DougieHamilton

 

Is Jacob Trouba the better defenseman to own in fantasy hockey than Dougie Hamilton?

 

A few weeks ago I covered two top young forwards (Jaden Schwartz and Brandon Saad) in this column, so I figured it’s time to do the same with defenseman. And this time I’m going with two even younger players – 20 year olds Dougie Hamilton and Jacob Trouba.

 

Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications

Both were selected ninth overall in their respective drafts (2011 for Hamilton, 2012 for Trouba). And each landed in the NHL one year after being drafted, with Hamilton coming straight from the OHL and Trouba directly from college.

What’s more, both are signed to identical three year deals with a $0.894M annual cap hit. This has resulted in both players being among Capgeek’s top 50 bargains for defensemen (Hamilton is ranked 34th, and Trouba is 40th), which is nice to see if you own them in a salary cap league.

But with Trouba having been drafted a year later than Hamilton, his deal doesn’t end until after the 2015-16 season, while Hamilton’s is up after next season. This means Hamilton will be in line for a raise sooner than Trouba, although it’s possible the Jets might do a new deal with Trouba before his current contract expires. For those in salary cap leagues, Trouba could is poised to be a nice bargain – in general and compared to Hamilton – in 2015-16.

 

Ice Time

We won’t have too much to draw from here, as Trouba is a rookie and Hamilton is only in his second year. But we can see where each one stands in relation to the other defensemen on his team, as well as how Hamilton’s numbers for 2013-14 compare to his rookie season.

 

Season

Total Ice Time per game (with rank among team’s defensemen)

PP Ice Time per game (with ranks among team’s defensemen)

SH Ice Time (with rank among team’s defensemen)

2013-14

19:06 (DH) – 5th

22:26 (JT) – 4th

1:55 (DH) – 3rd

1:58 (JT) – 3rd

0:39 (DH) – 7th

2:55 (JT) – 2nd

2012-13

17:07 (DH) – 5th

1:55 (DH) – 2nd

0:16 (DH) – 6th

 

Trouba’s overall and PP Ice Time numbers as a rookie are better than Hamilton’s as a sophomore. But in fairness to Hamilton, a lot of that has to do with the Bruins being such a skilled and deep team that they can afford to bring him along slowly, versus the Jets needing Trouba to step up right away to help their comparatively weaker defensive corps.

This also explains why Hamilton was a healthy scratch on several occasions during the 2013-14 season; in short, it wasn’t lack of talent or poor play. Those periodic healthy scratches were certainly painful to his fantasy league owners; however, since they occurred mainly due to the “embarrassment of riches” that the Bs had on defense after the trade deadline, it’s a situation that almost assuredly will not stretch into next season given that both their acquisitions (Andrej Maszaros and Corey Potter) are UFAs who the Bs most likely will opt not to re-sign and might not replace with any free agent (s). It’s also worth noting that Hamilton’s overall Ice Time in April games was 19:58, which is a very good trend.

One drawback to the Jets needing to lean on Trouba so much is the added SH Ice Time he receives. In fact, if you subtract Trouba’s unproductive SH Ice Time this season from his overall Ice Time you get 19:31, versus Hamilton’s 18:27, so the gap in productive Ice Time between the two players is barely more than a minute.

It’s also worth noting that Trouba’s 2:55 of SH Ice Time per game average tied for the 28th highest in the entire NHL for 2013-14, and there were only two defensemen (Alex Pietrangelo and Niklas Kronwall) with more SH Ice Time than him who managed to score more than 40 points this season. Plus, whereas Trouba had nearly a full minute less PP Ice Time than SH Ice Time, Pietrangelo only had a difference of 32 seconds and Kronwall actually ended up with 19 more seconds of PP Ice Time. If Trouba continues to be deployed so extensively on the penalty kill - especially in comparison to his PP Ice Time - then it stands to reason that would hurt his production in future seasons.

 

Secondary Categories


Season

+/-

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2013-14

+22 (DH)

+4 (JT)

0.62 (DH)

0.66 (JT)

1.14 (DH)

1.46 (JT)

0.83 (DH)

2.03 (JT)

1.78 (DH)

1.86 (JT)

0.09 (DH)

0.04 (JT)

2012-13

+4 (DH)

0.33 (DH)

1.40 (DH)

0.78 (DH)

1.97 (DH)

0.09 (DH)

 

Things are pretty close when just looking at 2013-14, other than in Blocked Shots (where Trouba had more than a two to one advantage and a total for the year that ranked him within the top 45 for the entire NHL despite only playing in 65 total games), and +/- (where Hamilton had a big edge and was in the overall NHL top 27, albeit due in large part to Boston’s league leading +84 goal differential).

Trouba has very poor production in PP Points, although Hamilton is not exactly doing great either. But as I’ll touch on more below Trouba figures to definitely have players in front of him on the PP depth chart over the next few seasons, so it’s unlikely that he’ll up his PP points significantly very soon. With the Bruins defense, the PP depth chart for defensemen over the next few seasons is less clear.

 

Comparisons to Other Defensemen

I’m usually hesitant to directly reference other players in this column; but in a case like this I think it makes sense for two reasons. First, both were picked in exactly the same draft spot and within the top ten overall. Plus, since they’re so young and there isn’t several seasons’ worth of numbers to crunch as is usually the case, it’s worthwhile to draw some omparisons.

I went back and examined the trajectory of defensemen picked within the top ten of all the NHL entry drafts from 2000 to 2009, to see what might be in store for Hamilton (who’s produced good but not great in his first two seasons and is not a focal point for the Bruins defense as yet) and Trouba (who’s making an immediate scoring and team impact as a rookie).

It turns out that a total of only 26 defensemen were top ten overall selections from 2000 to 2009. And of those, just eight completed a 60+ game regular season in the NHL before turning 21 years old, just like Trouba and Hamilton did in 2013-14. Here are some relevant statistics for those eight:

 

Player (year drafted)

Points (and games) in first full season

Career High in Points (year)

Rostislav Klesla (2000)

16 points in 75 games

22 (2006-2007)

Jay Boumeester (2002)

16 points in 82 games

46 (2005-2006)

Joni Pitkanen (2002)

27 points in 71 games

46 (2005-2006, 2009-10)

Erik Johnson (2006)

33 points in 69 games

39 (2013-14)

Drew Doughty (2008)

27 points in 81 games

59 (2009-10)

Zach Bogosian (2008)

23 points in 81 games

30 (2011-12)

Luke Schenn (2008)

14 points in 70 games

22 (2010-11, 2011-12)

Victor Hedman (2009)

20 points in 74 games

55 (2013-14)

 

It’s interesting to see that half have never reached the 45 point mark to date; and of those who did, only one (Pitkanen) did so more than once and none have been two time 50 point scorers. Although many of these players are still 25 years old or under, that’s still a quite telling - and troubling - statistic.

What’s also interesting is that if you look at some of the names of the top ten picks from 2000 to 2009 who didn’t finish a full season in the NHL before turning 21, you’ll see a group of arguably more impressive names, including Ryan Suter (45+ points twice so far), Dion Phaneuf (45+ points four times so far), Alex Pietrangelo (45+ points twice so far), Ryan Whitney (45+ points once so far), Jack Johnson (40+ points once so far), and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (40+ points once so far).

Of course looking at past results for other players who were drafted in similar positions and who also completed a full NHL regular season before turning 21 is far from a predictor of future success (or lack thereof) for guys like Hamilton and Trouba. That being said, it underscores that not all young, blue chip defensemen end up achieving huge success in the NHL, at least when it comes to point scoring. What’s also interesting is that Trouba’s 29 point rookie season actually would project to 36 for a full 82 games, and – for what it’s worth - would put him ahead of everyone on this list except for Johnson (39 point rookie season when projected to 82 games), who is among those not to crack the 40 point barrier so far.

 

Who Wins?

As I was researching this Cage Match, I kept thinking back to one of my earliest (from back in August) which pitted Victor Hedman against John Carlson. At that time, Hedman had 89 points in 258 games and had never tallied more than 26 points in a season, while Carlson had scored 32+ points in both of his full seasons and achieved a 37 point scoring pace in 2012-13.

One of the key points I raised in picking Hedman (pause to pat myself on my back…..), was that Carlson’s real world value to the Capitals had hurt his fantasy output and would continue to going forward. This is because while in many instances the interests of fantasy GMs and real world GMs are well aligned, that’s not always the case, such as when it comes to defensemen – like Carlson - who clearly have offensive talent but are understandably relied upon by their teams to occupy far more of a defensive focused, “minute eating” role.

We see teams lean heavily on young defensemen if those teams either struggle defensively or already have other offensively talented (and higher paid) veteran defensemen. And in the case of the Jets, both of these circumstances are true, which should worry Trouba owners a lot. Sure – Winnipeg could turn things around in the standings in the next year or two; but even if they do, we need to keep in mind that Tobias Enstrom is signed through 2017-18 at $5.75M per season, and Dustin Byfuglien is under contract for two more seasons at $5.2M per year. Those numbers represent a pretty big barrier standing in the way of Trouba’s near term offensive production, as does his SH Ice Time, which I noted above usually translates to poor scoring output and could hurt him in the longer run as well.

Of course Hamilton has players ahead of him on the depth chart and PP pecking order as well. But unlike Trouba he’s not going to be looked upon as a defensive anchor, as evidenced by his low SH Ice Time and in view of the already solid Bruins defensive system.

Hamilton might not get as much overall or even PP Ice Time as Trouba, but he just might be the Hedman to Trouba’s Carlson (note that Carlson averaged 24:30 Ice Time overall, 3:10 on the PP, and 3:44 shorthanded per game in 2013-14, while Hedman averaged 22:26 overall, 2:29 on the PP, and only 2:09 shorthanded, and managed to outpoint Carlson by 18 points), and for that reason the winner of this Cage Match as of now is Dougie Hamilton.

 

Check out the comments to see my specific advice for what to do if you own either of these guys in a keeper league, and how to approach drafting them in a one-year league for 2014-15.

 

 

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