Prospect Ramblings – NHL Rookie Ages (Jan 1 2017)

by Hayden Soboleski on January 1, 2017

A look back at how the average age of NHL rookies has changed (or not?) over the last decade in this Sunday Ramblings…

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2017 is officially now with the posting of the first DobberPropsects Ramblings of the year! There were many storylines that captivated us in 2016, and one that just kept giving was the seemingly unprecidented talents seen in this year's NHL rookie class. Laine is scoring like a seasoned sniper, Matthews has achieved more than imagined as the face of a rebuild, Provorov and Werenski are top-pairing defensive stalwarts, and Marner has brought hope to any player ever deemed too small to translate their game to the world's best league. Looking back over all the "first NHL goal" highlights I've included in Ramblings this season, it really does seem like this is a year to remember for rookies. Today's Ramblings is me taking a look at whether this is a growing trend or perhaps a lucky year for those of us who watch these youngsters on a nightly basis. 

 

The Hockey News wrote two serparate articles recently that when connected, made me curious. The first article discussed the growing influence of the NCAA in today's NHL, mentioning the record 67 contracts signed by NCAA alumni in 2016. This article also discussed how the average age of these 67 players was 22.5 years old – indicating that they're likely (on average at least) more matured physically and mentally than major junior players who turn pro at age 20. 

 

The second article of interest was, like this one, marvelling at the impact of young players. It included a graph of the percentage of the NHL's goals contributed by players aged 23 or younger (see below), and it showed that this season marks the highest point since the late 1980s – these youngsters have scored roughly 28% of the leagues goals.

image created by The Hockey News

 

Naturally, reading these articles raises the question of whether rookie age changes over the years (affected by NCAA and KHL influence) has played a part in this revitalization of the under-23 age group. To have the necessary data to make this arguement, I've collected age and scoring data from a few years over the last decade. I'm looking here at average rookie age and scoring of the top-scoring freshmen, and the overall state of the under-24 demographic, as provided by The Hockey News.

 

 Year  Average  Age of Top 5 Rookie Scorers  Combined Point Total of Top 5 Rookie Scorers  % NHL Goals Scored by U-24 (approx.)
 2016  19.0  Pace: 283  28%
 2014  22.0  284  25%
 2012  20.2  Pace: 249 (lockout)  26%
 2010  20.6  265  23%
 2008  21.0  251  24%

 

So what do we see?

As it goes with research, after collecting this data I'm not sure I was looking at the right things. But first lets review the numbers. We see that:

1. There's no obvious relation between how old the top-scoring rookies are and how much they are scoring

2. There is a notable increase in the 2016 and 2014 scoring totals, which coincide with higher contribution %s of the entire under-24 age group. 

             2.1 This year's class is scoring at an equally high rate as rokies two years ago but at a lower age.

 

So, the only sound takeaways here are that yes, this year's phenominal rookie class is special in the fact that they are scoring as historically high rates while being younger than other bundles of top rookies. Because of this fact, it makes sense that the total scoring contribution of the under-24 age group is going up. What this doesn't tell us however, is if this trend will continue. There is always exceptional talent awaiting in the junior ranks, but if you ask any professional scout, there are good and bad years (in general) for young talent. So whie we will have to wait and see to know for sure, for now it certainly looks like the influence of young players is still on the rise.

 

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As always, thank you for reading and best of luck in your 2017!

Hayden Soboleski

@soboleskih