June 12, 2024

Here are the top European 2024 NHL Draft prospects according to analytics

The 2024 NHL Draft has some analytics darlings.

And they might not necessarily always be who you’d think.

Analytics are a growing part of the industry and has continued to blossom over the years. One of the most popular aspects of analytics is the microstats, which looks at each individual piece of a player’s game using simple actions to paint a picture. These typically include transitional stats, passing stats, shooting stats, and defensive stats, and looks at each time a player has possession of the puck.

One of the most diverse tracking data sets out there, in the draft sphere, belongs to Lassi Alanen and Mitchell Brown on Public Tableau. Using their wide expanse of data on the 2024 draft class, we can observe some of the analytical darlings who deserve a taller pedestal this season.

After having already taken a look at some top performing North American skaters, it’s time to highlight those who stood out in Europe.

Goal-scoring standouts on offense and defense (xG/60)

The ultimate goal in hockey is to win, which requires outscoring opponents. Therefore, acquiring players who excel at scoring goals is crucial. A key statistic for identifying impactful goal scorers is expected goals per 60 minutes (xG/60), which measures the quality of scoring chances based on the shots taken by a player.

The European forward who led in this category was Ivan Demidov who, in 251.3 minutes tracked at five-on-five, recorded a 2.863 xG/60 mark. Demidov, the No. 2 prospect in FCHockey’s Final ranking for the 2024 draft, turned that rate into 23 goals in 30 games with SKA-1946 St. Petersburg in the MHL this season.  On the blue line, it was Noel Fransen who stood out most. Across 121.4 minutes tracked, he recorded a 0.714 xG/60 mark. Fransen, No. 61 on FCHockey’s board, scored 20 goals across 45 games in Sweden with Färjestad BK in J20 Nationell.

Other forward standouts: Michael Brandsegg-Nygard (J20 Nationell, 2.595), Igor Chernyshov (MHL, 2.432).
Other defense standouts: Tomas Galvas (Czechia, 0.708), Alfons Freij (J20 Nationell, 0.634).

Playmaking standouts on offense and defense

Playmaking is outlined by expected primary assists per 60 minutes (xA1/60). A primary assist is given to the last player to touch the puck before the person who scored. So, expected primary assists measures the shot taken by the shooter off of the pass made by the highlighted player.

The forward who stood out was, again, Demidov. He managed to record 2.179 xA1/60 this season in his tracked games. In his MHL action, he recorded over an assist per game, with 37 helpers in 30 games with SKA. As for blueliners, it was Alfons Freij. Across 215.2 minutes tracked, the Swedish blueliner recorded 0.567 xA1/60 rate. Freij, ranked 43rd, registered up 19 assists in 40 games with the Växjö Lakers in J20 Nationell.

Other forward standouts: Topias Hynninen (U20 SM-Sarja, 2.115), Yegor Graf (MHL, 1.434).
Other defense standouts: Leon Muggli (NL, 0.546), Noel Fransen (0.515).

Highest overall impact on the offensive zone

Offensive impact can be translated by the expected primary points per 60 minutes (xP1/60) stat. This numbers combines the previous two categories to find out what player truly dominated in all aspects of the offensive game.

For forwards, it was unsurprisingly Demidov. He wound up recording 5.043 xP1/60. In total, Demidov wound up with 60 points (23 goals, 37 assists) in 30 games at the MHL level, clearing the rest of the European competition.  On defense, it was Fransen who led the way. He recorded 1.229 xP1/60, just edging out the other top defenders. Overall, Fransen finished with 44 points (20 goals, 24 assists) in 45 games at the J20 level. 

Other forward standouts: Topias Hynninen (3.323), Michael Brandsegg-Nygard (3.302).
Other defense standouts: Alfons Freij (1.201), Leon Muggli (1.122).

Highest offensive involvement

What player contributed the most for their respective teams? Looking at Alanen’s offensive involvement analytic, this looks at the percentage of a team’s expected goals that a single player shot or set-up themselves.

Demidov topped forwards once again. He ended the season being involved on 31.54% of his team’s expected goals. Freij claimed the mark for blueliners. He ended the season being involved in 13.48% of his team’s expected goals, leading the way for defenders. This season, Freij logged 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) in 40 games in the J20. It was quite the season for the young Swede, as he flew up draft boards everywhere down the stretch, and for good reason.  

Other forward standouts: Topias Hynninen (26.54%), Joona Saarelainen (U20 SM-Sarja, 24.85%).
Other defense standouts: Noel Fransen (12.91%), Darels Uljanskis (J20 Nationell, 11.49%)

What players attacked the middle of the offensive zone best?

Offensive zone inside play, defined by Alanen, looks at which players take the puck from the boards to the middle in the offensive zone. This was tracked at a per 60 minute rate as well, with the stat called offensive zone pucks inside per 60.

The forward who led the way was, of course, Demidov. He recorded 16 offensive zone pucks inside per 60, boasting yet again his undeniable offensive dominance. On the blueline, where it is significantly harder to make these plays, it was Fransen. He ended up with 4.447 offensive zone pucks inside per 60. 

Other forward standouts: Yegor Surin (MHL, 8.55), Igor Chernyshov (6.89).
Other defense standouts: Daniel Nieminen (U20 SM-Sarja, 2.701), Darels Uljanskis (2.645).

Most efficient transitional player

The next category comes in the neutral zone. The transitional game continues to grow in importance in the NHL. This next grouping stats is called transition efficiency, which is defined as “breakouts and entries by preference for controlled plays and completion rate.” The stat that we ended up using is called controlled transitions per 60 minutes. 

The top forward when it comes to overall efficiency in the transitional game was Yegor Surin. He averaged 35.24 controlled transitions per 60 across 175.4 minutes tracked. Surin had a strong season, and is ranked at No. 50 at FCHockey. He netted 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) in 43 games in the MHL, primarily with Loko Yaroslavl.

Dominik Badinka paced defensemen in this analytic. Badinka, across 195 minutes tracked in the J20 Nationell, recorded 20.31 controlled transitions per 60. Badinka, ranked at No. 36, scored 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in 17 games with the Malmo Redhawks. He also checked into 33 games in the SHL, Sweden’s top men’s level, registering four points (one goal, three assists).   

Other forward standouts: Ivan Demidov (31.52), Topias Hynninen (28.34).
Other defense standouts: Sebastian Soini (U20 SM-Sarja, 19.34), Alfons Freij (19.24).

Best forechecker of the class

Forechecking can have a big impact under the surface and can lead to generating turnovers in the offensive zone. Alanen combined offensive zone retrievals and forecheck entries to measure the impact. Offensive zone retrievals are defined as pucks that are collected and possessed by an attacking forward after a dump in. Forecheck entries are recorded when a forechecker forces a turnover and gains possession when the opposition is regrouping or looking to break out. 

For this, we only looked at forwards. with Jan Dorthe leading the charge. Dorthe recorded a combined 13.876 retrievals and forechecking entries per 60 minutes across 79.9 minutes tracked. Dorthe had 29 points (15 goals, 14 assists) in 47 games at the J20 Nationell level with Vasteras IK, though the Swiss-born forward went unranked at FCHockey. 

Other standouts: Topias Hynninen (11.616), Michael Brandsegg-Nygard (11.528).

Best rush defender of the class

The next stat, a defender-only analytic, measures how well blueliners defend the rush. The stat used from Alanen’s data is entry prevention rate. Alanen utilized the actual rate of each defender tracked.  

The standout defender in this category was Veeti Vaisanen. He recorded an entry prevention rate of 56.25% this season, across 134 minutes tracked at the U20 SM-Sarja level in Finland. Vaisanen would play just seven games at this level with KooKoo. He spent much of his season at the Liiga level, scoring 10 points (two goals, eight assists) across 50 games. Vaisanen landed at No. 53 on FCHockey’s draft board.   

Other standouts: Matvei Shuravin (KHL, 55.81%), Stian Solberg (Norway, 54.29%).

Best defensive zone player in the class

Definition of the following stat: Defensive Plays

The next category looked at was a grouping of stats that Alanen generalized as defensive plays. This grouping of stats was defined as players who successfully prevented shots, intercepted passes, and denied entries. Defensive plays is a sum of the total amount of pressured shots, forced dump-ins, neutral zone break-ups, recovered defensive zone retrievals, slot pass interceptions, and defensive zone breakups, all rated per corsi against. What that part about Corsi against means is that Corsi against ratings adjusts for players who spend more time in their own zone, which leads to more exits, as defined by Alanen and Brown. 

Players that led the way for their position groups

The highest sum of defensive plays per Corsi against amongst forwards in the class was Jack Berglund. He recorded a combined total of 0.4 defensive plays per Corsi against, across 78 minutes tracked in J20 Nationell play. Berglund, ranking in at No. 153, had 34 points (15 goals, 19 assists) across 41  games with Farjestad at the J20 level. 

Shuravin was the top-rated player amongst defensemen. He recorded 0.5625 defensive plays per Corsi across 96.9 minutes tracked in the KHL. Shuravin drew into 11 games in the KHL this season with CSKA Moskva, where he had two assists, but certainly left his mark. The majority of his season was spent in the MHL. There, he played 22 games and scored seven points — again all assists. He left such an impression, however, and landed in at No. 25 on FCHockey’s final draft board.

Other forward standouts: Michael Brandsegg-Nygard (Allsvenskan, 0.2979), Joona Saarelainen (0.2769).
Other defense standouts: Niilopekka Muhonen (U20 SM-Sarja, 0.5614), Noel Fransen (0.5088).

Best overall player in the class

The final category that was looked into was game score per 60 minutes. It is defined as “an all-encompassing metric that weights shot contributions, xP1, exits, entries, rush defense, and in-zone defense to measure impact, rated per 60 minutes.”

The forward who led the way in this category was, again, Demidov, and by a wide margin. Demidov finished with a game score per 60 of 9.93. He truly displayed why he is a near-consensus No. 2 behind Macklin Celebrini this season with how dominant he has been.  On the blue line, the top defender in game score was Freij. He recorded a game score per 60 of 4.714 to lead all European defenders. His performance this season – and the subsequent rise on draft boards – is seemingly well earned and reflected by analytics. 

Other forward standouts: Yegor Surin (8.256), Topias Hynninen (7.939).
Other defense standouts: Dominik Badinka (4.236), Noel Fransen (4.084).

This article included just European skaters (players playing in Russian, Swedish, Finnish, Swiss and other European leagues). All stats were tracked at five-on-five by Lassi Alanen (@lassialanen).

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