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  • Kirill Kaprizov Is A Top-3 Scorer In The Analytics Era

    Tony Abbott

    It's still early, but it looks like the 2015 NHL Draft will be remembered as the best of the 2010s. The sheer number of big-name players is awe-inspiring, and may even rival the fabled 2003 Draft. Its 2003 counterpart arguably doesn't have a Connor McDavid, for example. Add Jack Eichel, Mitch Marner, Mikko Rantanen, Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor, Timo Meier, Thomas Chabot, Zach Werenski, and that's about half of the best young names in hockey.


    That's before mentioning stars like Travis Konecny or Joel Eriksson Ek coming out of the first round. Or players like Sebastian Aho, Roope Hintz, Anthony Cirelli, Troy Terry, or Conor Garland, who fell out of the first.


    Or, hey, what about that kid from Novokuznetsk, Kirill Kaprizov?


    Since Kaprizov broke into the league, it's been fun to track where his production stacks up against the rest of his draft class. In terms of raw points, he already sits at 21st among 2015 draftees with 142 points. Considering everyone ahead of him has at least 100 more games than Kaprizov, that's pretty impressive. Most of those players have 250-300 games on him.


    Obviously, that's a remarkable stat. But when comparing him to the McDavids (682 points in 480 GP), Eichels (375 in 401), and Marners (448 in 419) of the world, Kaprizov's lack of games makes it tough to compare. So to see where he truly stacks up against the elites in this class, we have to turn to scoring rate.


    What we're going to do is pretty simple. We'll take everyone's points, divide them by minutes played, and then see how many points they produce per hour. In order to even things out further, let's also filter out power play, short-handed time, and other special teams and just look at 5-on-5.


    Here are the top-5 career 5-on-5 scorers of the 2015 Draft (per hour, minimum 1000 minutes):


    KAPRIZOV, 2.94

    McDavid, 2.89

    Marner, 2.62

    Barzal, 2.30

    Garland, 2.15


    Kaprizov's incredible season (tied for fifth in the NHL with 53 5-on-5 points), pushes him to heights even above McDavid, the best scorer in the world. It's very close, and McDavid could well take back the top spot next week, but even going neck-and-neck with him is truly impressive in itself.


    Now, the differentiating factor for McDavid is his insane power-play production. That's a part of the game, too, so let's see this list again, but in all situations.


    McDavid, 3.94

    KAPRIZOV, 3.62

    Marner, 3.32

    Rantanen, 3.10

    Aho, 2.89


    Kaprizov gets bumped back to No. 2 in his class, though it is comforting to know that McDavid is still at the top of some lists. Even if he's in second place, you wonder if you slipped into a bizarro dimension. But still, Kaprizov is the only player who comes even within a half-point per hour of McDavid's production in all situations. It's hard to look at this and not conclude that Kaprizov is an obvious top-2 scorer in his class.


    That 2015 Draft is so deep and so fun to look at that it can be easy to get lost in it. So what happens if we pull back and look at the bigger picture? After all, not many players are going to out-score McDavid. If Kaprizov's within a stone's throw of him, shouldn't he be up there with the best scorers of the Analytics Era?


    For those wondering what the Analytics Era is, let's define it quickly. The NHL introduced detailed shift and shot location data in 2007-08. It's the bedrock of almost all hockey analytics, so the Analytics Era is 2007-08 or later.


    That means that we'll be stacking Kaprizov's production up with the very best players to play since then. We're talking old-timers like Jaromir Jagr, Teemu Selanne, and Joe Sakic. It includes today's Hall of Famers who've played all or most of their entire careers in the Analytics Era, like Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, and Steven Stamkos. We're even talking about today's young stars who've yet to go through a decline phase, like Auston Matthews, Artemi Panarin, and Jason Robertson.


    So with that noted, here's the top-5 per-hour scorers in the Analytics Era in all situations (minimum 1000 minutes):


    McDavid, 3.94

    KAPRIZOV, 3.62

    Sidney Crosby, 3.61

    Nikita Kucherov, 3.55

    Evgeni Malkin, 3.54


    That's it. Just one guy above Kaprizov. Think of a player you've seen in the last 15 years. Unless you think of McDavid, Kaprizov's produced at a higher rate than the player you just thought of over the last decade-and-a-half. And yes, he's still No. 1 in 5-on-5 scoring.


    We're not done blowing your socks off yet, either. Kaprizov's not just an assists machine. He's also been one of the best in the NHL at putting the puck in the net. That's arguably a harder and more valuable skill than producing points via assists. So let's look at the top-5 goal-scorers in the Analytics Era.


    Career goals per hour, minimum 1000 minutes:


    Matthews, 1.97

    Ovechkin, 1.77

    KAPRIZOV, 1.76

    Stamkos, 1.61

    David Pastrnak, 1.60


    As incredible as his ranking in points is, this list might be the furthest into Are you kidding me? territory. Ovechkin has 678 goals since 2007-08. That doesn't just lead the NHL in that time, it laps the field. Take the second-best scorer (Stamkos), and give him all 205 goals scored by the best defenseman, Shea Weber, and Stamkos still falls two goals short of Ovechkin.


    But here Kaprizov is, basically matching the best goal-scorer of all time's career minute-for-minute. Obviously, Ovechkin has both consistency and longevity on his side, neither of which is guaranteed to Kaprizov. But not many players can replicate what Ovechkin does over a 126-game stretch. And the ones who can, they call "Future Hall of Famers."


    Now, any time you throw out these career comparisons, you'll get buzzkills decrying his age when entering the league. These nay-sayers will point out, for example, that Kaprizov arrived in the NHL fully-formed at 23. He didn't need to fight his way up the lineup like a Pastrnak. He didn't experience early growing pains like MacKinnon. Things of that nature.


    So the final thing we'll look at is a concession to this crowd. Here are the 10 highest career per-hour scorers, ages 23 and up, minimum 1000 minutes:


    McDavid, 4.47

    Matthews, 4.26

    Matthew Tkachuk, 4.25

    Nikita Kucherov, 3.97

    Leon Draisaitl, 3.95

    MacKinnon, 3.73

    Rantanen, 3.67

    Marner, 3.67

    Pastrnak, 3.66

    KAPRIZOV, 3.62 (4th in 5-on-5 scoring)


    Many look at what Kaprizov is doing in St. Paul both within and outside of the State of Hockey, and declare him to be "the Wild's star." When thinking about the career ahead of him, his in-progress assault on Minnesota's records books is front-and-center. All this is right, but that's setting too narrow of a scope for what he is.


    He's not merely "the Wild's star" in the same way, say, Filip Forsberg is the Nashville Predators' star, or Patrik Laine is the Columbus Blue Jackets' star, or even how Connor is the Winnipeg Jets' star.


    Kaprizov isn't just the best player on a team historically starved for talent. He's a scoring force that should be recognized as one of the very best of his era. It's probably appropriate to declare McDavid and Matthews as the two greatest offensive players right now, but Kaprizov is right in the very next tier.


    And if he keeps up this production, he'll earn his place among those two, as well as slam-dunk Hall of Famers like Crosby, Malkin, Stamkos, and Ovechkin on the shortlist of the best scorers in the Analytics Era.


    All stats via Evolving Hockey unless otherwise noted. All stats are accurate as of April 14.

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