We have used the recently-coined Snepsts system to find historical comparables for leading snipers Jarome Iginla, Ilya Kovalchuk, Marian Hossa, Eric Staal, Alexander Semin and Steven Stamkos. By request, we're looking at Andrew Brunette, Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin this week.
The Snepsts system
While there are many ways to search history to find players with comparable statistics, what particularly defines the Snepsts system is that it searches all of NHL's history, normalizes data to the modern era, rules out players over two years older or younger, and weights current, previous and past seasons at a 4:2:1 ratio. A more detailed explanation of the (at the time, unnamed) methodology is here.
As a reminder, these are not similar players, but rather players with similar statistics. Looking at how the future unfolded for them can be an entertaining way to give us insight into what to expect from our target players.
Andrew Brunette, 37, Minnesota Wild
Andrew Brunette has missed only two games in the last seven seasons, including a stretch of 509 consecutive games. He scored the first goal in Nashville Predator history, and the last goal against legend Patrick Roy, but he is probably best known for his amazing shooting accuracy. He was last year's leader in shooting percentage, and is second to Alex Tanguay among active NHLers.
Though we can't capture Brunettes shooting percentage or durability using Snepsts, we may be able to find players that had his consistency and age-defiance. Using the simple system, close comparables include Vic Hadfield, Bob Nevin, Greg Adams and Robert Lang. Safely assuming the full 82 games, that group would average 20 goals and 30 assists for 50 points – and even Snepsts can agree with that.
Age Closest Comparable GP G A PTS
37 Bob Nevin 1975-76 77 11 36 47
38 Robert Lang 2008-09 50 17 20 37
35 Vic Hadfield 1975-76 76 24 30 54
37 Greg Adams 2000-01 60 11 12 23
35 Ralph Backstrom 1972-73 79 22 28 50
35 Cliff Ronning 2000-01 80 19 44 63
36 Sergei Makarov 1994-95 43 9 13 22
36 Don Marshall 1968-69 74 19 18 37
35 Jozef Stumpel 2007-08 52 7 13 20
35 Ivan Boldirev 1984-85 75 14 22 36
Worst (Adams) 82 15 17 32
Best (Ronning) 82 20 45 65
Average 82 19 29 48
VUKOTA (over 82 GP) 82 21 34 55
Since shooting percentage isn't considered in Snepsts (it wasn't available prior to 1967-68 expansion), of these comparables only Sergei Makarov (22.0%) is a better shooter, though Robert Lang (14.1%) and Greg Adams (15.3%) aren't far off. Even Jozef Stumpel was coming off a 17.6% season the year of the match.
Andrew Brunette is currently in the lower end of expectations, on pace for 16 goals and 22 assists for 38 points.
Phil Kessel, 23, Toronto Maple Leafs
Phil Kessel, whose performance and shooting percentage has been the topic of heated discussion, was involved in one of the more controversial trades in recent history. After a dominant season where he scored 36 goals, 60 points with a shooting percentage of 15.5% and +23 in Boston's miracle 2008-09 season as a 21 year old, he was acquired by the Toronto Maple Leafs for two first round choices and a second round choice. Given Toronto's poor performance and the consequently high value of those draft choices, was it the right move? While answering that question is outside the scope of this article, taking a look at what the future could have in store for Kessel might help answer it.
Age Closest Comparable GP G A PTS
23 Dick Duff 1959-60 67 18 21 39
25 Geoff Sanderson 1997-98 75 12 20 32
24 Cam Neely 1989-90 76 41 29 70
25 Gilles Tremblay 1963-64 61 22 16 38
24 Tony Tanti 1987-88 73 30 29 59
24 Rick Vaive 1983-84 76 36 30 66
23 Derek Sanderson 1969-70 50 17 23 40
24 Steve Shutt 1976-77 80 50 40 90
23 Corey Perry 2008-09 78 31 39 70
24 Zach Parise 2008-09 82 44 47 91
Worst (G. Sanderson) 70 11 18 29
Best (Shutt) 70 44 35 79
Average 70 29 28 57
VUKOTA (over 70 GP) 70 33 31 64
If he is stopped short at 70 GP, like he has in three of his four NHL seasons, he's on pace for 27 goals and 16 assists, leaving him within the lower end of expectations. Among the ten players whose career trajectories were most similar to Kessel's, six of them very safely earned the modern era equivalent of 30 goals, and every single one earned more assists. Then again, they didn't have to play with the Leafs.
Tyler Seguin, 19, Boston Bruins
Forced by dwindling cap space to move some of their key talent, the Bruins were fortunate enough to acquire the second overall draft choice used to pick Tyler Seguin. He's on pace for 14 goals, 17 assists and 30 points in 79 games which isn't bad at all for a teenage rookie. Normalized for era, that's comparable to forwards like Jordan Staal, Cam Neely, David Legwand, Wendel Clark, Nik Antropov and Alexei Kovalev.
Obviously, the Snepsts system can't help us with a rookie, but OHL comparables have been quite effective despite only having two seasons with which to work. For example, using an OHL peer group as a comparison, Steven Stamkos was expected to score 21 goals and 26 assists in his rookie season, which was almost bang on with the 24 goals and 24 assists he actually earned.
As for Seguin's OHL peer group, for his 18-year-old season with the Plymouth Whalers, there were nine players within 5% of his scoring (normalized for era) with at least 50 games played that went on to the NHL: Steve Ott, Tony Tanti, Bryan Little, Michael Richards, Bob Wren, Patrick O'Sullivan, Peter Sarno, Kevin Brown and Jeff O'Neill. Only two of them played in the NHL at age 19: Tony Tanti and Jeff O'Neill, who averaged the modern era equivalent of 10 goals and 17 assists for 27 points over 79 games. With one goal fewer, Seguin's season would match expectations exactly.
Adding in his age 17 matches, which include Steve Yzerman, Dustin Brown and Eric Staal, our expectations become 11 goals and 22 assists for 33 points over 79 games. The future may indeed be bright for Seguin, but for this season, there appears to be ample precedent for his modest pace.
Using a system like Snepsts to establish expectations for players by finding historical players with similar era-normalized statistics is a fun and useful way to gain insight on players as diverse as Brunette, Kessel and Seguin.
If you find these studies interesting, please take advantage of either the comment section or the email link to request analyses of other players, using either the Snepsts system, or a requested alternative.
Robert Vollman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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