Blake Speers was my favorite selection of Day 2 of the Draft for a number of reasons. First, he addresses two big needs for the Devils as a RW who has shown he has offensive talent by putting up over a point per game in the OHL in his draft year. Secondly, he has earned plenty of praise from scouts, which I have highlighted in this draft day post. I'm really encouraged about his "two-way game", "elite level speed", and "a plus shot and puck skills." Finally, the numbers also seem to paint an optimistic future of him turning out into a regular NHL player. The Projection Project, using height and NHLe's to form cohorts, gave him the 19th most favorable projection (52%) to become a NHL regular among the 2015 draft class. This motivated me to take a look to see how he compared to other Devils OHL prospects - both past and present - to see how he stacked up against them in terms of Points Per Game, Goals Created Per Game, and NHL Equivalencies.
A quick reminder on how to calculate Goals Created which was introduced by Hockey-Reference:
As well as NHL Equivalencies which were developed by Gabriel Desjardins of Behind the Net:
I also want to give credit to CHL Stats for providing a large portion of the data that I used for this post. Season age for this post was determined by the players age as of 2/1 of the given season.
Speers vs. Those That Appeared in the NHL
Let's start out by looking at how Speers has compared against Devils OHL prospects that have seen varying amounts of games played in the NHL. I should note that I used players who started their OHL career in 2004 to present for this post. In terms of Pts/GP we see that Speers trailed Nick Palmieri by a bit and was nearly identical to Adam Henrique in their age 17 seasons. Thanks to a strong 2014-15 campaign, we see Speers jump ahead of all these players in their age 18 season in the OHL.
I would like to see Speers continue to progress by reaching the 1.30 mark next season at the very least. That would put him towards the end of the top 20 in Pts/GP of OHL skaters. It would be even more encouraging if he reached similar marks to Henrique and Reid Boucher in their age 19 seasons though.
Speers had a similar GC/GP mark as Henrique in their age 17 seasons and even surpassed Matt Halischuk's number. Speers saw a nice increase in his GC/GP from his age 17 to 18 seasons which is encouraging. He surpassed Boucher's 18 year old season and was really close to Halischuk and Palmieri. Hopefully we see another jump in this number after next season when he has an expanded role in the Sault Ste. Marie offense.
I find Speers' NHL Equivalencies encouraging for two reasons. First, he is nearly identical to Henrique as a 17 and 18 year old. Secondly, he saw an impressive jump from his pre-draft to draft year number and actually had the best NHLe out of this group in his age 18 season. I don't think it would be too far fetched to expect him to come close to the NHLe's that Henrique and Boucher had in their age 19 seasons.
Speers vs. Those Recently Acquired by NJ
Now it's time to move on to comparing Speers' production against the more recent OHL draftees (and free agent signing). I should note that I didn't include Artur Gavrus (small sample size) or Ben Thomson (ranked lower in all categories by a fair bit) in this group. The first thing that pops out to me is how Speers improved his own Pts/GP mark from his age 17 to age 18 season. Not only that, but his age 17 season only trailed Ryan Kujawinski's and Speers had the best age 18 season out of this group from a Pts/GP perspective. He should be able to have the best age 19 season out of this group fairly comfortably barring some unexpected performance issues.
As you can see, Speers age 17 season is very similar from a GC/GP perspective to Kujawinski and a fellow speedster in Ben Johnson. Speers saw a similar jump to Kujawinski from their age 17 to 18 seaons, with Speers getting the slight edge to lead this group. Kujawinski ended up not improving his production from a GC perspective as a 19 year old, so it will be interesting to see if Speers falls into the same trap or not.
Once again NHLe is favorable to Speers. He barely trailed Kujawinski for the best NHLe in their age 17 seasons. Speers then saw his number nearly double after an impressive age 18 season. As you can see, his 29 NHLe comfortably led this group of players in their age 18 seasons and it would even be the best mark for an age 19 season.
Overall, I'm excited about Blake Speers as a prospect because the numbers seem to back up the positive outlook that scouts have about his game. I am really intersted to see how he develops next year as he figures to have a larger role in the Sault Ste. Marie offense. Over the past few years, the Devils OHL prospects have left us wanting a bit more at times, but I think Speers can be a player that breaks this trend and establishes himself as a quality NHL prospect for the Devils.
How do you feel about the selection of Blake Speers? What are your expectations of him as a prospect? What are you looking for from him as he continues to develop? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!