William Eklund is almost four times more likely to be an NHL star than presumptive first-overall pick Owen Power.
That is, according to data scientist Patrick Bacon’s projections. In fact, Power doesn’t even make Bacon’s 2021 NHL Draft top-five, in terms of likelihood for stardom:
- William Eklund 71.25 %
- Cole Sillinger 62.52 %
- Dylan Guenther 50.04 %
- Matthew Coronato 45.48 %
- Brandt Clarke 38.58 %
You’ll notice a couple of brand-name prospects not on this list besides Power — Matthew Beniers and Luke Hughes, for example. Check out his full 2021 Draft list here.
So what’s so special about Eklund?
“I found the SHL was a pretty tough league to score in. And what it really comes down to is William Eklund scored very well in the SHL in his Draft year. Nobody else in this Draft displayed as good an adjusted scoring in their draft year,” Bacon told San Jose Hockey Now. “That’s really what it comes down to. The model is very high on the SHL — perhaps it’s too high on that league.”
Bacon elaborated: “I built the models to basically put a value on points scored in each league. Points scored in the SHL, points scoring in the USHL, mean something different [in the NHL].
“It was a very long process that tested a ton of different things. I ultimately used five-fold cross-validation statistical techniques to determine the way the model could best predict scoring.”
He further explains his process at TopDown Hockey.
Essentially, Bacon’s Draft projections are based on his own NHLe, or NHL Equivalencies, model. NHLe was developed by hockey analytics pioneer Gabe Desjardins to answer this question, “What’s a goal in one league worth in another?”
Besides the Draft, NHLe can also be applied to older prospects.
Good news for the San Jose Sharks: Jonathan Dahlen and Ivan Chekhovich had terrific seasons according to Bacon’s NHLe model. Dahlen’s 71 points in 45 Allsvenskan tilts was the equivalent of a 45-point NHL campaign, while Chekhovich’s 34 points in 43 KHL contests was the equivalent of a 50-point year.
Bacon, however, was quick to caution: “The NHL equivalency itself is not necessarily projecting anything. By nature, I think the NHL equivalency is really just descriptive. They had very good seasons in those leagues at their ages.”
Essentially, it’s better to take NHLe as a reflection of how exceptional Dahlen and Chekhovich’s 2020-21 campaigns were — it doesn’t mean they’re locks to score 40-plus points for the San Jose Sharks next season.
That said, Bacon concedes Dahlen’s robust NHLe has made him a little more bullish about the polarizing 23-year-old winger.
“I’m a little higher on him after seeing this than I was before,” he said. “Allsvenskan is not a bad league.”
If Dahlen and Chekhovich hit, that also would be good news for Bacon. He’s a Bay Area resident and a life-long San Jose Sharks fan.
“[My parents] had season tickets back when it was HP Pavilion,” the 24-year-old Bacon shared.
So how would the young analytics whiz turn around his favorite team, back-to-back seasons out of the playoffs?
Let’s talk about that tomorrow.
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