Exploring the Gagner Comps

That’s Al MacInnis cross checking Doug Gilmour in the 1981 Memorial Cup in Windsor. We’ve talked a lot about “comparables” over the years and I think it’s a reasonable way to project current young players into the future. The idea being we collect players from the same or similar leagues who possess the same skill set and have about the same junior numbers.

Then we compare them once they turn pro and hopefully get an indicator as to their progress. By nature, we’ll probably aim too high (who wants to track Jason Bonsignore’s career again? It was painful enough the first time) but then again sometimes these kids surprise us. Recent examples would be Brad Winchester and Liam Reddox.

Regarding Sam Gagner, we’ve agreed that Doug Gilmour and Vincent Damphousse are hopeful comparables and this season we can measure them at the same age and level: 20, in the NHL.

The Boxcars
  • (.663) Doug Gilmour 80gp, 25-28-53 +6 on a +1 team
  • (.640) Vince Damphousse 75gp, 12-36-48 +2 on a -36 team
  • (.619) Sam Gagner 21gp, 5-8-13 -2 on a -5 team

Gilmour’s team averaged 3.66 goals per game, Damphousse played on a club that averaged 3.41 per game and Gagner’s team has averaged 3 per game but it is early. I don’t know that there’s a whole lot to be learned yet except the fact that our man is “in the range” offensively and likely not comparable in terms of plus minus (certainly to Damphousse) at this time.

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38 Responses to "Exploring the Gagner Comps"

  1. Black Dog says:

    Who were Vinny's linemates I wonder?

    He was a solid player. If Gagner is in that range its a win.

    Those full cages are goofy, Jesus.

    I think Bonsignore was a comp for me. At least in terms of our pro numbers. He blew me away in junior. A lot closer in the Show.

  2. godot10 says:

    Gilmour was St. Louis's shutdown centre as a rookie at twenty.

  3. mjsh says:

    i remember listening to KOMO radio the year Gilmour came up and they talked about this tenatious young guy they had brought up. I do not see the same drive in
    Gagner. I do think he might have more offensive potential than Gilmour. I am fine with than.

  4. Lowetide says:

    godot10: I wonder about that. We didn't have the kinds of quality information we have today, but Federko was 27 and led in scoring (-3), big Doug Wickenheiser was highly touted and came over from Montreal mid season.

    I can certainly agree that Guy Chouinard would have been the lesser, but Gilmour over Federko and Wickenheiser? I think we'd need proof.

  5. Schitzo says:

    Vinny had that kind of +/-? Surprised does not begin to explain my feelings.

  6. Traktor says:

    Gagner is Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Not who I want to build my team around.

  7. Bruce says:

    My recollection is that Gilmour got ridden pretty hard right from the get-go. Game in with the big rep as an offensive guy (177 points in the OHL, pretty sure he ran away with the scoring title), but Jacques Demers already had Federko so he slotted Gilmour into more of a "checking" role, lots of PK etc. His role fit more the traditional 3C than 2C, at least at first. I recall reading a couple of articles about him back then and how thrilled they were with his two way play.

    For sure he was the odd man out of the PP. His first three years he scored 3, 3, and 2 powerplay goals, a minor share of season's totals of 25, 21 and 25. Then in his fourth year with Federko winding down Demers let Dougie loose on the PP: he scored 17 PPG, his goals totals surged to 42, while his points output doubled to 105. By then he was a fully rounded player, good enough for Team Canada #1, and almost ready for the Professor to give to the fucking Flames.

    But his apprenticeship was as a checker and secondary scorer.

  8. Bruce says:

    Oops, "Came in with the big rep as an offensive guy …"

  9. Bling says:

    Gagner looks both stronger and quicker this year, and he's done a nice job of carrying the puck through the neutral zone with speed.

    If we exclude Arsene and Ryan Stone due to small sample sizes, 89's relative corsi trails only Hemsky, Penner, and Visnovsky. Not bad company, eh?

    I think this is the year that he has arrived as an NHL player. A few blemishes still, but his game is on the upswing.

  10. Bling says:


    I don't like the PM Bouchard comp.



    18 years old: 0.40 PPG
    19 years old: 0.36 PPG
    20 years old: 0.81 PPG (**in the AHL**)


    18 years old: 0.62 PPG
    19 years old: 0.54 PPG
    20 years old: 0.62 PPG

    They're not even close. I haven't listed EV-TOI or PP-TOI for both players, but it's not like Minny was swimming in forward depth during Bouchard's formative years as a pro.

  11. godot10 says:


    "Gilmour began his career as a shut-down centre with the Blues."

    Steve Simmons (in article on why Gilmour should be in the HOF…I

  12. Lowetide says:

    Well that's not really proof. I respect Bruce more than Steve Simmons, but this is hindsight and getting a Toronto journalist to frame the issue of Doug Gilmour accurately is expecting too much.

    Plus, Gilmour was a rookie in St. Louis. Do we have someone from St. Louis in his rookie year writing about it? Or something along those lines? I have a bunch of old HN's I'll go have a look.

  13. godot10 says:


    "“Doug was at best, a long shot,” said former Blues coach Jacques Demers. But Gilmour worked so hard in training camp and adapted so nimbly to the defensive game, Demers had to keep him. Gilmour thanked him with a 25-goal season and a year spent going face-to-face with the NHL’s best centreman."

  14. Bruce says:

    There's no arguing with Wikipedia. (Is there?)

    "Gilmour had difficulty reaching a contract with the Blues, who were still concerned that he was undersized for the NHL game. He almost resorted to playing professional hockey in Germany. Two weeks before the 1983–84 NHL season started, Gilmour and the Blues agreed on a contract and he joined the team. Injuries allowed him to play in the fourth line center slot, and he became a defensive specialist.

    "During his first three seasons with the Blues, Gilmour was a consistent defensive presence who averaged 50 points. In the 1986 playoffs, he broke out and scored 21 points in 19 games, as the Blues lost in the Conference finals. This made Gilmour one of the only players in history to lead in postseason scoring without making it to the Stanley Cup Finals; Peter Forsberg would also achieve that feat in 1999 with the Colorado Avalanche."

    Doesn't much sound like Gagner, but then again Sam was 18 when he made the jump. That makes him a real tough comp.

  15. Bruce says:

    Looking for 18-year-olds who made the jump.

    How about Dan Quinn as a comp?

  16. Lowetide says:

    Well this is all well and good but it's all looking back. We all add in things once a player is established, but what were they saying about him in 1983?

  17. danny says:

    I'm with LT on this. Theres so much hyperbole in sports writeups that calling a guy a defensive forward, and playing against the NHLs best centremen doesnt really make it scientific.

    By MSM standards, Ethan Moreau is a defensive forward because he plays on a checking line. We all know how absurd that is.

    Id guess the +/- of Federko/Wickenheiser is an indication on whether or not Gilmour was playing the toughs.

  18. danny says:

    Federko had poor +/- numbers in comparison to Gilmours, but in 85-86, presumably when killer would be facing toughs, they flipped dramatically.

    84-85 Killers 2nd Season:
    Federko -10
    Gilmour +3

    85-86 Killers 3rd season:
    Federko +10
    Gilmour -3

  19. Bruce says:

    Well this is all well and good but it's all looking back.

    I thought that's what we were doing with all these comps.

    We all add in things once a player is established, but what were they saying about him in 1983?

    I assume you mean Quinn, tho' he and Gilmour both broke in that same year. They were really hyping him, but since the hype came from Calgary I didn't believe it. :) He was a first rounder, #13 overall, and ripped up the OHL in a similar manner as Gagner. Similar size as Sam too. Stayed in Belleville for the start of his 18-year-old season and kept ripping it up, then got called up by the Flames early in the season. Still not quite sure how the rules worked at the time to allow that.

    Quinn scored at a higher rate as an 18- and 19-year-old than Sam, but of course that was the 80s NHL. e.g. as a 19-year-old Quinn scored 58 points in 74 GP, and was involved in 58/363 = 16% of Flames' offence. Gagner scored 41 points in 76 games at the same age, superficially much worse, but that accounted for 41/228 = 18% of Oilers offence. So reasonably comparable.

    At 20 Quinn put up his first of four consecutive 70-point seasons. He was traded at 21 to Pittsburgh for Mike Bullard. While his defensive game was never a strong poin, he brought the offence, topping out at 94 points while playing some (mainly on the powerplay as I recall) with Mario.

    His career fell off fairly sharply after that, there were "lifestyle" issues and then a sexual assault charge which really derailed him. He bounced around through 8 different teams (getting a second chance with 3 of them) but never reached 70 points again, and after age 25 never scored as many as 50. So (hopefully) he won't be a good comp beyond his mid-20s. But as a young phenom there certainly were similarities.

    Is this the sort of thing you're looking for?

  20. PDO says:

    Doug Weight is progressing nicely, and unlike Traktor I certainly have no problem building the team around him.

    Cerebral vision? Check.
    Workout Warrior? Check.
    Sick mitts? Check.
    Slightly below average size? Check.
    Great balance? Check.

    Early season, but it looks like the leadership and grit are coming along nicely.

  21. Jfry says:

    regardless of hyperbole, revisionism, etc, Gagne has never even scared 25 goals and i don't see him scaring 105 next year.

    Gilmour might not have been a "shut down" center on that team, but he didn't go -20 against the softs, and there's not one of us who will consider samwise a complete defensive player or anything approaching it.

    doug gilmour and damphouse seem like realy, glass is half full comps. i like the dan quinn comp a little more, but other than one crazy season on the *Knights, he hasn't been an "explosive" offensive player.

  22. godot10 says:

    20-25 goals in 1983-84 is more like 12-15 goals today.

    Gilmour might be a good comp for Gagner offensively, but not defensively (yet). If/when Gagner becomes a true power vs. power player, then he will be Gilmour-like.

    Gilmour could flat out play from day 1. I was much more hockey obsessed in the eighties than I am now. I could run off every teams roster. Gilmour's rookie season was something that stuck out like a sore thumb.

  23. Lowetide says:

    I'm not saying Gilmour wasn't a shutdown player, just that we can't read his bio and assume that it is written from 1983.

    As an aside, how many rookies are shutdown centers? Bernie Federko was a quality player, and the team itself must have had a feeling there was trouble up the middle because they traded for Doug Wickenheiser.

    Jacques Lemaire was so weak at center as a rookie that they played him at LW. I have read enough on Derek Sanderson to know he did (almost immediately) take over the traditional checking role.

    I do have some info from 1983 and will check it today.

  24. Vic Ferrari says:

    In the 80's every forward in the league was either a checker or an offensive player. No middle ground. Checker sometimes meant that they played a shutdown role, but the MSM definition was really "doesn't score many points". Hitchcock hadn't invented "energy player" yet :)

    Stauffer routinely names players who played a shutdown role in the game … Dennis will refer to the same guys in the same game as being sheltered. Cogliano last season is the clearest example, but it's commonplace. In the 80s and 90s the writing was atrocious, in terms of what happened in the game. Wigge was the lone exception imo. If he was writing back then (was he?), he'd probably have it right.

    If someone knows if there are any digitized game sheets from the 80s around … we could check in a hurry.

    Even just box scores … find STL games where only one team scored EV goals, and there were no shorthanded markers, then check the plus minus of the players on either team. Sift through a couple dozen box scores and it should become obvious.

    Smart money is on Danny and LT here, methinks.

  25. Woodguy says:

    I like Bruce's comp. Same size, same % of team scoring. Same junior jump progression.

    89 was 3rd in team scoring year 1, 5th in year 2.

    Quinn was 5th in team scoring year 1 and 7th in year 2.

    Lots to go on here.

    I think were heaping a lot of hope on Sam's shoulders by mentioning him the same breath as hall of famers, and near hall of famers.

    Mind you, if Dan Quinn hadn't of fallen apart, he was on track for a near hall of fame career as well.

  26. Vic Ferrari says:

    Marchant took over the checking role in his second season as an Oiler. The first season he bounced around through all lines, including a lot of wing on the Weight line. He was a lot older than Gagner, though.

    As far as Oiler rookies go, I don't remember anyone playing tougher icetime as a rookie than Gagner during that stretch where MacTavish was putting the 27-10-83 in a 'position to succeed'. Gagner was even subbed on to the Stoll line to take on tough opp a couple or a few times. Granted it was just one stretch mid season.

    At all times that Gagner has not been playing with Hemsky … his underlying numbers are identical to Penner sans Gagner. He's had brutal luck, Dustin the opposite.

    I'm not worried about Gagner. Cogliano and Nilsson, on the other hand …

  27. Vic Ferrari says:


    I was a Flames fan in the 80s. And while I agree that Gilmour is an optimistic comp, Dan Quinn would be setting the bar too low. More opportunist than difference maker, his own counting numbers were bigger than his impact on helping his team win. Gilmour the opposite, of course.

    Dan was one of those guys that the fans always loved more than the coach did. Bob Johnson was a sharp guy, though.

    I think Dan Quinn racked up a lot of his scoring stats while playing with Mario, as well, no? Might be my dodgy memory

  28. Bruce says:

    I was a Flames fan in the 80s.

    Well that explains a few things. :)

    And while I agree that Gilmour is an optimistic comp, Dan Quinn would be setting the bar too low.

    Agreed. Surely, though, the objective of this exercise is to find a range of comps. Obviously we don't know where Gagner goes from here, but IMO it's reasonable to conclude that Gilmour >>> Gagner >>> Quinn, which provides a little more context than simply Gilmour >>> Gagner.

    For sure when it comes to defensive play Gilmour >>>>>>>>> Gagner >>>>>>> Quinn. There was a reason Cliff Fletcher and Badger Bob sent Quinn packing at 21.

  29. Master Lok says:

    Eastside Hockey Manager seems to compare Gagner as a future Daniel Alfredsson I believe…

    But that's pretty hard to compare statistically since Alfredsson's first season was 95/96 when he was 23 scoring 61 pts in 82 games with a -18. Prior to that he played only in Sweden.

  30. spOILer says:

    I don't buy the Gilmour comp so much. It seems to me he scored more goals than Gagner, was a quicker skater, a bigger winner of puck battles, better defensively early on. And he also accumulated his points in the early seasons without the benefit of much PP time.

    Damphousse seems a lot closer based on points, and G/A distribution. I drag my feet on this one a bit too… just because Vinnie seemed, to my eye, a much taller player in a rangy body, with a long reach that he used to dangle/stickhandle.

    Doug Weight is okay with me, because both he and Gagner's game seem dependent on vision & smarts as the primary talents. Both like the half wall on the PP, and I don't remember Vinnie playing there that much. And it appears Gagner is tracking slightly ahead of Dougie's path.

    The guy I'm hoping Gagner will be (but likely won't)… Bryan Trottier.

  31. Bruce says:

    The guy I'm hoping Gagner will be (but likely won't)… Bryan Trottier.

    spOILer: Dream on. Gilmour was the poor man's Trottier. Great, great player at both ends of the rink. Hit to hurt, too.

  32. Vic Ferrari says:

    I don't know about the "poor defensively" tag on Dan Quinn. Or on Gagner for that matter. It's more about cheating for offense, taking risks with possession (esp at the blue lines).

    Is he going to be a guy who plays the game for the team's results or for his own numbers? To my mind, the question of character is 20 times bigger than the issue of "how good is he in his own zone".

    Fundamentally, is he going to want to play the game like Ray Ferraro, Michael Nylander, Mike Comrie, Jagr and Dan Quinn? Or play the game like Shawn Horcoff, Ron Francis, Daymond Langkow, Forsberg and Daniel Alfredsson?

    He's different to every one of those guys in terms of skating stride, size, speed, stick skills, etc … but the quality that separates those to groups is mostly character. The willingness to do the little things that helps a team win games. To bring some nuance to his game.

    Not such an easy thing for a young player. Nash and Zherdev seemed incorrigible about three years ago … Nash has changed his spots, one of the best in the game now, and Zherdev hasn't changed one bit. It's important though. The abuse that Nilsson and Cogliano are getting now hopefully serves as a warning for Sam.

    If Pat Quinn needs to grind Cogliano and Nilsson into a fine white powder in order to scare Gagner straight … then so be it. I'd be on board with that.

  33. Mr. Bugg says:

    The box scores on the Hockey History Project don't have +/- information, but there are a couple things we can glean from the data. I sampled the first five games, five games at the beginning of December and the last five.

    Observations- It looks like Demers was dealing with a similar situation to what Quinn has now. Federko and Gilmour were his only natural centers. Guy Chouinard was a center in Calgary and it appears as though he lined up there in St. Loo.

    Anyway, based on the combinations most frequently seen in ES GF, two trios and duo seemed to see be inseparable pre-December:

    Pat Hickey-Doug Gilmour-X

    The fourth line was basically a mess- Alain Lemieux and Larry Patey rotated in and out of the lineup until Wickenheiser came along.

    Now, if you were Jacques Demers, who are you lining up against Broten, Savard and Yzerman? Gilmour and a guy who was in the CHL (and not the good one) the year previous, or the unit of Pettersson-Chouinard-Babych, all three of which were known defensive commodities?

    Any question about that is eliminated later in the season.

    GM Ron Caron made a nice little deal when he traded power winger and former 2nd overall pick Perry Turnbull to Montreal for three real NHLers- the aforementioned Wickenheiser, defender Gilbert Delorme and winger Greg Paslawski. Those three helped the Blues into the post-season while Turnbull was never as good after that.

    At first, Demers appears to have experimented with Pettersson-Gilmour-Babych. However, in the final five games of the season as the Blues fought for a playoff spot, Gilmour got dunked to the fourth line with occasional sorties next to Federko- what we'd call soft ice-time today.

    At full strength, they'd have looked like this:


    Perry Anderson being an enforcer.

    Now, again, no ES +/- data. But do you really think Gilmour and his bubble buddies were sent out to cover checking duties when the team had two and then three other serviceable Cs?

  34. Vic Ferrari says:

    Wow, good stuff Mr Bugg.

    That Paslawski turned into a really good player as well. Terrific trade for the Blues there. hockeydb list him as 5.11, 189 lbs. I think that is an exaggeration.

    Sutter was underrated offensively imo, and Joey Mullen was much more than just a shooter. Bernie was a terrific offensive player who would be much mor famous if he'd played in another city. Never a guy who worried too much about what he gave back the other way … but if you create enough, and have wingers like those two, you can get away with it.

    Man, the Flames took some really good players from STL. Some really lopsided deals between those two teams in the 80s. It was generally assumed that there was money involved in those deals. STL ownership (was it Ralston Purina then, or an owner earlier?) was desperate for cash.

  35. Bruce says:

    Mr. Bugg: That's excellent. Without having time to check the Hockey Summary Project myself, I do know that Gilmour led the Blues in playoff scoring with 11 GP, 2-9-11. Doubt if he saw a lot of ice with Perry Anderson, let's put it that way. So maybe it was those last 5 games that were anomalous.

    You're right that the Professor hosed the Habs in that Turnbull deal, and Vic's right that he funnelled a lot of talent straight into Calgary. Mullen, Gilmour, Mark Hunter, Ramage, Nattress, and Wamsley would make a pretty decent starting six with the only major talent going the other way being the Golden Brett. The MacInnis deal was still years away of course. But when it was Fletcher and Caron it was just like a direct pipeline to Calgary, and some of those guys really hurt the Oilers in those years. I was no fan of the Professor, let's put it that way.

  36. Lowetide says:

    I want to echo Vic's thoughts on this, and pass along thanks to Mr. Bugg. Impressive, and I agree with your thought process. Pollock would never had made that trade.

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