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June 8, 2009
Ice Actions
Boston Bruins Re-Sign C David Krejci

by Andrew Rothstein

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Peter Chiarelli kicked off the approaching offseason by agreeing to terms on an extension with his 23-year-old center, who was the second most productive Bruin this season with a +18.3 GVT. Krejci finished behind only Boston goaltender Tim Thomas, who led the NHL this past season with a +35.8 GVT. The Czech Republic native was among the top ten most improved players this year, which bodes well for Boston as forwards generally begin to peak in hockey between their early to mid twenties. The positive markers donít end there because players called up to the NHL at an early age tend to have lengthier careers than players promoted to the big time later on. Thus, starting out in the NHL at 22 years of age is a good sign that Krejci might have a lengthy career.

Did the Bruins ultimately make the correct move in extending Krejci for another three seasons or should they have saved their money on another restricted free agent such as Phil Kessel? If Kessel resignís, then we should be asking whether Boston should have used the money allocated towards extending Krejci on another free agent. Letís take a look at two indicators for predicting David Krejciís next three years:

  • Minor League Statistics
  • Similarity Score Index

While we do have the Similarity Score Index on hand, Krejci is still very young, so there arenít as many NHL seasons to work with yet. Itís a better idea to use a combination of both the Centerís minor league statistics and his Similarity Score comparables.

Minor League Statistics

The 63rd overall pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft had a fairly impressive minor league career:

Season           Age       Team                   League       GP      PPG 
2003-2004        18        HC Kladno              Czech-Jr.    50      1.20
2004-2005        19        Gatineau Olympiques    QMJHL        62      1.02
2005-2006        20        Gatineau Olympiques    QMJHL        55      1.47
2006-2007        21        Providence Bruins	  AHL          69      1.07
2007-2008        22        Providence Bruins      AHL          25      1.12

The Czech Republic league is one of the five most difficult leagues for hockey. Even their junior league is quite difficult, so a 1.20 PPG total at age 18 is a good start. The following season is a bit disappointing considering how well Krejci performed with HC Kladno, a team that has produced the likes of Jaromir Jagr and Michael Frolik in different eras. Generally, a 1.17 PPG in your first draft-eligible year, age 17, is a good sign of NHL success for a forward in the QMJHL, making this league a bit of an exception from the norm. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League tends to have a lower quality of talent compared to the other junior leagues, thus on average more Points are posted Per Game and 1 PPG would be too low of a threshold for forwards to be an indicator for future success. A 1.02 PPG total for a third year draft-eligible, a year after being selected by the Bruins, is not what should be expected for the second round draft pick. However, ĎThe Matrixí as Krejciís teammates dub him, lit up the QMJHL in his second season with a 1.47 PPG total. Unfortunately, this number is a bit deceptive considering that at age 20, Krejci already has a few years on much of his competition. Thus, his numbers are very much inflated in his second season in the junior league. The Boston forward followed up his time in the QJMHL by moving to the Boston Bruins minor league affiliate, the Providence Bruins. Krejci performed well in his one and a half seasons in the AHL, consistently posting greater than 1 PPG against his opposition. However, as Krejci ages further from age 17, his competition becomes significantly easier, since heís up against younger players. Overall, the track record for the $11.25 million dollar Bruin shows that he had a good, but not great minor league career.

Similarity Score Index

The Similarity Score Index has been updated to include the results of the 2008-2009 regular season, so the results below show The Boston Centerís most similar comparables through April of this year.

Player                 GP   G   A  PTS  PIM      GP   G   A  PTS  PIM
Mark Taylor            56   8  11  19   21       86  10  12   22  25  
Kyle Wellwood          59   8  13  21    0           (Active)
Andrew Cassels         84  21  64  85   62      888 185 479  664 370
Don McKenney           70  28  30  58   22      595 184 262  446 126
Pierre-Marc Bouchard   82  20  37  57   14           (Active)
Jere Lehtinen          72  23  19  42   20           (Active)
Billy Taylor           50  18  42  60    2      199  62 122  184  76
Alf Pike               41   6  16  22   48      105  20  36   56  68
Adam Oates             69  16  62  78   14     1160 303 996 1299 364
Jason Allison          82  23  53  76   68      366 111 250  361 339

The table correctly shows that, with Mark Taylor and Adam Oates among the most similar comparables, having only two seasons under your belt will leave room for a wide array of career paths. Number five on this list is an interesting name. The Minnesota Wildís Pierre-Marc Bouchard has had a very similar career to Krejciís, with the exception of this year where they deviated a bit.

Adam Oates, who represents the optimal career path for young Center, is a favorite to be among the NHLís 2009 Hall of Fame class after excelling as a hockey player for 19 seasons. In his minor league career, Oates posted around 2 PPG over three and a half seasonís for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in college and for Detroitís AHL minor league affiliate, though he did play fewer games than Krejci. The former Bruin required more time to reach his breakout performance level, since it took until his age 27 season to match the production of Krejci at 23 years of age. If Krejci had improved slightly from his age 22 season, rather than significantly, then Oates would have looked like the best comparable on this list.

On the other hand, you have Mark Taylor, who only lasted seven seasons in the NHL. Taylor, like Oates, lit up the NCAA averaging around 2 PPG, though his performance went downhill upon entering the AHL. After averaging nearly 1 PPG in the American Hockey League, he received a promotion from the Philadelphia Flyers. Aside from one good season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, where Taylor had 24 Goals, 31 Assists, 55 Points and 24 Penalties In Minutes in 59 Games Played, he was largely considered a below average player. By todayís standards, he would most likely have a below zero GVT, making him a borderline replacement level player.

Looking at age 23 breakout seasons from this list, one name tends to stand out: Andrew Cassels. Cassels spent 15 years in the NHL, with most of his time with the Hartford Whalers. Cassels did have a more successful minor league career than Krejci, posting 1.39 PPG in his first draft-eligible season in the Ontario Hockey League, OHL, followed by averaging 2 PPG in his next two OHL seasons. The 1987 NHL Entry Draftís 17th overall selection then fell back to the pack by averaging a tad over 1 PPG in his one and only AHL season before getting the call up to the Montreal Canadiens. Even in their pre-breakout, age 22 seasonís, Cassels posted a higher PPG total, 0.61 PPG to Krejciís 0.48 PPG. So while Cassels is the only comparable on this list to have a similar breakout season at the age of 23, Cassels still had better numbers in every other season in comparison to Krejci prior to the breakout year.

Former Bruin Jason Allison also had a vastly huge improvement in his numbers from age 22 to age 23, but he had spent more time in the NHL and, like Cassels, Allison was nearly a 2 PPG player in his minor league career. Given that this was a contract year for Krejci and taking his minor league statistics and player comparables into account, itís unlikely that the recently under the knife for of a torn labrum star will maintain his numbers from last year. Expect Krejci to have 68 Games Played, 17 Goals, 42 Assists, 16 Penalties In Minutes and 59 Points for the 2009-2010 season, along with a + 14.5 GVT. The Bruins were smart, despite the hip injury, to sign Krejci for three of his likely peak seasons in the NHL.

$3.75 million per season, on average, and $3.50 million for next year puts the Center in the middle of the Bruins payroll below players such as Savard, Ryder, Bergeron, Chara, Wideman and Thomas, but above Wheeler, Kobasew, Sturm, Lucic, S. Thornton, Sobotka, Ward, Ference and Stuart. Boston now has 15 roster spots set, with 6 more players to add to reach the standard 21 player roster, and has roughly $5 million to work with, given that the NHL is likely to set the salary cap to $55 million because of the current economic recession. As of July 1, 2009, here is a list of the unrestricted and restricted free agents, along with their 2008-2009 GVT's, from the Boston Bruins:

Restricted Free Agent                  Unrestricted Free Agent
Player        Position    GVT          Player           Position   GVT
Phil Kessel,  C,       + 15.3 	       P.J. Axelsson,   C,       - 0.1 
Byron Bitz,   RW,       + 0.2          Stephane Yelle,  C,       + 0.6 
Matt Hunwick, D,        + 7.3  	       Mark Recchi,     RW,      + 3.2 
David Krejci, C,       + 18.3	       Shane Hnidy,     D,       + 0.3 
-				       Steve Montador,  D,       + 6.6 
-				       Manny Fernandez, G,       + 3.2 
-                                      Tim Thomas,      G,      + 35.8 

Players already signed this offseason are italicized

Itís going to be very difficult for Boston to re-sign Kessel, making him an ideal trade candidate. Most likely, the Bruins thought about bringing back one center or the other, and the signing of Krejci was confirmation of which direction they chose to go in. The Bruins will have plenty of work to do this offseason, but it looks like they made great strides in re-signing Tim Thomas in April and now extending David Krejci that should keep the franchise as Stanley Cup contenders for years to come.

Andrew Rothstein is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Andrew by clicking here or click here to see Andrew's other articles.

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