Analytically comparing Mark Scheifele, Sean Couturier and Alexander Burmistrov

Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

It's been three seasons since the 2011 draft and four since 2010 draft. But between Scheifele, Couturier and Burmistrov, who has had the stronger season three years after their draft?

The Philadelphia Flyers come into town today, and with them comes Sean Couturier, a young centre that some critics argue the Jets should have drafted in 2011 over Mark Scheifele. Meanwhile, over in Russia, there is a third young centre who has also created controversy in Winnipeg named Alexander Burmistrov. All three are young, full of potential, but have not yet realized that promise from when they were drafted.

The premise of this article has been brewing for nearly a year now and prior to the data ever being created; there is no preconceived agenda other than interest sake and a passion for both investigation and analysis. This article is not to say who was right or wrong, or who will end up the best. Rather, it is to look at three youthful centres and compare their performances on the most even scale possible: the first year all three competed in the NHL, three years after each player's draft.

Usage

While playing in the NHL evens the playing field substantially, no two NHL players are used exactly the same. This is why the contextual nuances is shown prior to the results, as to keep in mind when discussing those results.

Ice Time:


ES TOI/GP % of PP % of PK
Alexander Burmistrov 13:13 17.3% 31.2%
Mark Scheifele 13:15 32.1% 0.5%
Sean Couturier 13:47 26.6% 45.1%

All three centres have spent a very similar amount of even strength time on the ice. Special teams, however, is another story. Burmistrov has seen a lot of minutes on the penalty kill but rarely has been used on the power play more than an after thought. Scheifele has seen a good portion of the Jets power play, playing on the second unit (although that is coming down a bit with Olli Jokinen gaining some more usage there) and essentially has no penalty kill minutes. Couturier, like Burmistrov, has been used more so on the penalty kill, seeing almost 50% of the Flyers' PK minutes.

We can conclude that the three players have seen similar even strength time, but Scheifele has been used more in a power play role, while Burmistrov and Couturier have seen more penalty kill time.

Quality of Competition:

Competition levels do not have a major effect on players results over the span of a full season, but still play a role. The measurement in competition level used here is the opponent's average percentage of a team's ice time. For example: the more often a player face "top six" players, the higher their Forwards TOI QoC will be.


Defence TOI QoC Forwards TOI QoC
Alexander Burmistrov 32.6% 25.2%
Mark Scheifele 32.4% 24.9%
Sean Couturier 32.0% 27.3%

All three players have been matched against similar calibre defensemen. The level is pretty standard for those deemed as secondary threats, as all three players have not been used on their team's top line.

Couturier has been used in a shutdown role, facing more minutes against the other teams top players than either of the other two centres. In fact, Couturier faced the highest level of competition of all the Flyers centres. Burmistrov's and Scheifele's competition levels are similar to each other in number and both are third for their team's regular centremen; however, Burmistrov's is much closer aligned to that of Jokinen in 2012-13 than Scheifele is to Jokinen in 2013-14.

We can conclude that Couturier has clearly had tougher assignment as far as matchups go, followed by Burmistrov and then Scheifele.

Offensive Zone Starts

Even though the game of hockey is very fluid, how much a player is deployed in offensive zone relative to the defensive zone has been shown to have a very major impact on a players results. Each player's rank relative to the team's other regular centres is shown, as not all team's get the same amount of deployment opportunities due to the difference in team strengths.


OZS% NZS% DZS% O/DZS% O/DZS Team Rank
Alexander Burmistrov 31.3% 34.9% 28.4% 52.4% 3rd
Mark Scheifele 34.7% 36.1% 29.2% 54.3% 1st
Sean Couturier 26.0% 36.4% 37.6% 40.9% 4th

Couturier has the toughest minutes in his usage hands down. In addition to seeing the toughest competition, he has been deployed predominately in the defensive zone. Burmistrov and Scheifele have both seen the offensive zone more than the defensive zone for face-offs; however, Scheifele appears to be sheltered as much as possible by Claude Noel, with Mark leading his team in offensive zone starts while Burmistrov was more due to being on a team that pushed the play better.

We can conclude that Couturier once again has seen far tougher minutes than the other two, followed by Burmistrov and then Scheifele.

Quality of Teammate

Measuring the strength in linemate effects is still in its early infancy, although it has been hypothesized by many to be more severe than competition effects. The measurement is in percenteage of team's total time on ice, much like the competition metric seen previously.


Defence TOI QoT Forwards TOI QoT
Alexander Burmistrov 33.0% 23.9%
Mark Scheifele 33.3% 25.4%
Sean Couturier 32.9% 27.0%

All three players have seen similar quality of defensemen for linemates. Burmistrov spent a lot of his minutes with "high class" forwards such as Eric Tangradi, Chris Thorburn and Patrice Cormier, so his forwards linemates are the lowest of the bunch. Couturier's forward numbers being high is interesting, although it may be his forward linemates are racking up ice time on special teams.

We can conclude that Burmistrov has likely had the short straw when it comes to linemates, although it will be interesting to see where Scheifele and Couturier land by year end.

Shot Metrics

At current samples, shot metrics are already decently indicative of past performance and predictive of future performance. Shot metrics is one of the major focuses of hockey analytics, as it shows those who are best in promoting wins aside from offensive production.

Differentials

At small samples, Corsi% is the most telling of the statistics, while the other three tend to move towards Corsi over time. This is predominately due to Corsi closely correlating to both scoring chances and puck possession.


Shot Attempts Non-Blocked Shot Attempts Shots on Goal Goals

CF% CF% rel FF% FF rel SF% SF% rel GF% GF% rel
Alexander Burmistrov 51.5% +2.8% 49.8% +0.6% 49.2% +0.7% 50.0% +4.3%
Mark Scheifele 46.7% -4.8% 46.7% -4.6% 47.1% -3.7% 46.7% -4.2%
Sean Couturier 48.9% +0.4% 50.7% +3.5% 47.9% +2.5% 45.5% +3.4%

Both Burmistrov and Couturier have predominately been in the positive regions, especially relative to their team's performance without them. Scheifele however has been underwhelming in this department, being both exclusively in the red and below the team's average without him. These numbers are raw, with usage and score effects not taking into consideration.

We can conclude that on average it seems as though Burmistrov and Couturier have contributed to improving their team's chances to win more so than Scheifele.

Shot Promotion and Prevention

There are two ways a differential can be improved: increasing your own chances and decreasing the other team's. Comparing the difference in a team's performance when the player is on and off the ice is a decent way to evaluate this, although a player's numbers may be affected by the other three lines relative strength or weakness.


CF/20 W CF/20 WO CF Delta CA/20 W CA/20 WO CA Delta Overall
Alexander Burmistrov 17.77 18.92 -1.15 16.69 19.78 -3.09 1.94
Mark Scheifele 19.16 19.10 0.06 22.30 17.81 4.49 -4.43
Sean Couturier 18.81 18.35 0.46 19.70 18.95 0.75 -0.29

The difference between Burmistrov and Scheifele does not come with much surprise. Scheifele seems to promote offense more effectively than Burmistrov, while the opposite is true for suppressing their opponent. Although, the overall difference may surprise some, but not everyone. Couturier's ability to promote offense appears to be highly underrated while perhaps his defensive abilities be slightly underrated (less so when you take age into consideration - most 21 year olds come in the league poor defensively).

The effects of zone starts and score effects can be diminished by only looking at minutes when the score is within two points and removing the first 10 seconds after an non-neutral zone faceoff. This reduces the sample size but betters the quality of the data.


CF/20 W CF/20 WO Delta CA/20 W CA/20 WO Delta Overall
Alexander Burmistrov 19.46 20.62 -1.16 18.39 21.65 -3.26 2.13
Mark Scheifele 19.17 19.66 -0.49 22.83 19.72 3.11 -3.60
Sean Couturier 20.64 18.20 2.44 21.34 20.11 1.23 1.21

Not much change here, although Couturier's ability to promote offense relative to his usage, and Burmistrov's ability to suppress the other team relative to his usage, become even more increasingly impressive. Scheifele also moves from slightly positive to slightly negative offensively.

We can conclude from this that Burmistrov seemed to be the best overall player for results although he was the weakest in promoting offense. Couturier seems to be the best offensively, although his usage restrains him from turning this into solid boxscore stats.

Production Statistics

5v5 Production

Since the players received a difference in power play usage, it is best to compare strictly in 5v5 situations. Also, secondary assists tend to be less stable and repeatable, so primary assists and point production sans secondary assists are shown as well.


G/60 A/60 P/60 A1/60 P1/60 On-Ice Sh%
Alexander Burmistrov 0.42 0.63 1.05 0.32 0.74 6.7%
Mark Scheifele 0.00 0.94 0.94 0.24 0.24 5.4%
Sean Couturier 0.00 0.75 0.75 0.25 0.25 4.6%

All three have been unfortunate sufferers of low on-ice shooting percentages. While strong offensive players can help push percentages to go higher, on-ice shooting percentages are predominately controlled by natural variance under such small samples. All three have experience percentages below the norm for players playing in a team's top nine, and it would be wise to consider that predominately luck.

Some may say it seems Burmistrov is the better point producer; however, the sample is not sufficient to adequately come to that conclusion. It could be slightly concerning that Scheifele's production mirrors Couturier with much easier minutes; however, the sample spacing prevents a true comparison.

Shot Production

All three players are predominately playmakers rather than goal scorers, but playmaking success unfortunately cannot be evaluated other than looking at the primary assists abive. A players shot production is tracked though.


Shot Attempts /60 Non-Blocked Shot Attempts /60 Shots on Goal /60 Goals /60
Alexander Burmistrov 10.9 7.7 5.3 0.42
Mark Scheifele 9.7 8.0 5.2 0.00
Sean Couturier 9.3 7.7 5.0 0.00

All three players seem fairly similar in the amount of shots that hit the net or miss, although it looks like Burmistrov takes slightly more attempts on average. It is too early in all three players careers to estimate what their natural shooting percentage is; however, their shot production is pretty much the same.

Summary

No one truly knows what the future will bring for these three with any certainty, nor does this article attempt to predict this.

It does however hopefully show a few things. It hopefully shows that all three centres have lots of promise and things to be excited about. It hopefully shows the power in advance statistics to see how a player's production can be influenced by usage and other variables outside of a player's control. It hopefully also shows why advance statistics are useful in comparing players to each other.

At the season's end, we will revisit these numbers and see how things have developed.

All numbers were derived from extraskater.com and hockeyanalysis.com

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