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What does point per game player in the AHL really mean?

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And how many are there, anyway?

Pittsburgh Penguins Victory Parade And Rally
I think he’s miming the size of the beer glass he needs.
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

A Maple Leafs fan on Twitter predicted that Jeremy Bracco, who makes his pro debut on the Marlies this year, will be a point per game player. He might be. It’s not impossible to do that your rookie year right out of junior, but the idea raised the question: What does point per game mean in the AHL? What should you expect of a player who makes that mark?

Points as a measure of player worth and predictor of future success are popular with fans. But it pays to think about what goes into scoring, and how much of it a player is directly responsible for.

For your own goals, it’s a mixture of your ice time, how much power play time you get, how high a pace your team plays, how much time you spend in the offensive zone, your luck, your skill, who your teammates are, how the coach uses you, how tough your division is, and likely several things I haven’t thought of. For your assists it’s all of that applied to yourself and all your teammates. Add in the scorer’s bias, errors, and how long your travel time is, and you have most of the ingredients of a number we think defines an individual.

When it’s time to say a player is great or not, out comes the PPG stats. Every time.

Let’s look at last year’s crop of PPG or better AHLers. I included one guy with .99 for obvious reasons. There are 17 players in total. All numbers are from Prospect-Stats and are all-situations. I listed where they are this year for each player.

AHL point per game or better with 20 or more games played

Name POS AHL Team Age GP Pt/GP 2017-18 Team
Name POS AHL Team Age GP Pt/GP 2017-18 Team
Anton Lander C BAK 25.4 42 1.31 Ak Bars, KHL
Kenny Agostino LW CHI 24.4 65 1.28 Bruins - one-way deal
Jake Guentzel C WBS 21.9 33 1.27 Blinded by the glare of his cup ring
Brad Hunt D CHI 28.1 23 1.26 Golden Knights - one-way deal
Taylor Beck RW BAK/HFD 25.3 56 1.18 Avtomobilist, KHL
Chris Terry LW STJ 27.4 58 1.17 Canadiens - one-way deal
Seth Griffith RW TOR 23.7 38 1.16 Sabres - one-way deal
Sven Andrighetto C STJ 23.5 20 1.1 Avalanche - two-year deal over $1million
Jordan Weal C LV 24.4 43 1.09 Flyers - two-year deal over $1million
Cory Conacher RW SYR 26.8 56 1.07 Lightning - one-way deal (two-way in second year)
Austin Czarnik C PRO 23.8 22 1.05 Bruins - two-way deal
Brendan Leipsic LW TOR 22.3 49 1.04 Golden Knights - two-year deal, two-way in the first year
Tim Heed D SJ 25.6 55 1.02 Sharks - two-year deal, two-way in the first year
Paul Carey LW HER 28.0 55 1 Rangers - two-way deal
Kasperi Kapanen RW TOR 20.1 43 1 Leafs - still on ELC
Teddy Purcell RW ONT 31.0 38 1 Unsigned UFA
Chris Mueller C TUC 30.5 68 0.99 Leafs - one-way deal

So, we have two guys who gave up on trying to crack the NHL and went to the KHL, one unsigned player as of writing, a genuine cup winning playoff star, two members of the Leafs organization, and a lot of depth players.

Most of those one-way deals you see are low-cost deals for AHL-only players. The Leafs don’t expect to call up Chris Mueller, and some of the borderline younger players like former Marlies Seth Griffith and Brendan Leipsic may not see a game of NHL action, even on their new, bad teams.

The two well paid fellows who got new contracts this year, Andrighetto and Weal, might both be a touch overpaid. This season will tell, but both of those deals remind me of Peter Holland’s last contract from the Leafs.

Age is the thing that separates the ‘good for the AHL’ players from the might really be something players. There are two bona fide NHLers of note here, Guentzel with his cup ring, and Kapanen who has no business returning to the AHL, even though he might.

After them, Leipsic is a maybe someday, and the rest are possible depth somewhere at some time. Some of them may follow Lander and Beck to Europe next year.

Of course, there’s players below this scoring level who will be in the NHL this year. Pontus Aberg is just below the cut. Kevin Fiala is down the list. Jesse Puljujarvi and Josh Ho-Sang are way down the list.

Points aren’t the full story, they aren’t even the main story. Not being able to score at all in the AHL means something. Point per game is only a hint, is driven more by the team style than any other one thing (you won’t see any Devils on here, no matter how good they are), and it’s not a guarantee of any future success.

Of course, if he plays for your team, that PPG guy is sure to be the next Jake Guentzel, not the next Taylor Beck.