The Detroit Red Wings made headlines recently when Ken Holland signed 28 year-old forward, Justin Abdelkader to a 7 year contract worth $4.25M per season. There was a fairly visceral and predictable reaction from the hockey stats community, noting the high shooting percentages he has been enjoying over the past year and the decline in performance we’ve historically seen from forwards aged over the age horizon of Abdelkader’s contract. However, the piece of the discussion that really struck home for me was comments around the wear and tear to Abdelkader’s body given his physical style of play.
Identifying future NHLers is critical to building a successful NHL team. However, with a global talent pool that spans dozens of leagues worldwide, drafting is also one of the most challenging aspects of managing an NHL team. In the past, teams have relied heavily on their scouts, hoping to eek out a competitive advantaging by employing those who can see what other scouts miss. Quite a challenge for many scouts that may only be able to watch a prospect a handful of times in a season. While there has been some progress in the past few years with teams incorporating data into their overall decision making, from the outside, the incorporation of data driven decision making in prospect evaluation has been minimal.
To address this, Josh Weissbock and myself have developed a tool for evaluating prospect potential which we call Prospect Cohort Success (PCS), with the help of others in the analytics community including Hockey Graphs Supreme Leader, Garret Hohl.