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Will Eberle, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins Finish Top 20 in Scoring this season?

 

Welcome to Holding Court, a column where both sides of a fantasy hockey debate are argued just like in a courtroom, complete with a final verdict.  Then you, the DobberHockey readers, can comment on whether justice was properly served!  You can also leave ideas in the comments section for other debates to be settled right here in future editions of the column.  With NHL hockey finally returning, I’m hoping to get lots of comments on ideas for future columns!  You can also send suggestions via a private message to my forum name – rizzeedizzee.

 

Excitement has been building in Edmonton and the entire NHL about the group of budding superstar forwards the Oilers have assembled through recent drafts.  Despite none of them being older than 22, the trio of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins  have already started making an impact with their breakout performances last season.  Most think it’s not a question of if, but when they’ll all be among the top 20 in league scoring.  But is this the year when it actually happens?  That’s the question this week when we debate whether Eberle, Hall, and RNH will all finish in the top 20 in scoring for the 2012-13 season.

Yes, they will – They practically did it last year, they tore up the AHL this year, they have healthy and talented offensive defensemen on the team, and their youth will help them

If you look at the final points leaders from last season, you’ll see that Jordan Eberle finished 15th but neither Hall nor RNH cracked the top 75.  In this case, looks are indeed deceiving, as keep in mind that both Hall and RNH missed about 20 games, and if you project the points they scored (Hall had 53 in 61 games, RNH had 52 in 62) to an 82 game season, Hall would’ve finished with 71 points (which would’ve been good enough for 20th in overall NHL scoring last season) and RNH would have tallied 69 (which would’ve been good for 22nd).  So they almost accomplished this feat already last season!

Let’s also remember that Eberle and Hall are entering their third NHL seasons, and RNH his second.  According to just one of the outstanding pieces of information in the DobberHockey Fantasy Guide (available here, and fully updated for the 48 game season) when the stats for 214 players were examined, it was found that the average percentage increase in points from a player’s rookie season to his second year was 22.5%, and the average from his second year to his third was 9%.  When you factor these percentages into what Eberle, Hall, and RNH did last season, you end up with full season projections for 2012-13 of 83 points for Eberle, 77 for Hall, and 84 for RNH, which last year would’ve put them all in the 15 overall!

What’s also important is that unlike the vast majority of NHL trios, Eberle, Hall and RNH have all been able to play on the same team during the lockout – Eberle suited up for 34 games for Oklahoma City of the AHL, with Hall playing 26 games and RNH 19.  Not only does this make them more prepared for NHL game action, but by playing together they can hit the ground running (or should I say hit the ice skating?) for Edmonton once the puck drops for NHL regular season games this weekend.  Oh, and not only did they play together, but they dominated, with each of them scoring at more than a point  per game rate!  Yes, it was AHL competition, but their success still bodes incredibly well for being carried over in the form of lots of points in the NHL games that actually count.

What you also can’t help but notice in looking at AHL scoring is there was a fourth member of the Oilers right at the top of the league leaders – defenseman Justin Schultz, who will be making his NHL debut this season.  What’s amazing about their success last season is that Eberle, Hall, and RNH achieved it without any semblance of a scoring defenseman.  In fact, Edmonton was one of only four NHL teams without a single defenseman who topped 25 points!  But now the Oilers are not only entering this season with a young phenom in Schultz, but also with offensively talented Ryan Whitney being healthy for the first time in at least the past two seasons.  This should mean even more scoring opportunities for the talented forward trio, who could see their point totals increase beyond what was just supposed to naturally occur due to their maturation and further development.

Lastly, let’s not forget that in Edmonton’s shortened season there will be a condensed schedule with more than a half-dozen back to back games and at least four games most every week.  While this might take a toll on older veterans, the “young legs” of Eberle, Hall, and RNH should not have any problems dealing with it.  And what’s also interesting is that if you look back to the similarly shortened 1994-95 season, more than half of the top 20 scorers were 25 years old or younger, including all three players (Eric Lindros, John LeClair, Mikael Renberg) who formed Philly’s famed Legion of Doom line and who each finished in the top 10 in scoring that season.  It looks like all the cards are falling into place for the trio of Eberle, Hall, and RNH to duplicate that line’s success in this shortened season.

No, they won’t – They’re too young and have health questions, all their games are in the goalie-dominated Western Conference, and there are too few points to go around on Edmonton

While most everyone acknowledges that Eberle, Hall, and RNH seem poised to be elite forwards who might well end up as fixtures among the league leaders in points for the next decade and beyond, it’s still too unrealistic to reasonably expect them to all to actually finish in the top 20 in scoring this soon.

The biggest reason why this won’t happen has nothing to do with talent – it’s just the reality of them being too young (Eberle and Hall are both 22 years old, and RNH is still only 19).  If you look at the most recent instances where three guys from the same team all finished in the top 20 in scoring, the players were never all this young.  For example, in 2010-11 you had Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin (then age 30) and Ryan Kesler (then age 26) all in the top 20, as well as Corey Perry (then age 25), Teemu Selanne (then age 40), and Ryan Getzlaf (then age 25).  Each person in these trios was at least three years older than any member of the Edmonton trio.  In fact, since 1990-91 the youngest trio from the same team to all land in the top 20 in scoring was in 2008-09 when Alexander Ovechkin (then age 23), Niklas Backstrom (then age 21), and Alexander Semin (then age 24) finished 2nd, 10th, and 19th.  But again – Semin was 24 while none of the Edmonton trio is even 23, including the still teenaged RNH.  RNH's age is quite significant in that not even during the Edmonton heyday of the 1980s was there an instance where a teenager made the top 20 in scoring along with at least two other teammates.  It’s simply far too tall of an order for three players this young – including a teenager - to each put together a season which lands them in the top 20.

Let’s also not forget that the Oilers will be playing all their games this season against Western Conference teams.  This is important because (as highlighted in the DobberHockey Fantasy Guide), 12 of the top 15 goalies in terms of save percentage last season were on Western Conference teams, and Eastern Conference teams scored at a rate of 2.83 goals per game while Western Conference teams scored only managed 2.64 goals per game on average.  This type of statistical discrepancy will make it even more difficult for the Edmonton trio to accomplish a task that was already next to impossible to envision happening due to the ages of the players involved.

Yet another factor weighing against the trio is their injury history.  Despite their youth, they’ve proven not to be very durable.  Eberle and Hall both missed a number of games during their rookie season due to ankle issues, and shoulder problems cost both Hall and RNH a lot of time last season.  The reality is that you can’t miss more than a handful of games and still expect to make the top 20 in scoring.  Look at last season – the lowest number of games played for anyone in the top 20 in scoring was 75, and only five of the top 20 played fewer than 80 games.  It’s one thing for these guys to have great point per game averages, but entirely another for each to stay healthy enough to see those averages actually allow them all to crack the overall top 20.

Lastly, perhaps the biggest factor working against them is that the Oliers are getting deeper as a team.  They added another potential superstar in Nail Yakupov via the draft, and between him, a healthy Ales Hemsky, a maturing Magnus Paajarvi, and veterans like Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth who can still score both at even strength and on the power play, there just won’t be enough points available for Eberle, Hall, and RNH to reach the top 20.  Instead, it will likely be more like the situations in Buffalo, Boston, and Philadelphia, where the depth of offensively capable forwards leads to fewer players from among those teams finishing in the top 20 in overall league scoring.

Final Verdict

Like many, I was surprised to realize that on a point per game basis Eberle, Hall, and RNH essentially almost cracked the top 20 last season, and also to learn that three guys from the same team in the top 20 in scoring happens quite regularly.  But in the end there are just too many ifs, including the issue of whether there are enough points to go around and the fact that all of Edmonton's games will be in the Western Conference.  But the biggest concern, and the one that ultimately leads to a final verdict of “no” is injury history.  While many players suffer injuries early in their careers and then end up being healthy for most of the rest of their NHL years, the injury risk cannot be ignored with these three, particularly Hall, who plays an “in your face” aggressive style that makes him more vulnerable to injury.  The fact is that all three have to be healthy all season in order to crack the top 20, and that hasn’t happened yet so we shouldn't count on it happening until it does.

 


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RizzeeDizzee said:

RizzeeDizzee
... @Vancityguy

You make very good points. Part of the goal of this column is to have the debate spill over into the comments - for people to tell me not just where they agree, but where they don't. Thanks for the feedback.
January 19, 2013
Votes: +0

Vancityguy said:

Vancityguy
... This article is far too loose in it's basis and historical reference. Give us more info on how the dominance of how premiere scoring lines have gone from crucial to secondary behind depth scoring (which is your real argument here and i dont think you realize it) if your going to go down the path of trying to analyze such a rare tri-fecta of all line mates making top 20 in scoring....my god. No one is surprised that on a point per game basis these kids were elite, we all know it.

Here is this article summed up in 2 lines:

Guess what guys, on a point per game basis Crosby and Malkin are reallllllly good! they just cant seem to stay healthy smilies/sad.gif Draft accordingly.


January 19, 2013
Votes: +0

Veritas0Aequitas said:

Veritas0Aequitas
Hall has learned Hall learned down in the AHL not to play as reckless. I don't think injuries will be as much as a problem for him anymore.
January 18, 2013
Votes: +0

mabus said:

mabus
... The biggest obstacle for them reaching the top 20 is health. Hall's game is too reckless to stay healthy for long. RNH looks like he's about 160lbs, and I'm not sure how someone with a boy's body can compete 4 or 5 nights a week against men. They will all stay healthy one year, but the chances of it happening his year are low.
January 18, 2013
Votes: +1
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