Alex Roach (D, Calgary Hitmen) 25 GP, 6 G, 12 A, 18 pts, +17, 33 PIM
Most likely don’t know much about Roach, one of the team’s lesser-heralded prospects, undrafted and signed as a free agent after training camp last September. The big 6'4" 219-lb. defenseman has been a fairly strong performer on one of the better teams in the WHL (the Hitmen currently sit at the top of the Eastern Conference). In the absence of CHL #fancystats like Corsi, we’ll have to make do with basic metrics, and Roach’s six goals and twelve assists place him 4th on the team in scoring. He ranks first amongst Hitmen defensemen in scoring, and leads the team in plus/minus.
Putting his numbers in context
This is Roach’s third season in the WHL. In his prior two seasons, he put up 16, then 18, points over 61 game seasons, so his current ppg of 0.72 is almost triple his previous pace. Clearly, Roach didn’t spend the off-season somehow becoming twice as good offensively – his jump in performance is likely attributable to genuine improvement, as well as some combination of a) differing usage, b) being an almost-20-year-old veteran playing in a league of teenagers, and c) playing on an improved team (the 2010-11 Hitmen finished dead last in the entire WHL – and it wasn’t close at all). The WHL doesn’t post TOI stats, but it seems likely Roach is seeing more ice time overall and more PP time in particular.
The amateur scouting reports I’ve received indicate that Roach is a very physical and relatively versatile defenseman. Hitmen coaching staff have him playing on both the PK and the PP, although one observer noted that he sometimes has trouble keeping the puck in on the PP. In 5-on-5, he isn’t hesitant to jump up into the play, and he has a "pretty decent" shot from the point. Consistency may be an issue for Roach, as four of his goals come from only two games, and he’s fresh off of a six-game pointless streak – although we’re obviously dealing with a pretty small sample size, it’s an issue which might bear watching.
Roach does have two goals and an assist in his last three games, however, so we'll see how he does over the full season.