I’ve been thinking a fair bit about the structure of the National Hockey League and how regularly we sort of see young guys who probably aren’t ready for the show being foisted into action. I think, a lot of the time, a coaching staff just wants to see how far along a young player is before shipping him out. In other instances, guys are kept around. Far too often, it’s probably not in the best interest of the team, especially if they’re trying to win hockey games.
I’m not one that’s really delved into the merits of player development, and whether or not it’s better for a guy to get beaten around in his rookie years, or to let him ease into the game at some lower-level. I additionally note here the North American game if the AHL is an option, because a chunk of these guys are coming from overseas nowadays.
Every year, there’s sort of a purging of these younger kids after the first month or so. Naturally, I wanted to wait until most of those guys were shipped off in order to look at this year’s data. As it stands today, twenty-five players with birth dates ranging from 1993 – 1995 have logged at least 200:00 of even-strength ice-time, and even in that number, a couple of the guys who qualified for the quick search (e.g. Rasmus Ristolainen) have already been moved away.
How are they doing? Let’s take a look …
So, the average Corsi% for these kids is about 48.4% — and again, these are largely the face-of-the-franchise types that have looked good enough to their respective coaching staffs to stick around. It’s true that a lot of these kids are playing on crappier teams (around 49% Corsi clubs, or thereabouts), but there’s not a lot of evidence to support that the majority of them are helping things any.
It’s funny, too, that if you play devil’s advocate with the top-bunch that look like world-beaters in their young years, you can work some of the luster off rather quickly. Mika Zibanejad’s the most impressive of the lot (and his WOWYs show a lot of the Swede carrying his linemates), but he’s also one of the oldest of the group, and has far more relative experience under his belt. Tomas Hertl’s played a ton of minutes alongside noted demigod Joe Thornton — in the few minutes that Hertl hasn’t played on Thornton’s wing (about one game full of EV TOI), he’s posted 46% Corsi. Zemgus Girgensons is also in the older-half (turns twenty next month), and enjoys Christian Ehrhoff on about 34% of his EV shifts. Dougie Hamilton? He’s been paired with one Zdeno Chara for half of the season.
Those are just the guys who have been relatively great to start the season. As you work your way down the list, there may be a few arguments in defense — young guys getting tougher-than-anticipated minutes, for example. But, be it individually or collectively, there seems to be more data that indicts than supports, and I think that speaks to a larger issue about how younger players are deployed and developed.
It also says something about the prospect-obsession that a lot of people carry from draft day and beyond. Early picks have a chance at being impact players, but there’s no guarantee; obvious point is obvious. But, even the ones who are surefire bets to produce seem to struggle in their first year or two, predominantly due to the fact that they’re teenagers going head-to-head with a bunch of adults. Consequently, I always find it interesting what expectations are from executives regarding these younger players from the past draft year or two.