What is PNHLe?


PNHLe is an offensive stat that is used to project a playerÕs point potential at the NHL level and is meant to standardize a variety of leagues so that prospects can be compared from one league with another.

PNHLe attempts to equalize all leagues, age and positions so that the offensive potential of a prospect can easily be compared with others, while also projecting future NHL point potential in the prime years of a player.


Where does PNHLe come from?


At its core, PNHLe uses the NHL equivalency (NHLe) measure to calculate the statistic:


NHLE: NHLE is an equivalency formula designed to give us an idea of how a player would perform at the NHL level using counting numbers (points). Each major NHL feeder league has it's own NHLE value, which is based on a series of calculations outlined by Gabe Desjardins here. NHLE is also a nice way to compare counting numbers between players in different leagues.



The problem with NHLe


The premise of the NHLe stat is certainly a great idea. If a player jumps directly from one league to the NHL there should be some precedent set by historical values that would indicate how many points that player should project to having in a full NHL season. However, it always bothered me that NHLe never took into account that younger players in the same league would always have a massive disadvantage compared to those that have more experience and are physically more mature in the same league. NHLe only looks at the present to predict how many points in one league are equated at the NHL level. What if there was a way to predict future values?





Recently, while taking my Masters I decided to work on a project to see if I could accurately predict a prospectÕs point potential if they made the NHL. Using the same basic premise as NHLe, but accounting for age and the average increase of point production from one year to the next. One would expect that a player in the OHL should get more points from one year to the next the older that player is inside the same league. That is the basis of PNHLe.


The primary purpose was to identify hidden gem prospects for my assorted fantasy/dynasty leagues. I figured there must be some historic rates that could be used to more accurately predict the relationship between a prospectÕs point production in a specific league, at a particular age with eventual point totals at the NHL level.



How is PNHLe calculated?


Is there an historic average rate of change of a playerÕs points per game from one year to the next in the same league depending on a playerÕs age?


Using a database of NHL player statistics over the past decade+ I calculated a formula that derived the rates of change of a prospectÕs points per averages from one year to the next. I had the luxury of looking back in time to see the progress of a typical NHL player and how their points per game changed from one year to the next in a specific league. That allowed me to build a model for a playerÕs expected points per game and how much it should increase inside the same league based on their current age. Once all players were accumulated for a specific league a correlation was built between the playerÕs points per game and their NHL production. Next, using a similar technique to the way that NHLe was established, a translation factor was then used for each league to the NHL which allowed a standardization to occur between the leagues. The end result is the PNHLe stat.

I made the decision to equalize the rates of defensemen compared to forwards by incorporating a multiplier calculated separately for each league (approximately 1.3). This allows you to quickly see how well a defenseman is doing compared to forwards inside the same league, and whether their production is better or worse than their counterparts.

Although a forward's PNHLe represents their project point potential at the NHL level, a defenseman's PNHLe is used as a comparable against forwards giving you greater insight in your fantasy leagues on which player actually has the more significant point production.


The problems with PNHLe


In a perfect world, a consistent player would have equal PNHLe stats from one year to the next, and as they played in different leagues on different teams. However, due to the random nature of the game of hockey and the fact that PNHLe is built entirely on readily available statistics that are given for each league, it does come with warts which affects its overall accuracy. That also means it leaves out certain criteria that would benefit the overall accuracy, such as linemates, situational usage, time on ice, power play time, face-off percentage, hits, blocked shots etc.


When a player jumps from one league to a higher league (i.e. OHL to the AHL) they typically have a reduction in their PNHLe as they get acclimatized to the higher level and are given less of an opportunity on a top line, including power play. This usually regresses back to normal in the playerÕs second year.


There is a large variance the younger a player is. The fact that PNHLe uses historical values means that outliers are generally found the further a prospect is away from making the NHL. Even older prospects can have a large increase or decrease from one year to the next if they are a late bloomer, or have a difficult time adjusting at higher levels. 


PNHLe does NOT predict a playerÕs chance of success in making the NHL. However, after looking back at previous years there is a significant relationship between the top PNHLe numbers and the number of players that eventually make it to the NHL as regular players.


It is only an offensive number and doesnÕt take into consideration the contribution a prospect makes on the defensive side of the puck. Many prospects have much higher real world value than their PNHLe would suggest.


Using PNHLe for fantasy hockey


Originally, the PNHLe stat was developed almost entirely for the sole purpose of increasing the probability of selecting prospects in dynasty/keeper fantasy hockey leagues. However, because of many of the issues outlined above anyone using the stat for that purpose should also do their homework to increase the success rate of claiming prospects in their dynasty leagues. For instance, there are many prospects that have high PNHLe values but a glaring deficiency in their games. For instance, if a player posts incredible numbers in junior, but is a horrendous skater, there is a very high likelihood that they wonÕt ever make the NHL. There are also many intangibles that can increase the odds a player makes it to the NHL that canÕt be looked at because a given stat is simply not attainable for a given league (i.e. zone entry percentage, face-off success rate, defensive acumen, etc.). In that case, reading up on scouting reports that are usually fairly easy to find online with a quick Google search can help to find information on a given prospect.