot assists. This offensive output could be chalked up to how Holtz was used for Djurgårdens IF. He was primarily used in offensive situations such as on the man advantage. However, the potential for offensive contribution in five on five play was clearly evident. He made space for himself and his teammates throughout the season finding seamlessly both passing and shooting lanes.
Järventie, a much more under the radar prospect, has played amazingly in the Mestsis this season proving he more than deserves to play against men. Not yet 18, Järventie achieved a Corsi for of 60.7% and a controlled entry success rate of 70%. His statistics also demonstrate few weaknesses, showing that his coach has full trust in him both on the breakout and entering the attacking zone.
When I first started tracking DEL games, I was expecting Tim Stutzle to blow every other prospect I track out of the water. For the most part he did– with the exception of Lukas Reichel. Reichel was a focal point of Berlin’s entry into the attacking zone when he was on the ice and was a danger once he was into the offensive zone, getting 4.6 dangerous shot assists per 60.
The lone defenseman on the standout list, Niemela was very valuable to Karpat, the best team in the Liiga this season. This is in large part due to his very advanced transitional game, with a 62% controlled exit success rate including 11.5 passing exits per game. It is very impressive to see Niemela, who has managed to stay very responsible in his own zone (allowing only 40.8 Corsi attempts against per 60), slowly gain more ice time on one of the best teams in Europe.
In this very strong 2020 draft class, it was actually quite hard to find some letdowns from this tracking project. With that said, some players surprised me with their lacklustre results although one could argue that in both cases it is more due to circumstances than a true valuation of skill.
Noel Gunler’s results came as a particular surprise to me. I saw him as a sleeper in the first round with real offensive talent. From the eye test and more traditional metrics this seemed to be the case. However, whether it be a result of how he was utilised, which was abnormally small and only in defensive zone face offs or the situations he was forced into which were often time poor, Gunler did not come out of my tracking looking like a top tier prospect. This by no means guarantees that he is not a solid player worthy of a first round pick, as I mentioned earlier. Factors such as sample size, usage and quality of competition all factor in to a player’s analytical and on ice success.
Amirov’s lack of success can most likely be attributed to his quality of competition. He spent a majority of his year in the KHL, where I tracked all 5 of his games. It could be argued that Amirov performed admirably for a teenager in the KHL, getting 10.5 shot assists per 60. On the other hand, his transitional could definitely use some work. He was only managing 6.7 total exits per 60 and 9.7 controlled entries per 60. It will be interesting to see what this case looks like in retrospect as Amirov is the first player I’ve tracked that has played consistently in the KHL.
In total, I think it was another year of useful information for me and hopefully to many others as well. It is important to use not only all of the information readily available but also to seek more information to form a proper and complete evaluation of players.
I’ll be posting the results of these and many other players on my Twitter (@FinlaySherratt) for those interested. The plan as of now is for me to do the same thing next year so stay tuned for that.