Jordan Eberle: Comparables

Marian Hossa (kaatiya/Flickr under CC BY 2.0)

For all the debate about Jordan Eberle’s ability to replicate this season’s performance, there is no question that his 76 points in 78 games at the age of 21 was a remarkable achievement. That point is driven home when one looks at the list of players who have managed to score at a similar pace sometime between the age of 20 and 22 – the list is up after the jump, and it’s beautiful.

The following group of players appeared in at least 50 games and scored between 0.90 points/game and 1.05 points/game between their age 20 and 22 seasons (Eberle falls neatly into the middle of both numbers, scoring at 0.97 points per game at the age of 21). I’ve restricted myself to the post-1997-98 time period because that keeps us from having to adjust for era effects and it also is the earliest we have data like time on ice for specific players. Here’s the list, generated with assistance from hockey-reference.com:

Some notes on the chart – some players met the criteria more than once; a yellow box indicates a second season between the ages of 20 and 22 where they hit the mark. A red box on the other hand indicates a year with 40 games or less played – i.e. years with serious injury. Also worth noting: all point totals are projected over 82 games so as to a) compare players fairly without penalizing a guy who played 70 games and b) keep the chart readable – points/82 has always been easier for me to track than points/game. 

The latter point is a big one and helps give players some credit who otherwise would not have received it. Alex Semin scored 79 points despite missing 20 games in 2008-09 – that was a better than 100-point pace over a full season. Players like him, Tanguay, Sykora and even Hemsky are often underrated as offensive threats because their best scoring seasons also featured time lost to injury.

Anyway, looking at the names on that list it’s clear that Eberle is in some high-end company. As far as scoring rates go, those players averaged 79 points/82 in the season’s in question (just a whisker under Eberle’s 80-point full-season pace) and scored at a 74 points/82 pace the next year – a slight drop, which is probably unexpected by most given the age of the players involved (all young).

What’s interesting is how big that drop was when injuries are taken into account. Including the two cases of serious injury (Martin Havlat and Patrice Bergeron) this group of high-end players averaged 62 total points following their big year. Even removing the two cases of especially serious injury, the group as a whole only averaged 67 points the year after.

Also of note is the fact that many of the players who dipped ended up being high-end guys over the course of their careers – Rick Nash, Anze Kopitar, Vincent Lecavalier and Marian Hossa were among the players who saw their offensive output decline by 10% or more following a breakthrough season. All, of course, rebounded in the long-term. Some of the players who managed to hang on to their offense went the opposite direction – guys like Petr Sykora, Sergei Samsonov, Patrice Bergeron and Paul Stastny represent the lower-end offensively in this group; all four gained offense immediately after their big year but dipped over time.

I’m going to do more with this group of players in the coming days, digging into TOI and where possible advanced statistics to see which guys have the most in common with Eberle at the same age, but for now I think it’s enough to make two key points from this group of players worth noting: first, that a mild decline in total offense was a common occurrence, and second that it didn’t really matter in the long-term because these players all turned out well anyway – when Sergei Samsonov is the worst player in a given group, that’s a good-looking set of comparables.

In other words: don’t moan because the stats guys (gosh, my prediction of 62 points hits the group average exactly) and even the not-really-stats guys (note how Robin Brownlee’s prediction exactly reflects the average total for this group once serious injuries are taken out of the mix) are predicting a small dip in Jordan Eberle’s offense. It happens. It happened to Nash, to Kopitar, to Lecavalier and to Hossa. It happens more often than the reverse (a big increase in points) occurs. It doesn’t mean Eberle is not an excellent player, or that he won’t end up having a superb career. All it means is that we’re expecting a small step backwards in total production next year.

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  • In the Grease

    All things being equal, the arrival of Jakapov and the rejuvenated Hemsky,alon, may dictate that Eberle’s ice time may be less this year, even in terms of powerplay time. This could result in points being down.

    • Petr's Jofa

      Great work again Jonathan. Now it’s time to dig up Bingofuel’s remains and get him to update the link to the cult of hockey over in the blogroll.

      Edit: Didn’t mean to direct this at OilerAl.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Lots of Players put up career best (or close to career bests) in their early 20’s. 75 points at 22 doesnt usually mean 90 points at 24.

    I thinks it almost a guarantee that Eberle is a top 3 player. The only question is if he’ll be a mid range 1st liner (60ish points) or a top end first liner (80ish points)

    We should be ecstatic with either because it wasn’t that long ago we only had a single true 1st line player.

    • Average SH%: 14.3%

      Average SH%, the next year: 13.0%

      Those numbers are minus Eberle/Tavares and the serious injuries.

      The four guys with a shooting percentage greater than 16% were Joe Thornton at age 21 (20.4%, dropping to 14.5% the next year), Jason Allison (20.9% dropping to 14.6%), Rick Nash (18.2% dropping to 11.2%) and Alex Tanguay (20.0% dropping to 14.4%).

      Edit to add: Without those four high SH%, the rest of the group shot 12.8% one year and then 12.8% the next year. The four over 16% went from an average of 19.9% to 13.8% the next year.

  • Petr's Jofa

    Gangier , Jackalopeov and Yorgan Waverly quite the line no doubt . There’s rumblings Roberta Wrongo (alias Bubba Louie) might be joining group in goal as well .Can Oiler fans distinguish between the identical Schultz’s or all the Ryan,s?

  • 24% body fat

    Little off topic, but if there is a lookout, would the oilers most likely get a great pick, could you imagine a top six of hall, yak, rnh, ebs, mckinnon and either gagner or hemsky with the other packaged for a d, with the following years first pick, I know both getting mckinnon and making that trade is in a dream world, just saying other than the lack off hockey a lockout may actually benefit the oilers (if yak doesnt jump to the khl) and the 3 or the kids mature more without expiring a year on there contracts.

    • Petr's Jofa

      Yak’s CANNOT jump to the KHL period. KHL and NHL honor each others contracts, so he could play there during the lock out and only during the lock out and is mandated to return for the Oilers season opener.
      Secondly we could not get Nathan Mackinnon, as in the event of a lock out we would then goto a draft lottory format and having won the draft in the previous 3 years (in our case all 3 years) we would then lose a ball for each, for those wondering ,Toronto would have the highest chance at winning 1st overall, with 6.5% of the balls.

      The oilers would most likely be picking between 3- 7 range.

  • John Chambers

    Does Clay Geroo not make the list bc he hasn’t played enough seasons? His name was being thrown around as a comparable to Ebs based on performance in years 1 and 2.