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Comparing Rookie Performances

Today, with Dawson Mercer having played exactly 61 games, I want to compare his stats to another player who had a 61 game rookie season.

NHL: MAR 16 Devils at Flames Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Today will mark the 62nd game for Dawson Mercer this season. After 61 games, I wanted to check out his stats compared to someone else who had a 61 game rookie season. Before diving into who that is, let’s just lay out some numbers first and then dissect and analyze. Numbers from Natural Stat Trick. CF%, xGF%, HDCF%, and OZFO% are at 5 on 5.

So before going into anything else, some of those numbers are not entirely fair. Currently, the New Jersey Devils as a team this season have a 51.10 CF% and a 51.63 xGF%. Player 2 did not have his rookie season this year, and played on a much worse team. That team had a team CF% of 46.08 and a xGF% of 46.66. So when looking at some of those stats, that does skew things somewhat. Mercer has a relative CF% of -1.65 and a relative xGF% of -0.75. Meanwhile, the other player in his rookie year had a relative CF% of +0.78 and a relative xGF% of -0.09. So when you look at the relative CF% and xGF%, the two are much more similarly balanced in those stats. However, I don’t think you should immediately discount their actual percentages either. Mercer still has to play well to be positive in those stats, he is not being straight up carried, so it works both ways.

Otherwise, when you look at the numbers, nothing else is really close. Mercer has had a much better rookie season than that other player did. With similar ice time per game, Mercer has way more points, especially goals, is strong in the high danger areas, and isn’t snakebitten, and does it while being slightly less sheltered. Both were sheltered, but Mercer a little less so. This is just my way of providing perspective, because player two is:

Jack Hughes

Now, you all know that Hughes had a disappointing rookie season. And this year, he has really exploded into a point per game player. The strides that Hughes has made are exponential in nature. I am not sure that people necessarily expect Mercer to explode to the point where he could score 47 points in 41 games in his third year in the league. However, it also is not impossible either, he does have incredible talent and was a first round selection.

The point here is that despite Mercer coming back down to earth this year, the numbers he is producing, even if not top 5 among forwards and even if not at something like a point per game pace, are still very, very good and worthy of praise. He might have had better numbers early on when he was on a line with the likes of Jesper Bratt and Andreas Johnsson night in and night out, but what he has managed to perform over a larger sample size is still impressive for a 20 year old. It has to give this team and fan base hope for another strong core piece to the team for years to come.

If the Devils can get Alexander Holtz to a similar level soon, with the offensive pieces already in place, you have to be happy with the long term prospects of the forward unit. Considering that scoring has been the long term problem for so long, it is interesting that when looking forward, you might actually be most confident in that group over the long haul, and least confident in goaltending. Let’s see what Tom Fitzgerald and Co. can do about that moving forward.