I’m a big fan of comps. Comparables. Outer-markers. Players from NHL history whose careers are somewhat similar to a modern player who has written such a small script we need an indicator about their future. As a fan, I always look for the outer marker–just as Ranger fans did with Brad Park (in photo, with some other guy) early in his career. After all, why look for a comparable who ended up being a role player? Exactly.  Who are the best comparables for the current group of young Oilers? 
For the last several years, I’ve gone in search of comparables for Oiler prospects. Ales Hemsky’s best comp was Rick Middleton, Rob Schremp’s was Ron Chipperfield and on it went. I thought it might be a good idea to see if we can find some comparables from the NHL’s past for the Oilers young guns. Some of these names will be familiar to Lowetide readers, but there are many new elements too.

Sam Gagner: We’ve identified two solid comparables: Doug Gilmour and Vincent Damphousse. A third (Doug Weight) is a hopeful comp but the two players came through different routes as prospects so we’re still waiting for them to play in the same league at the same age. Here are three NHL players at age 20:

  • (.663) Gilmour 80gp, 25-28-53 +6 on a +1 team (team GF total: 293)
  • (.640) Damphousse 75gp, 12-36-48 +2 on a -36 team (team GF total: 259)
  • (.603) Gagner 68gp, 15-26-41 -8 on a -56 team  (team GF total: 214)

Gilmour and Damphousse played in an era where more goals were scored. In fact, it is quite a large gap. The NHL average for GF in Gagner’s 20-year old season was 2.84; Damphousse 3.71; Gilmour 3.95. These comps aren’t perfect (Gagner debuted at 18 years old so had more NHL experience by age 20 than the other two) but I think it is completely reasonable to argue Gagner is "in the range" with those two fine NHL players. Both Gilmour and Damphousse had "breakout" seasons (at 23 and 22 years old, respectively) so there might be a surge coming for Gagner.

Magnus Pääjärvi:  We’re looking for a reasonable 18-year old comparable from the Swedish Elite League that might help us project this kid into the future. With the season now done the young man ranks "in the range" with some well known SEL teenagers over the years. 

  1. Markus Naslund 39gp, 22-18-40 (1.03)
  2. Tomas Sandstrom 36gp, 23-14-37 (1.03)
  3. Daniel Sedin 50gp, 21-21-42 (.840)
  4. Henrik Sedin 49gp, 12-22-34 (.694)
  5. Peter Forsberg 39gp, 9-18-27 (.692)
  6. Magnus Pääjärvi 49gp, 12-17-29 (.592)
  7. Nicklas Backstrom 46gp, 10-16-26 (.565)
  8. Anze Kopitar 47gp, 8-12-20 (.426)

Not everyone on the list is Swedish but they all played at 18 in the SEL. Backstrom and Kopitar rank below MPS here but it is important to remember that they (and Forsberg) were still in their development stages and had another gear. We don’t know if our guy has overdrive.

I like Tomas Sandstrom as a comparable to our guy. Both have/had size and skill, both were well known as teenagers (Sandstrom had a couple of strong WJC’s) and both counted foot speed and shooting ability as their calling cards as young men. Both were/are aggressive and both had Finnish connections despite playing in Sweden. As for the difference in their scoring totals and points-per-game (above), Sandstrom played on a team that scored 3.97 goals per game (143 in 36gp) and MPS plays on a team scoring 2.53 goals per game (137 in 54gp). Most of the modern players are playing in a deadball era, so the offensive difference between a 09-10 SEL player and a 82-83 SEL player (in terms of boxcars) has to be adjusted to make the comparison equal. 

Taylor Hall: One of the things that makes this player unique is that he was beating OHL opposition about the face and hands at 15. Seriously. In his three OHL seasons Hall has averaged 41 goals and 93 points. I’d kill to find out his OHL shot totals but organized hockey can’t release that for fear of reefer madness in the streets. Here are the top skill picks from Ontario’s top league over the last several seasons:

  • Patrick Kane (2007) 58gp, 62-83-145 (2.50)
  • Sam Gagner (2007) 53gp, 35-83-118 (2.23)
  • Taylor Hall (2010) 57gp, 40-66-106 (1.86)
  • John Tavares (2009) 56gp, 58-46-104 (1.86)
  • Steven Stamkos (2008) 61gp, 58-47-105 (1.72)
  • Bobby Ryan (2005) 62gp, 37-52-89 (1.44)
  • Matt Duchene (2009) 57gp, 31-48-79 (1.39)

I’m always a little wary of the London Knights because their TOI totals seem to skew their point totals (Rob Schremp), so the Kane-Gagner totals are a little suspect (although they are clearly quality players). Hall ranks in the middle of the group, so I thought it might be an idea to average their NHL totals at age 18. All but Ryan played in the year after their draft, and the averaged totals of the other five players (81gp, 21-34-55) would be outstanding. As for a specific comparable, I think his style most closely resembles Patrick Kane. We need to also remember that Kane (a November birthday) was much older as a rookie (about 9 months older than Gagner) and that Hall is also a November birthday. I think Kane is the comp, the outer marker. Now that doesn’t mean I think he’s Patrick Kane. It means he’s "in the range" with Tavares and Stamkos, though. Excellent comparable. We’ll see.

Jordan Eberle: The more unique the player, the more difficult it is to find a comparable. In looking for an Eberle comp, I looked for WHL players taken in the middle of the first round during the 2000’s. The candidates don’t match: some played a different style, others were less gifted offensively or derailed after their draft day and before they turned pro. So I moved up the draft list and added a couple or three from the top 10. Here’s the list of similar player-types at age 17:

  • Zach Hamill (2007) 69gp, 32-61-93 (1.35)
  • Gilbert Brule (2005) 70gp, 39-48-87 (1.24)
  • Peter Mueller (2006) 52gp, 26-32-58 (1.12)
  • Jordan Eberle (2008) 70gp, 42-33-75 (1.07)
  • Kenndal McArdle (2005) 70gp, 37-37-74 (1.06)
  • Devin Setoguchi (2005) 69gp, 33-31-64 (.928)

Not all of these kids are exactly like Eberle, but I’ve excluded the Getzlafs, Ladds and Fehr’s from the list. I think his best match from the group is Setoguchi. Here they are as 18-year olds:

  • Eberle 61gp, 35-39-74 (1.21)
  • Setoguchi 65gp, 36-47-83 (1.28)

Setoguchi is bigger (6.00, 195) and played with extreme skill once he reached the NHL (which perhaps skews our view of the comp) but it looks pretty solid at age 18. Setoguchi led his team in points (with a 20 point cushion) as the Blades won 41 games (3.22 GF per game). Eberle led his Pats in scoring (Weal just 4 points behind) and the team won 27 games (3.17 GF per game). I think it is a good match at 18. Here’s 19:

  • Eberle 57gp, 50-56-106 (1.86)
  • Setoguchi 55gp, 36-29-65 (1.18)

Setoguchi once again led his team in points (by 9 this time) and the club won 33 games. Setoguchi’s Prince George club averaged 3.07 GF per game. Eberle led his Pats in points (once again just 4 clear of Weal) and the Pats won 30 times. Their GF per game average was 3.42. Despite Eberle’s edge offensively I still think they’re a solid match. Setoguchi was an 8th overall pick, but I think Eberle would be much higher than 22nd overall in a re-draft of the 2008 group.

In the future, I’ll do another comp-post (sorry) and if you want me to run some numbers on a specific prospect don’t hesitate to post it. Also, if you have a better comp for Gagner, Hall,  Pääjärvi or Eberle please post the name and I’ll add them to the list.

Finally, does this kind of thing hold interest for you? I enjoy looking at this kind of thing in order to track prospects and get an idea about their outer marker, but am not certain it is something a large group of people enjoy. Let me know.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    Lowetide, you remind me of my favourite teacher; Respect what he does because he’s so good at it and wish dearly I could do it half as good as him. Kudos on a great late-summer blog.

  • treblecharger

    Well, gee….it’s early September…there aren’t that many things to write or read about after the endless speculation we’ve all taken part in since April, so I, for one, would love to have this be a frequent off-season subject.
    I heart comps.

  • Oilertown

    LT, you should dig in to the annals of your blog and pull out some old-timey comparable selections for players that are still with the team/in the league and see how they have turned out down the road.

    IE: Test to see if there is any relation between comparable point production between two players at a young age like 20 and a prime age like 27.

  • Cru Jones

    Who’s representing Oilers Nation in Penticton next week? I have to know who to run up to and yell “Fist!”, then walk away as they stand there with confused annoyance.

  • Jerk Store

    I think these comparable stats are very usefull in evaluating players.
    The only thing i would add is playoff performance which is against better opposition and why i switched from seguin to Hall.

  • Jerk Store

    Comparables are awesome and this was a great read.

    What is your basis for comparable? For arbitration purposes it relates clearly to things like age, contributions, and team role. For prospect projection purposes these are all important, and you spent more time in prior Gagner comparisons on team role.

    This said you appear to be arbitrarily slipping in other stuff like player style and size into the parameters you’re using for selecting comparables. Have you thought clearly of what you’re trying to accomplish with these selected parameters? Is there a set of principles you’re using for estimating reasonableness of the comaprables?

    Since you’re trying to project from prior data, I’m pretty sure that underlying your analysis of size and playing style is that you want to find comparables whose numbers would project similarly going from junior to NHL. This is akin to making sure the NHLE multiplier factor is the same for each player. For instance, since Weal is a pixie his magic is unlikely to work as well in the NHL, so you’d deflate his NHLE appropriately and not consider (say) Nash as a comparable.

    The thing is, a lot of these dimensions like skating, physicality, size, and style of play have probably a very very loose connection to how much offense the player brings to the show. Ultimately you’ll have to rely on these dimensions and guess, but it may be important to remember first that you’re trying to guess whether a player’s game will translate similarly to a comparable. So then the questions are like: “Is Eberle’s game (whatever it is) going to translate like Steoguchi’s game (whatever it is)”? The two players’ game may translate equally well even if they have different size, skating, or style of play.

    It’s perhaps a minor point, but when looking at the comparables the style of play seems pretty irrelevant. Plenty of players in the NHL have similar offensive numbers yet play completely different styles.

  • Lowetide

    Randall: The primary items I look for are: position, age and league. After that, style and size are thrown in to make the comparable reasonable.

    I think the best way to “improve” the selection process is to acquire time on ice totals. However, they are sadly not available (although I know for a fact they are collected in many CHL games).

  • Chris.

    Oh Oh…

    Since we’re just using crystal balls anyway: I did a little more research.

    Sam Gagner was born Aug 10, 1989. That makes him a snake in the Chinese Zodiac calander (who are we to dispute the ancient wisdom of the Chinese?) Kane who was in Sam’s draft class developed quickly but with a November 1988 birth date he is a Dragon… Sam, like Turris, Voraceck, and Esposito (as part of a weaker Snake ridden draft class) is destined to develop at a slower pace. Snakes are more cerebral, and are never in much of a hurry.

    Looking back, the previous batch of Snakes drafted in 1995 are a pretty sorry lot led by Bryan Berard at first overall. (Shane Doan, like Kane before him, is actually a Dragon… stuck amid a poor draft class of mostly Snakes) The best Snake forward from this previous batch is Jarome Iginla… and he didn’t have much of an offensive surge till his fifth or sixth full NHL season… and was often famous for his slow starts. I guess we will just have to be patient with young Sammy the Snake for another season or two… The Chinese are never wrong…

    • PabstBR55

      Best post of the whole string.

      Can you do the same analysis on the Taylor Hall’s draft class in reflection to the previous set? Ie. if he is for a rooster, can we look at the previous set of roosters?

      Love it. Clever clever post.

      • Chris.

        Ha. Ha. *Tongue-in-cheek*

        The last batch of Sheep include: Thornton, Marleau, Luongo, and Hossa.

        Fun fact: Getz, Mess, Kurri, and Anderson were all Rats… Also the 2003 entry draft (generally regarded as one of the deepest): is dominated by Rats.

  • Chris.

    BTW. Taylor Hall is a Horse. Nuff said.

    *edit. Whoa. I was wrong! Taylor Hall is actually a Sheep.?.. (That doesn’t work.) I’m ~beginning~ to wonder if my reasoning is flawed… Do the Chinese even watch hockey?

    • Chris.

      Pouliot is an Ox. The Rats were born Feb 22, 1984 – Feb 19, 1985. Pouliot just missed being a magic Rat with a birth date of May 22, 1985.

      Rats include: Marc-Andre Fleury, Eric Staal, Milan Michalek, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Zach Parise, And Mike Richards…

      Okay. I’m done now.

      Here is a link to the Chinese Zodiak Calander:

      And here is a link for the people who believe any of this stuff:

  • Chris.

    Sam Gagner is going to be a great player for Oilers. I have no doubt about it. He’s still a few years away from showing us just how good he is going to be. However, I would shy away from comparing him to Doug Gilmour. Both smaller centres, both with great offensive ability. But what set Gilmour apart is summed up in his nickname, “Killer.” Sam hasn’t shown that level of intensity or competitive instinct. But like I said, we’re still a few years from having a perfectly clear picture on Sam. Sometimes, young guys are low key in the locker room and on the ice until they feel that they are a part of the core or are one of the leaders of the team. We definitely saw Gilmour take it to the next level when he was ‘the man’ after arriving in Toronto.

  • Jerk Store

    Before the inevitable comments come in I got off my lazy a$$ and looked. Linseman is a Dog and Mellanby is a Horse. I am beginning to think this may not be as scientific as I thought. Next thing you will tell me Avery is not actually born under the sign of the two-faced ferret.

  • Chris.

    Comparing players of today with players of the past is moot. The game is too different which makes it impossible to find a comparable player by using his stats. Comparing playing styles is one thing, if you have a damn good eye for talent that is.

    There will never be another Gretzky performance where 200 plus points was achievable. That high scoring era is long gone. An average player can no longer pocket 40 goals like they use to back in the 80’s.

    Good article otherwise, but I just don’t think it really gives you an indication when using players from long ago with today’s players.

  • re: Gagner’s age

    Gagner just played his 20 year old season. Crying that he is actually 21 makes no sense because what we have to use for comparison purposes is his 20 year old season.

    When he has started into his 21 year old season it will make sense to use 21 as his age because that is the point we will start accumulating his 21 year old data.

    Insisting that we use the age 21 makes no sense because that data doesn’t exist yet.

  • It’s funny. This comes entirely down to the fact that you think experience is more important and Lowetide prefers age.

    Are you aware that it is possible to disagree with someone without being a(n) (expletive deleted)?

    It might also be nice if you left those poor straw men alone for a while.

  • DSF

    Eastside Hockey Manager compares Gagner to Daniel Alfredsson – the comp may be difficult to equate since Alfredsson didn’t play in the NHL until he was older. What do you think?