When it comes to projecting junior age prospects into the future, there are a few tools at our disposal. Among them are Desjardins’ NHL equivalencies and "comparables." The better the NHLE, the more impressive the comparable, the more excited we can be about the current prospect. Hold on to your hats!


The inspiration for this post came from Scott Reynolds at Copper and Blue. A learned blogger, Scott tackles difficult issues and comes up with logical answers. That may have been part of the confusion for me in regard to this post about RNH and his comparables. I’m not going to double check Scott’s work, but any fool can see that Sam Gagner towering over Nugent-Hopkins suggests there’s something missing in the equation.


Scott’s look at comparables took great pains to be fair, but we are all limited by the information available. Without time on ice, there’s no real way to know how well Nugent-Hopkins was doing in Red Deer. We can say that "all these kids play a lot, 30 minutes a night I bet" but we’re really pissing in the wind and making a guess.

Is there a better way?

I’ve always felt the best way to gather comparables is to set a reasonable set of rules and then gather information from there. We don’t know about anyone’s time on ice, but we can:

  • look for prospects at the same age
  • look for prospects who played in the same league
  • look for prospects with similar skill sets
  • look for prospects who were active more than 5 years ago

The reason for the final one is that it gives us a nice idea about how ell the prospect performed AFTER their draft year. We’re looking for a nice sized map of the future. Let’s take a look at RNH:

  • RNH at 17 (WHL) 69, 31-75-106 (1.54)

Nugent Hopkins played in a conference that scored 3.37 goals for per game and he was a part of 39.6 per cent of Red Deer’s goals in 10-11. This gives us a nice template to go out and find a player similar to RNH as a 17-year old.

Now, we’re looking for WHL forwards who were drafted at the top end of the draft, were playmakers and active in the league more than 5 years ago.

What did you find?

I couldn’t find a playmaker who fit the bill. RNH is a unique player and among the group 1997-04 I could find only one match.

  • Patrick Marleau at 17 (WHL) 71, 51-74-125 (1.71)

Marleau played in a conference that scored 3.75 goals for per game and he was part of 40.2 per cent of Seattle’s goals in 96-97. I believe this is a solid comparable because RNH is playing in a lower scoring league. Each player had an enormous impact on his team and both of them were very high selections. Marleau was more of a scorer, but I think the comparable is close enough for us to consider it.

So, would a center whose style matches someone like Doug Weight and has the offensive output of Patrick Marleau (more assists, fewer goals) have a chance to impact NHL games? 

We’ll look at this more closely in the seasons to come, but RNH is in some fine company. Until the CHL releases their TOI numbers, I think this is the best way to find comparable players.

    • Chris.


      While Marleau has his detractors (with some reason), he’s had a pretty good NHL career to date.

      While one always hopes for a “Crosby” with the #1 overall pick it doesn’t always happen. For every Crosby, there’s a Brian Lawton.

      IMHO — Marleau may be seen as the “passing grade” for RNH.

      • Lowetide

        Agreed. Plus there’s the 2-way “Datsyuk” aspect to his game. If RNH can post quality offensive numbers and play a complete game then I think Oilers fans should be thrilled with him.

  • Chris.

    I like Gagne’s game and think he will be a good 2C, however, anyone who compares RHN to Gagne, has obviously not seen him play. Living in Red Deer, I have seen a lot of RNH. He already plays a better positional game than Gagne. He also makes his linemates better. Gagne has never had that rap.

  • For the record, the CnB is obnoxiously slanted against RNH and it bothers me to no end. I detect a level of smug matter-of-factness that is generally reserved for people who arent literally guessing that the formulas they just created actually correlate to the results they desire.

    It bothers me when the Unanimous #1 overall selection, best 18 year old on the planet, is rated as low as 6 on the Oilers’ top 25 under 25 from certain contributors (I’m looking at you Derek Zona, honestly Omark 4th and RNH 6th?!). The comparables for RNH are few and far between. He is a unique talent and one that every team in the league would have taken 1st overall if they had the chance. Lets just sit back and enjoy the ride.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      No doubt, I think RNH is one of the highest risk “top forward taken” in the last decade and I was quietly hoping we’d go with Couturier… but to rank Hopkins 6th (and Omark 4th) amounst the sub 25 Oilers made me LOL.

    • For what’s it worth Scott Reynolds had RNH 2nd (behind Hall) and he is also the one who did the RNH comparables. He’s good and usually doesn’t have an axe to grind.

      I agree with LT that without TOI most of the junior data is less than revealing, but RNH’s 5v5 production is not tops of the class and his 5v4 is quite good.

      Red Deer’s system, as well as RNH’s line mates are also factors that cannot be excluded when trying to figure out how good he’ll be.

      Should be fun to watch at the very least.

      • I am going to third this idea of TOI being the crux of the accuracy of Junior data.

        As RNH’s perhaps biggest booster (I jumped the bandwagon when he had his WHL cup of coffee)I followed him very carefully. While I can merely offer anecdotal evidence, I still maintain that the Rebels ran 4 lines and avoiding over playing RNH (and Byron Froese) at 5v5. This assertion has been supported (when prompted) by RDR pbp man Cam Moon when he has given interviews to local papers and radio stations.

        If Wallin had run RNH like it is reported Hunter does with his horses in London, I would bet we’d see RNH put up near Gagner/Kane draft year numbers.

        Have you seen RNH play Woodguy? He’s an absolute beauty!

    • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

      I would not rate RNH any lower than #3 and after 10-15 games I could see him at #2 quite easily. Coppers rating of Omark does indeed seem strange. I know Omark was entertaining to watch and he may turn out to be a gold mine. He may also leak chances like a drunken goal tender with no D skills. When I see RNH back checking like a mad dog who has lost a bone I am forced to place him at #2 or #3.

  • shau_co

    I agree with you Archeologuy. It frustrates me too, but I can’t seem to stop visiting their website 😉

    I opened the linked article from C&B and only had to read as far as, “I was hoping that the Oilers would take Sean Couturier first overall” to see there would be bias in his “analysis”.

    • Lowetide

      Not really. The thing about Eberle is that he BECAME Eberle, it isn’t a normal progression. As of now, Eberle is walking his draft number by a mile.

      He was a lower draft who in a re-draft just three years later would be well into the lottery. I don’t think he’s a solid comparable to very many players.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    I hope that the main critic of RNH at the other site does not want him to flop so he can prove how smart he is.If RNH had had the same sort of world junior camp as Sean I am afraid there might have been some gloating going on over there.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Are we right to conclude that Hannan for 1 year at $1M (or a little more) wasn’t done because we have too many contracts, or a better deal is in the works?

    That seems like a signing that would have eased off a lot of pressure. Sutton could be cut at TC

    • T.C.

      I believe LT mentioned towards the end of his article mentioned that Marleau was more of a goal scorer and that we can expect less goals out of RNH, and more assists, perhaps you would like to give it another go?

    • billylikestodrinksoda

      If you read the article properly, its saying that nugent Hopkins is a tough player to match when looking at junior comparables and LT even said obviously marleau was more of a goal scorer. As a junior player, playing on a similar team with the stats that are used, marleau is as close as a junior comparable as there is. And he even says a player who plays like Doug weight but the offensive point totals of marleau. Personally I’d take a 70-80 pt guy in a heartbeat

    • Lowetide

      As I mentioned in the original post, that was not my criteria. I understand there are those who do not value assists as heavily as goals, but I’m not one of them.

  • Dan the Man

    Having to make excusses for a First overall pick is a pretty bad sign.

    When was the last time there was a need to do that before they were drafted?

    Maybe 1999?

    • Who says excuses need to be made? He was the clear cut unanimous #1. Tops by all 3 major scouting services, tops by the majority of polled scouts, tops by the Oilers’ head scout.

      What are we comparing this guy to Patrick Stefan for? Stefan played for the Long Beach Ice Dogs and dressed in only 33 games in his draft year. I think it’s safe to say that RNH is a much better known quantity.

      1999? I dont think so.

  • T.C.

    I think the speed, skill, sick vision is all there but, I think strenght issues might be the only thing that sends him back to RD. Can’t wait to watch him in the Rookie tourney!!

  • Lowetide

    For the record, the Oilernation is obnoxiously slanted For RNH and it bothers me to no end. I detect a level of smug matter-of-factness that is generally reserved for Wanyeites who arent using fact but are literally guessing and hoping for the results they desire.

    OOOH! this trite generalist writing is so fun.

    This is the generalisty hatred we get from……….

    OH look witch! witch! witch! Burn them!

    PS: The goal scored by Eberle on his play of the year was just as much a result of the guy assisting it?

    • wrong.

      as a memeber of RNH fan club, without apology i may add, i do recall many a people on this site who still valued larsson, coutrier, and even hubredeau greater as well as some off the wall picks.

      furthermore…so if i am not statistical in my statements and qualify what i say without the use of numbers, i’m stupid?

      the FACT is this site is forum for those who are beloved oiler fans to express their opinion, without or without numbers.

      don’t like my guessing and wishing on a prayer mentality…I DON’T CARE!

    • billylikestodrinksoda

      The guy was the consensus #1 pick by all 3 major scouting bureaus. The only reason people like us stand up for RNH is cause ppl like you keep trying to bring him down which blows my mind because the kid has never played an NHL game yet. If he was the 5th ranked player and we picked him, then yeah i think fewer people would be defending him, but obviously he wasn’t. And if the kid does struggle and is a bust then I’ll be the first to let you know but until then just chill and wait till he actually plays an NHL game and is given time to grow into is body and develop.

      oh and P.S. Your absolutely right. Its called an assist. It’s actually been around for a few years and 95% of the time its how a player gets the puck to score a goal. Thanks for the heads up though

    • You are obviously a witch. However, I agree that goals matter. The thing is, most of the time you need to pass the puck to a teammate on your team in order for your team to get a goal which would add one to your team’s score. It’s called team play. I bet you’re that guy on NHL 11 on Ps3 that makes me want to throw my controller through the wall because he never passes the puck, aren’t you? Usually those guys who hog the puck and/or don’t play team defense don’t get past major junior if they’ve somehow made it that far. It’s a team game man. Don’t let one individual stat suck you in as the be all end all.

      Yes, Eberle’s goal was a great individual effort, but he would never have gotten the goal if he wasn’t passed the puck in the first place. Maybe Vandermeer should have tried to go coast to coast with it, since only goals matter, not passes.

      Be careful ricki, while you are watching the scoreboard you might miss the game.

  • Last year I wanted Hall but Seguin could have been the Oilers choice and I would have pulled for him to do well.
    This year there were probably four or five players that I would have been happy with.In my opinion and most scouts RNH was the best choice..I think what bothers RNH supporters is that the critics don’t think that he is fourth or fifth best but a bust.
    THe critics rely on stats that are highly selective .When their misleading stats are refuted they go silent for a while but then they lurk hoping to pounce..
    No matter who we picked this year he is not a Crosby.I do feel that RNH if he performs at his best could be a Francis or at his worst a legwand.In the draft this year that is all you can hope for