When the Rangers took small but skilled Michael St. Croix in the fourth round of this past draft, he went by without much fanfare. In my post draft recap, I noted that the diminutive winger had first round potential, but questions surrounding his play in all three zones made him drop to the fourth round. I did mention he could be a potential steal, and it looks like he could be just that, even though his lofty numbers aren’t as impressive as you might think.
In 66 games in the very high scoring WHL, St. Croix has a whopping 98 points (41-57-98) and is an amazing +39. While those numbers are very impressive, even by WHL standards, the more impressive part is that St. Croix’s numbers have been improving like clockwork. His first full season –as a 16 year old– he produced 46 points, followed by 75 points in his sophomore season. Now with 98 points, St. Croix is approaching a level where he can completely dominate the WHL. Still, he may not be at that level quite yet.
Point in case, despite having 98 points, St. Croix barely cracks the top ten in scoring in the league, where he sits at eighth in the league. Seven players cracked 100 points this season as well.
This furthers the idea that the WHL can be incredibly misleading with its stats. Even the league’s top scorer, Brendan Shinnimin (54-66-120) went undrafted. In fact, he didn’t catch on with any franchise until five days ago when Phoenix signed him. Shinnimin was actually in camp with the Rangers in 2010, after an 86 point season in the WHL. So let’s take these WHL numbers with a grain of salt.
Prospects are prospects for a reason. St. Croix seemed a little lost at the Traverse City Tournament this past September, but he followed it up with a very strong WHL campaign thus far. The rule of thumb for a prospect is to let him dominate the current level before moving him up a level. Domination is more than numbers. Domination is when the other players in the league can’t keep up anymore.
St. Croix, despite his numbers, hasn’t dominated yet. Yes, he has gaudy stats, but it’s the WHL. He still has the potential to be a steal, as the kid definitely possesses talent that could have made him a first round pick in 2011. Tempering expectations a bit would be wise here.