The 2017-18 Red Wings season is all but dead and our collective eyes are looking towards the future. Watching prospects more closely, predicting rosters for next season and waiting for the draft lottery is all we have left as fans of this team.
If the lottery balls fall in favor of the Red Wings, this conversation can be different – but as of right now, the Wings do not have that blue-chip prospect that every team is dying to acquire. They have a near-empty forward prospect pool and a solid group of defensive prospects that can turn into something.
Among those defensive prospects, one stands out above the rest – Filip Hronek.
In his first full season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, Hronek is showing that he is one of the more exciting Red Wings prospects to come along in recent memory.
29 points in 53 games brings him to 0.55 points/game, good for 24th among all AHL defensemen that have played at least 20 games. That doesn’t seem all too impressive, but factor in that this is his first season of professional hockey and he instantly peaks interest. Among Under-23 defensemen in the same category, he’s now 8th with that 0.55 P/GP.
Raw point totals aside, Hronek is on the ice when his team needs it most. Providing that instant boost of offense is crucial for any team that is trailing by a goal or trying to secure an unstable lead in a game.
He is light-years ahead of his Griffins teammates when it comes to impact while he’s on the ice.
Comparing him to the rest of the league, is really where Hronek’s season shines.
Using 5v5 GF%, it shows that Hronek is a powerhouse when it comes to his team putting more pucks in the net when he is on the ice – simple as that. With a 66.67 5v5 GF%, he sits at 6th among all AHL defensemen (min. 20GP) – among his first-year-pro peers he sits at 2nd, only behind Erik Cernak of the Lightning’s affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch.
This raw number does not show the full story though. Any player could just be lucky and be on an extremely good team that is putting so many damn pucks in the net. That is simply why relative stats were made in the first place. Hronek’s 5v5 GF%rel, is currently at 19.95 – currently sitting at 4th among all AHL defensemen.
This is a strong showing by the young Czech blueliner and it got me thinking of how this season so far ranks among all Under-21 AHL defensemen in the last ten seasons. So I did some research and got even more hyped about the defenseman from Hradec Kralove.
Since the 2007-08 AHL season, there have been 35 Under-21 defensemen that have a 5v5 GF%rel greater than 9.00. Guess where Hronek ranks among that 35?
3rd – Hronek is 3rd in the last ten years of U21 AHL defensemen in 5v5 GF%rel.
I am not saying that this is a definitive stat that makes a good defenseman, but it does demonstrate how dominant Hronek’s season has been among his historic U21 peers. Relative to his Griffins defensive teammates, he is on the ice for more goals for and less goals against – only fellow rookie Vili Saarijarvi is close to him with a 6.15 5v5 GF%rel.
Hronek is the most important defenseman on the Griffins and it’s not even close.
Not only is he on the ice, but as I stated before he is racking up points at an impressive rate – not many U21 AHL defensemen has put up points as well as contribute to his team winning games.
This is what that previous list looks like paired with 5v5 points per game, as well as 5v5 primary points per game:
If you look at this list long enough, you will see that most defensemen either put up points, or have a good relative GF%.
To get a better idea of the true outliers, I visually paired 5v5 GF%rel with 5v5 P1/GP.
This gives you a sense of who the true outliers are in this messy group of data.
The defensemen that mean the most to their team’s success as well as putting up the points to demonstrate individual skill is a somewhat small list. Nashville Predator’s prospect Frederic Allard is an anomaly. PK Subban is one of the best defenceman in the NHL and he showed his skill in his U21 season with the Hamilton Bulldogs in the 2009-10 season. Current Pittsburgh Penguin, Jamie Oleksiak dominated competition as a 6-foot-7 towering blueliner. John Carlson is a top-pairing player on any team in the NHL and he put up the points in his rookie AHL season to prove it. Hampus Lindholm is one of the most underrated defensive players in the NHL today and that started all the way back in his 18-year-old AHL season.
I might just be pointing out some current NHL contributing players from this list, but having Hronek among those names is more than promising. There are some players rank high on the list, but never found success after their rookie year. Dustin Kohn and Ryan Culkin are simply no-name players that had terrific seasons in their first AHL year. Adam Clendening has bounced around to several teams within the last few years – never playing more than 40 games for one team since 2014.
Like any group of data, there are historic and statistic outliers – some players just simply don’t become NHL-caliber. Hopefully Hronek does not become one of those names that for some reason did not make it with any team in the NHL.
No matter what, the Red Wings need to treat Hronek like a top prospect. Clearing out a roster spot for him in the NHL should be a priority for management going into next season as he is not getting any younger, while in the meantime the league is. A contributing 21-year-old defenseman is no longer a rarity and the Red Wings need to be as forward-thinking as possible.
He is best right-handed option that this team currently has.