Predicting the career path of young players is always a difficult thing to do. All sorts of things, ranging from team need to linemates to coaching preference to injury – especially injury – can wreak havoc with a career.

That said, one of the more interesting ways to get an idea of where a young player is going is by looking for other players who have had a similar start to their careers. At the very least, it helps give a reasonable idea of what these players might turn into. I stumbled on to the idea courtesy of Lowetide, who has been doing these for a few years, and I think he borrowed the idea from baseball.

To start with, I’ve decided to try and find players whose early careers bear similarities to Montreal Canadiens’ forward Andrei Kostitsyn. I’ve been aided in doing so by the incredibly powerful search tool at hockey-reference.com, which helped me establish a list of names to whittle down.

To begin with, here’s Kostitsyn’s profile:

  • Andrei Kostitsyn
  • 6’ – 205lbs – 1st round pick
  • 22: 82GP – 27G – 28A – 55PTS
  • 23: 82GP – 25G – 20A – 45PTS

I’ve looked back over the past decade to find players who have had similar seasons to Kostitsyn at age 22 and 23. I’ve further narrowed things down by only looking at players in the same ballpark size-wise as Kostitsyn. I’ve arranged them in the order I think best matches our subject; feel free to bring up other comparables or to suggest a different order in the comments section below. The comparables are as follow:

  • J.P. Dumont
  • 6’2” – 200lbs – 1st round pick
  • 22: 82GP – 24G – 29A – 53PTS
  • 23: 82GP – 25G – 23A – 48PTS
  • Jussi Jokinen
  • 5’11” – 183lbs – 6th round pick
  • 22: 82GP – 17G – 38A – 55PTS
  • 23: 82GP – 14G – 34A – 48PTS
  • David Legwand
  • 6’2” 189lbs, 1st round pick
  • 22: 82GP – 22G – 40A – 62PTS
  • 23: 82GP – 18G – 29A – 47PTS
  • Scott Gomez
  • 5’11” – 200lbs – 1st round pick
  • 22: 82GP – 11G – 41A – 52PTS
  • 23: 82GP – 13G – 43A – 56PTS

J.P. Dumont, currently of the Nashville Predators, is the guy from the past ten years who most closely resembles Kostitsyn between the age of 22-23. Like Kostitsyn, he was a high pick, mostly a goal-scorer, and a 50-ish point guy during the start of his career. Both players emerged as NHL regulars at age 22; prior to that, both had shown flashes in NHL call-ups and had put up points in the top minor leagues.

The other players match up less well; Jokinen was never as highly regarded at a young age as Kostitsyn, while Legwand and Gomez both put up more assists and fewer goals. That said, I think we can see a fairly clear range for career potential here.

I have a pair of questions for Habs fans (and everyone else):

  1. Does Dumont seem like a reasonable comparison?
  2. If Kostitsyn went on to have Dumont’s career, would that be a disappointment, satisfactory, or better than expected?

Also, please let me know if you like or dislike this idea; if it’s popular I’ll probably continue and make this a series. Also, feel free to suggest other players for this sort of evaluation (preferably forwards, since the stats don’t track so well for defencemen).