Without question, the most eye-catching player at the Caps' recently concluded Development was 2013 first-round pick Andre Burakovsky, who put together a fantastic first season in North America since being selected 23rd overall by Washington barely 12 months ago. That's not surprising, of course, given his pedigree and the numbers he put up with the OHL's Erie Otters last season (an impressive 87 points (41G-46A) over 57 regular season games). In fact, recent reports have indicated that Burakovsky could be getting a taste of NHL action as early as next season.
But just how good was Burakovsky's production when compared to his CHL peers? Let's take a closer look. Here are the criteria that I used to determine who qualified as being included in Burakovsky's peer group:
- The player had to be a forward
- The player had to have been selected in the first round
- The player had to be a member of the 2010,2011,2012, or 2013 draft class
- The player had to have played a minimum of 50 games (regular season + playoffs) in the CHL the year after they were drafted
In total, 35 players met the criteria listed above, and only five of them produced more points-per-game than Burakovsky.
And how did he rack up those points? If we were looking at NHLers, we'd turn to quality of competition (QoC) to add context to the possession/traditional statistics...so why not use CHL QoC data for that same purpose? Thanks to the hard work of our own Muneeb, we have QoC data and rankings for, well, an absolute ton of CHLers over the past few seasons, including Burakovsky's peer group (as we've defined it).
[As reference, Muneeb's post on QoC and defensemen can be found (and should be read) here.]
This chart shows the players' relative (to teammates) plus-minus, where they ranked on their team in terms of average opposing defenseman time on ice (our proxy for QoC here), and points-per game:
|Name||+/- Rel||D QoC rank||Points Per Game|
The vast majority (71.4%) of Burakovsky's peers were, like Burakvosky himself, among the top-two forwards on their team in terms of defensive competition. Nothing about Burakovsky's numbers here would indicate that his production was the result of favorable deployments (well, other than lining up with putative 2015 number-one pick Connor McDavid or skating on a line that likely was the focus of less defensive attention than McDavid's).
Here's how Erie's QoC chart looked last season (forwards in blue, defensemen in yellow):
Despite facing tough defensive competition, Burakovsky had offensive (and to an extent defensive) success, though it should be noted that he faced easier forward competition than many of his teammates. Then again, his relative lack of tough forward assignments may say more about Erie's depth than anything else; the Otters were an offensive juggernaut last year, ranking third in the OHL with 312 goals-for. Burakovsky was undoubtedly a beneficiary of the offensive prowess of his teammates, but that does not mean his teammates did not benefit from him as well; in addition to his point production, Burakovsky had the best GF% relative on the Otters (11.7%)...but that stat can sometimes be deceiving (see Ovechkin's abysmal -15.3% GF% rel). That brings us to a broader look at QoC.
In preparation for the 2014 draft, Extra Skater generated some advanced statistics for the 2013-14 CHL season. The chart below shows even-strength QoC (including both forward and defensive QoC) and even-strength points-per-sixty for 50 of the CHL's top players, including Burakovsky (again, click to enlarge):
Seven players had a higher even-strength points-per-sixty rate than Burakovsky, and only two of those seven faced tougher competition (Burakovsky's undrafted Erie teammate Dane Fox and Portland Winterhawks center Brendan Leipsic, a Nashville draft pick). Not bad.
Of course, it's important to remember that even solid production against tough competition is not a guarantee of future success, and you don't need to go far to find a good example of that - one current Capitals' prospect put up some great numbers in his days in the QMJHL with the Saint John Sea Dogs, but has had trouble breaking through to the next level.
Here's the 2010-11 QoC chart for Saint John:
Stanislav Galiev (a third-round pick in 2010), like Burakovsky, played with a top-tier prospect during his draft-year-plus-one, 2013 NHL Rookie of the Year Jonathan Huberdeau. Together with Huberdeau, Galiev totaled 65 points in 64 games during the 2010-11 season. Galiev played against tough competition and saw success. (Injuries befell Galiev during the 2012 season, resulting in him facing weaker competition in the limited games he played.)
At only 22 years old, Galiev still has a chance of becoming an NHL player, but his development is likely not where the Capitals would have hoped for it to be based on his CHL success. And there's no question that Burakovsky has a better pedigree than Galiev; still, after reading what "they" were saying about Galiev when he was drafted, and looking at the charts above, Galiev's trajectory may be a reason to pump the brakes just a bit on the Burakovsky hype.
In his first North American season Andre Burakovsky was an offensive force. His statistics indicate that he was one of the best scorers in his league, even if some of that scoring was done against less-than-top competition. But the stats, eyes and stories appear to be in agreement: he has the tools necessary to take the next step in his professional hockey career. Barry Trotz indicated during the first day of development camp that he expects that Burakovsky will start next season in Hershey (a nice option to have). Burakovsky has the potential to be an impact player wherever he plays next season and in the ones that follow - whether he does so or not, and where he goes from here, is likely up to Burakovsky himself.