Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Predicting Sam Gagner and Patrick Kane

Many (pride come before a fall, I know) have probably noticed that I have taken a keen interest in Sam Gagner. At the beginning of last season Tyler Dellow published a chart on the seasons of 18-year-old rookies that have appeared in the NHL since 1997-98. I followed up on his work late last season, but here are the final numbers for Sam Gagner and Patrick Kane:

These numbers are obviously very good and speak to the tremendous talent of these two players (especially Kane who trails only Crosby in points/60 by an 18-year-old). So looking at the chart from earlier I have selected three comparable players in an effort to project what these two players might accomplish this season. Obviously, this would have been more helpful before the season started, but I didn't get around to finishing it until now. Anyway, the three players I've chosen as comparables are Sidney Crosby (better for Kane than Gagner), Marleau and Connolly. I also added Vincent Damphousse. I eliminated others for the following reasons:

-Didn't achieve at least 1.50 P/60 at 18 (Fritsche, Fata, Thornton, Dome, Hartnell, Bouchard, Lecavalier)
-Didn't play in a Canadian major junior league at 17 (Dome, Gaborik, Kovalchuk)
-Didn't play in the NHL at 19 (Horton, Bergeron)

-Didn't score at a rate of at least 1.5 P/gm in his last junior season (Fritsche, Fata, Hartnell, Malhotra, Horton, Staal, Bergeron, Nash)

Looking at these six now as juniors:

Now we can look at these six in their first NHL season. Sadly,I haven't separated it out into EV, mostly because I don't know where to find the data. If you know where to find that information, please pass it along in the comments.

Finally, to the predictive arena. How did these players perform in their second NHL season?

I think that there are certain conclusions that we can draw from this. Gagner looks to be tracking along well with Damphousse. I'm surprised that the comp LT suggested hasn't caught on. Others tried to compare him to Gilmour, but the first two seasons really don't match up as nicely. Having said that, we're talking different eras here, so if Gagner's offence in this decade is following what Damphousse put up in his, Gagner is a hell of a hockey player.

As for production, the improvement in goal scoring looks to be less linear than in assist production. Not sure why, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Kane or Gagner put up fewer goals this season. Also, all four of these players improved their point production by between 12.3 and 30.2 per cent. Not a mammoth improvement like some have been calling for. I really can't see Gagner putting up something like eighty points this year. With that range in mind, I'll predict the following point per game ranges this year for Kane and Gagner:

Patrick Kane: 0.99 to 1.15 P/game
Sam Gagner: 0.70 to 0.81 P/game

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