Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sam Gagner in Historical Context

In November, Tyler Dellow posted about how well Sam Gagner was doing as an 18-year-old rookie. Since 1997-1998 only 17 other players have played at least 120 minutes in the NHL at age 18:

Sam Gagner is one of two players that qualify for that distinction this season (if anyone knows how to make it into a nice little chart as Tyler has done, while still being able to import it to Blogger, please let me know):

Player Name TOI G/60 A/60 P/60
Sam Gagner 868.33 0.41 1.52 1.93
Patrick Kane 972.00 0.62 1.60 2.22
David Perron 529.36 1.02 0.91 1.93
Milan Lucic 712.64 0.51 1.18 1.68

Gagner compares very favourably with the best 18-year old NHL seasons, sitting between Marleau and Kovalchuk. This is encouraging. It's obvioius that most players in the NHL at age 18 are very good and that most of them only get better. I included Perron and Lucic even though this is their 19-year-old season since they came from the same draft. I think that their results probably speak to just how much of a difference there is between an 18-year-old NHL player and a 19-year-old NHL player and what might be expected of them. Perron's numbers are tied with Gaborik and Milan Lucic is outdoing Scott Hartnell and, of course, they're both outperforming Joe Thornton. If Perron and Lucic turn out to be as good at age 25 as Gaborik and Hartnell, I think that will say a ton about the potential of the NHL as a good place to develop young players. Having said that, I don't think either player can cover the bet. Given that Kane is also seven and a half months older than Gagner (is it really an 18-year-old season if your birthday is in November?), I think Gagner's season is even more impressive. He is a special player and is starting to make a difference at the NHL level today. I think the Oilers should feel compelled to build towards competing for the Cup in the last year of his (and Cogliano's) entry level contract. That ought to be the target.

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