Does Jerome Samson have a future in the NHL?

Players like Jerome Samson are frustrating because they are known as goal-scorers, need top-six minutes to be successful and have scored at nearly a point-per-game pace in every level but the NHL. Every team has a player like this in their organization and most of them are kept around for scoring depth at the AHL level and for emergency call-ups. Samson seems to fit in this class because he has been a 20-goal scorer for the Hurricanes AHL affiliates in Albany & Charlotte over the last four (could be five) seasons and has still yet to make his mark in the NHL. He has played 46 games with the Hurricanes over the last three years and has accumulated a grand total of nine points and scored his first NHL goal only this season.

Samson is a restricted free agent at the end of the year and considering that he was scratched in favor of Derek Joslin, a defeseman who has been forced to play forward due to depth issues, and eventually sent back to the AHL, many are wondering if Samson’s time with in the NHL is coming to an end. His future with the organization is not looking promising but who is to say that Samson is destined to be a career AHL-er at the age of 24? With so many 19-21 year olds entering the league, it’s tough for older “rookies” like Samson to make their mark in the league but it isn’t impossible for a player to enter the league and become a full-time player in their mid-20′s. The question is can Samson become a full-time NHL player next season at the age of 25, what kind of player will he be and will he break into the NHL as a Carolina Hurricane? Those will be explored after the jump.

According to Hockey-Reference’s web site, there are over 130 forwards in the NHL who broke into the league after they turned 24 and most of them have experience in the AHL. Others have either played in Europe or at the college level for four years before making the jump into the big leagues. Going by this, the window of opportunity for Samson to become an NHL-er next season will still be open if he can stay productive in Charlotte and make a good impression to Carolina or other team’s front offices. Like I mentioned before, he is only a restricted free agent and the Hurricanes can keep him around for next season if they wish but does he have any future with the team aside from being used as a call-up? To help figure this out, let’s take a look at some players who entered the NHL after their 25th birthday. This will give us some idea of what we can expect from Samson in the long run and determine if the Hurricanes have the need for a player like him.

Player Age AHL Gms AHL Goals AHL Pts Pts/Gm NHL Gms NHL Goals NHL Pts Pts/Gm
Mike Knuble 25 148 50 108 0.7297 1029 272 535 0.5199
John Madden 26 149 58 154 1.0336 887 163 346 0.3901
Mikael Samuelsson 25 74 34 87 1.1757 658 144 335 0.5091
Jody Shelley 25 139 6 23 0.1655 622 18 54 0.0868
Chris Clark 25 169 47 108 0.6391 607 103 214 0.3526
Andy McDonald 25 67 22 72 1.16 644 174 465 0.722
Chris Kelly 25 239 59 131 0.5481 557 93 211 0.3788
Chris Kunitz 26 118 41 87 0.7373 520 145 337 0.6481
Dominic Moore 25 148 33 89 0.6014 518 67 181 0.3494
Antti Miettinen 25 83 15 58 0.6988 505 89 217 0.4297
Tomas Kopeckey 25 246 64 137 0.5569 406 45 122 0.3005
Brad Winchester 25 195 65 105 0.5385 388 37 68 0.1753
Brett McLean 25 238 65 153 0.6429 384 56 162 0.4219
Tom Kostopoulos 25 382 122 317 0.829 604 60 155 0.2566
Dave Steckel 25 208 54 112 0.5385 377 31 68 0.1804
Curtis Glencross 25 159 48 88 0.5535 347 93 186 0.536
Jed Ortmeyer 25 197 28 83 0.4213 333 22 53 0.1592
Rich Peverley 26 177 56 168 0.9492 325 69 189 0.5815
Joel Ward 28 209 38 86 0.4115 310 46 117 0.3774
Mikhail Grabovski 25 78 25 74 0.9487 310 84 199 0.6419

These are the top 20 all players who played their first NHL season after they turned 25 sorted by the number of NHL games played. Most of them are very solid/useful players that I would not mind having on the Hurricanes but we have to consider a few other things when going over this list. First off, this mainly shows what Samson’s ceiling might if he were to play his first full NHL season next year. There are a lot of “late-bloomers” who went on to have solid NHL careers but the best player on this list is either Mike Knuble or Andy McDonald so we can say that Samson’s ceiling is a top-six player who can score about 15-25 goals per season if he reaches his full potential.

There are other factors to consider here, though. Samson is a completely different player than a lot of guys on this list. He is known as a “pure goal-scorer,” normally plays in offensive situations and doesn’t kill penalties. Guys like Chris Kelly, John Madden, David Steckel, Joel Ward and Dominic Moore have been in the league for so long because of their solid defensive play and willingness to kill penalties. There are others like Tomas Kopecky who went onto succeed in the NHL despite not killing penalties often but for the most part, the “late-bloomers” who have gone onto having careers in the NHL have had to do more than just score.

Another thing to bring up is that most of these players spent a shorter time in the AHL than Samson has. He’s played over 300 games in the AHL and the only player on the list who has played more games in the AHL is Tom Kostopolous, a career journeyman and bottom-six staple. A player spending less time in the AHL shows that he needed less time to develop in the minors shows that he has a better chance of having a sustained NHL career. When looking at players who have spent more time in the AHL than Samson, it’s tough to get very confident about his future in the league.

Player Age AHL Gms AHL Goals AHL Pts Pts/Gm NHL Gms NHL Goals NHL Pts Pts/Gm
Boyd Kane 25 797 181 432 0.542033 31 0 3 0.0968
Alex Giroux 27 706 340 650 0.92068 48 6 12 0.25
Graham Mink 24 638 227 451 0.706897 7 0 0 0
Keith Aucoin 29 630 212 707 1.122222 90 10 33 0.3667
Jon DiSalvatore 24 602 178 430 0.714286 6 0 0 0
Quintin Laing 28 568 80 231 0.40669 79 3 11 0.1392
Ben Guite 28 559 99 263 0.470483 175 19 45 0.2571
Mathieu Darche 31 552 212 443 0.802536 250 30 72 0.288
Mark Cullen 27 504 143 392 0.777778 38 7 17 0.4474
Patrick Rissmiller 28 474 112 323 0.681435 192 18 46 0.2396
Warren Peters 29 472 93 173 0.366525 85 4 8 0.0941
Kris Newbury 25 464 97 312 0.672414 66 4 8 0.1212
Brandon Segal 26 455 107 208 0.457143 94 11 22 0.234
PA Parenteau 27 450 166 403 0.895556 178 38 123 0.691
Colin Stuart 26 423 84 172 0.406619 56 8 13 0.2321
Andre Deveaux 24 417 75 164 0.393285 31 0 2 0.0645
Jeff Hoggan 27 412 111 211 0.512136 107 2 11 0.1028
Riley Armstrong 24 397 85 164 0.413098 2 0 0 0
Jason Jaffray 26 378 131 306 0.809524 49 4 11 0.2245
Chris Durno 29 366 108 211 0.576503 1 0 0 0
Craig Weler 27 365 42 101 0.276712 95 4 14 0.1474
Pascal Pelletier 24 357 117 283 0.792717 13 0 0 0
Trevor Gillies 31 354 7 21 0.059322 57 2 3 0.0526
Zenon Konopka 29 350 103 269 0.768571 248 11 27 0.1089
Matt Ellis 26 346 81 188 0.543353 260 16 41 0.1577

The most established players on this list are either fourth-liners (Ellis, Konopka), depth forwards (Darche) or guys that were used as AHL call-ups (Aucoin, Laing, Giroux). The wild card here is PA Parenteau who has always been a great AHL player but has really emerged as a solid top-six winger on the Islanders over the last couple of seasons. Most say that the reason for this is because he regularly plays with John Tavares but Parenteau has posted solid numbers on different lines so I think he has a considerable amount of talent given his success in the AHL. Despite Parenteau’s success, players who spend a long time in the AHL don’t amount to much at higher levels and Samson is getting close to that age where we find out whether or not he will have a future in the NHL or not.

If you want a reason to be confident in Samson, his AHL scoring rate (approx. .844 pt/game) is roughly similar to Parenteau’s and other players with similar numbers are Mike Santorelli, Matt Moulson and Dustin Penner. All of whom are 20 goal scorers and broke into the NHL full-time in their mid-20′s. Can Samson have a future similar to those players? It’s possible, but he’s going to need to make that next big jump soon. Most likely next season.

My opinion on Samson is that he does have a future in the NHL but I am not sure if it will be with the Hurricanes. Going by his AHL point totals, he projects to be about a 30-35 point player in the NHL and a decent third liner. The Canes don’t need another third line winger for the immediate future and that seems to be where Samson’s place will be in the NHL. He gets relatively soft zone starts against tough competition and is capable of driving play in the right direction, Samson just hasn’t been able to score or produce much offense. You could possibly blame this on bad luck because his career shooting percentage is around 6.5% and the Hurricanes are shooting at roughly 5% at even strength when Samson is on the ice. There are some things going wrong that are out of his control but it is safe to say that Samson hasn’t done enough in the NHL to say that he has a future in the league.

It will be interesting to see whether or not the Hurricanes send Samson a qualifying offer this summer because while he can still be very useful in Charlotte, it’s possible that he might want to be more than an AHL-er next year and look to battle for a roster spot on another club. The window of opportunity for him to make it in the NHL is still open but not for much longer.

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