In this post, I will be projecting the NHL stat lines for several prospects of the Pittsburgh Penguins currently playing in the NCAA and Canadian Junior Hockey leagues.

To do this, I will be using NHL Equivalency method created by hockey/mathematical genius Gabriel Desjardins on his fantastic website Behind the Net.

Here are the numbers I used for each league to compile these numbers:

He studied the NHL and scoring trends for a 20 year period and developed a system to project how a player will do during their first NHL season based on their statistics in juniors/college.

It is far from perfect though. It does not take into account team strength, lack of PP time for rookies, etc. but it is serviceable and what the heck we’ll see where it goes.

(Desjardins metrics also predicted Crosby would not score 50 again last season – he was sort of right but only because of injury – read about it here)

Anyway here we go:

Here are some graduated prospects for comparison:

D Kris Letang

Letang’s rookie stats are pretty close to his draft season projections but playing on the high scoring Penguins increased his numbers enough to skew them from the projection.

D Alex Goligoski

Goligoski’s projection was once again pretty conservative considering he got power play time with Crosby, Malkin, and Gonchar.

C Mark Letestu

Letestu was the top line center in Wilkes-Barre and got top PP time in the AHL. As a pro, he was often the 3rd line center for the first half of the season when he got most of his points. Like most of the team he did not produce much in the second half of the year. He would have came close to his projection with a healthy Penguin roster.

RW Tyler Kennedy

Kennedy’s numbers were optimistic considering the role he played when first called up. Kennedy was a 3rd/4th line skater with minimal scoring chances. He has turned into more of a goal scorer as an NHLer than a playmaker like he was in juniors and the AHL.

So it’s obvious the projection system is far from perfect but it offers an idea of how a player will do in the pro ranks and it’s the dead of summer so…

1. D Simon Despres

Despres has projections for both the AHL and NHL since it is unclear where he will end up this season.

I think his AHL projections are very realistic and could even be on the conservative side considering the lack of PPQB in Wilkes-Barre. He will get all the power play time he can stomach in the AHL.

2. LW Eric Tangradi

Tangradi’s NHL Projection for this next season is a realistic projection for the big power forward if he gets top 6 playing time. Tangradi needs to get healthy for a full season to take that next step. 22 goals could be well within reach in the NHL for him.

3. RW Beau Bennett

Bennett’s NHL projections are assuming he is a 21-22 year old college player heading to NHL after graduating. Since he just finished his freshman season, the projections are very conservative and will be more optimistic when he is ready to turn pro.

4. C/LW Dustin Jeffrey

This projection is skewed a bit high based on the fact that Jeffrey has had some excellent seasons that would be difficult to reproduce at the next level. Based on his AHL stats this past season, Jeffrey is due for a 60 point season next year. If he sticks on a line with Crosby or Malkin it is certainly possible, but compared to his career trends, I would expect 60 points the year after in 2012/2013.

5. RW Tom Kuhnhackl

Kuhnhackl could turn pro next season and play in Wilkes-Barre but he could also return to the OHL and dominate. If he turns pro, the AHL numbers are certainly in reach for the excellent young sniper. Returning for another season in the OHL would allow him to become the #1 player for Windsor.

Conclusion

The projection system is far from an exact science and the Penguins themselves are a difficult team to project prospects for due to their tendency to bring prospects along very slowly and really earn their ice time.

As a result, the only player with a chance to meet their projections in my opinion is Eric Tangradi – if he gets a shot in the top 6 at the start of the season. Jeffrey’s numbers are likely too lofty for him to reach – for comparison’s sake, Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner scored 63 last season. The rest of the players will return to college, juniors, or the AHL.

Here is a recap chart showing all of the players’ projections in one place:

Part 2 will examine newcomers Paul Thompson, Joseph Morrow, as well as NCAA prospects Ken Agostino, Ben Hanowski, and Nicholas D’Agostino.