That’s Wayne Cashman and some other guy playing in the OHA, mid-1960s. Both of these fellows had fine major league careers but only one helps us in discussing “comparables.” Wayne Cashman is a nice comp for a player like Ryan Smyth in that they played a similar gritty style and had enough skill to play and succeed on their team’s top lines.
I first learned about comparables from the great baseball writer Bill James. The brilliance of James was NOT in the math (his statistical theories were often tweaked becase they didn’t “look right” and modified until they did) but in the questions asked and then answered logically.
James asked himself “what if we could take a current MLB rookie, find a similar player from baseall history, apply the template of the older player’s career to the new one and come out with a better understanding of the current rookie?” and then set out to do just that thing.
If you apply the right things, it actually works well. For hockey, I always make certain that the age, league they play in, and of course position and approximate skill set (as described in scouting reports) is about the same. Unlike James, I rarely do this with NHL rookies because it’s my opinion that we can get a nice read on a player before that and then see what the results are going forward.
On HFboards and then this blog, I’ve gone into detail about specific comps (Winchester=Lacouture, Pouliot=Stoll, Schremp=Nilsson, Gagner=Hemsky) but they’ve been fractured and lacked cohesion.
Today I’m going to take the December Oilers Top 20 (link to your right on this blog) and post the best available comp currently. It’s important to know that some of these aren’t mine, many of the readers of this blog and other blogs have identified the names below.
- Sam Gagner: The best old timey comp I’ve found so far is Vincent Damphousse. As a 17-year old junior, Damphousse scored at an identical level to Gagner at the same age (2.25 to Gagner’s 2.23). Damphousse’s team scored 406 goals to Gagner’s 301, so it’s probably safe to say they were either similar talents or Gagner was slightly ahead at the same age. Either way, on their respective draft days both men were considered to be among the very best talents available. As an 18-year old NHL player Damphousse scored 80gp, 21-25-46 (.575 points-per-game) compared to Gagner’s 73gp, 12-35-47 (.644 points-per-game). Damphousse was on a team that scored 3.57 goals-per game, Gagner’s club is averaging 2.88 so we can again draw the same conclusion (similar talents orGagner slightly ahead at the same age). I also detailed the Ales Hemsky comparison here and although the numbers have changed the general thrust of the post is the same.
- Andrew Cogliano: It’s Butch Goring. Cogliano had a dip offensively during this season but Goring also lacked consistency (he was sent down in year two) but they are a wonderful match, probably my favorite one (I loved watching Butch Goring play). Goring as a rookie scored 59gp, 13-23-36 (.610 ppg) on a team that scored 2.21 goals-per-game, Cogliano is scoring 76gp, 16-25-41 (.539ppg) on a team that is scoring 2.88 gpg. Goring is a superior offensive player as a rookie and Cogliano may not end up being quite the offensive player Robert Goring was but I’m happy with this comp.
- Tom Gilbert: Finding a comp for Tom Gilbert is both easy and unnecessary. He’s 25, we already know what he is and the chances of him improving markedly are pretty much zero. Any spike in his numbers or performance will come from a change in role (PP) or after two or three years when he is established at the NHL level.
- Taylor Chorney: Defensemen are harder to find comps for, at least it’s difficult to marry two careers together on the blueline because injury has such an impact on these guys. Chorney is an undersized two way defender who can move the puck well and is responsible positionally (I suspect Ray Ferraro will be talking about “read and react” alot when Chorney arrives) with footspeed being a clear strength. Chorney’s numbers in the NCAA at age 20 (40gp, 3-21-24, .600ppg) come on a team that scores 3 goals per game. Brian Rafalski is a similar player type whose ppg (36gp, 6-17-23, .639ppg) came on a team that scored 4.1 goals per game. It’s important I think to remember that a lot of offense for defensemen relies on powerplay time and since we don’t have all of the special teams numbers any D comp is less reliable than the F group.
- Rob Schremp: The comps for Rob Schremp are not pleasant. Oiler fans have suggested that Mike Comrie is a good comp, but Comrie was scoring 33 goals and leading the Oilers in points at 21, while Rob Schremp is working on his skating in the minors. I’ve suggested Robert Nilsson might be a good comp (and they are numbers wise) but Nilsson’s speed make him a questionable comp for Robbie. No, I think we need to stay in his skillset and find an extreme offensive centerman whose speed had a major impact on his career. I’ve chosen Ron Chipperfield. Like Schremp, Ron Chipperfield dominated junior scoring but did not have the same success after turning pro. Despite being a famous junior scorer (162 points in 62gp in the WHL his draft year) he was chosen late in the first round (NOTE: One of the reasons for this was the NHL allowed underage players to be drafted for the first time in 1974) and pro success never really happened. In his rookie (WHA) season, he delivered 78gp, 19-20-39 which equals 78gp, 13-14-27 when run through Desjardins. Schremp’s age 20 NHLE was 78gp, 9-20-29 which is a pretty close match. For those who don’t remember Chipperfield, the Hockey News in 1974 ran any number of stories detailing his prowess on the PP. Also, from the Saturday, March 30th, 1974 TORONTO STAR: Ron Chipperfield: “effective rather than smooth skating and has uncanny puck sense. Some scouts claim he’ll face a large adjustment to pro hockey, but 80 goal shooters rate high draft spots.” Except he didn’t, falling deep into the first round.
- Kyle Brodziak: For many reasons, the best comp here is Jarret Stoll. Brodziak has overcome skating issues (like Stoll), had a big junior season (like Stoll) and ended up being picked by his NHL team after his official draft year (like Stoll). That last line is a bit of a stretch because Stoll was a re-entry but they do have lots in common. Stoll scored at a .710ppg clip in the AHL at 20 on a team that averaged 3.49 goals-per-game and Brodziak scored .571ppg at age 20 on a team that scored 2.51 goals-per-game. Stoll as an NHL rookie went 68gp, 10-11-21 .309 on a team that averaged 2.7 goals-per-game, Brodziak is 75gp, 13-13-26 .347 on a team that is averaging 2.88 gpg. Brodziak’s biggest difference is age, as he’s an NHL rookie (by my standards) at 23 (2 years older than Stoll). In September Showerhead wrote on this blog “I commented last year to some of my buddies that I got the same impression from Brodziak that I got from Horcoff and Stoll the first few times I saw them – one way or another, he is going to find a way to make himself useful.” That sounds about right.
- Riley Nash: The best comp for Nash is Chris Higgins. At 18 years old, Chris Higgins went 27gp, 14-17-31 at Yale (1.15ppg) on a team that averaged 3 goals-per-game. Nash went 36gp, 12-20-32 (.889) for Cornell who averaged 2.83 goals-per-game. For those of us wondering about the level of competition in the ECAC it should be noted that Higgins played another season at Yale, graduated to pro with a solid AHL season and followed it up with an even better one during the lockout year before becoming a consistent 20-goal man for the Habs. If Nash=Higgins, the Oilers scouting staff scored.
- Slava Trukhno: This fellow is going to be tough to find a comp for, because his stats this season are so extreme. If you’ve followed his season you know that Trukhno had a very poor start and then came on like gangbusters (7-8-15 in his last 11gp) in March. Much of his offense (9-10-19) has come on the PP and his EV stats (3-9-12) are pedestrian. His skill set says he will be a more well-rounded player should he make the NHL, and I have used Jason Chimera as a comp in the past. I’m not comfortable with it though based on difference in footspeed (which is the problem with the Nilsson/Schremp comp) so will keep looking.
- Devan Dubnyk: I have absolutely no idea. John Davidson was a huge WHL goalie and after that I’m out.
- Jeff Petry: He’s got the Ray McKay physique (6-2, 176) and a reputation of a good two-way defender with a plus shot from the point. Guy Flaming loves the guy (#1 prospect at HF) but the math has some concerns. Things like his being almost 20 when he reached NCAA hockey, and his offense (40gp, 3-20-23, .575) is shy of Chorney (.600) on a team that outscored UND (3.28gpg to 3). Tom Gilbert’s offense at the same age was in the range (39gp, 6-15-21, .538) but Gilbert’s team was even more offensively challenged (2.86gpg). Gilbert also has a size advantage but there are similarities between the two players.