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Colby Cosh recently published an article on why he prefers Taylor Hall to Tyler Seguin in the upcoming entry draft. Now, at this point - and I've only begun my descent into the "comical from an outside perspective" debate about which teenage hockey player is slighty better than the other - I tend to agree with Cosh that Hall is likely the better pick. Nevertheless, I was intrigued by one of his reasons, namely that Hall's talents are more established, or as Cosh puts it, "Hall has the longer resumé." He opines that often in sports, a career year well above expectations is more often representative of luck than it is of legitimate progress. This is almost certainly true of mature players at the professional level but strikes me as suspect when examining players at a junior level where maturation and leaps in ability are, to some degree, what's expected. After the jump, I'll take a look at what recent history might tell us about Seguin's leap in production and Hall's established (stagnating?) performance.One area that people often look to in determining whether or not a player has been lucky is shooting percentage because a very high shooting percentage often suggests that a future regression should be expected. And that's why I wish both of these players came from the QMJHL, a league that actually tracks things like shots on goal. The OHL? Not so much. Jerks. But that doesn't mean we're totally up the creek. Instead, I've created a chart that shows all of the players who played in the OHL for three consecutive seasons (their draft year, the year before their draft year and the year after their draft year), scored at least thirty-five goals in their draft year and were drafted in the third round or higher between 2000 and 2009. The chart is split into two groups, those who improved their goals per game in their draft year by 0.16 or more and those who improved their goals per game by 0.15 or less. Here are the results for the first group:
There wasn't exactly a lot of regression that took place with these guys. The one guy that didn't at least come close to maintaining his production, Dale Mitchell, wasn't drafted until the third round. The scouts clearly saw something they didn't like about him, and they were right. The guy who just kept getting better, Brett MacLean, must have also showed some weaknesses, as he wasn't drafted until the second round. Other second round draft choices in the group are Cal Clutterbuck, Dave Bolland and Stefan Legein. This isn't the case with Seguin; the scouts have indicated that he's clearly one of the two best players in the draft. That combined with the fact that virtually none of these guys see significant regression suggests to me that a significant regression in his goal-scoring is unlikely.
But what about the guys who didn't improve materially in their draft year? Do they see a huge increase in production post-draft? Here's the data:
The first and most obvious thing to notice is that there just aren't very many junior players who are top goal-scorers before their draft year, and fewer still who end up playing another year in junior after they've been drafted. That said, this group doesn't seem to improve any more or less (at least in terms of goals per game) post-draft than does the first group. Thus, it seems to me that the argument around "established level of ability" is something of a red herring. These are teenagers, not professionals, and very real improvement - large improvement - does happen.
That said, Seguin's improvement now doesn't seem to suggest that he will continue to improve more as time goes on than Hall. Both groups were about the same. And at this point, that's why I still favour Hall. Hall's points per game this season was 1.85 compared to 1.68 for Seguin. Including playoff results, the gap swells to 1.85 and 1.61. That strikes me a pretty non-trivial difference. I understand that the goal is to pick the guy who will be the best in five years and not the guy who's the best today but so far I haven't heard any reason to believe Seguin is the one who's more likely to improve. If there's no reason to believe one guy has a better chance at improving than the other, you may as well take the guy who's better today. And it would seem that the guy who's better today is Taylor Hall.