Sam Gagner as an NHL Player

The first thing we need to know about Sam Gagner moving forward is that he played last season for the London Knights.

London is famous for riding their top players for extreme minutes every night so their numbers need to be deflated even more than usual in order to get a general idea about what we can expect.

Desjardins’ NHLE deflates offense at a pretty aggressive clip from junior to the AHL and NHL, but as we found out with Rob Schremp there may be a need for a “London Rule” in regard to projections.

Let’s do that. Rob Schremp’s final season of junior: 57gp, 57-88-145 (2.54ppg). Desjardins tells us to nick that total (.45) which brings us to 65/57gp. Although the Desjardins rule is that we can’t project one season onto another (the NHLE is designed to tell you what that player might do in a higher league with identical circumstances otherwise in said season), the ppg from 65/57gp is 1.14 which is certainly well clear of his actual AHL season (.768ppg).

So, what can we do to make sure that expectations of Sam Gagner are tempered? The actual percentage of offense Schremp took to the AHL was 30% (a fair drive from 45%). Remember now, we’re not adjusting Desjardins completely, just trying to get a line in the sand for a kid playing in the equivalent of an extreme hitter’s park (like John Ducey, for instance). Desjardins’ numbers are the best I’ve seen at estimating future offense, so tinkering with them is a pretty dangerous thing and all results should be flagged.

That said, let’s assume that Sam Gagner would take 30% of his offense from junior to the AHL. His 06-07 numbers in the OHL: 53gp, 35-83-118 (2.23). This compares favorably with Schremp’s 17-year old OHL season, and using the new 30% number we come up with a ppg of .66 at the AHL level for Gagner. So, if he were to have played in the AHL last season, we might have expected 53gp, 10-25-35 (.66). If we then use Desjardins AHL-to-NHL conversion we come up with an NHLE of 82gp, 8-19-27 (.329). It’s still an impressive number, and probably much closer to reality than straight Desjardins (which would be 82gp, 16-39-55, .671).

The NHL rookies last season who scored at a .329 or better clip included Malkin (1.09), Paul Stastny (.951), Anze Kopitar (.847), Drew Stafford (.659), Wojtek Wolski (.658), Joe Pavelski (.608), Alexander Radulov (.578), Dustin Penner (.549), Travis Zajac (.525), Jordan Staal (.519), Ryan Clowe (.586), Phil Kessell (.414), Gilbert Latendresse (.363).

The closest major league equivalent to Gagner’s NHLE ppg at 17 years old (that I could find quickly and with little effort) was Jiri Hudler (76gp, 15-10-25, .329). Hudler played most often with Lang and Filppula last season and he played the softest minutes among DET forwards (again, from

Jiri Hudler was 22 years old in the 06-07 season, Gagner’s comp comes from his 17-year old season in the OHL. He is clearly a better prospect that Hudler, but that isn’t really the issue right now.

The issue is this: is it reasonable to suggest (based on his OHL season, and the deflating of his numbers described in this post) that Sam Gagner could put up similar numbers to the ones Jiri Hudler did this past season (given similar circumstances)?

The fact that we can nick him Desjardins + 15% and he can still be compared to a player 5 years his senior who has played an NHL season (and is regarded as a fine prospect) is probably a reflection of the quality we’re talking about in Sam Gagner.

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20 Responses to "Sam Gagner as an NHL Player"

  1. goldenchild says:

    Interesting read LT, 1 question you used Schremp’s AHL season as a guide for the extra adjustment is that number in line with other London scorers like Perry as well?

  2. Big T says:

    Good point Goldenchild;

    I’ve caught as much of the Canada-Russia Series as I could and Gagner does seem to be playing remarkably well against what is clearly weaker opposition.

    At the very least I’d think the floor on this player has to be something like Comrie – ie; aplayer that does reasonably well playing against weak opposition at the NHL level.

    The ceiling? Too soon to tell.


  3. Jonathan says:

    An interesting comparison might be to Dave Gagner- by all accounts, Samwise is a much better offensive player, but Dave posted 6 60point+ seasons, and was capable defensively IIRC. I think a more realistic floor for Samwise might be as a defensively sound forward who puts up Mike Comrie numbers. This is the best all-round prospect the Oilers have had since I can’t remember when.

  4. digger says:

    IMO predicting Sam Gagner’s upper ceiling potential is still 1 year away from having much degree of accuracy, since we only have 1 17 yr old OHL season to go by. The kid’s only 13 months older than Tavares, there’s still lots of growing to go here.

    If there is something we can confidently predict however, is that the 07/08 Gagner will have a much more prominent role on the WJHC squad than the 06/07 Gagner did. Perhaps then, when he starts playing against something more threatening than the worst Russian junior hockey team in the last decade, we may get a slightly less cloudy picture.

    If he keeps up with this development curve he’s got going on though, combined with what looks to be an outstanding attitude and work ethic, I will have a hard time picturing him playing a single game in the AHL.

  5. Lowetide says:

    goldenchild: Not a knock on Schremp, but the really good ones don’t spend much time in the AHL. I very much doubt Gagner spends more time in the AHL than Perry did, as an example.

  6. Oilman says:

    The very good rookies…Kopitar, Statsny, Wolski, Stafford, etc…always outperform the Desjardins numbers, and many times by a fair margin…whatever those guys have, be it more committment to strength and conditioning, a better understanding of the game, or some other intangible that outlies the Desjardins multiplier formula, I hope Gagner has it as well….he definatelty is miles ahead of Shremp in the conditioning department….which probably also means he’s miles ahead in the Mental department and committment to becoming a pro as well.

  7. PDO says:


    Any reason you never speak of growth when you delve into Desjardin numbers?

    It’s great to know what to expect if they had been in the NHL last year – but it’s only reasonable to expect that a kid like Gagner is going to get exponentially better from this point on. It’s just the way these things go, I think.

    I mean, if a 17 year old Gagner could’ve had 8 goals and 27 assists, what can an 18 year old Gagner do? What should we reasonably expect? Could he put up 50 points with 14 and 16 and PP time? 60? 70? Gabriel’s numbers are certainly useful in showing what a player could have done, but what we really should be looking for is how a player should do moving forward, should we not?

  8. Lowetide says:

    PDO: Unlike HF (to use an example), I really try to stay with established levels of ability. If I’d had a brain it would have been easy to spot Rita’s plateau (it was right there, EVERY season) but because I think I’m smarter than I am (there’s a nice little run of I’s there) it escaped me.

    Gagner SHOULD get better. However, he could get better in all kinds of areas and not score like he did this past season (say if Kane goes to CHI). We don’t really have enough of a resume on Gagner to do much with him this summer.

    You can project these kids forward, but it’s not my bag. I prefer a line in the sand already met.

  9. PDO says:


    You mean Schremp won’t score 500 career goals? :)

    That’s fair enough, and I understand it. I figured you had some sort of reason just because in every one of these posts you’re very hesitant talking about any sort of improvement in specific terms. I also think Rita is the exception, not the rule… don’t let that goal from the WJC’s ruin you.

    I’d certainly prefer to be conservative with the estimate rather than optimistic, but I do think we need to have in the line in the sand while keeping in mind that that line was made by someone who’s moving forward. Whether it’s at a sprint, jog, walk or in Jim Carey’s case simply his feet flying out from under him as he crashes into obscurity with a shiny new Vezina, I think there just needs to be something there.

    Just my two cents on that though. And I definitely prefer the line in the sand method when we’re talking about the more seasoned players… basically anyone who’s older than 21.

  10. IceDragoon says:

    Good day, all.

    I’d venture that the really smart guys tend to be ahead of the curve. Funny how that works.

    Lain, this kid’s neurons are firing at an incredible pace. And, he’s adjusting (& freakin’ on-ice coaching) as the games/series progress/es.

    I could go on and on about all the little things Gagner’s doing right, in all zones. The way that Sutter is using him, I think, says it all, tho.

    Since about half way thru game 3, he’s been getting #2 ES minutes by my eye. He’s also had at least one shift with every forward except Sutter. (Tavares got his first goal on his first shift with him.)

    Got his first PK time with a 3 on 4 offensive zone draw early in game 4. Killed the 16 seconds then had 29 secs of 4 on 4, leading into 18 secs of PP before scoring a goal from Perron.

    His first goal against came early in the third period of game 4. His wingers were in no man’s land and he had his guy covered. 26 seconds later Turris’ line let the Russians score they’re second. Sutter immediately put out Gagner’s line again… Marchand scored. The boys settled back in to smart play.

    He did take quite a tumble in the second period, cartwheeling over a hip check. The side of his helmet hit the ice first, giving his neck quite a wrench. He was out of sorts for a time… seemed to distrust his reads, tried to force the play, lost some face-offs… He did find his composure, but he’ll probably have a sore neck for a while.

    I am looking forward to watching him on smaller ice… AND… at TC. :-D


  11. Lowetide says:

    PDO: Yeah, I think we can project but it isn’t really something of interest for me. When I was winning my roto league (won it twice, built a deck) most of my success came from doing just that (projecting kids).

    My main areas to look at were ballparks (minors to majors), k/w ratio for hitters, and job opportunities (teams like the Expos used to give their kids all kinds of chances while other teams only elevated the blue chip kids).

    For hockey purposes, we’d (imo) need TOI totals and then we’d need to do in depth studies about coaches/team trends.

    We can still do that in general terms. I mean, you couldn’t get me to be dollar one on Schremp’s future with MacT at the helm, and I’d be willing to bet Cogliano will impress him from the get-go.

    How to put that into projectable form? Haven’t a clue, never really looked at it.

  12. goldenchild says:

    Lowetide said”goldenchild: Not a knock on Schremp, but the really good ones don’t spend much time in the AHL. I very much doubt Gagner spends more time in the AHL than Perry did, as an example. “

    Yeah i agree with that my question was just on the adjustment figure you used for the “London Rule” in that if it was just based on Schremp’s transition to pro hockey how that would compare to the other guys from the same program. Schremp brought 30% of his offence to the AHL is that in line with the other Londoners? or is it lower due to Schremps own failings?

    For the record I’m not much of a Schremp guy and doubt he is going to be much help to the Oilers anytime soon. Just wondering how fair it is to dock Gagner’s numbers due soley to Schremps progresion or lack their of.

  13. Lowetide says:

    goldenchild: Ah, gotcha. Yeah, this was almost a “worst case scenario” which imo we fans should do more often.

    I’ve been following prospects since maybe 1971 and can’t think of too many that I’ve underestimated lol.

  14. Jonathan says:

    RE: London Scoring adjustment.

    Unfortunately, the sample size is rather small, but here are two examples:
    Corey Perry (ANA) went from 130/60gp (2.17ppg) in the OHL to 34/19gp (1.79ppg) in the AHL, well clear of the .45 league adjustment mark (which would give .98ppg)
    Dave Bolland (CHI) went from 130/59gp (2.20ppg) in the OHL to 49/65gp (.754) in the AHL, well below the .45 mark (which would give .99ppg). Bolland actually recorded a .34 league adjustment mark, much closer to Schremp’s. I hope that’s helpful.

  15. PDO says:


    I know I keep twisting your arm here… :D

    But don’t you think that if we were going to have the TOI, then something like the “London Effect” would be double counting?

    I mean, systems have a play, no doubt… but a good player will put up good numbers, just take a look at Marion Gaborik or Patrick Elias.

  16. Lowetide says:

    PDO: Well if we had TOI over a long period, we’d really have a chance to be specific.

    I mean, we shouldn’t get too far down this road because Gagner isn’t really going to be an AHL player ala Schremp unless something goes terribly wrong, and we can also point out that we’re comparing Gagner’s 17 yo season with Schremp’s 19-20.

    I’m not saying Gagner’s “comp” is Schremp, lord no. Just trying to get a line on just how much to deflate those London numbers.

  17. jon says:

    Despite getting 3 points today I think Gagner had one of his worst games of the series. He took a thunderous hit at the beginning of the shift which turned the puck over. After that the Russians maintained possession for a significant amount of time and frustratingly Gagner did little more than float around and fan on an attempt to clear. Furthermore, he didn’t play for the remainder of the game leading one to believe that Sutter was displeased with him or Gagner may have been shaken up or hurt on the play.

  18. Lowetide says:

    It’s really hard to get any kind of read on him because the Russians are so horrible.

  19. digger says:

    To each their own, but I thought while the game was still in contention, Gagner was arguably the best player on the ice. His lack of icetime in the 3rd had more to do with 4th liners like Hamill and Boychuk getting extra icetime with the game way out of reach, combined with a lot of Canada PK work. He did have one bad shift after that hit he took, but he was hardly alone.

    Certainly, his line had a lot more to do with the outcome of the game than the Turris/Tavares/Perron line, which seemed to wake up only after the game was no longer a contest.

  20. IceDragoon says:


    The first thunderous hit he took (arm to the head) drew a roughing penalty. It coincided with a tripping penalty and put us 5 on 3 in the 1st.

    The Russians played some of their most aggressive hockey in this game. Many of Gagner’s teammates have “fanned” trying to clear the puck, but he does it once after taking a “thunderous hit” (another glancing head shot, btw) and he’s “frustratingly” flawed? To decry his game because of this shift is ludicrous.

    I think Sutter was being protective by not playing him. The Russians had last change, the game was out of reach, and the kid was being targeted. He did, however, have Gagner take a couple of D-zone face-offs and then change on the fly. That speaks to a strength the coach relies on.

    To my eye there is only one player in this series who can match Sam’s vision and IQ… Kyle Turris, who has half the points (2 ESG, 2 PPG, 1 SHA) in more icetime… He also has an important couple of inches on our boy. ;-D

    I think it was Tavares (could be wrong, tho) who was asked before the game started… ~”What is it about Gagner…?”. He said, “He’s so easy to play with.

    Looks like Sutter has been giving a little ‘Gagner time’ as bonus time for playing hard.

    Apparently, Sam has grown an inch since the WJCs. He hasn’t added any weight to speak of, so I’d guess his muscles are still growing.

    It can take months, or up to 2 years for muscles to finish growing after a bone growth spurt. Genetics are the determinant, but rule of thumb is… the more bone growth, the longer it takes for the muscles to catch up.

    One can add muscle mass/weight between growth cycles, but only after all growth is complete does muscle maturation begin. This is one reason why big boys take longer to develop.

    If/when Gagner’s physical development catches up to his brain… he could be something special.


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