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Two Prospects; Different Expectations

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Alex Carrier was drafted with more hype, but has Frederic Allard surpassed him on the depth chart?

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Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When he was drafted 115th overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Alexandre Carrier quickly generated interest in the Predators community, and why shouldn’t he? He had just come off a 55-point season for the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL and had his sights set on full-time NHL duty in a couple seasons.

So, here we are: three and a half seasons later and Carrier has played two games in a Nashville jersey. What happened?

Frédéric Allard was selected 78th overall the following summer, but was overshadowed by the selection of Samuel Girard. Carrier has played over double the AHL contests that Allard has (177 to 87), but you could argue the latter is much closer to regular NHL duty. Is Carrier running out of time or is Allard just ahead of the curve? And what should our realistic expectations for both be?

In September of 2017, Namita Nandakumar wrote a piece on Flyers prospect Samuel Morin for The Athletic, which can be read here. Morin, who has played three total NHL games, was drafted 11th overall in 2013, and Nandakumar explores whether he is running out of time for his NHL hopes.

This topic was similarly taken up by Tyler Dellow, who explored aging curves for top-four defenders in the NHL last January. That can be read here.

In Nandakumar’s piece, she compares Morin to his peers based on post-draft, pre-NHL seasons (40-game cutoff) and Dom Luszczyszyn’s Game Score. Dellow, on the other hand, focuses more generally on top-four defenders and the route they took to the NHL: NCAA, CHL, Europe, undrafted, etc. In my analysis below, I will combine these methods and add some discussion on offensive contributions and defensive importance to determine if Frédéric Allard and Alexandre Carrier are future NHL players.

It should be noted, before we start, that my hypothesis is that Frédéric Allard is less than a season from being a top-six defender in the NHL and that Alexandre Carrier will likely plateau as an extra defender or top-two AHL player.

Defenders Drafted from the CHL

Lucky for us, both Allard and Carrier played their junior hockey in the QMJHL, so their career arcs are rather comparable. First, I want to present a general benchmark using Nandakumar’s findings:

Time Until Making an NHL Roster
Namita Nandakumar I theathletic.com

Nandakumar uses a 40-game cutoff to establish who has ‘made it’ for all defenders and forwards drafted from 2007-12. Using this data, we could expect a third-round pick—Frédéric Allard—to make a full-time leap to the NHL in 2019-20 or 2020-21. And we would expect a fourth-round pick—Alexandre Carrier—to make a full-time leap to the NHL this season or in 2019-20.

Dellow’s article focuses solely on top-four defenders, which I am not measuring. But, for curiosity’s sake, he finds that age 23 is when most CHL defenders stage their last likely jump to 41+ games in the NHL. Alexandre Carrier turns 23 in October, and Frédéric Allard turns 22 in December, so this would seem fairly in line with Nandakumar’s findings.

I have done a similar data dig but with a few differences: I compiled each NHL defender who played in the CHL and was drafted after the 2004-05 lockout (this excludes seven undrafted players: Mark Giordano, Brandon Manning, Brian Lashoff, David Schlemko, Brenden Dillon, Dan Girardi, and Nick Holden) and I shifted the games-played cutoff to 25 games. I did this because 25 games is used as the benchmark for a rookie season in the NHL and there were very few cases of a player who took several fewer seasons to play 25 games than they did 40. Notable exceptions include Connor Carrick (25 games after 1 season; 40 games after 4 seasons), Ryan Ellis (2 seasons; 4 seasons), Mirco Mueller (1 season; 5 seasons), and Brayden McNabb (2 seasons; 5 seasons).

Eric Dunay

There are 93 defenders who have played 25+ games in an NHL season who were drafted after the 2004 lockout and played in the CHL. When we compare my chart to Nandakumar’s above, we find that draft data from 2012 to the present remains congruent with that beforehand. Most defenders drafted in the third round take two to four seasons before making the NHL; fourth-rounders have worse odds, with two seasons being the plurality (Note: Nandakumar measures seasons differently than I do. In her chart, “1 Season” means they made the NHL in the first year after being drafted; in mine, that is equivalent to “0 Seasons”).

Of those 93 defenderd, only 13 played their junior careers in the QMJHL like Allard and Carrier. I wanted to see if there were any major disparities between these players and the CHL crop as a whole.

Eric Dunay

It seems like our sample size is too small to draw any conclusions from this. There are only three QMJHL graduates drafted in the third or fourth round currently in the NHL (David Savard, Keith Yandle, and Kris Letang).

Regardless, we have established a decently clear timeline for CHL graduates to crack the NHL per their draft round, and confirmed it with more current data. So far, the statement above that Carrier should be played 25+ games this year or next and Allard next year or the year after holds up.

Note: Quick reminder that this statement assumes a couple things: 1) that Nashville has drafted two healthy prospects who are neither complete booms or busts and 2) there are always late bloomers. It happens. Jake Muzzin played five seasons before cracking 25+ games, and so did Thomas Hickey. But there are also prospects who linger for a while without being declared to have hit their ceiling, like Xavier Ouellet.

Relative Production

Now that we have established a timeline for our two prospects, let’s take a look at their actual production.

Eric Dunay

I won’t be using the above for my analysis, but I am sharing it for curiosity’s sake. As you can see, Frédéric Allard finished his QMJHL near the top of the NHL pack in offensive production, falling behind only Kris Letang’s dominance and an absurd single season in the Q from Keith Yandle. On the other hand, Alexandre Carrier’s production plateaued in his final two seasons and is among the worst of current NHL defenderd from the QMJHL.

Okay, now that that is out of the way, I am going to focus on Allard and Carrier’s AHL production through four statistics.

Points per Game

Among all defenders in the American Hockey League who have played 15 or more games this season (which will be my benchmark moving forward), Frédéric Allard is tied for 39th with 0.55 points per game. Alexandre Carrier is 84th with 0.39 points per game.

But when we confine our search to age groups, there is a different story to be told. When you consider AHL defenders ages 20.5 to 21.5, Allard is seventh in that category behind Filip Hronek (2nd round), Kyle Capobianco (3rd round), Oliver Kylington (2nd round), Caleb Jones (4th round), Dylan Coghlan (undrafted), and Brennan Menell (undrafted).

When considering AHL defenders age 21.5 to 22.5, Alexandre Carrier ranks 10th in the same category.

Share of Offense

This is generally another method of considering primary points (goals and primary assists). The Admirals have scored 101 goals before January 12th this season; Frédéric Allard and Alexandre Carrier had 13 and 10 primary points and 21 and 15 total points, respectively. This means that Frédéric Allard has directly contributed to 12.9% of Milwaukee’s offense this season, and Alexandre Carrier has submitted 9.9% of the work. Allard has contributed, in total, to 20.8% of the offense; Carrier has contributed to 14.9%.

Let’s compare those numbers to their peers:

Top-10 Age-21 AHL Defensemen Offensive Shares

Player Primary Points Off. Share
Player Primary Points Off. Share
Kyle Capobianco [ARI] 21 18.40%
Lucas Carlsson [CHI] 12 13.50%
Frederic Allard [NSH] 13 12.90%
Brendan Guhle [STL] 12 11.90%
Jeremy Roy [SJS] 13 11.60%
Kale Clague [LAK] 11 11.00%
Oliver Kylington [CGY] 12 9.70%
Dylan Coghlan [VGK] 12 8.60%
Filip Hronek [DET] 9 7.60%
Caleb Jones [EDM] 7 6.70%

Above you’ll notice that Frédéric Allard is actually third among his peers in this analysis. Several of the players besting him in points per game are riding low primary points percentages. Also, I’ve said it on here before, but Kyle Capobianco is one damn good player.

Top-10 Age-22 AHL Defensemen Offensive Shares

Player Primary Points Off. Share
Player Primary Points Off. Share
Phillipe Myers [PHI] 17 13.30%
Mitchell Vande Sompel [NYI] 13 10.60%
Alexandre Carrier [NSH] 10 9.90%
Kyle Wood [SJS] 10 8.90%
Zach Whitecloud [VGK] 12 8.60%
Brandon Crawley [NYR] 9 7.80%
Connor Hobbs [WSH] 7 7.50%
Sami Niku [WPG] 6 7.10%
Thomas Schemitsch [FLA] 9 6.80%
Jakub Zboril [BOS] 7 5.70%

Surprisingly, Alexandre Carrier is also ranked third in his age bracket. There have been some weak performances from NHL hopefuls this year like Sami Niku, Joe Hicketts, and Jakub Zboril.

Shots per Game

This is a fairly straight-forward marker, but with possession data not publicly tracked in the AHL, it can be decently indicative of what’s going on on the ice with these defenders.

Frederic Allard ranks fourth among his peers in shots per game—behind Guhle, Hronek, Jones, and Capobianco—with 2.03 shots on goal per game. That’s an impressive mark, and he’s certainly getting some results despite only shooting 4.0% on the season.

Carrier is ranked seventh in this category—behind Myers, Wood, Hickets, Belpedio, Hobbs, and Niku—averaging 1.75 shots on goal per game. Carrier is shooting an even worse 3.8% on the season. For what it’s worth, Oliver Kylington currently holds the highest shooting rate among AHL defenders at 20.0%.

Relative Goals-For

To get a better idea of their defensive abilities in relation to their peers, we will look at Goals For% Relative.

GF% Rel Progression
@CudmoreColin

You’ll notice that Allard ranks first among his group in this category with 13.94% Goals For in even strength play, meaning the Admirals are scoring nearly 14% more of even strength goals when Allard is on the ice as opposed to when he is off. Opposite of this is Lucas Carlsson, who is having a good season offensively but is playing for a horrid defensive team and isn’t doing much to mitigate that with a -9.49% GF Rel. Additionally, Allard’s driving of play has only slightly dipped from his rookie season in the AHL.

GF% Rel Progression
@CudmoreColin

Earlier I mentioned that Carrier’s age group has largely been struggling in the AHL this season, and the above chart is indicative of that. Carrier ranks seventh among this group in GF% Rel with a rate of -2.43 (ignore his marks before 2016-17—that’s the other Alexandre Carrier). Part of this can likely be attributed to Carrier being paired with Jarred Tinordi, but Carrier has gotten ice time with Matt Donovan and the results have not improved much.

QMJHL DMen GF% Rel in the AHL
@CudmoreColin

Outside of Andrew MacDonald’s insane 26.67% Goals-For Relative rating for Bridgeport in 2009-10, you will see that Frédéric Allard is holding onto the best driving rate of his QMJHL peers playing in the NHL. This is by no means a guarantee of his success, but it is encouraging to see.

Conclusion

If you remember, I gave a hypothesis at the start of this piece. If you were paying attention, you probably thought how ridiculous it was. How can Eric determine the future of Allard and Carrier with just one article? I can’t.

But I wanted to dig into this subject, because I do genuinely believe Frédéric Allard will be one of Nashville’s six best defenders next season. He would be perfectly on track—with history—to make the NHL full-time, and his overwhelming success on an AHL team that has oscillated between slightly above average and very below average has me confident he should make the lineup.

Admittedly, Alexandre Carrier is having a slightly better season relative to his peers than I thought. He still isn’t bringing down the house with points and is more of a defensive liability than an offensive driver. I don’t see Carrier being a regular NHL player for a long time. It just doesn’t seem to be in the cards. He could be a late bloomer or a crack a lineup that needs bodies, but I think the evidence presented here suggests otherwise.

I know Carrier has seen the NHL, and he is frequently the player that comes up when fans loathe Nashville’s bottom pair on Twitter, but I hope this shifts the conversation permanently from Carrier to Allard until we see something to suggest otherwise.

All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com, prospect-stats.com, theAHL.com. Thank you to Bill Comeau and Colin Cudmore for their data collection and visualizations.