The history of (future) Hall of Fame and Norris defensemen before age 22

SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 23: Drew Doughty #8 of the Los Angeles Kings falls down when he is hit by teammate Justin Williams #14 and Torrey Mitchell #17 of the San Jose Sharks in game five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on April 23, 2011 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

[This post originally appeared in early July; it's been getting a lot of hits this week for obvious reasons; I decided to kick it back to the top of the blog; comments are reopened, too.]
My original thought was to do a point/counter-point arguing whether or not Doughty deserved to be the highest-paid King -- but in going through the numbers I found it difficult to argue strongly in either direction. This was disappointing in a way, because I do enjoy taking both sides of an argument and setting them against each other. What I found, instead, was lots of grey area.

Here's a chart of 99 defensemen, culled from one (or more) of three lists: (1) the highest-scoring defensemen all-time (500 career points or more); (2) the currently highest-paid defensemen in terms of cap-hit; (3) the top-scoring defensemen over the last couple of seasons. I thought I would show that Doughty, before the age of 22, has done what few before him have done. That was simple enough: Doughty has scored 126 points in those three seasons, a feat which has been topped by only thirteen other players.

  • The "H" column has an asterisk in it if the player happens to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
  • The "N" column gives the number of Norris trophies won. 
  • Players whose names are in red are both Hall-of-Famers and Norris winners. 
  • Players whose names are in orange are merely in the Hall of Fame. :(
  • Players whose names are in green are Norris winners who aren't in the Hall, although some of them will certainly be in the Hall soon (Lidstrom, Chelios).
  • Names in purple are either active players or recently retired (purple being the default color for links to an SBN player page). [oops, the SBN tagger is having technical difficulties; purple links aren't happening]
  • The columns 18, 19, 20 and 21 reflect the number of points earned by that player at that age. 18-21 indicates the total for that period. R1 shows the rank at 18-21. RC shows the rank of the player's career totals with respect to the other players on this list.
  H N 18 19 20 21 18-21 R1 RC
Phil Housley  
66 77 69 62 274 1 5
Bobby Orr * 8 41 31 64 120 256 2 12
Paul Coffey * 3   32 89 96 217 3 2
Larry Murphy *     76 66 62 204 4 6
Scott Stevens *   25 45 65 53 188 5 13
Ray Bourque * 5   65 56 66 187 6 1
Dave Babych       44 68 74 186 7 25
Paul Reinhart       47 67 61 175 8 46
Doug Bodger     31 37 49 45 162 9 51
Brian Leetch * 2   14 71 56 141 10 9
Denis Potvin * 3     54 76 130 11 8
Roman Hamrlik     21 21 23 65 130 11 34
Glen Wesley       37 54 36 127 13 48
Drew Doughty       27 59 40 126 14 90
Al MacInnis * 1 0 4 45 66 115 15 4
Scott Niedermayer   1 1 40 46 19 106 16 24
Harry Howell * 1     46 58 104 17 3
Alexei Zhitnik         48 52 100 18 60
Dion Phaneuf         49 50 99 19 70
George Ramage         28 62 90 20 44
Sandis Ozolinsh         23 64 87 21 44
Jeff Brown       5 29 52 86 22 39
Kevin Hatcher     1 19 24 41 85 23 29
Tyler Myers       48 37   85 23 94
Dave Ellett         38 46 84 25 42
Wade Redden       30 22 29 81 26 63
Ron Greshner         45 27 72 27 36
Erik Karlsson       26 45   71 28 96
Daryl Sydor       6 29 35 70 29 56
Chris Pronger   1   30 14 25 69 30 27
Gary Suter           68 68 31 15
Ed Jovanovski       21 23 23 67 32 59
Brad Park *       26 37 63 33 14
Calle Johansson         42 21 63 33 49
Tomas Kaberle         22 40 62 35 50
Reed Larson         1 60 61 36 28
Nicklas Lidstrom   7       60 60 37 7
Doug Wilson   1     34 26 60 37 16
Teppo Numminen         15 43 58 39 33
Brent Seabrook         32 24 56 40 80
Eric Desjardins       14 16 25 55 41 41
Kris Letang       2 17 33 52 42 89
Mathieu Schneider     0   21 30 51 43 18
Fredrik Olausson         36 15 51 43 40
Brian McCabe         23 28 51 43 51
Shea Weber         10 40 50 46 79
Sergei Gonchar         7 41 48 47 26
Brent Burns     6   16 25 47 48 83
Bill Gadsby       18 16 13 47 48 42
Rob Blake   1     0 46 46 50 20
Alex Pietrangelo     1 2 43   46 53 97
James Patrick         8 36 44 52 32
P.K. Subban         2 38 40 53 99
Steve Duchesne           38 38 54 22
Garry Galley           38 38 54 37
Red Kelly * 1     20 16 36 56 17
Jay Bouwmeester       16 20   36 56 73
Joni Pitkanen         27   27 58 73
Dan Hamhuis           26 26 59 82
Kevin Shattenkirk           26 26 59 98
Jack Johnson       0 11 11 22 61 93
Michal Rozsival           21 21 62 75
Randy Carlyle   1     5 13 18 63 31
Tim Horton       0   16 16 64 53
Mike Green         3 12 15 65 76
Keith Yandle         2 12 14 66 88
Christian Ehrhoff           12 12 67 78
Zdeno Chara   1     1 8 9 68 65
Rod Langway * 2       7 7 69 67
James Wisniewski           7 7 69 86
Larry Robinson * 1       6 6 71 10
Mike Komisarek         1 4 5 72 95
Brian Campbell         5 0 5 72 68
Robert Murray           3 3 74 55
Carol Vadnais           3 3 74 38
Chris Chelios   3       2 2 76 11
Jacques Laperriere * 1       2 2 76 30
Bruce Driver           2 2 76 58
Borje Salming *               19
Sergei Zubov                 21
Mark Howe                 23
Guy Lapointe                 35
Doug Harvey * 7             47
Brian Rafalski                 54
Pierre Pilote * 3             57
Jyrki Lumme                 61
Dan Boyle                 62
Lubomir Visnovsky                 64
Andrei Markov                 66
John-Michael Liles                 69
Tom Johnson * 1             71
Joe Corvo                 72
Duncan Keith   1             77
Paul Martin                 81
Tobias Enstrom                 84
Ron Hainsey                 85
Kevin Bieksa                 87
Mark Giordano                 91
Alex Goligoski                 92

  • Only 13 defensemen in history have scored more points at 18-21 than Doughty. (There's a small chance I missed a name or two, since I don't have the ability -- without doing it manually -- to isolate individual ages over the entire history of the league. My assumption is that by isolating all the Hall of Famers, all the Norris winners and everyone with over 500 career points, I would catch 99% of the child prodigies.)
  • Of those 13, seven are in the Hall of Fame.
  • Five of the 13 are Norris winners, and those five have won it a total of 21 times. That's one-third of all the Norris trophies ever awarded. 
  • Orr, Bourque, Stevens, Murphy, Leetch, Potvin, Housley and Coffey (8 of the 13) are elite players, generational talents. They're some of the best players ever. 
  • However, the other five names are a bit of a problem. Because Babych, Reinhart, Bodger, Hamrlik and Wesley -- all very good players with fine careers -- would see their career numbers drop off from their 18-21 pace, as the RC column shows. None of them falls off the map, but I'm pretty sure if Doughty turns out to be Doug Bodger 2.0, that will be considered a disappointment. 
Here are the 18-21 numbers as a percentage of the player's career numbers. I have isolated retired (or nearly retired) players, and only players who scored more than 80 points at 18-21 (in order to better approximate Doughty-ness). The default sort for the chart is the number of points the player scored from age 22 on (the 22+ column).


  TOT 18-21 R1 RC % TOT 22+
Ray Bourque 1579 187 6 1 11.84% 1392
Paul Coffey 1531 217 3 2 14.17% 1314
Harry Howell 1298 104 17 3 8.01% 1194
Al MacInnis 1274 115 15 4 9.03% 1159
Larry Murphy 1216 204 4 6 16.78% 1012
Phil Housley 1232 274 1 5 22.24% 958
Denis Potvin 1052 130 11 8 12.36% 922
Brian Leetch 1028 141 10 9 13.72% 887
Scott Stevens 908 188 5 13 20.70% 720
Bobby Orr 915 256 2 12 27.98% 659
Scott Niedermayer 740 106 16 24 14.32% 634
Kevin Hatcher 677 85 23 29 12.56% 592
Dave Babych 723 186 7 25 25.73% 537
Jeff Brown 584 86 22 39 14.73% 498
Roman Hamrlik 624 130 11 34 20.83% 494
Dave Ellett 568 84 25 42 14.79% 484
Sandis Ozolinsh 564 87 21 44 15.43% 477
George Ramage 564 90 20 44 15.96% 474
Glen Wesley 537 127 13 48 23.65% 410
Paul Reinhart 559 175 8 46 31.31% 384
Alexei Zhitnik 471 100 18 60 21.23% 371
Wade Redden 450 81 26 63 18.00% 369
Doug Bodger 528 162 9 51 30.68% 366

 

  • There is an obvious divide in the list: Niedermayer and up representing the franchise-type players; Hatcher and down representing the very good but not elite. This, of course, begs the original question, or I guess rephrases it:
  • Is Drew Doughty closer to Bourque, Murphy, Potvin and Leetch...or Hamrlik, Reinhart, Wesley and Bodger?
  • I decided to look at the next block of four years, ages 22-25, to see if it was a better predictor of career numbers. Obviously, Doughty (and many others out of the 99 we started with) don't have data here because they're not 22 yet (or are, just barely). I have once again focused only on retired (or nearly retired) players.

 

 

  TOT 22-25 26+ R22-25 RC
Bobby Orr 915 479 249 1 12
Paul Coffey 1531 452 975 2 2
Denis Potvin 1052 373 462 3 8
Ray Bourque 1579 332 1132 4 1
Jacques Laperriere 674 327 287 5 30
Brian Leetch 1028 305 519 6 9
Al MacInnis 1274 301 971 7 4
Harry Howell 1298 296 996 8 3
Phil Housley 1232 284 674 9 5
Gary Suter 845 278 531 10 15
Doug Wilson 827 266 561 11 16
Steve Duchesne 752 254 447 12 22
Brad Park 896 252 598 13 14
Reed Larson 685 251 434 14 28
Larry Murphy 1216 250 966 15 6
Scott Stevens 908 241 607 16 13
Randy Carlyle 647 241 338 16 31
Jeff Brown 584 240 344 18 39
Ron Greshner 610 230 342 19 36
Dave Babych 723 229 456 20 25
Sergei Zubov 771 222 491 22 21
Kevin Hatcher 677 222 455 22 29
Fredrik Olausson 581 220 314 24 40
Larry Robinson 958 212 746 25 10
Borje Salming 787 211 558 26 19
James Patrick 639 207 388 27 32
Dave Ellett 568 204 313 28 42
Chris Chelios 948 203 684 29 11
Guy Lapointe 622 200 367 30 35
Sandis Ozolinsh 564 198 281 31 44
Paul Reinhart 559 198 358 31 46
Calle Johansson 535 192 341 33 49
George Ramage 564 191 371 34 44
Nicklas Lidstrom 1108 190 909 35 7
Red Kelly 823 187 585 36 17
Glen Wesley 537 180 285 37 48
Doug Bodger 528 174 168 39 51
Scott Niedermayer 740 171 507 40 24
Rob Blake 777 158 549 46 20
Mathieu Schneider 794 157 547 48 18
Robert Murray 514 153 298 49 55
Rod Langway 329 152 177 50 67
Eric Desjardins 575 147 428 53 41
Mark Howe 742 145 597 54 23
Bruce Driver 486 139 266 55 58
Daryl Sydor 507 137 208 56 56
Sergei Gonchar 711 136 575 57 26
Teppo Numminen 637 132 330 60 33
Alexei Zhitnik 471 130 320 61 60
Carol Vadnais 587 114 466 65 38
Jyrki Lumme 468 110 358 67 61
Garry Galley 599 108 491 68 37
Bill Gadsby 568 89 479 72 42
Tim Horton 518 70 421 80 53
Doug Harvey 540 48 466 84 47
Tom Johnson 264 46 211 86 71
Pierre Pilote 498 25 374 90 57

 

  • The thing that leaps out at me is that looking at the numbers for defensemen at this age is a much better predictor of career numbers than looking at numbers at age 18-21. 
  • R22-25 is the player's rank (out of the 99 players I selected) in terms of their total points between ages 22 and 25. RC is their career rank, among the same 99 players. If you compare the top 15 in both lists: (22-25) the nine players whose rank fell in terms of career totals averaged a drop of 7 spots; (18-21) the nine players whose rank fell in terms of career totals dropped an average of 20 spots. 
  • Over-all, the 22-25 top 15 dropped an average of 3.6 spots, while the 18-21 top 15 dropped an average of 11.4 spots. 
  • Interestingly, 7:20 reduces to 1:2.86 and 3.6:11.4 reduces to 1:3.16...both very close to 1:3.
  • In other words, a randomly selected player in the top 15 in the 18-21 column is likely to fall nearly three times are far down the career list than a randomly selected player in the top 15 at 22-25. 
  • And if Doughty were in the top 15 of the 22-25 group in four years, instead of worrying he's going to turn into Hamrlik, Reinhart, Wesley or Bodger, we would be worrying he was going to turn into Steve Duchesne or Reed Larson. 
  • So, from the 22-25 list, not only are there fewer bad outcomes, but the bad outcomes themselves are upgrades over the bad outcomes of the previous list.
  • Which tells me that, while what Doughty has accomplished so far is certainly something special, something only 13 players in the history of the league have managed to do, it's not a reliable predictor of future eliteness, greatness, Hall-of-Fameness or whatever other attribute one might expect in return or $7MM a year.
  • That would be an easier argument to make if Anze Kopitar weren't getting $6.8MM, arguably having accomplished less.
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