Please don't hit me, Ryan! I'll try again!
When I first wrote about possible comparables for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, I included a poll at the end of the post that asked readers who they thought the best comparable was. The winner of that poll was Doug Weight by a pretty hefty margin. The problem there is that Weight wasn't drafted in the first round, and took a very different path to the NHL (NCAA), which makes the two players very difficult to compare statistically. In short, Doug Weight isn't a very helpful comparable because he doesn't provide a very good "yardstick" for Nugent-Hopkins going forward.
Still, Weight's lopsided victory suggests that the process probably didn't deliver any statistical comparables that meshed well with common sense and observation. As such, I've decided to try again, but this time taking era effects into consideration in a somewhat systematic fashion (one of the better criticisms of the original methodology). Will this time be any more successful than last? Find out after the jump.
As I said last time, first overall picks are always, to some extent, unique talents. That makes it impossible to find a perfect comparable, but I do think that there's tremendous value in using a set of objective criteria to come up with a preliminary list of names. The point of looking for comparables is to see what similar players are doing or have done at a much more advanced stage of development, so that means, generally, looking for older players. At the same time it's obvious that the game has changed substantially over the course of time, which means that even though picking a stylistic comparable from 1951 or 1972 can be instructive, I'll be looking at for players who've come into the league more recently. As such, I've limited my search limited to players drafted between 1993 and 2007. I've also kept the rest of my starting criteria the same, which means only forwards who were chosen in the top five picks, and who played their draft year in the CHL so that we know that they were highly regarded as juniors and that they played in somewhat similar circumstances. In terms of production, I required the comparables to be within 0.15 adjusted points per game and 0.10 adjusted goals per game of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in their respective draft years (using both regular season and playoff results). The adjustments were made based on league scoring levels, which were provided by this chart that shoc_doc created (thanks!), and each player's totals were adjusted to a league in which the average team scored 3.5 goals per game.
Using that criteria with the unadjusted list, just one of twenty-seven possible players was deemed a comparable, and it's safe to say that nothing would have been preferred to Jason Bonsignore. This time, we again have just one successful match, and while it's not Bonsignore, I still think I would have preferred nothing:
Jeff O'Neill did not have a terrible NHL career, but let's face it, if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins ends up having a career like Jeff O'Neill's, no one's going to be very impressed. So why aren't we finding matches? Goals. There just aren't a lot of players drafted as high as Nugent-Hopkins who score so few goals. In fact, just two of the twenty-seven players under consideration had fewer adjusted goals than Nugent-Hopkins: Jason Bonsignore and Jordan Staal. Every other player had more.
I know some people don't think the lack of goal-scoring is a big deal. I'm not one of them. To me, goal-scoring is an important and distinct skill, as well as one of the toughest things to do in hockey. It requires a different kind of game to score fifty than it does to set fifty up.
So instead of lopping off the goal-scoring criterion, I'll just move the parameters slightly, as I did last time, to include players drafted in the top ten (to account for 2011 being a poor draft year), and to include players within 0.20 adjusted points per game and 0.10 adjusted goals per game. Here are the results:
So we've lost Jason Bonsignore and Scottie Upshall from last time, and added Scott Hartnell, Jeff O'Neill, and Zach Hamill. This just isn't a satisfying list, at least in part because there's no blue-sky, everything-right-with-the-world option (another part is that Nugent-Hopkins would seem to be nothing at all like Scott Hartnell). Nugent-Hopkins has the best adjusted junior production on the list, so it seems like we're just seeing a whole lot of the downside options.
At this point last time, I looked for guys who had a similar percentage of their points from assists, but that didn't end up being very encouraging, so no need to put that chart up again. I know some folks suggested that we look at guys like Ales Hemsky and Brad Richards who do have similar junior numbers, but I have some difficulty with that since both of those players were drafted later in the draft (and in Richards' case, much later), which suggests that the scouting community didn't think nearly as high of them at draft time, which I think is an important part of this process.
So what now? Well, with shoc_doc's data going back to 1984, I figure that I might as well go back that far too. There's no question that the game was significantly different in the 1980's, so I am little leery of doing it, but we'll at least get a few more names to kick around. Here are the results:
So three new players this time, all of them with excellent careers, which helps to bring some balance (read: positivity) to the discussion. I don't know which player will end up being the best comparable going forward, but based on the scouting reports I've read on Nugent-Hopkins, Vincent Damphousse looks like he might be an excellent choice.