I get what you're saying but I think you're over simplifying a bit. I mean, scouts lauded Emmerton and scouts lauded Nyquist. But it would be silly to suggest that there's no telling which of the two would be a better NHLer until they get to the big club. You could tell by their AHL careers who would be better before they ever touched the NHL. One dominated that league, and one was average. That's all I'm saying about these d-men. Jakub Kindl in his best AHL season wasn't as good as Ryan Sproul just was as a rookie. Does that guarantee that Sproul will be stud NHLer? Absolutely not. But it's a pretty good indication that he'll be better than Jakub Kindl. I don't think it's fair to say "we don't know until they get there". We know how these guys project, and we know how far along their developmental trajectories they are based on how well they're playing against their current level of competition. So I think it's safe to draw SOME conclusions from that. Not guarantees. But certainly conclusions.
I generally agree with the idea of what you're saying, and it's certainly more true with higher end talent, and it's pretty fair and reasonable overall, but I still think there's a lot more to making it in the NHL than any sort of AHL or other minor league development would suggest. Too many guys have all the tools and progress at a great pace in the minors, and they often hit the NHL running and have strong starts. But then something snaps and things fall apart, sometimes slowly, and sometimes in a giant flame. Some guys hit the NHL and despite what all the projections say, they just never find a way to keep things moving upward on the arc. If you hit the NHL and don't continue to develop in your first few years, you're going to be on the other end of the arc of your career fast, because nothing will drive a player down harder than playing at the NHL level.
There's plenty of reasons for why projections oftentimes don't mean much in reality. Maybe it's the mental side of it and the pressure. Maybe it's quirky injuries taking more of a toll than we realize. Maybe they just always overachieved in a small pond. Hell, maybe it's as simple as the work ethic going down the drain as soon as the big money starts coming in. Even guys on cheap entry level contracts become "rich" generally speaking, at least so far as their immediate future's are concerned. Having plenty of money to blow and the lifestyle that goes along with being a rich professional athlete can be distracting, and it can get the best of some players.
No matter what the reason or circumstance, I've learned that the most reasonable route if we're being objective is to not get too high on anyone until they've really proven themselves at the NHL level for at least a couple of years. It's just too hard to anticipate how guys will respond to the NHL game and all that comes along with it on and off the ice even if they have a ton of talent and potential.
And don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that I'm not optimistic about a lot of our young guys, but I'm not willing to go so far as saying that I'm sold on their ability to carry this team out of the Datsyuk and Zetterberg era yet, and that's no small matter that we'll be dealing with in the not too distant future. I don't say that to knock any of our prospects at all, but I'm going to typically default to a "wait and see" viewpoint until they get to the NHL level and prove they're going to be able to continue to develop and not succumb to the grind and the pressure, the mental agony when you're slumping, the lifestyle, and now more than ever, especially with this team, the injuries.
Also, for the record, given that it's harder to ever to buy talent like we could before the Cap, all that I've said above is why I've become more of a fan of the idea of getting our prospects up to the NHL sooner than we have in the past. I think it's more important than ever to really know what we're working with, and I don't think you truly know about the vast majority of guys until they get to the NHL and prove they have what it takes to not only last, but also to have a solid role with the team that fills a hole that needs plugging. If they can't hack it or if they're redundant, they need to be gone, either to make room or to at least try to package up to trade for guys that can fill the holes we have. I really believe that this team needs to get a lot more agile than they've been in dealing with prospects and acquiring NHL-level talent, even if it's not of the flashy variety. We don't necessarily need the flashiest of teams if we have a well-balanced team.