Back to School

The end of the summer is here for the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, but for no Capitals prospects is it more pressing than Chase Priskie (D, Quinnipiac University), Steven Spinner (RW, University of Nebraska-Omaha) and Benton Maass (D, University of New Hampshire), who actually have to go back to school. Following up a graduating class of NCAA prospects including the likes of Shane Gersich and Brian Pinho, Priskie (rising senior), Spinner (rising senior), and Maass (rising sophomore) are the Capitals’ returnees to the NCAA.

Spinner and Priskie, as seniors, will be free agents at the end of their final NCAA seasons, but could follow in the footsteps of their elders, namely Travis Boyd, who signed with the Capitals at the conclusion of his senior season (or could go the Jimmy Vesey route, but let’s not think too hard about that).

The NCAA is a wild jungle of a league, with some prominent scorers and others who are developing other skills, but thankfully, with Emmanuel Perry’s new and improved NHLe calculation method (which explores the correlation between scoring in a league with graduates of that league’s performance in the NHL), we can start out with a low level understanding of what Chase, Steven and Benton might do if they were to go pro right now. It is worth mentioning that NHLe cannot account for quality of teammates, ice time and other measures we might use to evaluate NHL players — because NHLe relies on only the total scoring rate (PPG meaning points per game here, not power play goals) to compute the NHL expected total score, a bad team will make a player’s point totals look worse, just like it would in the NHL.

Chase Priskie (D, Quinnipiac)

Drafted: 2016 NHL Entry Draft Round 6, Pick 27 (177 OVR)

Last Season: 11G / 14 A / 25P in 37GP

NHLe: 0.676 NCAA PPG * (0.1711 NHL to NCAA scoring correlation) * 82 games (full NHL season) = 9.484 NHL points expected/82GP

Scoring isn’t everything for defensemen, but an NHLe approaching ten points is something to be glad about, especially in conjunction with the fact that Priskie wore the C for Quinnipiac this past season — not only is he taking the time to develop his on ice skills, he’s learning to be a leader (though, luckily for fans, the Capitals are not short on loud voices in the locker room). Priskie was one of a few NCAA defensemen considered for the USA Olympic team and lead Division 1 of the NCAA in power play goals by defensemen while barely missing out on the top 10 among all skaters. Priskie’s skills on the power play have been improving from year to year (he lead the team in powerplay assists and points his sophomore year and, this past season, did some work on his powerplay goal scoring), proving that Canucks Army’s pGPS model giving him a 22% chance percent of making the NHL (and player comparisons like Washington Capitals Legend Kevin Shattenkirk) after his freshman year at Quinnipiac wasn’t just a fluke.

Steven Spinner (RW, University of Nebraska-Omaha)

Drafted: 2014 NHL Entry Draft Round 6, Pick 9 (159 OVR)

Last Season: 10G / 10A / 20P in 35GP

NHLe: 0.571 NCAA PPG * (0.1711 NHL to NCAA scoring correlation) * 82 games (full NHL season) = 8 NHL points expected/82GP

While Spinner’s 8 NHL points expected over a full NHL season does not look impressive, there are more things to consider — all of UNO’s top five scorers from last season are headed to the ECHL or AHL next year, leaving a lot of room for Skinner to step up. He’s set a new career high in goals every season, notching ten this past season in a twenty point campaign, so there is reason to think that Skinner might improve on that front this year. His points per game stat has also improved with each passing year (0.33 PPG his freshman year, 0.54 PPG as a sophomore, and 0.57 PPG this past season), representing an increase in total scoring. With increased time and responsibility, Skinner could really make a splash this year.

To manage your expectations, per Matt Barlowe’s data visualization of probability of making the NHL plotted against Wins Above Replacement, which standardizes probability of making the NHL on a scale of -3 to 12, with 11.06 being Eeli Tolvanen of Nashville and Melker Karlsson of San Jose clocking in at a dismal -0.68, Steven Spinner is a -0.26. So the promise is that he’s more likely, from a statistical standpoint, to make the NHL than Melker Karlsson right now and that he could get better over the next year, but don’t hang your hopes on Spinner just yet.

Like uncooked bread, he still has some proving to do.

Benton Maas (D, University of New Hampshire)

Drafted: 2017 NHL Entry Draft Round 6, Pick 27 (182 OVR)

Last Season: 4G / 13A / 17P in 36GP

NHLe: 0.472 NCAA PPG * (0.1711 NHL to NCAA scoring correlation) * 82 games (full NHL season) = 6.62 NHL points expected/82GP

As a first year defenseman, going nearly half a point a game while stepping right into the University of New Hampshire’s lineup from high school hockey (after a short detour through the NAHL) is an incredible accomplishment.

Maass, thanks to advice from fellow Capitals NCAA prospects like Priskie, Skinner and Brian Pinho, is in no hurry to turn pro, though the fact that he was able to play a full season as a freshman while scoring somewhat regularly is a point in his favor. He was tied for third in assists on the Wildcats and was third in blocked shots. Scouts watching Maass over the year have pointed out several areas to improve — namely his shot quantity (at his best, he was shooting only once a game on average) and his scoring consistency (streaky at best — opened his season with nine assists in seven games in October, but didn’t score more than three points in a month for the rest of the year). In his sophomore season with the Wildcats, Maas will have time and opportunity enough to improve his totals across the board.

The Capitals are sending three prospects back to school this September, and all of them have room for improvement, but thankfully that’s what school’s all about.

Feature image: NoVaCaps

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