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.
- Markus Naslund 39gp, 22-18-40 (1.03)
- Tomas Sandstrom 36gp, 23-14-37 (1.03)
- Daniel Sedin 50gp, 21-21-42 (.840)
- Henrik Sedin 49gp, 12-22-34 (.694)
- Peter Forsberg 39gp, 9-18-27 (.692)
- Magnus Pääjärvi 49gp, 12-17-29 (.592)
- Nicklas Backstrom 46gp, 10-16-26 (.565)
- 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.