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Jets Comparables III: Bryan Little

Every Monday we'll be using the Snepsts System to search the NHL's history for players with comparable era-adjusted statistics to today's Jets, and featuring the analysis here at Arctic Ice Hockey. A description and example of the methodology can be found on Hockey Prospectus. To see how this worked for the Calgary Flames last season, visit Flames Nation.

Over the past couple of weeks we've looked at Andrew Ladd, Nik Antropov, Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom. This week, before we proceed with Bryan Little and Evander Kane, let's take a step back to see how useful this exercise really is.

Here is last year's data for the four players we've already projected, and the two we're doing next, along with the Snepsts projection, and the Vukota projection. You'll note that Snepsts doesn't look particularly useful, essentially whiffing on them all.


Andrew Ladd

Vukota 0.24 0.32 0.56

Snepsts 0.21 0.28 0.49

Actual 0.36 0.37 0.73

Nik Antropov

Vukota 0.29 0.48 0.77

Snepsts 0.27 0.44 0.71

Actual 0.21 0.33 0.54

Dustin Byfuglien

Vukota 0.30 0.29 0.59

Snepsts 0.18 0.23 0.41

Actual 0.25 0.41 0.66

Tobias Enstrom

Vukota 0.10 0.41 0.51

Snepsts 0.11 0.42 0.53

Actual 0.14 0.57 0.71

Bryan Little

Vukota 0.29 0.33 0.62

Snepsts 0.21 0.31 0.52

Actual 0.24 0.39 0.63

Evander Kane

Vukota 0.27 0.26 0.53

Snepsts N/A (requires 2 seasons of data)

Actual 0.26 0.33 0.59

Despite it's infancy, Vukota is already being coronated as the most reliable projection system. For instance, David Mirtle recently compared with other popular projectionists on last year's Edmonton Oilers, and it came out on top. Even though a system as accurate as Vukota doesn't always come close on a case-by-case basis, just like Preparation H, it usually feels good on the whole.

On average, Vukota nailed the goal-scoring, projecting 0.25 goals per game on a group that got 0.24, but undercutting assists per game 0.35 vs 0.40, for a total projection of 0.6 vs 0.64. On average Vukota was off by 0.12 points per game, which is actually about as good as it gets.

Snepsts tends to predict lower than Vukota, and these six players – five players, actually – are no exception. Unfortunately that meant under-cutting these players 0.24 to 0.2 on goals, and 0.4 to 0.34 on assists, for 0.64 to 0.53 over-all – off by 0.26 points per game on average, which is absolutely nothing to brag about.

In fairness, these aren't random players, but rather the Thrashers' best players after-the-fact, which are definitely more likely to be inaccurate when using a system that tends to project low. If you review last year's Flames Nation piece, which was done on players before the fact, you'll see that it caught some overachievers at one end, some underachievers at the other, but over-all the average almost nailed it as closely as Vukota.

In fact, if you look at all 336 players for which there are both Vukota and Snepsts projections (Snepsts requires at least 2 seasons of data, and at least two seasons worth of player data), Snepsts is off by an average of 0.13 points per game, even better than Vukota's 0.14.

Having used perhaps too much space to defend its honour, let's cover Bryan Little today and leave Evander Kane for next week.

Bryan Little, RW

Bryan Little was drafted 12th overall in 2006, won a Gold medal at the World Juniors, and made the team out of training camp the next year. He surprised everyone on 2008-09 by scoring 31 goals in his first full season, adding 20 assists, but has followed that up with only 31 goals in the next two full seasons combined (13 and 18). On the plus side, he has steadily improved his playmaking, gradually increasing his assists from 20 to 21 to finally 30 last season.

Age Player Season GP G A Pts
25 Mario Tremblay 1981-82 80 22 28 50
24 Stan Weir 1976-77 65 9 16 25
24 Andre Savard 1977-78 80 16 17 34
25 Charlie Burns 1961-62 70 10 16 26
23 Billy Harris 1958-59 70 21 30 51
24 Daymond Langkow 2000-01 71 13 41 54
22 Doug Shedden 1983-84 67 15 25 40
23 Michael Peca 1997-98 61 19 23 42
25 Ilkka Sinisalo 1983-84 73 20 12 32
26 Ross Lonsberry 1973-74 75 27 17 44

GP G A Pts
VUKOTA 71 18 28 46
Worst (Burns) 79 11 18 29
Best (Langkow) 79 14 47 61
Average 79 19 25 44

Bryan Little, who turns 24 this November, has a roughly even chance of scoring 20 goals, according to both Vukota and Snepsts. Half of the comparables either exceeded or were on pace for the 20-goal plateau, including Mario Tremblay, Billy Harris (the first), Michael Peca, Ilkka Sinisalo and Ross Lonsberry.

Mario Tremblay, also a right-winger, a 12th overall selection, and easily Little's closest statistical match, broke into the NHL as an 18-year-old, but had his break-out, 30-goal season at 22, just a bit later than Little's. We should hope Little is on this track, because Tremblay eventually returned to that plateau, hitting it 3 times in four seasons starting in 1981-82, though adjusted for era that would be 22 goals today.

Finnish sniper Ilkka Sinisalo is another interesting one, a right-winger that didn't find his NHL stride until 1984-85 at age 26, when he scored 75 goals and 150 points (non-normalized) in 144 games over two seasons, with shooting percentages well over 20% both seasons. Unfortunately he never managed more than 68 games in a single season thereafter.

Speaking of offensive-minded players still a season away from breaking out, there's Doug Shedden. It's odd to find players like Michael Peca and Doug Shedden on the same list, but Snepsts doesn't take anything defensive into account – it just looks at goals and assists. That's probably why Shedden's career ended despite back-to-back 30+ goal seasons at age 23-24, while Peca played had a long career despite only once hitting the 60-point mark.

Both Sinisalo and Shedden's offense was greatly dependent on power play opportunities, with Tim Kerr in the former case (34 PPG!) and Mario Lemieux in the latter (Geez – Terry Ruskowski scored 63 points and bagged 11 PPG that year). Unless we've seriously underestimated Ladd's potential, Little can't rely on the power play to return to the 30-goal mark.

Fortunately Little is not a one-dimensional player. He took a regular shift on killing penalties last year, and didn't look that bad on last year's OZQoC graph either. Regardless of whether he hits 20 goals or not (I think he will), he'll still be around for years to come.

Next Week

Next week we'll look at Evander Kane as previously promised, and we'll do Blake Wheeler too.