For people who are predominantly fans of one team, it’s often very easy to get stuck in a bubble when it comes to evaluating players, particular prospects. One can only draw on what they know, and if you’re reading this, it’s likely that you are disproportionately knowledgeable about the Devils rather than the rest of the league. That’s why I wanted to make some objective measure of player comparison to check out what players had similar starts to their career to Jesper Bratt and Nico Hischier.
For this mini-project, I looked at players who played at least 100 games in their first two seasons, and were less than 22 for both seasons. Since metrics such as Corsi were used, only analytics-era players (2007-present) were considered. The methodology was essentially to find the absolute difference between Nico or Jesper and every player in each relevant statistic, calculate the percent of the maximum difference in each category, weight based off of importance (done subjectively), and add up those percents. The lower that number, the closer to Nico or Jesper that player is. There are several changes that I would make to this technique if this were a long-term endeavor — and I may try that at the end of the year — but for now, this will do. All data was scraped from Hockey Reference’s advanced stats play index.
Nico Hischier Top Ten Comparables
Wow ... starting off with a whopper! Nico’s #1 comparable is none other than his linemate, and reigning MVP, Taylor Hall. I actually compared their rookie seasons just this past offseason and Nico came out very favorably.
Hall is the studliest comp for sure, but Benn has had a great career already, Marner and Aho are surely on their way, and Larkin has really found himself in this, his 4th season. In fact, of these guys, the only one that would be a really colossal disappointment is Andre Burakovsky.
As I tweeted shortly before this piece was written, on Evolving-Hockey’s GAR model, of the last 3 seasons, Nico is #6 among the 461 qualified skaters (McDavid, Stone, Zucker, Stamkos, Pastrnak) in GAR Rate. He’s quite good at everything including possession stats, transition metrics, and production. But where he’s truly special is in his penalty differential. Since he’s been in the NHL, only Johnny Gaudreau has offered more penalty value per minute than Nico.
Nico has just 14 goals so far this season and isn’t likely to get thrown around in conversations about “elite” players, but make no mistake — he is one.
Jesper Bratt Top Ten Comparables
Jesper Bratt has been a fairly unique player through his first two seasons. He has a pretty impressive point rate — lower than only the top line forwards on the Devils — but is a negative possession and shot quality impact player.
Ignoring the defenders, there’s a fair bit of variation here. Couture and Couturier are very good players, but they are also his lowest comparables on the list. The first thing I’d point out, though, is that for a 6th round pick, this is pretty good news. The worst one on the list is probably Dvorak, who put up 30+ points in his first two seasons as a 21- and 22-year-old on a terrible Coyotes team. If that’s the worst case scenario, we have to feel good about that.
I think Horvat is a pretty good comparison. Both of them are good point producers due to efficient transition play and dangerous passing (BH, JB). Horvat struggled mightily in possession early in his career and, while he has evened out to about neutral at this point, he still struggles defensively at 5v5 just as Bratt does. The past two years, he and Brock Boeser have been positive relative CF%, SCF%, and HDCF% together, and both improved in all of those categories when paired versus when apart. If we can find the right partner for him, then we very well may expect continued production, and perhaps improved peripheral metrics, moving forward.
I had a conversation with our very own managing editor about this on Twitter, and we both seem to think that the yin to Bratt’s yang may very well be the other character in this article — Nico Hischier. Their relative numbers are all positive when together, and their scoring change numbers are insane. They have a +10.47 SCF%Rel which is even a big improvement for Nico. Nico is an expert at driving play forward and playing with him will minimize defensive zone time, where Bratt can sometimes get caught.
It’s not that I’m pitching the idea of having Nico-Bratt as a pairing for the next two decades, it’s just that THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I’M PITCHING.
THANK YOU GOOD NIGHT!
Who do you think is comparable to these guys? Remember that these metrics only go back to 2007 so if you think you remember someone before then that fits better, you may be right.
Which of the players in each comparison set do you think is the best approximation of each player? What do you think that says about them each moving forward?
Thanks as always for reading and leave your thoughts below.