Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Revisiting When Elite Players Breakout

Nazem Kadri has been on fire to start the season, putting up an impressive 8 points in 9 games and creating chances seemingly on every shift.  It's early, and I think we're a long way from being able to make anything approximating a conclusion based on statistical data, but a lot of Leafs observers, including myself, have been preaching patience with Kadri.

A while ago, I had a look at some milestones that we should be watching for if we expect our prospects to eventually reach the upper-echelons of NHL scoring.  With Kadri off to a fast start, I thought it might be interesting to track his production relative to the development of other premier point producers.


What I did was pretty simple.  I looked at every player who scored 70 or more points between 2008-09 and 2010-11, and then tracked a few key measures.  First, I looked at their ages when they produced a 60+ point season, a 70+ point season and an 80+ point season.  On the graph below, I divided the group by draft position to make the comparisons a little bit tidier.

Here are the results:

As we can see, the 6th - 10th position is a little out of whack with the standard trend which is clearly the result of having a small number of cases (only Selanne, Mikko Koivu, and Doan meet these criteria.)  Aside from this aberration, the trend is fairly steady.

Nazem Kadri was drafted 7th overall and is currently 22-years old.  Based on the chart above, we should expect Kadri to play 50+ games this season and probably to get close to putting up 60 or more points if he's ever going to become an elite point producer (a 60 point pace this year would be about 35 points in this truncated season.)

Also of interest, should Kadri ever become a 70-point scorer, we should expect that to occur sometime between 23 to 25 years of age.  What this means, in my view, is that Kadri is well suited to be a key piece of this team whether they're able to ice a competitive product with the existing core, or if they should decide to move toward a more conventional rebuild.

That's the good news.

The bad news is how this data reflects on Leafs prospect Joe Colborne.  Colborne has yet to play 50 NHL games in a single season and unless you think he's going to step into the lineup full-time next season and put up 60-points while making that transition then the data would suggest that he's unlikely to ever be a high-end point producer.  This probably doesn't surprise many of you at this stage but when the Leafs acquired Colborne, he did seem to have the potential to get to that level, however unlikely.

Now there are a couple of things to take note of when considering this data, foremost among them is that this only takes into account those players who did produce at an elite level and not those who flounder.  As such, the data here is better used as a development check than a predictive tool (ex. Kadri is on track, Colborne is not).

So far this year, Kadri has looked exceptional and has undoubtedly won over some of the skeptical set.  If he can toss up a further 26 points in the remaining 39 games, he'll be right on track to be one of the better point-producing forwards in the NHL moving forward.

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