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  • League Rankings

    A thread to discuss ranking all the major hockey leagues.

  • #2
    So my hastily put together list looks something like this so far:

    NHL > KHL > SHL > Liiga > NLA > AHL > Czech > DEL > VHL > Allsvenskan > NCAA > OHL > WHL > Slovakia > QMJHL > ECHL > EBEL > BOL > Norway.

    What am I missing? Where am I wrong?

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    • #3
      Well my big issue off the bat is that you have the major junior leagues up there with some pretty solid pro leagues. Looking back at my original list, I had the major junior leagues more in the range of Germany's, Denmark's and Switzerland's second pro leagues, and Sweden's third league.

      When I went back and looked at the front page of the prospects thread, a few decent case studies just happened to pop up.

      Nico Gross went from nine points in 33 NLB games (Swiss 2nd league) to 14 points in 58 OHL games. Almost identical per game numbers, but on the one hand you have to account for some amount of development (should mean improved numbers) and on the other hand for adapting from European to NA ice size and style (should mean diminished numbers).

      I remember saying before when I was comparing leagues that I try not to use teenagers, because it is too difficult to account for development (which can be most rapid at that age) but it is unavoidable when assessing junior leagues. For now I am assuming the two variables will basically cancel out, but this may be a huge mistake, and I'd be welcome to counterarguments here. I'm going to look at another important variable (size) in an extended case study later.

      I looked at Adam Liska, but I don't know how to deal with the Slovak U20 program team, but Michal Ivan played for a club team in Slovakia the same year. Went from five points in 46 there to 17 in 48 in the Q the next year. Accounting for the same two variables, it looks like a net diminishment in league quality to me.

      Oliver True did four points in 32 games in the top Danish league, and then 15 in 58 the next season in the O, which amounts to exactly half the p/g. But that first year he did five in seven games in the 2nd Danish pro league, so from this one case the OHL looks (significantly?) better than Denmark2, which is contrary to my original rankings, where I had them about even.

      Likewise, most ECHL player are former major junior players. It should be somewhere in the range of NCAA, and in fact I've seen a good number of players go from NCAA to ECHL and their numbers stay pretty level.

      Other than that, I have difficulty with the AHL being that low, but I just don't know what it would rank ahead of. Liiga and NLA have made such leaps in recent years. Admittedly, I probably jumped the gun a bit on calling Liiga better than SHL, but they've certainly closed the gap a ways.
      Last edited by matchesmalone; 07-02-2019, 01:47 PM.

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      • #4
        Haha oh, I just noticed you actually do have Skovakia ahead of the Q. I just can't imagine any of the CHL leagues being better than it, or that there is that much of a difference from Q to O. I guess my main point was just that I think you have to go a ways down among top pro leagues before you find one that the CHL leagues can compete with.

        I also have the Dub and O even - maybe I'm a bit biased there, but the NHL draft this year was a great showcase for the quality of the WHL.

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        • #5
          Eeli Tolvanen vs. Kristian Vesalainen

          Ok, this might not be the most useful of case studies, but I find it very interesting.

          Both drafted in 2017, not too far apart in the first round, and birthdays only a couple months apart. But Vesalainen is 6'4 and Tolvanen is 5'10.

          Drafted out of the USHL, Tolvanen went to play for Jokerit in the KHL his +1 year and had the best offensive season of all time by a U19 player - both raw points and per game, at .73. He was also the third best scorer in the Olympics, proving himself one of the most purely skilled players outside the NHL (tiny sample size, but at least establishes an extremely high-end upside).

          His next season didn't go so well, moving over to the AHL and putting up .60 p/g. A lesser per game total in a lesser league. It is important that this was not just struggles adapting to NA game, because he played the two seasons leading up to his draft year in the USHL, and in his draft year there he had 54 points in 52 games, the 40th best raw total by a U18 player in that league since 99/00. Not very impressive, there are tons of players with better numbers who weren't first round picks. So while there were some rumors he was battling injuries this past season, given the fact that he went from having a meh season at 17 in NA, to having the best season imaginable in Europe, to having a meh season in NA, tells me pretty clearly that he simply struggles with the style of play over here.

          A couple of things to note: obviously his agent or somebody suggested he go play in the USHL at 16 to learn the NA game, and obviously the Preds recognized his immense talent despite his average season over here, to pick him in the first round.

          Judging by his +18 rating in his last year of USHL and +14 in his KHL season, it seems to me that it is less an issue with his play away from the puck but more an issue of size and strength in the puck battles and board play that are the trademark difference between Euro and NA hockey.

          Vesalainen also had a monster +1 season, playing SM Liiga, with the fourth best raw totals ever in that league by a U19 (only 15th best per game at .88). But then he came over to North America and had just .59 p/g, albeit in a fairly small sample size of 22 games. Unlike with Tolvanen who had already played two years in NA, this was Vesalainen's first year over here, but on the other hand, Finland uses the hybrid ice, so it shouldn't be as demanding of a transition.

          But perhaps there is a simple explanation. He actually had eight points in his first eight AHL games, but then decided to go play in the KHL when he wasn't getting called up. When he came back, either he was worn down by a long season of high level pro hockey, or the coach just thought it wouldn't be fair to play him over guys who were there all year after he bailed on them. Probably both. So we can't really use this as an argument for AHL > Liiga.

          But anyway, the more noteworthy point as far as league rankings go, is that he put up a modest .55 p/g in the KHL, which seems pretty in line with his .88 in Liiga the previous year and 1.00 in his first eight AHL games (KHL>Liiga>AHL), but not at all in line if we try to compare him to Tolvanen. This is just the clincher - not that there was ever much doubt - to my claim that smaller players can be more effective in Euro leagues but struggle in NA, while bigger guys will be more effective in NA - no questioning Vesalainen's skill, but it is the combination of size and skill that makes him such an elite NHL prospect; he is obviously not on the same level of quickness and finesse as Tolvanen.
          Last edited by matchesmalone; 07-02-2019, 08:05 PM.

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          • #6
            K thanks for getting me started Josh. I just needed a bit of a push to get rolling. This is such tedious work, I kept putting it off, but having an argument to make (pro vs. junior) got me rolling and now I can't stop.

            So I noticed that actually a lot more ECHL players are former NCAAers than major juniors.

            And I'm noticing something that surprised me at first. The NCAA looks somewhat (noticeably) better than ECHL, and the CHL leagues look slightly better than USports.

            My initial thinking was that since most ECHL players come from NCAA, the former should be better than the latter, since it is just a lot of the same players a few years more developed. Same goes for CHL to USports.

            But then I realized this is easily explained. All of the high-end players from the CHL and NCAA go on to the AHL or NHL or top European leagues, and so it is mostly the middle and lower tier players who go to ECHL and USports and become higher-end players there.

            It was also telling to look at all the players who went from major junior and tried their hand in the ECHL, but were unable to be effective and stick, so went to college and played USports.

            So yeah, this sequence looks pretty clear to me now, NCAA, ECHL, CHL, USports.

            I'm hoping to have a preliminary attempt at just men's pro leagues by tomorrow, but I'm planning to go pretty deep with it, down to Poland, Italy and the EIHL.

            Strategy right now is to do one list for the pro leagues, then one for junior leagues, and then try to fit them together. NCAA will act as sort of the midway/crossover point, hence when I get around to rating them out of ten, I want to stick with the organizational strategy of making the NHL 10/10 and NCAA 5/10.
            Last edited by matchesmalone; 07-03-2019, 03:58 PM.

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            • #7
              Sorry I haven’t written a reply to all of this yet. I’m excited to see what you come up with. Only thing I can say right now is maybe don’t set it in stone that NCAA should me your middle ground. Let the results play out naturally :)

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              • #8
                OK so I guess I have a slightly different goal than you. Where it seems you are compiling a deep ranking of the overall quality of the leagues, I am concerned specifically with ranking high-end talent. More specifically, high-end prospects (and even more-so draft-eligible prospects). Of course overall league quality is of primary importance for my goal, but it has to factor the age limit and Europe/North America issues with different considerations.

                Say I'm looking for something very specific: a list of leagues ranked by the value of an under-19 NHL prospect having a dominant season among the league. Like an 18 year-old tearing up the KHL would obviously be worth more than an 18 year-old tearing up the Q. In terms of comparing such potential dominant seasons by under-19s, would you agree on this order (NHL, AHL, NCAA, and ECHL are of course excluded):

                KHL > SHL > Liiga > NLA > Czech > DEL > VHL > Allsvenskan > Slovakia > OHL > WHL > QMJHL

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                • #9
                  That looks about right.

                  But I think our goals are more or less the same. Maybe slightly different, like you said. But basically the ultimate goal for me is evaluating prospects, maybe with less emphasis on "high end prospects". I just want to expand the scope, and to have a sturdier, more complete groundwork from which to begin.

                  A 6th round pick out of France? A 20 year old undrafted free agent out of Norway? A 16 year old playing pro in Poland? I wanna have all possible bases covered. I said somewhere recently that my goal with this is to have ranked any league that knowing the strength of might ever possibly be useful...

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                  • #10
                    As to your point about ranking pure quality of leagues vs. ranking the quality of a league for transitioning to NHL. I'm thinking if/when I come up with numerical ratings, maybe then we can come up with some sort of "modifier" for adapting from Europe to NA. Just to pull an example out of thin air to give an idea what I mean, say if the KHL is an 8.5 and the AHL is a 7, we'd have an algorithm to account for size, so a player 5'10 and 180, maybe loses 1.5 points coming from KHL to AHL, so as far as transitioning to NHL they are about equal, but for a player 6'4, the 8.5 》7.0 difference holds.

                    I hope that makes some remote semblance of sense. Obviously we'll have to come up with a better way to conceptualize this but it is giving me a headache to think about.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by matchesmalone View Post
                      As to your point about ranking pure quality of leagues vs. ranking the quality of a league for transitioning to NHL. I'm thinking if/when I come up with numerical ratings, maybe then we can come up with some sort of "modifier" for adapting from Europe to NA. Just to pull an example out of thin air to give an idea what I mean, say if the KHL is an 8.5 and the AHL is a 7, we'd have an algorithm to account for size, so a player 5'10 and 180, maybe loses 1.5 points coming from KHL to AHL, so as far as transitioning to NHL they are about equal, but for a player 6'4, the 8.5 》7.0 difference holds.

                      I hope that makes some remote semblance of sense. Obviously we'll have to come up with a better way to conceptualize this but it is giving me a headache to think about.
                      I think I'm following. But does "holds" here mean "does not occur"?

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                      • #12
                        Hmmmm. Yeah I guess so. My logic was inconsistent there. In this case, of a player coming from Europe to NA, it should be a more difficult transition, so let's say for a 5'10 player it boosts the difficulty of the AHL up to an 8.5 so instead of being an easier league, it is about the same. Whereas for a 6'4 player, going from an 8.5 league to a 7 league, it really is a substantially easier league.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by matchesmalone View Post
                          Hmmmm. Yeah I guess so. My logic was inconsistent there. In this case, of a player coming from Europe to NA, it should be a more difficult transition, so let's say for a 5'10 player it boosts the difficulty of the AHL up to an 8.5 so instead of being an easier league, it is about the same. Whereas for a 6'4 player, going from an 8.5 league to a 7 league, it really is a substantially easier league.
                          Aha, yes, I get that now!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            K well if you are able to think up a good way to conceptualize this, please let me know.

                            On your point about setting NCAA as middle point, I see your point, and will keep my options open, but the thing is, there is inevitably going to be some level of subjectivity. I mean, I know NHL will be 10, but then what would be 1? A beer league? Bantam? Peewee? And then what would be a 0.1?

                            With a lot more research done in the past week, I still feel like the NCAA is kind of a nice cutoff point, where the top pro leagues from all serious hockey countries are better than it, but it is better than, you know, Poland and Belarus, and then of course it is the best of all of the amateur leagues.

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                            • #15
                              Ok, here is my proto-list of pro leagues. Still need to add some leagues - Asia League and AlpsHL seem worthwhile, and I'll probably add a few more country's second leagues - and will need some fine-tuning for sure:

                              NHL, KHL, SHL, SM Liiga, AHL, NLA, Czech, DEL, Slovakia, VHL, Allsvenskan, Mestis, Czech2, EBEL, ECHL, France, EIHL, NLB, Denmark, DEL2, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Russia3, Sweden3, Norway, Slovakia2, Erste Liga, Poland, Ukraine, France2, Latvia

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