Two of this young season's brightest stars are more alike than you think. Separated at birth? Unlikely, if you take a look at their portraits. No, Austria was not an annexation of the USSR in WWII a la Germany. They are distinctly different places. Still, the similarities of two professional hockey citizens from these countries are undeniable.
Where do we start? Alexander Semin and Thomas Vanek just have to be twins. These twins are six-foot-two, just over 200 pounds, 24-year-old left wingers and score boat loads of goals. One is number 26 while the other 28. They are actually only separated by a couple of months in age and were first round selections.
For both young stars, their short careers are entering the fourth season. These years have not been without their ups and downs. The first season started out like many rookie seasons would. Both were given limited opportunity and showed the promise that loomed ahead in full duty. Being slightly younger, Semin seems to always be slightly behind his twin. He only received 52 games while Vanek 81. In a full season their goals, points and shots on goal would look like...
Vanek: 25G, 48P, 204SOG
Semin: 16G, 35P, 145SOG
Vanek seems to be the distinctly better and different player you say? Well let's just see what happened in their sophomore seasons. These were their best years to date. Vanek had a healthy season potting 43 goals and 84 points. Semin played in 77 games and was just behind his brother from another mother. Full-season projections...
Vanek: 43G, 84P, 237SOG
Semin: 40G, 77P, 258SOG
Very little difference in value from season two. Vanek had slightly better totals for scoring but Semin outshot him. Vanek is still head but they are profiling as almost the same player. On to season three. Both players struggled this season for different reasons. Vanek slumped early while Semin struggled with injury. Even if healthy, you can see Semin slipped almost identically to Vanek...
Vanek: 36G, 64P, 240SOG
Semin: 34G, 55P, 240SOG
As you can see, the injuries held back Semin in the overall but he was right on par in goals and shots in the projection over a full season. They both had a similar setback. This season is a different story. The actual projections would be ridiculous at this point with Vanek having seven goals and nine points with an insane 32 shots going into Tuesday night. Semin has an amazing six goals with 10 points to this point as one of the league leaders as well. Still, to give you an idea of what to expect...
Vanek: 47G, 88P, 292SOG
Semin: 44G, 85P, 276SOG
Vanek is the star of the show in Buffalo where as Semin both benefits and plays second fiddle sometimes to a player who goes by AO and often plays his same position. Also, Semin is far from being a sure band-aid boy, but you do have to factor in a bit of that in the numbers. Meanwhile, Vanek has been an ironman in his short career and is much more highly hyped as a result. If Semin plays a full season, I actually think he could surpass Vanek, but he has to prove it first. Still, the talent is there. At this point, I would actually take Semin's injury issues last season as an opportunity to get a similar value player for much less. I know in some leagues you could even get Semin and (something very valuable) for Vanek which would be a great move at this point.
Don't discount either player much. There is nothing preventing them from taking it to the next level this season. Think Zetterberg or healthy Gaborik value. After all, Zetts, Gabby, Hossa, Datsyuk, Iginla, Spezza and Thornton failed to progress as quickly as these two did in their second season in the NHL. Point-per-game sophomore seasons are elite, and we need to respect that.