Editor's Note: Van Ryn's Neurologist takes a look at the progression of Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin's produciton this season.
There has been a lot of debate this season about how the two first round and one second round pick that Brian Burke paid for Phil Kessel. As we all know, Kessel came out of the gates strong this season, but went on a long dry spell. He's now getting hot again, which made me wonder what his stats look like over time compared to other top-notch players in the league (the kind we would have no problems paying those picks for). Luckily, my ESPN fantasy league has a feature that allows you to graphically compare stats between two players. The results are sometimes interesting, sometimes surprising.
I chose Malkin for three reasons:
- Kessel and Malkin have a similar number of goals
- Malkin obviously plays on a far better team, with far better players around him, so I wanted to see how Kessel would match up
- Malkin is an 'elite', young player, that people have debated as being better than Crosby, so obviously has great value.
Remember, Kessel didn't play his first game until November 3rd, but Malkin has only played 4 more games than Kessel. Obviously, Kessel also didn't have a training camp or a pre-season.
So, ladies and gentlemen, I give to you Kessel vs. Malkin:
It's pretty clear from this graph that Malkin and Kessel are quite comparable in this stat. In fact, before Kessel played a single game, Malkin had scored 4 goals, but Kessel beat him to the 12 goal mark, scoring at a great pace. Kessel's production dropped off late December/early January, but he seems to be scoring at a better pace again. I wouldn't be surprised if Kessel ends up with more goals than Malkin in most seasons, especially if he can get a premier set-up C.Assists:
Obviously, Malkin is on pace to get far more assists than Kessel, but Kessel's production looks surprisingly good considering that Malkin had 10 assists before Kessel even played a game. This is where a better supporting cast would help Kessel. I think we saw early on that Kessel can actually make a good playmaker at times, assuming he's got someone to pass to that can put the puck in the net.
Kessel and Malkin have almost identical PPG production. Malkin had 4 before Kessel got his first, and now they're separated by 5. With Malkin playing along guys like Crosby all seaons on the PP, you'd expect him to be far outpacing Kessel. Who knows how many PPGs Kessel could score with Dion on the point, and with an elite set-up guy like Crosby.
Again, Phil's production is quite impressive stacked up to Malkin, especially when you figure who Malkin has been playing with on the PP. The dry-spell between November and January I think corresponds to a time when the Leaf's PP when 0-for-167,852.
For those of you in doubt of what Kessel brings, I think this seals the deal. Kessel, playing on a team that has less than 20 wins, already has as many GWGs as Malkin. Granted, GWGs are spread-out somewhat randomly sometimes, especially on a Penguins team with many goal-scorers. But the stats are impressive nonetheless. This guy is clutch, and I suspect, will only keep getting better as games get bigger.
Obviously, there are a lot of differences between Kessel and Malkin that aren't shown by comparing stats head to head. There's also the huge difference between centers and wingers in terms of the type of points they get. But I think these graphs demonstrate that Kessel's production matches up to elite players on elite teams.
Are you convinced? Is Kessel keeping pace with elite players in the league? Are our expectations too high?