A quick look at developmental timelines for elite D

Has there ever been as polarizing a prospect as Griffin Reinhart?

Half the commentary I read declares him a bust, and the other half still touts his potential as somewhere between a top 4 defenseman and a top pairing monster.

Part of the commentary around “Reinhart is a bust” is the idea that he’s still in the AHL, de facto evidence of developmental failure.  The idea seems to be that if you don’t make the league right away a la Aaron Ekblad, you are destined for a bottom pairing career or worse.

Is it true?  I thought at the very least it might be helpful to take a quick look at the development timelines for some of the league’s current elite defensemen and see if that provides some perspective.

Rather than fuss about defining an elite defenseman, I sidestepped the issue and just pulled the top 10 D by all-situations ice time last season.  It produces a list that is certainly packed with terrific D.  I then pulled the post-draft developmental histories for each player.  The full table of that data is at the end of this article.

Results

What I’ll do here instead is just summarize the results:

  • Only one player (Doughty) made the league in his first year.  All others spent at least one year in a developmental league after being drafted.
  • Only the two Swedes made the league in their second year post-draft.  Most were in the AHL at that point, but at least a few were still in a developmental league.
  • Most players made the league in their third year.  However, a few prominent players (Josi, Weber, Keith) spent most or all of their third year post-draft in the AHL.

Conclusion

Based on this sample, its fair to say that defensemen do indeed develop slowly, even the elite ones.

What does this tell us about Griffin Reinhart?

The fact that he hasn’t made the league yet is NOT indicative of his potential.  However, most players had made the league in their third year, and of those that didn’t, almost all were in the NHL their fourth year.  So if Griffin Reinhart cannot make the still-weak Oiler roster D next year, that is not a good sign.

Data

Time on ice data was pulled from war-on-ice.  Player history was pulled from hockeydb.com.

I treated all leagues as developmental leagues except for AHL and KHL (this may unfairly classify the SEL as a developmental league).  The numbers are games played.

1 Year 2 Year 3 Year
Dev AHL NHL Dev AHL NHL Dev AHL NHL
Drew.Doughty 0 0 81 0 0 82 0 0 76
Ryan.Suter 39 0 0 0 63 0 0 0 71
Erik.Karlsson 52 0 0 0 12 60 0 0 75
Roman.Josi 42 0 0 26 0 0 0 69 0
Shea.Weber 60 0 0 55 0 0 0 46 28
P.K..Subban 56 0 0 0 77 2 0 0 77
Duncan.Keith 52 0 0 0 75 0 0 79 0
Kris.Letang 60 0 0 40 0 7 0 10 63
Alex.Pietrangelo 36 1 8 25 0 9 0 0 79
Oliver.Ekman-Larsson 42 0 0 0 15 48 0 0 82
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14 thoughts on “A quick look at developmental timelines for elite D

  1. Interesting. I think the biggest fear when discussing Griff is his lack of offense and improvement since his draft year.

    If half the league makes the playoffs, then id make that same cut for top pairing dmen.

    There are 16 #1 dmen and 16 #2 dmen if you look at it like this. So, of the top 32 dmen in the NHL now, how many of them struggled with offense in Jr and in the AHL the way Griff did? Can you be a true top pairing dman if you don’t bring offense?

    Like Willis said, there’s a 1,000,000 things offense misses when discussing dmen, but the fact that it isn’t there is still a concern.

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    1. Good idea for a follow-on project! If you can find some guys like that, it might help produce (hopefully) a good comparable or two for Reinhart. And if you can’t, then it solidifies the argument that Reinhart’s ceiling is second pairing.

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  2. Here’s a list of the current top 32 dmen with their offensive point totals as follows: (draft+1, draft+2, draft+3)

    PK Subban: 46(ohl),76(ohl), 53(AHL)
    Weber: 32(whl), 41(whl), 27(AHL)
    Keith:46(37 whl gp), 25(AHL),26(AHL)
    E Karlsson : 10(SEL), 11(12 AHL gp), 45(NHL)
    Seabrook: 41(whl), 54(whl), 32(NHL)
    Pietrangelo:29(36 OHL gp), 29(25 OHL gp), 43(NHL)
    Giordano(undrafted): 48(ohl),49(ohl),16(AHL)
    Suter:23(AHL), 16(NHL),24(NHL)
    Phaneuf:43(whl),56(whl),49(NHL)
    Doughty:27,59,40(all NHL)
    Hedman:20,26,23(all NHL)
    Chara:22(whl),13(AHL),8(NHL)
    OEL: 27(swe-1), 11(NHL), 32(NHL)
    Vlasic:73(qmjhl),26(NHL),14(NHL)
    McDonagh:12,16,18(WCHA)
    Shattenkirk:21,28,29(H-east)
    Ekblad:39(NHL)
    Byfuglien:45(whl),58(whl),23(AHL)
    Bouwmeester:16(NHL),20(NHL),28(AHL)lockout
    Martin:20,38,39(WCHA)
    Kronwall:10,12,18(SEL)
    Burns:6(NHL),27(AHL),25(NHL)
    Josi:24(Swiss a),21(swiss a),40(AHL)
    Letang:68(qmjhl),52(qmjhl),17(NHL)
    Markov:21(khl),23(khl),23(khl)
    Brodin:8(SEL),11(NHL),19(NHL)
    Brodie:50(ohl),56(ohl),34(AHL)
    E Johnson:33,39,29(NHL)
    Trouba:29(CCHA),29(NHL),22(NHL)
    Bogosian:19,23,17(NHL)
    A Greene: undrafted, made NHL at 26, 10pts 59gp
    Beauchemin:21(qmjhl),86(qmjhl),9(AHL)
    Dougie Hamilton:72(ohl),41(ohl),25(NHL)
    Reinhart:29(whl),21(whl),22(AHL)
    Nurse:50(ohl),33(ohl)..

    Well, it seems pretty clear that Reinhart isn’t going to be a #1 or #2 for any playoff team, he certainly isn’t far behind and is projecting nicely to be a 2nd pairing dman by these comps.

    I know offense is far from the whole story, but I had a feeling that every single top dman produced offense prior to the NHL, and I was right.

    The great news here is how good Nurse looks in this light. We know that Deangelo got all the PP and OZSs in SOO this year yet Nurse still produced at close to a ppg. Seeing as Nurse is praised for his defense and his offense is always criticised I’d say he’s still projecting to be a top 2 dman on a playoff team.

    We may have our man in Nurse. Could be a future #1, and definitely looking like a #2.

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    1. Good stuff. I think based on that list that Reinhart’s 22 pts in 59 games in the AHL puts him in the range of some pretty darn good players too: Weber, Keith, Giordano, McDonagh, Byfuglien, Bouwmeester, and Markov. I have heard some compare him to Bouwmeester. Given Reinhart’s role as a shutdown guy – meaning NO PP time – how does he stack up against the top 32 non-power-play guys? That’s where you’d find the best comparable maybe.

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      1. I started pulling the numbers on the top D men in the NHL right now that don’t get PP time. If this is a good comp for Griff, then it still suggests that most likely(better than 50%) his ceiling is second pairing, because very few of the top defensemen on playoff teams don’t play on the powerplay. No matter how good his defensive game is, the odds are slightly stacked against him

        Here are the top 32 d men that get very little PP time. I’ve noted which pairing they play on at EV strength.

        Jonas Brodin (1st pairing)
        Tyler Myers(1st pairing in Buf, 2nd pairing in Wpg, some pp time, but not much)
        Bogosian(1st pairing in Wpg and Buf at EV)
        Andy Greene(1st pairing)
        Paul Martin(1st pairing)
        Francois Beauchemin (1st pairing)
        Dan Girardi (1st pairing)
        Marc Methot (1st pairing)
        Jay Bouwmeester (1st pairing)
        Dennis Seidenberg (1st pairing)
        Niklas Hjalmersson (1st and 2nd pairing)
        Brooks Orpik (1st pairing)
        Willie Mitchell (1st pairing)
        Adam Larsson (1st and 2nd pairing)
        Marc Staal (1st pairing)
        Hot Carle (2nd pairing)
        Johnny Oduya (2nd pairing)
        Fedor Tyutin (2nd pairing)
        Alexei Emelin (2nd pairing)
        J Ericsson (2nd pairing)
        Karl Alzner (2nd pairing)
        Ben Lovejoy (2nd pairing)
        Mark Stuart (2nd pairing)
        Tom Gilbert (2nd and 3rd pairing)
        Scuderi (2nd pairing with letang out, otherwise 3rd pairing)
        Robyn Regehr (2nd and 3rd pairing)
        Nick Schultz (2nd and 3rd pairing, back and forth)
        De Haan (third pairing)
        Thomas Hickey (3rd pairing)
        Kevin Klein (3rd pairing)
        Adam McQuaid (3rd pairing)

        Of the 32 players above, 15 saw significant time playing on the top EV Strength pairing for their team. My selection of players here may vary from yours, but I tried to stick with guys on playoff teams with top TOI but low PP TOI unless I felt that they could hold their spot even on a playoff team. (Regehr) i still think Regehr can hold his own as a #4/5 on most playoff teams.

        Looking at these guys, it’s still fair to say that plenty of playoff teams don’t use one of their top EV guys on the pp(which surprises me). 8 of the 16 playoff teams have one of their top 2 EV D men not getting any PP time, or getting close to 0 at least. That number is higher than I expected, which suggests that Reinhart’s odds of being a top pairing guy that doesn’t play PP aren’t as bad as I first thought. Who knew.

        Most(17/32) of the top EV-NO PP TIME D men don’t play top pairing minutes at EV strength. Regardless, it still seems entirely possible (however unlikely) that Griff could be a #2 Dman at EV strength if everything in his development breaks right. Odds still say that without the offense, he’s most likely destined to be somewhere between #3 and #6 at the NHL level. I’ll say #4 dman, with top 3 minutes at EV Strength.

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  3. I’ll do that later tonight. But all in all, Reinhart at 22pts looks not too bad.

    Im really happy with Nurse’s 33pts in 36gp because I know how horrid his usage was.

    If Nurse plays 40+gms in Bakersfield this year I’d expect 20+pts

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  4. What’s interesting is the linear nature of the development in those early years. You don’t see a lot of ‘one step forward, two steps back’ in terms of dropping back into a development league for a significant time after being granted the first measurable helping of NHL games.

    The take-away being that while it is not abnormal for a top defenseman to take some time to season, they don’t stall along said development path. By not stalling, they are pretty much NHL regulars by the end of year 3.

    I’m curious where Reinhart fits in among the development paths of his piers – highly drafted defensemen? I’m guessing the answer is “too soon to tell”, but that never stopped anyone before.

    Looking at defensemen selected in the top 12 from 2009 onward, you have:

    ** I’ve ignored the handfuls of games played in lower leagues during the lockout year where relevant as full NHL seasons were stilled played when looking at whether the progression was straight forward or not. The lockout kind of effs up the optics in all cases, whether included or ignored =(

    – 2009 – Victor Hedman: NHL(74)//NHL(97)//NHL(61)//NHL(44)//NHL(79)//NHL(85) – NHL all day long. NHL regular who has improved year over year.
    – 2009 – OEL: SEL(42)//NHL(48)+AHL(15)//NHL(98)//NHL(48)//NHL(80)//NHL(82) – linear path, NHL regular.
    – 2009 – Jared Cowen: WHL(66)+NHL(1)//WHL(75)//NHL(89)//NHL(17)//NHL(68)//NHL(54) – linear path, NHL regular.
    – 2009 – Ryan Ellis: OHL(67)//OHL(76)+AHL(7)//AHL(29)+NHL(36)//NHL(32)//NHL(80)//NHL(64) – linear, NHL regular.
    – 2009 – Calvin de Haan: OHL(34)//OHL(65)//AHL(59)+NHL(1)//NHL(51)//NHL(70) – lots of development but became an NHL regular in year 4.
    – 2010 – Erik Gudbranson: OHL(49)//NHL(79)//NHL(32)//NHL(65)//NHL(76) – linear, NHL regular.
    – 2010 – Dylan McIlrath: WHL(68)+AHL(2)//WHL(66)+AHL(5)//AHL(45)//AHL(62)+NHL(2)//AHL(88)+NHL(1) – stalled, unknown.
    – 2010 – Cam Fowler: NHL(82)//NHL(82)//NHL(37)//NHL(83)//NHL(96) – linear, NHL regular
    – 2011 – Adam Larsson: NHL(70)//NHL(37)+AHL(33)//NHL(26)+AHL(37)//NHL(64)+AHL(1) – somewhat stalled but appears to finally be ready as an NHL regular .
    – 2011 – Dougie Hamilton: OHL(70)//OHL(32)+NHL(49)//NHL(76)//NHL(72) – linear, NHL regular.
    – 2011 – Jonas Brodin: SEL(49)//AHL(9)+NHL(50)//NHL(92)//NHL(81) – linear, NHL regular.
    – 2011 – Duncan Siemens: WHL(61)+AHL(3)//WHL(74)//AHL(46)//AHL(54)+NHL(1) – stalled, can’t crack NHL.
    – 2011 – Ryan Murphy: OHL(65)//OHL(64)+NHL(4)+AHL(8)//NHL(48)+AHL(22)//NHL(37)+AHL(25) – DON’T LET ME LEAAAVE MURPPPHHH, stalled and still bouncing around. Might become regular next season?
    – 2012 – Ryan Murray: WHL(23)//NHL(71)//NHL(12) – linear, NHL regular with injuries
    – 2012 – Griffin Reinhart – WHL(71)//WHL(75)//NHL(9)+AHL(59) – linear, but slow. Too early to call
    – 2012 – Morgan Rielly: WHL(60)+AHL(22)//NHL(73)//NHL(81) – linear, NHL regular.
    – 2012 – Hampus Lindholm: AHL(44)//NHL(78)//NHL(78) – linear, NHL regular
    – 2012 – Mathew Dumba: WHL(71)+AHL(8)//NHL(13)+WHL(47)//NHL(58)+AHL(20) – mostly linear, finished the year in the NHL and is likely now a regular.
    – 2012 – Derrick Pouliot: WHL(65)+AHL(1)//WHL(79)//AHL(37)+NHL(34) – completed year in NHL, perhaps a regular now.
    – 2012 – Jacob Trouba: NCAA(37)//NHL(69)//NHL(69) – linear, NHL regular
    – 2012 – Slater Koekkoek: OHL(42)//OHL(62)//AHL(75)+NHL(3)

    So what does this tell us? Not a whole hell of a lot other than emphasize what you’ve said: This is a big year for Reinhart and it will look quite badly if he fails to play a significant amount of NHL games. Not many high defensive picks are still playing significant development games in year four. Though curious that the guy with the most similar development path is de Haan. Is this an Islanders effect? Context, context, context.

    It’s too early to call many of the 2012 picks but we can see the formation of groups and, in this sense, we see Reinhart lagging behind some of his peers. But without context, it doesn’t paint the full picture. Still, with no significant NHL experience by year 3, he hasn’t followed the path of top end defensemen, nor the path set by most early 1st round selections.

    If he fails to progress next season, then the fear is that he can join the group of McIlrath and Siemens. If he takes a step forward, then perhaps he is Pouliot, de Haan, and just a hair behind Ellis and Murphy?

    Bold indeed.

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  5. If Reinhart doesn’t play at least 50 games in the NHL next year, the writing is on the wall, he will likely never be more than a #4.

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  6. I’m looking around at comparables to existing NHL defensemen, and what I would say is that Chia Pete has gone and found the guy he believes might be his next Dennis Seidenberg.

    Of course, he still needs Zdeno Chara, but details details…

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  7. Now… I want to take a quick look at Nurse because I think he’s tracking better than most people want to believe. Can we all agree that his Defensive game and athleticism are looking to be elite? As in top 32 dmen in the NHL at defense is not only possible, but it is likely.

    He captained the best team in Jr. +18. Toughest Zone starts and highest qualcomp in the OHL.
    He wasn’t on the ice for a single EV GA for the entire WJC this past year. They won gold.
    He’s jam packed with ‘saw him good’ moments. But i’ve heard people, Ray Ferraro in particular, say that his offense is shy… but is it?

    What i’ve done below is taken the averages for Draft+1 p/g and Draft +2 p/g (that’s all we have for Nurse), and shown it as either NHLE pulled from here (http://www.behindthenet.ca/projecting_to_nhl.php) or actual NHL numbers since that’s what we have for some. I didn’t adjust the numbers based on age and I know that your work has shown that elite players tend to outperform their NHLE’s, but i’m too lazy to adjust for that so let’s just see what we get here….. Remember, this is just comparing his OFFENSE and nothing else.

    Keith: 0.74 p/g
    Markov: 0.55 p/g
    Doughty: 0.53 p/g
    E Johnson: 0.49 p/g
    Ekblad:0.48 p/g
    Dougie Hamilton: 0.41 p/g
    Trouba: 0.38 p/g
    Letang: 0.36 p/g
    E Karlsson : 0.34 p/g
    OEL: 0.34 p/g
    Vlasic: 0.33 p/g
    Bogosian: 0.33 p/g
    PK Subban: 0.32 p/g
    Hedman: 0.30 p/g
    Beauchemin: 0.30 p/g
    Martin: 0.29 p/g
    Pietrangelo: 0.29 p/g
    Josi: 0.29 p/g
    Brodie: 0.27 p/g
    Nurse:0.25 p/g
    Phaneuf: 0.25 p/g
    Bouwmeester: 0.25
    A Greene: 0.25 p/g (had to use draft age +3 and +4)
    Shattenkirk: 0.24 p/g
    Byfuglien: 0.24 p/g
    Brodin: 0.24 p/g
    Seabrook: 0.23p/g
    Kronwall: 0.22 p/g
    Giordano(undrafted): 0.22 p/g
    Weber: 0.19 p/g
    Suter: 0.18 p/g
    Burns: 0.17 p/g
    McDonagh: 0.15 p/g
    Reinhart: 0.14 p/g
    Chara: 0.12 p/g

    So, as we can see here, at the draft +2 point in development, Reinhart’s offense is way behind the top d men on playoff teams, and Nurse’s is just below average among the elite D men in the league.

    I didn’t include purely offensive guys like Mike Green and Wideman because they are too one dimensional and I wanted a list of two way guys that bring it all. Maybe you could argue Letang is a one way guy, but other than that I’d say this list is pretty fair.

    Based on my own personal opinion, I’d say Nurse is tracking to be a #1 defensively and a #2 offensively for a playoff team. Not too shabby, so far.

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  8. Also, Reinhart’s Draft +3 year had some pretty good offensive numbers when you consider the steps backwards he seemed to take in his draft +1 and draft+2 seasons offensively. So there’s still some hope.

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