Stephen Weiss Vs. Sam Gagner

Florida Panthers v New Jersey Devils

Stephen Weiss is a name that came up in yesterday’s article looking for players with a similar development curve to Oilers forward Sam Gagner. Stylistically, he’s a very strong match for Gagner, but let’s see how their offence compares at the same ages.

For starters, I suppose I should explain why the age when a player scores his points is important. The reason is that a typical NHL career has an offensive curve, and a player climbs that curve as he ages. Gabriel Desjardins showed this with a post he did back in January, a post that showed the average 25 year-old was scoring roughly 20% more than he scored at the age of 21. Naturally, then, a player scoring 50 points at the age of 21 can be expected to score more points at the peak of his career than a player scoring 50 points at the age of 25. So the age a player puts up his offensive totals matters a lot.

Now, since Weiss broke into the NHL at the height of the dead-puck era, where scoring levels were even lower than they are now, we’re going to normalize his offensive numbers to a level where league scoring averages 3.00 goals per team, per game. We’ll do the same with Gagner. Both players will see their offence go up, but this adjustment favours Weiss because scoring was lower when his career started. We’ll also project their totals over an 82 game season.

In their draft years, both players were highly regarded, and both went early in the NHL draft – Weiss fourth overall, Gagner sixth. Let’s run their junior numbers, adjusting for the fact that the OHL in Gagner’s draft year had a 12% uptick in goal-scoring:

  • Weiss: 82GP – 48G – 56A – 104PTS
  • Gagner: 82GP – 44G – 103A – 147PTS

The comparison works out in Gagner’s favour, but it’s hardly conclusive. Gagner played on a line with Patrick Kane, that year’s first overall pick, and Sergei Kostitsyn, a 19 year old who put up incredible numbers in his own right, and they all played for a powerhouse London Knights squad. Weiss’ Plymouth team was a good one, but he led them offensively. So while the numbers at this point favour Gagner, I’m inclined to think the draft number is a good indicator that they were at roughly the same level coming out of junior.

Gagner made the jump to the NHL full-time in his first year, while Weiss only got to dip his toes, playing seven games before getting sent back down to junior. Because of that, it’s difficult to compare the two, but I’m going to give it a go anyway, with the understanding that this is only an approximation. I’ve blended Weiss’ NHL and OHL results, using Desjardin’s NHL equivalency number. Here’s what we get:

  • Weiss: 82GP – 15G – 25A – 40PTS
  • Gagner: 82GP – 18G – 28A – 46PTS

The numbers are a lot closer than I originally suspected, and at this stage suggest Weiss as a better comparable for Gagner than I thought yesterday.

In their second post-draft years, both players were employed full-time at the NHL level, but Weiss performed at a level below what we would have expected from his OHL equivalency numbers (which were used in the last paragraph):

  • Weiss: 82GP – 7G – 18A – 25PTS
  • Gagner: 82GP – 18G – 28A – 46PTS

Weiss struggled to translate his offensive game from the OHL to NHL, something Gagner had managed the year before with comparative ease. Gagner got more ice-time than Weiss at both even-strength and on the power-play, but even so Gagner outscored Weiss by a lot at even-strength: 1.77 PTS/60 to 1.02 PTS/60. Both were relatively ineffective on the power-play, with Gagner having a slight edge (2.85 PTS/60 to 2.70 PTS/60).

In their third years post-draft, Gagner again played the entire year in the NHL, while Weiss played most of the year in the NHL and also had a brief stint in the AHL. Here are their numbers, again:

  • Weiss: 82GP – 23G – 33A – 56PTS
  • Gagner: 82GP – 19G – 33A – 52PTS

Gagner and Weiss played comparable minutes, with Gagner getting a tiny bit more time at even-strength and on the power-play, while Weiss once again played a lot more minutes short-handed. Gagner scored 1.56 PTS/60 at even-strength and 5.77 PTS/60 while Weiss managed 1.62 PTS/60 at even-strength and 5.95 PTS/60 on the power play.

Looking at the in-depth numbers, this is a much closer comparison than a quick glance showed. I still suspect that Gagner’s quicker entry into the NHL and his far superior performance in both players’ second post-draft years means his offensive upside is slightly superior, but I can’t be sure of that.

The good news is that we could get a definitive answer next year. Weiss’s performance in his fourth post-draft season – where he played in the AHL due to the NHL lockout – wasn’t very good; he put up 54 points in 80 games. For the three NHL seasons following that, his offensive performance pretty much flat-lined. If Gagner can take a significant step forward next season – even to the 60-65 points range – we can be quite confident that he’ll out-pace Weiss over his career. If he doesn’t, we can be quite confident he won’t.

One final note: I was wrong yesterday to dismiss Weiss as quickly as I did; I didn’t spend as much time looking at him as I should have.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I don’t know about comparing the two. Weiss played in the AHL, something Gagner never did. Weiss also had a 4 year gap in between his first and second full NHL years.

    If Weiss is as close as it gets I don’t know that there is anyone that is going to be an accurate comparison.

    • How did he have a 4 year gap? His first 2 seasons were back-to-back. Excluding the lockout year, he played 10 AHL games, all of which came at the start of year 2.

      In yr 1 he missed 5 games due to injury, yr 2 he missed 19 games to injuries (knee/broken leg) & 10 to AHL, yr 3 was lockout yr in th A coming off a broken leg & yr 4 he missed the last 41 games due to a wrist injury. Safe to say, his development may have been stalled just a tad?

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I’m starting to think that instead of looking for comparables for Gagner that in the future he will be the one that guys are compared too.

    Smaller top 5ish pick that started in the NHL at 18.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    It’s unfortunate the Oilers rushed him into the line-up, we may be paying for that now. I think we may all agree we’re a little disappointed by his progress the last 18 months.

    • I asked the question in Johnathans last article, since I have been thinking all along Gagner was a 60-65 point guy. I’m not knocking Sam I like to watch him, just seems to me he will progress and bit more and we should be happy with that. Some people feel he wasn’t rushed others do. How would we ever know ?

  • Ender

    Quick question, Jon; why did you normalize both players’ offense to 3.00 goals per team per game? Why not just use today’s average to normalize Weiss and leave Gagner’s totals alone?

      • Willis has already shown in past articles statistical evidence of Gagner’s improvement. It is quite clear actually, regardless of the offensive dip.

        In fact his improvements statistically are the biggest reason so many here feel so optimistic about him.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            The indication is that on average players scoring typically improves in their mid twenty’s from their late teans, early 20’s.

            Sure, Gagner might not follow this pattern, but if most players do increase production…it’s probably pretty fair to work under the assumption that Gagner will as well.

          • I’m sure they will improve but not to 80+ points. Are you happy with Gagner if he is 65 point player ? I would be happy with that. I’m not saying Sam won’t have some seasons where he gets 70. I think that Weiss is a great comparison, both palyers are capable of producing good numbers just not great numbers. I’d like to see what Willis could come up with for comparisons with Hemsky. I don’t know who he would be compariable to but as far as points I’d say 80-87 thats if the Oilers younger players preform as expected, I like Hemsky so I’m probably giving him more credit.I’d be happy if Hemsky was a 70 point guy

    • I think most of us judge with our own eyes first, but I also believe that statistics can be meaningful. You, me, and JW all think that we saw Gagner get better as an all around hockey player despite the fact his offensive numbers didnt get better. It’s just a hunch for me, but I’m willing to bet that the advanced stats people out there can find numbers that support it. Whether it be a better FO percentage, giveaways (Gagner went from 45 to 58 to 39) or better INSERT RANDOM STAT INVENTED BY SOME OBSCURELY NAMED GOALIE COACH, I think there’s a way of tracking almost every type of player performance.

  • I would be interested to see how Gagner’s offensive and defensive numbers split with and without Penner on the left side. My guess is that it is similar to Cogs and Brule in that they were significantly better with Penner. Right now we only have two forwards that make their linemates noticeably better – Hemsky, when healthy, and Penner.

    I think that the fans need to temper their expectations with Master Samwise a bit. Gagner is a good 2nd line center talent that will likely end up as a 60-65 point per year player IF he has at least one bigger winger that can score and create room on his line (we have seen the past year and a bit that putting the three small skilled guys on a line does not work on a consistent basis any longer). As the overall skill on the team improves Sam’s numbers likely will a bit as well. He is a good complementary player, but not a strong enough skater to be a small primary offensive player like his old linemante Patrick Kane. Gagner still has value as our #2 pivot, but if he is the 1st line center of the future in management’s eyes then the Oilers will not be a contender for a long time.