2017 Top 30 Habs Prospects: #5 Charles Hudon

Charles Hudon celebrates on his 27 goals this season, and you just know it was snipe. | Photo: St. John’s IceCaps

Not only did Charles Hudon emerge as a top-notch AHL goalscorer, among U24 players he was firmly within the elite. Hudon’s ES G/GP ranked in the 99th percentile, while his G/PG and SOG/GP were in the 95th and 93rd percentiles, respectively.

Not only was this his third consecutive season of highly impressive AHL play, it was also his third consecutive season with basically no NHL action.

The fact that he has played so few NHL games at this stage of development has made me wonder, how likely is Hudon to carve out an NHL career?

This article will seek to answer that question, while also examining the mechanics behind his lethal shot.

#5) CHARLES HUDON
Midseason: #6 | 2016: #5 | 2015: #3 | 2014: #12
Acquired: 2012, 5th round, 122nd overall
Position: LW | Shoots: L
Birthdate: 1994-06-23 | Nationality: Canada
Team: St. John’s IceCaps (AHL)
Height: 5’10” (178cm) | Weight: 194 (88kg)   

GPGAPP1SOGSH%G/GP1A/GPP/GPP1/GP5v5 P1/GPSOG/GPTM.INV%GF.Rel%
562722493516116.77%480.140.880.620.462.8827.50%8.39%

Series Navigation:
Top 30 Prospects: Ranking Methodology – Integrating Statistics into Analysis
Top 30 Prospects: #30 – #26 – Success Rates of Swedish Jr. and USHS Defenders
Top 30 Prospects: #25 – #21 – Success Rates of CHL Overage Forwards
Top 30 Prospects: #20 – #16 – Balancing Players with Opposing Skill Sets and Development
Top 30 Prospects: #15 – #11 – Weighing perceived NHL-readiness with NHL Upside
Top 30 Prospects: #10 Will Bitten – Why His Season Was Better Than You Think
Top 30 Prospects: #9 Victor Mete – How Undersized Defenders Can Excel Defensively
Top 30 Prospects: #8 Josh Brook – Improving Shooting Location Through Movement
Top 30 Prospects: #7 Michael McCarron – Do Big Players Really Take Longer to Develop?
Top 30 Prospects: #6 Charlie Lindgren – The Reverse-VH and When Skill Takes Over
Top 30 Prospects: #5 Charles Hudon – A Case Study on the Impact of Aging for NHL Chances
Top 30 Prospects: #4 Joni Ikonen – Multidimensionality in Attack
Top 30 Prospects: #3 Nikita Scherbak – Comparing Scherbak In and Out of Form
Top 30 Prospects: #2 Noah Juulsen – How to Excel at Defending the Blue Line
Top 30 Prospects: #1 Ryan Poehling – Full Breakdown, Importance of Little Details, and More

What Can History Tell Us?

To examine how many success rates of similar players to Charles Hudon, I used a similar (but simpler method) to models like PCS, pPGS, and DEV. I ran single seasons only. For example, Charles Hudon’s first AHL season, which was his “20-year-old” season will only be compared to other “20-year-old” seasons. I included era-adjusted G/GP and P/GP (based on hockey-reference’s methodology), as well as Hudon’s height, that being sub-6′, into the results.

Think of this as a case study on how or why AHL forwards become less successful at making the NHL as their AHL career increases, even if they are top scorers.

We begin with Hudon’s AHL rookie season. It was the best AHL rookie season among Canadiens prospects since P.K. Subban. Hudon scored at a 0.76 P/GP clip, which gets adjusted up to 0.87 when accounting for the era.

Look at the chart below. The black lines are the averages for the player who hit 200 NHL GP. Because Hudon has just six NHL games (with four points), it’s best to focus on the vertical axis.

Hudon’s rookie season was comparable to a decent number of NHLers. 58.82% of similar players went on to play 100 NHL GP, while 41.18% played 200 NHL GP. The list of successes is filled with quality players like Vincent Trocheck, Brad Marchand, and Tomas Tatar. Hudon’s production was above the average of players who went on to play 200GP, and higher than all of the players who failed to carve out a career.

All of the blue circles, save for Tatar (who was a better AHL scorer in his 21 and 22-year-old seasons) and Bärtschi, made the NHL full-time within the following two seasons. Marchand torched the AHL at level Hudon has yet to reach, then lit up the NHL playoffs that same season. Trocheck hit 50 points, while Eakin, Downie, and Shaw were 40-point scorers within that time frame. Save for Eakin and Shaw, their AHL production was on a different level than Hudon the following season.

Notice how the most of the successful comparables change in the chart below. It’s also interesting to note that the overall success rate changes, with 76.47% hitting 100 NHL GP and 64.71% hitting 200GP. Perhaps this is driven by Hudon’s uptick from 0.25 to 0.42 G/GP.

While the success rate increases, the quality of the average NHL player drops. Cizikas, Calvert, and Halischuk are all fourth liners, and Dawes made it just past 200 NHL GP. This is reflected in the average P/GP dropping from 0.52 to 0.44.

It’s important to note that while Hudon’s AHL production is comfortably among the top players of the group, there are also four prospects who never made it who scored around the same pace. In the previous group, Hudon’s production was a step above all the failed prospects.

However, even the players who scored less generally had NHL experience at an earlier age than Hudon. Calvert had 42 games, Halischuk played 20, Cizikas hit 45, and Palmieri had 42, while Hudon had just three at the same age. Of the 2015-2016 success group, only three players of the nine players were not NHLers full-time in what would be Hudon’s 2016-2017 season.

The 2016-2017 season is where a major change occurs. After 64.71% of comparables hit 200 NHL GP, just 33.33% hit the milestone this group. While the average production of this group increases to identical levels of Hudon’s 2014-2015 season, this is likely a product of the decreased number of successful comparables.

For the first time, Hudon falls behind the AHL P/GP average of the players who went on to NHL careers. While snuggly between Erik Haula and Chad LaRose, he’s a relatively far cry from Cam Atkinson, Tyler Johnson, and Gustav Nyquist.

Of this grouping, all players but LaRose had more NHL games than Hudon at the same age. However, for Johnson and Nyquist, it’s quite close. Nyquist would take a few more years to become an NHL regular, but he was also a three-year NCAA player. Johnson went on to be a 50-point scorer the very next season.

For curiosity sake, I removed P/GP from the equation, and focused just on similarly-sized, aged, and G/GP players. Hudon falls just ever-so-slightly below the average. This is slightly more encouraging, but also falls to the take into the consideration the whole picture.

A trend has appeared, the quality of players decreases with each passing year. This is another reminder that the earlier a player makes the NHL, the better that player generally becomes.

While for this group in particular, NHL chances peaked in their second AHL season, this is generally not the case for similar scoring prospects after removing the size adjustment.

AHL Season Equivalent% Hit 100 GP (Control)% Hit 200 GP (Control)% Hit 100 GP (Size Adj.)% Hit 200 GP (Size Adj.)
2014-201561.29%54.84%58.82%41.12%
2015-201657.58%39.39%76.47%64.71%
2016-201735.71%21.43%46.67%33.33%

I know what you might be thinking, “but Hudon has not been given a chance to prove himself.” Which is true, but I’m sure fans of many of the players–both successes and failures–believed they received a similar lack of opportunity.

Combining all three groups of successful players, 57.9% were NHL regulars at this point in Hudon’s career. Of the eight players who weren’t, five became NHL regulars in what is this upcoming season for Hudon. And of the four who became quality NHL scorers, three of them hit 40+ points that same season.

Considering all this data, previous history says something like this: Players of Hudon’s AHL production and stature generally make the NHL by this stage of development. In the event they don’t make the NHL before Hudon, they generally scored at a higher pace than Hudon in the AHL, and immediately stepped into the NHL as scorers in what will be Hudon’s 2017-2018 season. 

A reminder: Probability isn’t fate. The odds aren’t hugely against Hudon, but this is another reminder of the importance of age in prospect analysis.

The Report

Charles Hudon added yet another fantastic AHL season to his résumé, pacing a 0.88 P/GP pace, bringing his career average to 0.78. He was among the AHL’s best goalscorers, and the elite among U24 players. Hudon continued to gravitate towards shooting rather than goalscoring, as evident by the huge disparity in his A1/GP and G/GP. However, he did clean up lots of little details that will make his NHL transition smoother.

A high-volume and highly accurate shooter, Hudon has the mentality and skill to score goals in the NHL. Above all, his release is absolutely lethal. With unassuming body language, Hudon can transition to a full shooting extension with deep flex so quickly that slow motion has a difficult time detecting the process. He rapidly moves the puck from backhand to forehand to shoot, and has a unique hands-in-front and high release point on his snapshot.

Just as troublesome for opposing goaltenders is Hudon’s unique shooting stance and weight shift. Not only can Hudon shift his weight abnormally quickly, he can do it in a variety of ways. In the clip below, Hudon shifts his weight onto the inside leg (most common), but he drops his hips and swings his outside leg forward. He waits just a split second before firing, which freezes the goaltender and enables Hudon to pick his spot and simultaneously release his shot.

A quick stickhandler, but lacking a bit in flash. Hudon has quick side-to-side handling that can fool goaltender, but he’s not particularly agile limiting his one-on-one ability. His hand-eye coordination shines, as he’s able to receive difficult passes in stride and score on nasty redirections. He used to peel off right after gaining the blue line fairly often, but now takes a direct route down the wing to get a shot.

While Hudon has gravitated towards shooting before passing, he remains a capable, skillful playmaker. Not one to create lanes with elusive, instead he relies of north-south movement to locate open options. He has a slick, albeit underutilized, saucer pass. He will look off his teammates to fire a shot, even if they are in a better position. Off the rush, he will the make the occasional deft pass, but generally is best at distribution down low. This preference is evident in his A1/GP rate this season, which was closer to a third-line rate than a first.

Hudon’s defensive game has seen consistent improvement over the years. This season, he became even more aggressive in attacking the points. He’ll generate the odd rush from his aggressiveness, but lacks the separation in his feet to regularly turn it into a chance.

For the second straight season, I think that Hudon’s biggest problem is pace-related. It’s not just a skating issue, which is roughly average at the NHL level, but lacking in agility and acceleration. It’s mostly the speed at which he makes plays. He needs time and space to locate passing options, and I haven’t seen him create space for himself. He’s a gifted shooter, but by no means overwhelming in power.

Next season, it’s possible that Hudon is an NHL regular. If not, he will would likely be claimed on waivers. Hudon is a strong shooter, and decently creative. Perhaps he’s more of a third liner in the NHL, but 20 goals isn’t out of the question next season.

Ranking Explanation: A quick reminder of the first section: Players of Hudon’s AHL production generally make the NHL by this stage of development. In the event they don’t make the NHL before Hudon, they generally scored at a higher pace than Hudon in the AHL, and immediately stepped into the NHL as scorers in what will be Hudon’s 2017-2018 season.

Yes, Hudon hasn’t been given a chance, but the same goes for many of the prospects discussed, both successes and failures.

With that said, a 33.33% of comparable players going to play 200 NHL GP is perfectly acceptable, and the players who went on to make it were generally quality NHLers (0.513 P/GP on average). He’s also just a season removed from 64.71% of comparables hitting 200 NHL GP.

Additionally, Hudon made several improvements to his game that are encouraging, such as his continually improving shot, more direct nature, and improved defensive game.

The results are simply fantastic, such as his elite goalscoring numbers of his GF% with-and-without-you splits, where many players received big GF% when playing with Hudon.

Taking all this into consideration, I’m relatively optimistic about Hudon, but still have concerns. He’s not a dynamic player because it’s rare for him to great his own lanes, Tier 1. I see all four players above Hudon as having greater upside, although Hudon is likely the most NHL-ready, even in the whole prospect pool.

Tier 2: It’s a small tier of two prospects–two prospects who have similar upside to Tier #3, being third liners or likely bottom pairing defencemen if they make the NHL. The distinction between the two tiers is résumé.

Notes:

  1. All the information is “in my opinion.
  2. The ranking likely has limited-to-no value. Think of the ranking as a way to catalogue players, notes, and data in a non-alphabetical way. The information within the profiles is far, far more valuable.
  3. I mentioned I’m not a scout right? If not, I’m not a scout.
  4. I appreciate all questions, comments, and criticism. You can reach me on Twitter (@MitchLBrown) or email (mitchbrown31@gmail.com). You can also tell me I suck. I don’t care.
  5. AHL/CHL/USHL Stats: Prospect-Stats.com | NCAA Stats: CollegeHockeyInc.com | SuperElit Stats: Stats.SweHockey.se | NHL Stats: Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com

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