In the opening chapter of his 2008 book Outliers, journalist Malcolm Gladwell mentions how the majority of elite Canadian hockey players were born in the first few months of the year. The reason, he deduced, is minor hockey determines eligibility by calendar year, which means kids born on January 1st compete against children born on December 31st of the same year. It becomes more complicated in Canada, as some provinces like Ontario make players only compete against players in their birth year (one year), where provinces like Alberta tier by two years.
Hockey Alberta needs to realize this does not help kids, and more players would keep playing if they only played against their birth years growing up. And please don’t tell me that elite seven year olds need to compete against elite eight year olds to have success. Ontario produces many superstars in the NHL and the vast majority of them grew up only playing against those in their birth year.
But I digress. Today, I’m curious to see if NHL success due to birth month has changed over time.
Courtesy of QuantHockey.com, I was able to see NHL players separated by birth month. Let’s look at the end of each of the past five decades to see if anything has changed.
The first four months produced the most players, while November and December produced the least.
June moved into the top four, while the the final third months were all at the bottom of total NHL players.
In 2000, NHL expansion was almost complete and had 921 players compared to 725 in 1979/1980. To that point, most players were born in January, including 11.1% of the players in 1980 and 10.7% in 2000, while November was at bottom each year — 6.2% in 1980, dropping to 5.7% in 2000.
By 2010, January wasn’t first — for the first time — having dropped to third, while December for the first time wasn’t 11th, and now ranked 9th.
Most recently, January moved to sixth and now made up 8.8% of NHL players, but November was still 12th at 5.8%. But this is only for games played. Now let’s look at point totals to see the differences.
POINT TOTALS BY MONTH…
It is interesting to see how February had the third most players, but was 11th in points. While April had 20 more players than December, but only 14 more points.
January and June had the same amount of players, but June’s players scored 600 more points. November is consistently at the bottom.
January produced the most players, but their point totals were fourth.
January was third in players, but down to 10th in points, while December was ninth in players, but up to fifth in points produced. But most notably, the gap between April (most points produced) and November (fewest produced) was only 673. But was it just a bit of an outlier?
November wasn’t last in points produced, it was June-born players. Actually, the 2018/2019 season it was also June.
This is only five seasons, so I will need to look at more to see if anything has changed significantly. The reason I originally looked at it was due to late birthdays for the draft, and how I think that can be an advantage for different reasons, and now I want to start looking more in-depth at birth month.
One main question I have is: Are we seeing elite scorers coming from specific months, or countries?
Here are the top-20 scorers from the past three seasons combined.
Connor McDavid: 321 points, January 13th.
Nikita Kucherov: 313 points, June 17th.
Nathan Mackinnon: 289 points, September 1st.
Leon Draisaitl: 285 points, October 27th.
Brad Marchand: 272 points, May 11th.
Patrick Kane: 270 points, November 19th.
Artemi Panarin: 264 points, October 30th.
David Pastrnak: 256 points, May 25th.
Steven Stamkos: 250 points, February 7th.
Blake Wheeler: 247 points, August 31st.
Evgeni Malkin: 244 points, July 31st.
Alex Ovechkin: 243 points, September 17th.
Johnny Gaudreau: 241 points, August 13th.
Claude Giroux: 240 points, January 12th.
Jonathon Huberdeau: 239 points, June 4th.
Sidney Crosby: 236 points, August 7th
Aleksander Barkov: 236 points, September 2nd.
John Tavares: 232 points, September 20th.
Mitch Marner: 230 points, May 5th.
Jack Eichel: 224 points, October 28th.
Some other young players who are emerging as top-end scorers include:
Auston Matthews: September 17th.
Elias Pettersson: November 12th.
Kyle Connor: December 9th.
Sebastian Aho: July 26th.
Brayden Point: March 13th.
Of these 25 scorers, nine were born after September 15th, so they were drafted in their 19-year-old season, and 17 of them were born after July 1st.
Some top D-men:
Victor Hedman: December 18th
Roman Josi: June 1st.
John Carlson: January 10th.
Alex Pietrangelo: January 18th.
Drew Doughty: December 8th.
Quinn Hughes: October 14th.
Cale Makar: October 30th.
Shea Theodore: August 3rd.
Shea Weber: August 14th.
Thomas Chabot: January 30th
Four of them were late birthdays, while six of them were born in the back half of the calendar.
Top goalies and some young up-and-comers:
Carey Price: August 16th
Andrei Vasilevskiy: July 25th.
Connor Hellebuyck: May 19th.
Jacob Markstrom: January 31st.
John Gibson: July 14th.
Frederik Andersen: October 2nd.
Jordan Binnington: July 11th.
Tuukka Rask: March 10th
Sergei Bobrovsky: September 20th.
Carter Hart: August 13th.
McKenzie Blackwood: December 9th.
Three were late birthdays and seven in the second half of the calendar.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
I will need to look at more data to make any sort of accurate conclusion. It is interesting to see the point production compared to players and their birth months. Do forwards born later in the year have an advantage? I have started looking at the development model in Canada, as Ontario and other provinces have young players only play those in their birth year, while Alberta and other provinces have players from two years compete in the same divisions. I strongly believe it would help more players, and likely develop more players, by having 2012 birth years only compete against 2012 up until they are 15 or 16 years of age. Sure, there might be the odd exception, but those are very rare and unnecessary for 99% of the players.
I’ve long argued the benefits of moving the draft age back one year, which technically would only impact players born between January 1st and September 15th, as those born after are already being drafted in their 19th year.
It would help teams, but it would also help players?
Compare Dylan Holloway and Carter Savoie.
Holloway was drafted 14th overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2020, while Carter Savoie was taken 100th overall by the Oilers. Holloway was born September 23rd, 2001, while Savoie was born on January 23rd, 2002. They are exactly four months apart, but Holloway’s birthday meant he wasn’t draft eligible until the 2020 draft.
I consider a player’s 17-year-old season the year he turns 17. Hockey begins in September, so if you turn 17 in January or in November, that is still your 17th year.
Now let’s look at their 17-year-old seasons.
Holloway scored 40-48-88 in 53 games for Okotoks in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL).
Savoie scored 53-46-99 in 54 games for Sherwood Park in the AJHL.
Holloway had a late birthday and wasn’t drafted, and then went to play at the University of Wisconsin and produced 8-9-17 on a deep team. He was drafted 14th this past October.
Savoie, after scoring 99 points in 53 games was drafted 100th overall.
Now in his 18-year-old season he has 4-1-5 in his first three NCAA games and people are raving about him.
If Savoie was entering his draft year this season, how much higher would he have gone?
Last year 25 players born in 2001, and two in 2000, were drafted before Savoie. So that would jump him up to 72nd right away. If he continues to score like this in NCAA, he probably would have moved up even higher and teams would have had a better read on him and other 2002 born players. Moving the draft to a 19-year-old draft helps both organizations and players.
With so few games being played this season, there is no better time for the NHL to strongly consider altering the 2021 draft in some form. I’d move the cut off to April 30th, and then next year slide it back to December 31st.
MONTH OF GIVING…
Friday we raised an amazing $20,000 in our Pyramid of Giving. Huge thank you to Nex Gen Transportation who offered to match the original $7,100 we planned to reach for the pyramid. We reached in two hours and listeners kept donating, including a listener, who wanted to remain anonymous, donating $2,900 in the final minute of the program to push us to $20,000. Unreal.
DAY FIVE: Five Course Meal at Chop Steakhouse
- Dinner for six at Chop Steakhouse Ellerslie. You and five of your friends will dine with Jason Strudwick, Connor Halley and me along with our significant others.
- This will occur in the 2nd half of 2021
- It will be a five-course dinner with wine pairings and your choice of beverages in their private room.
You can bid by listening to TSN 1260 and calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today. All proceeds will help out The Christmas Bureau.
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