The burning question on most Devils fans minds as the season approaches is whether or not Peter Deboer will keep Adam Larsson on his defensive core for most, if not all, of the 2011 season. As I began to ponder the question myself, I thought it would be interesting to look at the contributions 18 year olds had made to their team in NHL history.
I found, according to quanthockey.com, that 241 18 year old players have taken part in an NHL game (link here). Of these, only 117 of these players have played in more than 10 NHL games during the time they were 18 (whether in abbreviated stints in the NHL, being demoted, injuries, etc). Even further than this, only 83 players have been a member of their team for at least half of a season (41 games).
Looking at this, one could easily determine that 18 year old players are not common in the NHL.
But how did these players do once they made it to the NHL?
In order to narrow down the list to those who "succeeded" while they were 18, I chose to look at players that took part in more than 40 NHL games. Of these players, only 22 out of 83 posted positive plus/minus ratings. Plus/Minus is not always the best way to measure a player's success, but in the context of what it means to play defense, which I will examine later when analyzing Adam Larsson's role on the 2011 Devils, this stat can be valuable. For those who want offensive stats, you are free to look and make assumptions about how a player like Ryan Nugent Hopkins may perform this year, but I am sticking to defense to keep the argument "Devils related".
Many also argue that today's NHL favors a faster game, so I decided to look at the current NHL players that played in the NHL while they were 18. Of the 241, 37 of these are current players. (see bolded players on the link). Make what assumptions you want, but players that made their debuts after the lockout account for 17 of these players. Given that the lockout has only been over for 5 full seasons, it is fair to say that more NHL players are making their debuts at a younger age, which favors those who want to see Larsson in a NJ Devils uniform this season.
Just as a side note, 15 "17 year olds" and 1 "16 year old" have played in an NHL game, but I chose to exclude them from this study because Adam Larsson is 18 and because these players all competed prior to the 1950 NHL season
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Anyway, these stats aside, I could not limit this survey to all players - I must analyze defensemen considering Larsson is one.
According to the link, 71 defensemen have played a game in the NHL as an 18 year old. Of these players, only 32 have played more than 10 games, 23 have played more than 35 games, and 14 have played more than 60 games (which I found interesting because there was a 10 game gap between #14 Bobby Orr - 61 games- and #15 Aki-Petteri Berg of Sweden).
How did these dmen do, the 23 that played in more than 35 games, when they arrived in the NHL? Of these players, 9 recorded more than 20 points, and 3 had a positive plus/minus (Kyle McLaren, Pete Svoboda, Al Iarfrate).
Of all of these players (the 71 dmen), 5 players currently play in the league (Hamrlik, Bogosian, Sbisa, Kesla, Pietrangelo) and out of these players, only Hamrlik, Bogosian, and Sbisa played in more than 35 games. In these seasons, only Bogosian, with a plus 11 rating, had a positive plus/minus.
What does this mean for Adam Larsson? First, he is not very likely to play in the NHL this season (only 71 dmen and 241 have ever done it). Second, he is not likely to spend very long in NJ during his "18 year old season" --- he does turn 19 in November, but the statistics presented account for these players' entire rookie years. Third, if he does stay, he is not likely to blow up the world with amazing statistics. I realize Larsson is not going to be an all-world offensive defenseman (they project him to be a good puck mover), but one is being naive if they think he is going to be a shut down defenseman in his first season.
Of the players on the list, many went on/are having illustrious careers (to name a few: Gretzky, Hawerchuk, Yzerman, Ron Francis, Scott Stevens, Kovalchuk, Bobby Hull, Bobby Orr, Messier, Roenick, Scott Neidermayer). To say having Larsson in New Jersey for most of this season in order for him to have a successful career and bring the Devils back to the playoffs is a falsehood if history has anything to say about it.
Please feel free to comment and critique my stats (I realize there are many obvious critiques).
Also, I was hoping another member of In Lou We Trust could continue my analyzation with more advanced statistics to further analyze the contribution a player like Larsson would make in the NHL if he played this season (I am not too familiar with Behind the Net and what their stats mean as well as any other advanced metrics - Thanks for your help).
If you choose to answer the poll, I would be interested to hear why you voted for your choice.