Thursday, November 15, 2007

Leaving Early

I read this New York Times article yesterday after spotting it on mgolicious. Hat tip to Mike B. for putting this in my head months ago, but one of the things I don't think the Times is mentioning is that Canadian players are a slightly bigger flight risk than their American counterparts. The majority of guys who've left Michigan early are Canadians: Tambellini, Cogliano, Comrie, etc. Chart? Chart:

Players Who Left Early
Brian DeasleyCanada19882N/A
Aaron WardCanada19931NHL
Cam StewartCanada19931N/A
Ryan SittlerCanada19942N/A
Robb GordonCanada19953N/A
Mike Van RynCanada19992NHL
Mike ComrieCanada20002NHL
Andy HilbertUSA20012NHL
Jeff JillsonUSA20011AHL
Mike CammalleriCanada20021NHL
Mike KomisarekUSA20022NHL
Danny RichmondUSA20033NHL
Dwight HelminenUSA20041JYP (Finland)
Jeff TambelliniCanada20051NHL/AHL
Mike BrownUSA20052AHL
Al MontoyaUSA20051AHL
Andrew CoglianoCanada20072NHL
Jack JohnsonUSA20072NHL

It's not a huge split at 10-8. And looking further at the past five years, it's 5-2 for the Americans, but I almost want to throw Al Montoya, Dwight Helminen, and Danny Richmond off this list: Montoya's listless junior year points to him just being generally unhappy at Michigan, while Helminen and Richmond were rumored to be headed for academic troubles if they hadn't bolted for the pros. So almost all of the Americans who've jumped early have had some other reason to leave than seeing a shot at the NHL.

At the same time, the two Canadians who left early played on a team with very few Canadians. 57 players have suited up for Michigan in the last 5 years. Eight of them were Canadian and 2 left early, for a .250 rate. The remaining 49 were American and 5 left early, a 0.102 rate. Given that everyone who left early was drafted, we'll examine that pool. According to the rosters, 20 Americans were draft picks during this period, while 4 Canadians were as well. Two of those Canadians left early, for a .500 rate, while 5 Americans did, a 0.250 rate. The small sample size is annoying, but the numbers match up with the anecdotal evidence (Note: Does anyone have better data here? I know I found at least one problem with these rosters. Danny Richmond was listed as undrafted, since he didn't leave until he was drafted over the summer following his freshman year).

Significant also are the Americans who could've left, but didn't: Nystrom stayed, Hensick stayed, JMFJ stayed until Red gave his blessing, Porter is still with us. It just seems like you can get an extra year out of the Americans, whereas the Canadians will go to the next level as soon as they see the opening.

I asked Mike to look over a draft of this for me, and he gave me back some great stuff. He's the source for all the data on guys who aren't in the NHL or AHL anymore. This is what he sent along:

  • Brian Deasley left in 1988. This would be Red's first big loss. The Toronto native left after two years to join the Canadian National Team after nearly winning the Cy Young his sophomore year (18-4). He never made it to the NHL.
  • Denny Felsner stayed all four years (1989-92). He was Red's best player during my era, including a 94 point senior year. American.
  • Cam Stewart stayed for three years (1990-93). Kitchener native. Played 184 games in the NHL.
  • Ryan Sittler stayed for two years (1992-94). He was the #7 overall pick in the 1992 draft, but had trouble moving past the third line at Michigan, going 18-33 in his two years. Went to the AHL, got injured, never recovered. Native of London, Ontario.
  • Mike Knuble nearly left before his senior season (1994-95). The NHL lockout probably kept him at Michigan. American.
  • Robb Gordon left after one year in 1995. He was 15-26 in his freshman year and was getting serious ice time and was on the #2 PP. He went to the WHL and had a 4 game NHL career. From B.C.
  • Dwight Helminen left after three years. Hancock, MI native. He was about to flunk out anyway. Now playing in Finland.
  • Jason Bacashihua signed a letter of intent in 2000 but never played for Michigan. Native of Garden City. Just got traded to the Avalanche, who sent him to Lake Erie. Has played 38 games in the NHL.
  • Trevor Lewis signed a letter of intent in 2006 but never played for Michigan. Native of Salt Lake City. Currently in the Kings farm system.

Eric Nystrom is the only first round pick in the Red era to stay all four years. So I would be worried about Max Pacioretty.

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