What Are Translation Factors?
Translation factors are an extremely simple tool to look at how scoring translates from certain leagues to the NHL.
These factors are used in a wide array of sports. In MLB, there are translations factors that explore how players have historically performed when hitting in the minors, Japan, Korea, or other leagues and then how they hit when they jumped up to the Majors.
In the NHL, this is done is by looking at how players have historically scored the season before they entered the NHL and their first season in the NHL. The data comes from players that play 20 games in the KHL followed by at least 20 games in the NHL. This resulted in 1 KHL point being worth 0.74 NHL points. That’s what has been determined by looking how all players scored going from the KHL to the NHL. An 100 point KHL scorer is a 74 point NHL scorer.
This task has been done for multiple leagues. Let’s take a look at the translation factors below before we dive in.
Utilizing Translation Factors?
This is a valuable tool when evaluating prospects. Notice that a OHL point is worth more than a QMJHL point. Therefore, if a prospect in each of those leagues has 50 points, we would know that the OHL player with 50 points is more impressive than the QMJHL player with 50 points. This is because historically, OHL players score at a higher rate when entering the NHL than the QMJHL.
The same setup can be used for evaluating college prospects. 30-points in the NCHC is vastly more impressive than 30-points in the ECAC. A 50-point KHL player is more impressive than a 50-point SHL player.
The main thread here is that all points aren’t created equal across all leagues. It’s important to recognize what leagues are stronger and which leagues are weaker when you are examining the prospects of your favorite team.
To make it easier for you to visualize, imagine that we have 12 prospects, one from each league. All 12 prospects are point per game players scoring 40 points in 40 games played. In this case, here are the expected scoring outputs for those players over an 82-game NHL season.
How Effective Are Translation Factors?
Obviously, this is an extremely rough projection. I mean, Tyler Motte and Nick Schmaltz were projected at 40 NHL points over 82 games. Schmaltz was somewhat close to his projection, but Motte wasn’t in the same building as his projections.
This is where some context should come in. Motte was an older player, and he played with two of the best forwards in college in his junior season at Michigan. To make projections better, age down to the month should be utilized. An 18-year old player that scored 40 points at Michigan is much more impressive than a 21-year-old player to score 40 points. One could assume that the 18-year-old player is the superior player as they are younger and still have plenty of development time looming.
Still, this is usually a nice place to start when projecting a player. An example is Jimmy Vesey mania. People were going crazy over the idea of adding Jimmy Vesey to their team last season. Utilizing these translation factors projected him for a 25-30 point NHL season. He completed his rookie campaign with 27 NHL points.
- All points are not created equal
- Learn which leagues are stronger
- Translation factors are a very very very rough estimate
- Age and context, like always, should play a factor
Lastly, the translation factors I used came from Rob Vollman.
Updated translation factors
.43 SM-Liiga, Swiss NLA, NCHC
.33 Big 10
— Rob Vollman (@robvollmanNHL) May 22, 2017