Comparables for Tom Gilbert

Robin Brownlee made a comment a few posts down suggesting that Tom Gilbert, as an older rookie, likely had a lower ceiling than many fans (myself included) were projecting, and presumably lower than the Oilers brain trust was projecting (feel free to step in if I misrepresent your viewpoint, Robin). I think most of us can agree that a 24-year-old who scores 30 points isn’t as promising as a 19-year-old who manages the same.

Still, I think that college players, and particularly defencemen, have a habit of emerging as older rookies and still showing decent progress as time goes by. Since I have no proof of this, I thought I would try and find some players who have had a similar career curve to Gilbert’s, just to get an idea of what other players in similar situations have done.

For starters, the player needs to be big (Gilbert is listed at 6’3” and 206lbs) but not overly physical, and be a college-trained defenseman. He should also have a similar career path to Gilbert’s, illustrated below by age and points-per-game:

18: .49 PPG, USHL (drafted #129 overall by Colorado)

19: .51 PPG, NCAA

20: .54 PPG, NCAA

21: .41 PPG, NCAA

22: .72 PPG, NCAA

23: .63 PPG, AHL

.50 PPG, NHL (only 12 GP)

24: .40 PPG, NHL

25: .44 PPG, NHL (through 34 games)

With that in mind, here are the active players I found with similar curves:

Adrian Aucoin – 6’2”, 210lbs

18: .38 PPG, NCAA (drafted #117 overall by Vancouver)

19: .43 PPG, Intl.

20: .27 PPG, Intl.

.23 PPG, AHL (only 13 GP)

21: .44 PPG, AHL

22: .62 PPG, AHL

.37 PPG, NHL

23: .30 PPG, NHL

24: .17 PPG, NHL (only 35 GP due to injury)

25: .41 PPG, NHL

Aucoin isn’t a perfect comparable, since he turned pro earlier on, but he is close. His breakout NHL performance came in his second full NHL season, at age 25. He’s been troubled by groin problems for most of his NHL career, but when healthy has produced well, if not much better than he did at 25. Here’s his career the rest of the way:

26: .42 PPG, NHL

27: .38 PPG, NHL

28: .42 PPG, NHL

29: .48 PPG, NHL

30: .54 PPG, NHL

31: .43 PPG, SEL (NHL lockout, only 14 GP)

32: .18 PPG, NHL (only 33GP due to injury)

33: .27 PPG, NHL

34: .46 PPG, NHL

35: .34 PPG, NHL (through 35 games)

Aucoin has consistently put up between 22 and 44 points when healthy; in other words, there wasn’t much improvement following his breakout year, at least in terms of offensive production.

Joe Corvo – 6’1”, 210lbs

18: .73 PPG, NCAA

19: 1.03 PPG, NCAA (drafted #83 overall by Los Angeles)

20: .53 PPG, NCAA

21: .40 PPG, AHL

22: .63 PPG, AHL

23: 1.00 PPG, AHL

.24 PPG, NHL

24: .35 PPG, NHL

25: .61 PPG, AHL (NHL lockout, only 23 GP)

Corvo isn’t a perfect comparable either, but again he’s very close. Tom Gilbert comes out a bit ahead of him at this point; probably due to the NHL lockout more than anything. Here’s Player B’s performance to date:

26: .49 PPG, NHL

27: .49 PPG, NHL

28: .65 PPG, NHL

29: .43 PPG, NHL (through 37 games)

Corvo’s offensive performance has spiked since his first full NHL season; over full seasons he’s been on pace for between 40 and 53 points.

Tom Poti – 6’3”, 215lbs

18: 2.52 PPG, High School (drafted #59 overall by Edmonton)

19: .55 PPG, NCAA

20: 1.11 PPG, NCAA

21: .29 PPG, NHL

22: .46 PPG, NHL

23: .40 PPG, NHL

24: .38 PPG, NHL

25: .60 PPG, NHL

Poti’s career path hasn’t been similar to Gilbert’s, but he is a very similar player in terms of size, style and results. Poti jumped to the NHL much quicker than Gilbert did and put up his first good offensive season at a much younger age.

26: .36 PPG, NHL

27: .32 PPG, NHL

28: .56 PPG, NHL

29: .41 PPG, NHL

30: .43 PPG, NHL

Poti’s offence has never been as high as it was in his breakout season; he’s been on pace (over an 82-game season) for between 26 and 49 points since.


This is a rough study at best, given the small sample size and the potential for variation. That said, it’s probably enough for us to say that expecting massive improvement in Gilbert’s offensive totals would be a mistake –- he’s much more likely to experience modest improvement in his offensive game, with peaks and valleys, from this point on.

Is a consistent 35 point defenceman worth $4 million a season if he isn’t bringing a physical game? I’d say it depends on how much his defensive game improves -– if he can handle the toughest opposition (i.e. top pairing minutes) while putting up that kind of production, than I would say yes. I would also argue that Gilbert would be very likely to receive an offer greater than the one he signed with the Oilers if he were an unrestricted free agent.

In other words, it probably isn’t going to be a steal, but it’s probably not going to be a boat anchor either.

  • Hippy

    Not sure how the focus turned to Gilbert? I thought everyone was hating on MacT? Sure Gilbert's contract is a little over paid. We all knew that when it happened. Oh well. He is an Oiler still right? People said the same thing about Souray last year.

    So why are we not talking about Horcoff's contract instead? The team is getting hosed on that deal no matter how many points he gets. His defensive play this year has been average or below average all year. Remember when he was signed for $3.6 m a year. We all thought we were hosed then. Why not now?

    I personally like Gilbert. He plays pretty solid. He makes mistakes but who hasn't this year? How many points do we expect out of him? 50? 60? 70? 80?

    Or do we as "fans" just have to talk about something negative…

  • Hippy

    Those are good players to be in company with (my own personal disdain for Poti aside)

    I think this is an argument based on a glass half full/half empty senario.

    Willis, I think you like many fans want to believe in the potential of players to develop and improve. You believe that if Gilbert can maintain his offensive output (without top PP time) and improve in his own end he is more than worth the money.

    And I think Brownlee is a "realist" in what you see is what you get. If Gilbert's Level of play never progresses from this point on, he is overpaid, especially the year he gets a whopping 5.5 mil.

    Both are valuable points and both have merit.

    But is 4 mil per year to much for a d-man on your top pairing? I think regardless of the rest of his contract he is playing on the top pairing and making 4mil. I don't see any gross over payment in that, nor is it an incredible steal of a deal.

    The Oilers boat anchor salaries are, Horcoff, Pisani, Moreau and Staios but even those aren't going to force the Oilers in a buyout situation which it the mark of a terrible deal by overly optimistic GM's

    Both Souray and Visnovski while highly paid would surely have garnered more lucrative contracts this year had they been free agents. If Souray were a UFA this year he would be making well over a 6mil average, up in the Pronger, Phaneuf range.

    And I also have no idea why I am sticking my nose in this, could be because I have been up since 5am and have had nothing better to do.


  • Hippy

    As long as other teams are interested in obtaining Gilbert's services the contract is good… so let's forget about the money for a second and ask some more important questions:
    1) Will Gilbert be a top pair defender moving forward?
    2) If not…Do you want a SOFT shutdown man?

    With Visnovsky and Souray both under contract I say no to question #1. As for question #2, I also say no. This team has waaay too much soft-skill and Gilbert falls into that category. I would love to see the Oilers obtain a hulking shutdown D-man with a mean streak. I'm talking Ulanov/Marchment mean! But also someone who can strike fear in the hearts of opposing forwards while playing solid quality minutes. If Gilbert has enough stock around the league to fetch such a player then pull the trigger already! (I suspect he does not)