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 Development of Small NHL Players

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Guest4178 Posted - 07/25/2012 : 13:46:29
In another thread, I commented that Sam Gagner has great potential, especially considering his achievements in his first five NHL seasons. (And his young age.)

In checking out the stats on similar players (talented diminutive forwards), I found that most players in this category took a number of years to develop into the players the are today.

Here is a sampling of players, and what they achieved in NHL points before their 23rd birthday (listed first), and at what age they reached the amount of points Sam Gagner has achieved in the NHL in his career so far. (220 points in 5 NHL seasons.)

M. St. Louis: 0 pts. 28 yrs old
B. Giona: 11 pts. 28 yrs. old
D. Roy: 19 pts. 25 yrs. old
M. Cammalleri: 23 pts. 26 yrs. old
D. Briere: 25 pts. 27 yrs. old
R. Whitney: 78 pts. 26 yrs. old
Z. Parise: 94 pts. 24 yrs. old
M. Savard: 104 pts. 26 yrs. old
S. Koivu: 120 pts. 25 yrs. old

In comparison to all of the above named players, Sam Gagner had more points than any of these players before their 23rd birthdays. And further, it took all of the above players years (for some, many years) to reach Gagner's current total of 220 NHL points.

While there are some exceptions (i.e. Patrick Kane), most players in this category are not given the same opportunity as larger sized NHL players.

In all of the above cases, these players did not start being a full time NHL player until they were 22-23 years of age or older.

In some cases (Cammalleri and St. Louis), these players played 2 or 3 seasons of college hockey, and in Koivu's case, he played three seasons in Finland before joining the NHL.

In most cases though, these players were given a few games in the NHL as 19, 20 or 21 year old players, but they were sent down (usually to the AHL) for further development. (And to increase their strength and size, size being weight not inches.)

And when these players played in the minor leagues, most of them thrived, averaging over a point per game in the minor leagues, but it took a long time for them to make the NHL as a regular on a team's roster.

These nine listed players (some of them stars) accomplished a lot less than what Gagner has before his 23rd birthday, but they took the slower developmental route.

I started a new thread for this topic (rather than piggy-backing on the "Sam Gagner avoids arbitration" thread) because I found this information separate and unique from the other topic.

Another thing I noticed about the nine listed players (and Gagner). All are between 5'7" and 5'10" (Parise is listed at 5'11", but I have my doubts), and most of these players were 15-25 pounds lighter when they were 18 or 19 years old. (The age Gagner started playing in the NHL.)

Gagner (at 5'10") was 172 pounds when he joined the Oilers, but he now tips the scales at 191 pounds. That's quite a difference in size.

Marc Savard is listed at 196 pounds (at 5'10"), and Mike Cammalleri is listed at 190 pounds (at 5'9"), and I'm willing to bet they were much lighter when they were drafted.

So what does this all say? Are smaller (yet talented) players viewed differently than larger sized players? Do they have more to prove to get a regular roster spot in the NHL? Or do they just need to add bulk to compete in the NHL?

Most players don't usually peak until well past the ages of 18-22 regardless of size. So teams should think very carefully about giving up on a player with talent and promise, and I would add, especially smaller players who just need to fill out a bit more to compete in a very physical league.
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Alex116 Posted - 03/19/2013 : 11:30:21
It's going to be very interesting to watch and see what the Oilers do. Let's face it, the biggest task for the Oilers is to find a team interested in taking Ales Hemsky with one year remaining (after this year) at 5M. That would free up some money to pay Gagner! If there's no takers, would they buy him out? With only 1 year left, maybe not, but if it meant they had to to keep Gagner, perhaps they would???

The Oilers have 11 guys who are either RFA or UFA, albeit some of them being guys like Khabibulin who obviously won't be returning. The big question is going to be whether or not they can afford Sam Gagner and/or their desire to keep him, mixed with his desire to stay there. I don't know why he'd wanna leave when you consider he's pretty much a lock to be a top 2 C and have some good wingers when you've got Hall, Eberle and Yakupov all there?
Guest4178 Posted - 03/19/2013 : 10:26:19
I was watching the Lightning - Flyers game last night, and it was mentioned that the Flames put Martin St. Louis on waivers in 2000, getting nothing in return.

While it's easy to look back and criticize this oversight (who could possibly know he would turn out to be the player he became, and continues to be today), one wonders if teams miscalculate how long it takes a smaller player to reach their peak in the NHL?

Looking back to a year ago, many people thought the Oilers should trade a player around the same age as Martin St. Louis was when the Flames let him go. And that player was Sam Gagner, another smallish NHL forward.

And fair enough to say that he was in his fifth year in the NHL, and he was only averaging .60 points per game, but Gagner was only 22 years old at the time! And if one was to look at his ice time, power play minutes, playing partners, and other factors, you could see his potential.

The points were not always there, but he provided a consistent effort each and every game. And if you watched him enough, you could see his talent level.

Skip ahead to this year, and Gagner is starting to reach his potential. I maintain he still has room to improve (he's only 23), and if you believe in genetics, his dad (Dave) did not peak as a hockey player until his late 20's.

I don't blame the Oilers for signing him to a one-year contract last season. (Some people may say that it motivated Gagner to prove his worth, knowing he has only a one year deal.)

But it's going to cost a lot more to keep Gagner in an OIlers uniform after this season! Sure he's an RFA, so the Oilers can match any offer or choose draft picks in return, but only once in 10 years has a team taken the draft picks in this situation. Draft picks are hopes, and players like Gagner are proven entities.

I'm not suggesting the Oilers give Gagner a $98 million 13-year deal like the Wild gave Zach Parise, but it's possible Gagner will outperform Parise over the next 13 years. Gagner will be 24-36 years old over the next 13 years, while Parise will be 29-41.

But 13-year deals are a thing of the past, and Gagner is not in the same place as Parise was a year ago.

Teams too often spend (and overpay) for players who's best years may be behind them (or who have few peak years ahead of them), but Gagner is not one of those players. Sure, his play this season could be a one year anomaly, but I think Gagner will be a point per game player for many many years to come!

@valanche Posted - 07/26/2012 : 08:06:12
Well then, Matt duchene certainly has a couple 100 point seasons ahead oh him!

66 is > than 99
slozo Posted - 07/26/2012 : 05:34:43
And then you had Nikolai Boreschevsky (5'8", 175 lbs soaking wet), who debuted with the Leafs and the NHL in 1992/93 with an impressive 34 goals, 74 points, and fell right off the map shortly afterward due to injuries and later health concerns.

The other guy that immediately comes to mind is Valeri Bure, Pavel's brother. Listed as 5'10", 180 lbs, but I honestly don't remember him looking more than 5'8", he had the same sort of build as Boreschevsky actually - just a light build, skinny guy. Still, he had very good skills (not at his brother's level, but who did?) and as with these other guys, took a reasonable amount of time before getting into his best statistical years - a string of three years with Calgary, starting when he was about 24. So yeah, the pattern fits there too.

So I guess what you are saying is . . . Eberle might reach even greater heights than say St. Louis?

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