Hockey’s Future announces updated player rating system

By Ken McKenna

Clarity is a beautiful thing. Whether it is that “Aha!” moment where a difficult math concept suddenly sinks into one’s cranium, or when yet the latest round of NHL rule changes designed to “improve” the game actually starts to make some sense, we can all appreciate the ease of understanding which comes with greater clarity.

It is in this spirit that we at Hockey’s Future elected to make some alterations to the way we rate the prospects of the NHL clubs. Inspired in part by a post at the HFBoards by member Aaron Greusel (aka Fingolfin), we’ve elaborated on the old 1-10 rating scheme to better explain each number rating, while also adding a probability component which assesses a player’s potential to reach his potential.

The numbering scheme remains in place, with 10 being the high end of the scale, and 1 signaling that a player needs to seriously consider that next career. This number represents a player’s realistic potential role based on the assessment of the grader. To better illustrate each rating, each number has a more full description:

10 – Generational talent – a player for the ages, one who can do things with a puck that no other player would even contemplate doing. Very, very few players will be deserving of this rating, probably one per decade. Think Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, maybe Sidney Crosby, but we’ll see.

9 – Elite forward / defenseman / goaltender -- possesses the potential for greatness, a likely Hall of Fame candidate once his playing days are over. Think Mark Messier, Guy Lafleur, Niklas Lidstrom, Denis Potvin, Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur – definite Hall of Fame players that displayed great talent early on.

8 – First line forward / No. 2 defenseman / No. 1 goaltender — players with definite skill that might be just a cut below elite status, but still possessing Hall of Fame potential. Think Brian Propp, Larry Murphy, Tom Barrasso – players that display talent early on, but may not be the game-breakers that the elite players can be.

7 – Second line forward / No. 3-4 defenseman / journeyman No. 1 goaltender — players not quite good enough to play on the top line or pairing on a regular basis, but still possessing enough talent to contribute offensively or defend with some authority. Think Brent Sutter, Rick MacLeish, Darryl Sydor, Calle Johansson, Ken Wregget, Jeff Hackett — players that are solid at both ends, but not spectacular, or have one outstanding skill that makes the opposition pay some attention when they are on the ice, or have been good enough at certain points in their careers to be No. 1 goaltenders.

6 – Third line forward / No. 5-6 defenseman / Backup Goaltender — generally speaking, players whose game is defensively-oriented, or whose abilities aren’t quite good enough to land full-time duty on the 2nd line or the No. 1 goaltending position. Think Kris Draper, Guy Carbonneau, Jeff Beukeboom, Ken Daneyko, Ron Tugnutt, Brian Hayward- definitely parts that are needed for a successful team, but not offensively gifted or agile between the pipes.

5 – Fourth line forward / No. 7 defenseman / depth goaltender — players that populate the 4th line, will fill in for injured defensemen, or have some ability to play goal in the NHL but are mostly very good minor league goaltenders. Think of any enforcer you care to name, or any energy player you care to name, or any unlucky defensemen or goaltenders that don’t quite have enough talent to crack an NHL lineup full time.

4 — Top minor league forward / defenseman / goaltender — players unlikely to have long careers in the NHL that will be recalled to the big club when injuries or other circumstances arise.

3 — Average minor league forward / defenseman / goaltender — players who will in all likelihood spend their entire careers in the minor leagues.

2 — Minor league role-player – players who populate minor league rosters that have virtually no shot of making it to the NHL.

1 — Borderline minor league player — players one step away from the beer leagues.

The ratings above should be familiar to most of our readers, of course. But, in addition to the numbering system, there is now a letter grade being added to the number grade which indicates the probability that a player will actually reach the potential indicated by his numeric rating. The lettering scheme looks similar to the grading system we’ve all seen in our school days, including a percentage attached to each grade for the purposes of the organizational depth chart:

A – All but guaranteed to reach potential – 100 percent metaphysical certitude that the player will play up to his abilities as noted by his potential rating. In this case, the potential rating is multiplied by 100 percent, signaling that the player is a lock to reach his given potential.

B – Should reach potential, could drop 1 rating – likely to reach potential, but may have a hole or two in his game that will keep him from reaching his full potential. The potential rating is multiplied by 90 percent, which indicates slightly less certainty about a player’s future performance.

C – May reach potential, could drop 2 ratings – has shown some flashes, but may ultimately not have what it takes to reach his potential. The potential rating is multiplied by 80 percent to show the uncertainty of a player reaching his potential.

D – Unlikely to reach potential, could drop 3 ratings – a player who has a chance to reach his potential but is unlikely to do so. The potential rating is multiplied by 70 percent, indicating that the player’s potential is extremely fluid.

F – A player possessing little potential who has a mountain to climb just to reach the outermost boundary of that potential. The potential rating is multiplied by 50 percent.

To better understand how the two ratings go together, a couple of examples are in order.

First, Player A is a hotshot prospect who has been highly regarded since an early age. In this case, Player A might receive a number grade of 9 to signify the high level of his ability, and a letter grade of A to indicate that it is virtually certain that the player will reach his potential. So, Player A’s grade in this case would be 9A, which is how it will appear on the team page.

Another example would be Player B, a player who was generally better than most of his peers in his pre-draft days, but whose potential at a higher level of play is less certain. In this case, Player B might receive a number grade of 7 to show that his upside may not match the performance of his junior days, while a letter grade of B would indicate that he’ll most likely reach that potential but could slip a notch. In this case, the player’s grade will be a 7B.

The percentages come into play when a staff member is putting together a team’s prospect depth chart. For instance, there exists the possibility that a player with a lower number grade could be rated ahead of a player with a higher number grade due to the use of the percentage. As an example, a player rated at 7C would actually be rated lower on the depth chart than a player labeled 6A due to the percentage associated with the C rating lowering the 7 grade to a 5.6. The 6 rating for the other player would remain a 6 due to the fact that there is deemed a 100 percent chance that the player will play up to that 6 rating. Essentially what is being said here is that the player rated 6A is a better prospect than the one rated 7C because it is much more likely that the 6A player will reach his potential.

The new system may take some getting used to, but we think it will help readers (and staff) paint a clearer picture in their minds of a player’s true potential. The change is being done to make the experience at Hockey’s Future both more informative and enjoyable for our readers, so we hope that will end up being the case.

Given the fact that a reader’s comment was one of the catalysts for this ratings change, we certainly invite your comments on the new system. Those comments can be sent to me, or to any of the staff involved in grading the prospects.

Ken McKenna
Managing Editor, Hockey’s Future