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Article (numbernumbers.com): Does size matter?


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http://nhlnumbers.com/2013/11/5/can-size-get-you-an-nhler

Justin Azevedo

November 05 2013 07:55AM

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Via Sean Mort

You always hear about how size is an asset in the game. But do players with size actually have demonstrably better careers than their counterparts?

With the help of reader Byron Bader (who compiled the raw numbers and provided some analysis), we're going to take a look and see if that's the case or not.

THE NUMBERS

There's simply too many players for us to include everyone ever in this sample, so we've cut it down to players drafted between 1990 and 2012. There was a total of 3289 draftees in that amount of time, and this is how they break down:

Below 5'10" 5'10" - 6'0" 6'1" - 6'4" Above 6'4'' Total Draftees 80 1020 2034 155 NHLers 5 72 147 8 Percentage of NHLers 6.25% 7.06% 7.23% 5.16% Average Points of Players in Top 1000 532 510 507 560

For the purpose of this exercise, "NHLers" are guys who are top-6 forwards and top-4 defensemen.

OBSERVATIONS

  • Teams are much more willing to spend a draft pick on a bigger guy than a smaller guy, even if the smaller guy has better scoring stats. Based on the percentage of NHLers to come from each group, that seems like it may be a mistake.
  • At first blush, it may seem as though drafting bigger players does come with an increase of points, but the small sample (only 8/1000 players) means the results can be skewed one way or another easily. Same with the smaller players.
  • It is interesting that huge players, although they are a small percentage of total players, have the best average points. To me, this doesn't so much speak to value of size as it does the value of other skills: there is no player that I observed who was 6'4" and over who didn't have at least adequate NHL-level skating ability and also appeared on the top 1000 list.
  • Based on that, drafting a player simply for size while ignoring his lack of skating ability and/or offensive upside will only lead to a wasted pick.
  • The sample is very small but it's interesting that there's an entire 2% separation between the huge group (smallest percentage of NHLers) and the big group (highest percentage of NHLers).
  • Based on these numbers, it seems like it may be hard for the average GM to strike a balance between finding a player who has a high likelihood to make the NHL (typically in the mid-range) and a player who can score at an above-average rate (typically on the extremes).
  • It seems to me that if you're looking at 4 players in the CHL (one in each size bracket) who have identical scoring stats (i.e., like 45P in 50GP) you want to take the guy who's between 6'1" and 6'4. Highest likelihood to make the show.
  • However, if the player is an elite scorer, obviously take the 6'4 and up player.
  • Small players are seemingly undervalued a significant amount. They have a very good chance at making the NHL compared to their peers and they score at a high pace - but only 2.4% of draftees were in that bracket.
  • Because of this, I can't think of any reason why a GM would pick a player for his size (even though he has other deficiencies) over a player who can score.

CONCLUSION

It's no secret that teams covet players with size. Everyone is trying to find "the next Milan Lucic" or "the next Zdeno Chara". Unfortunately, the stunningly obvious reality is that not every player with size will make any sort of an impact at the NHL level. So then why do GMs continue to reduce their odds at finding NHLers?

It's simple: the pursuit of the outlier is a much more attractive option to the average person than it is to settle for the medial. To me, that doesn't really make sense - the point of an NHL draft is to maximize the amount of NHLers you can get your hands on. The farther away you go, the harder it is to find an NHLer. Thus, draft players who are already equipped with point scoring and skating ability before you draft for size.

a pretty interesting read imho.

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I agree with the premise of the article. Guys like Bert, Lucic, and Chara and outliers that are 3-7 standard deviations from the mean meaning they are extremely, extremely rare. Instead of trying to hit 1 solo home run with the draft, the goal should be to hit a bunch of singles, doubles, and the odd triple.

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I think a lot of players get drafted late rounds as well due to size, and being a 5th rounder vs a 1st or 2nd rounder makes it harder to get opportunities as well. If Subban was 6'2-6'5 he would have been a first round pick, 5'11-6'1 a 2nd round pick. But the fact he is only 5'9 made him drop a couple of rounds.

As a 17 year old he was close to a ppg and had almost double the amount of points as the second highest scoring defender three years his senior and also a 4th round pick.

Take an early 4th rounder like Mason Geertsen from the giants. 10 points, -26 in 58 games but a 6'3, 200lb frame. I'd take my chances on a highly skilled little guy like Subban any day of the week.

A lot of small defenders drafted late turn out well:

Jared Spurgeon (6th round)

Tobias Enstrom (8th round)

Kimmo Timonen (10th round)

Lubomir Vishnovsky (4th round)

Brian Campbell (6th round)

Sami Vatanen (4th round)

The only dmen in the NHL 5'10 and under to be drafted in the 1st or 2nd round are Ryan Ellis (11th overall) and Aaron Ness (40th overall).

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"For the purpose of this exercise, "NHLers" are guys who are top-6 forwards and top-4 defensemen."

Kinda seems convenient considering bottom 6 forwards who are expected to grind and hit don't really do as well if they are smaller.

I don't necessarily disagree with the article, but if you pick a smaller player and he can't score, he's pretty much done, but at least with a bigger player they have a chance to fit into that bottom 6 role

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"For the purpose of this exercise, "NHLers" are guys who are top-6 forwards and top-4 defensemen."

Kinda seems convenient considering bottom 6 forwards who are expected to grind and hit don't really do as well if they are smaller.

I don't necessarily disagree with the article, but if you pick a smaller player and he can't score, he's pretty much done, but at least with a bigger player they have a chance to fit into that bottom 6 role

You definitely picked up on the real problem with this article. It is far too convenient to include only top 6 forwards and top 4 defenseman. Big players are the one's who fill those roles more often than not. Perfect example of how you can skew stats to be in your favor no matter what. Saying that a player who makes a career as a 3rd or 4th line player can't have better careers is garbage. Perhaps they don't have better careers than top 6 players. But they have a hell of a lot better careers then that other small guy who ends up playing hockey in the middle of nowhere.

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Well the thing is if you have small guys that have good speed, hands and resiliency they will do well at scoring. That's the thing when your small is that you can skate faster and have faster acceleration. If thats combined with good hands you will score more. But on the other hand if your big you can't go as fast because scientifically its impossible to accelerate at the same rate as small players.

Look at Boston for example. They have this image of "being big" but who are their most consistent scorers they are all guys who are fast and under 200 LBs.

Brad Marchand 5'9 183

David Krecji 6'0 188

Patrice Bergeron 6'2 194

If you watch these players play you will see that they use their speed a lot to get their goals. And they are among Boston's most consistent scorers. You need to be light to skate fast and this + good hands= goals goals goals.

The leagues best players have more often been fast rather than large.

Kessel 6'0 202

Stamkos 6'0 190

Crosby 5'11 200

Bure 5'11 191

Kane 5'11 181

St'Louis 5'8 180

Sure once in a while you get a Joe Thorton,Ryan Getzleaf or Corry Perry who are still skilled/fast to score consistently but it is extremely rare to have these players since they are essentially defying the odds. Cause having speed is a easier way to score then having size.

That's why when people rip into players like Booth and Shroeder for not producing I find it silly cause these are the exact players this team needs.

Teams that have the perfect balance of speed, and size

Boston

Anaheim

Chicago

LA

SJ

Teams that have just speed players

Pittsburgh

Edmonton(If they had defense they would fair better)

Teams that have just size

None because you would have the worst goals for in the league if you did.

Size does matter but speed is what gets you the goals. As of now canucks are neither fast or big they are a exception team because the sedins aren't fast or big but still score which is amazing: very few players can do that we are lucky to have them. The belong in the "smart" category.

So yeah I think you need to have a balance of speed and size to be sucessful in todays game. And from that I mean some fast players and some big players who can chip in with the odd goal.

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"For the purpose of this exercise, "NHLers" are guys who are top-6 forwards and top-4 defensemen."

Kinda seems convenient considering bottom 6 forwards who are expected to grind and hit don't really do as well if they are smaller.

I don't necessarily disagree with the article, but if you pick a smaller player and he can't score, he's pretty much done, but at least with a bigger player they have a chance to fit into that bottom 6 role

Nail on the head.

Although interesting, this article lost a good chunk of factual information when it chose to exclude the bottom sixers and bottom pairing D from the equation. It seems like it wants to give the smaller players the benefit of the doubt in the top 6 but wants to ignore larger guys playing their roles farther down the depth chart.

There are different jobs in the NHL, not just scoring...and when it comes to grinding it out...bigger is almost always better.

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Well the thing is if you have small guys that have good speed, hands and resiliency they will do well at scoring. That's the thing when your small is that you can skate faster and have faster acceleration. If thats combined with good hands you will score more. But on the other hand if your big you can't go as fast because scientifically its impossible to accelerate at the same rate as small players.

Look at Boston for example. They have this image of "being big" but who are their most consistent scorers they are all guys who are fast and under 200 LBs.

Brad Marchand 5'9 183

David Krecji 6'0 188

Patrice Bergeron 6'2 194

If you watch these players play you will see that they use their speed a lot to get their goals. And they are among Boston's most consistent scorers. You need to be light to skate fast and this + good hands= goals goals goals.

The leagues best players have more often been fast rather than large.

Kessel 6'0 202

Stamkos 6'0 190

Crosby 5'11 200

Bure 5'11 191

Kane 5'11 181

St'Louis 5'8 180

Sure once in a while you get a Joe Thorton,Ryan Getzleaf or Corry Perry who are still skilled/fast to score consistently but it is extremely rare to have these players since they are essentially defying the odds. Cause having speed is a easier way to score then having size.

That's why when people rip into players like Booth and Shroeder for not producing I find it silly cause these are the exact players this team needs.

Teams that have the perfect balance of speed, and size

Boston

Anaheim

Chicago

LA

SJ

Teams that have just speed players

Pittsburgh

Edmonton(If they had defense they would fair better)

Teams that have just size

None because you would have the worst goals for in the league if you did.

Size does matter but speed is what gets you the goals. As of now canucks are neither fast or big they are a exception team because the sedins aren't fast or big but still score which is amazing: very few players can do that we are lucky to have them. The belong in the "smart" category.

So yeah I think you need to have a balance of speed and size to be sucessful in todays game. And from that I mean some fast players and some big players who can chip in with the odd goal.

I think it's a myth that there a trade off between size and speed. People always assume that big guys are automatically slower than small guys, I could be wrong but I don't think there's any factual basis to that statement.

Sure a larger person has to create more force to move their larger body, but as long as they aren't a scrawny weakling (which most NHL'ers aren't) or fat (again, most NHL'ers aren't) this would be cancelled out by their increased total muscle and strength. Also, tall people have longer limbs which allows them to cover more ice in one stride. If you look at most Olympic sprinters they are quite tall and muscular.

My guess is that for speed, the best combo would be short and lean (less dead weight), but with lots of muscle mass (more strength). Similar to Pavel Bure's frame. This gives the best of both worlds (high power to weight ratio, similar to a car).

I think the real reason small hockey players are fast is actually due to selection. Small players HAVE to be fast in order to make an impact whereas big players can make in impact in other ways. So all the short, slow players get weeded out by the higher levels.

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