Chuck Fletcher’s decision this Summer to bring Cody Almond back from his “exile” in Switzerland has, understandably, not garnered all that much attention. Since being drafted by the Wild in the 5th round and debuting for the Houston Aeros as well as the Wild in 2009/10, Almond has shown that he is a scrappy grinder who is not afraid to drop the gloves, but a very limited hockey player at the top level. No one was shedding a tear when he departed for Europe before the 2012/13 season, but his return is somewhat intriguing. It’s likely he is back simply to fill the vacant fighter/agitator role for the Wild on the 4th line or as the 13th forward, but his performance in his 2nd season with Genève-Servette of the NL-A might make one wonder whether the 25 year old centre has taken a big step forward in terms of his offensive play. The Wild moving to bring him back and giving him a one-way contract suggests they were impressed by his play.
Firstly, here’s how he performed and how he was used at 5v5 in each of his NHL seasons from a possession standpoint:
|GP||CF%||CF% Rel||GF%||GF% Rel||ZS%||LM #1||LM #2|
Obviously these are tiny samples, but it’s pretty much what you expect from a 4th line agitator; a negative influence on possession and a mostly negative effect on goals differential. His deployment is pretty typical of his role, with a very low percentage of shifts starting in the offensive zone as he matches up with the opposition’s 4th line. His most regular linemate each year was the team’s main enforcer.
Next, let’s look at his goalscoring and overall production for each season in his professional career:
His production in America is pretty disappointing across the board, with one season standing out; 2010/11, when he scored 34 points in 65 games for the Aeros in the AHL. Since moving to Switzerland, he’s scored 64 points in 83 games with the same .ppg each season.
The NLA is obviously not one of the elite leagues of Europe so it’s no surprise that Almond has found more success there than he did playing in the AHL and NHL. To gauge how his production rate in Switzerland would translate to the NHL, I’m going to use the extremely useful “NHLe” conversion tool.
Here’s an excerpt from a 2012 article by Scott Reynolds on NHLNumbers.com explaining how NHLe works:
The basic premise is that we can expect each player to bring only a portion of his offense from the league he played in last year were he to make the jump to the NHL. By observing how much offense other players brought from these other leagues in the past, we can estimate how much offense (on average) to expect from players from those leagues in the future.
It’s an imperfect assessment of skill for sure — we’re just measuring offense after all — and I think it generally works better for forwards than defenders (and goalies!), but it’s one indicator for whether or not a player might one day find success in the NHL.
This concept has been tweaked and improved over the years and Rob Vollman Tweeted out this updated conversion chart for NHLe the other day:
The way this works is; you take the player’s .ppg rate in whatever league he played in (in this case, Almond played in the Swiss National League A) and multiply it by the rate listed under “Now” in that chart.
The following table shows Almond’s scoring rate over the last two seasons now adjusted for the NHL using NHLe:
After adjustment, his scoring drops down to far less impressive rates. If he was to score at the same rates next season over 82 NHL games, he would finish with 9 goals and 23 points. It’s worth noting that this system is far from perfect. One can assume that Almond will be playing a lot fewer minutes in the NHL than he did in the NLA and won’t be seeing any powerplay time so it’s more than likely that 23 points will be a bit of a stretch for him in 82 games.
So I’m not necessarily saying that there’s no way Almond improved offensively during his time in Switzerland but I do think fans need to measure expectations and be prepared to find that he is pretty much the same player he was when he left, just a couple of years older.
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