Is Zack Kassian The Modern Alek Stojanov?

Jonathan Willis
March 02 2012 11:41AM

The comparison in the title is one that has come up over the last couple of days. Vancouver Sun reporter Elliott Pap brought up one of the Canucks’ greatest trade victories in his take on the Kassian-for-Hodgson deal, and suggested that this time the Canucks might find themselves on the other end of things.

How do Kassian and Stojanov compare?

Here is Pap’s comparison:

Stojanov, like Kassian, was huge (6-4, 230), had a mean streak and was considered more than pure cement. He had butted heads with Eric Lindros in junior and was expected to do that again in the NHL against not only Lindros, but all the large players of the day. He was also a first-round pick. In fact, he went nine spots ahead of Naslund in the 1991 entry draft.

What Pap writes here is true: Stojanov wasn’t drafted to be a goon, he was drafted to be a power forward. At first glance, the junior numbers of each player at the same age look remarkably similar too:

Stojanov

Season GP G A PTS 82GP Pace
Draft 62 25 20 45 60
Draft+1 33 12 15 27 67
Draft+2 49 36 35 71 119

Kassian

Season GP G A PTS 82GP Pace
Draft 61 24 39 63 85
Draft+1 38 12 19 31 67
Draft+2 56 26 51 77 113

The number on the far right is each player’s projected point totals over an 82-game season. In their draft year, we see Kassian ahead of Stojanov, but in the two years following both players look remarkably similar.

Despite this apparent similarity, there is a huge gap in performance and it favours Kassian. The OHL of Stojanov’s era was a far higher-scoring place. Consider this draft year comparison: Stojanov played for the 1990-91 Hamilton Dukes, a team that scored 270 goals and was outscored by 12 of the other 15 OHL teams. Nine teams out of 16 that season scored 300+ goals. A team scoring 270 goals in 2008-09, Kassian’s draft year, would have outscored 17 of the OHL’s 20 teams. Just one of the 20 teams in Kassian’s draft year scored 300 goals.

How do we compensate for era effects? One way to do it is to calculate the total difference in goals scored/game as a percentage, and then adjust the player’s goal-scoring by that same percentage. What we’ll do now is adjust Stojanov’s scoring over his three OHL seasons to reflect how it likely would have looked had he played in the OHL at the same time as Kassian.

Stojanov, Adjusted For Era

Season GP G A PTS 82GP Pace
Draft 62 19 15 34 45
Draft+1 33 9 12 21 52
Draft+2 49 29 28 57 95

While Stojanov still comes across as more than pure cement, we can see daylight between his totals and those of Kassian; Kassian was clearly the superior player in junior.

When we get to the professional level, things get even more stark.

What should have been Stojanov’s first professional season, in 1993-94, turned out to be just four games. A serious shoulder injury required surgery, and it would be a mistake to understate the impact this injury had on his career. A year later – and again, keep in mind that thus is during an era where the average AHL team scored 22% more than do now – Stojanov would pick up just 30 points in a 73-game season. A year after that, in Stojanov’s third professional season, he played 58 games for Vancouver, recording a single assist. Only at this point did the Canucks trade Stojanov to Pittsburgh, after one professional season lost to injury and two more that showed a devastating lack of scoring touch.

Zack Kassian is in his first professional season. Just 29 games into his NHL career, Kassian already has as many points as Stojanov would pick up over his 107 games at hockey's highest level – and when Stojanov was the same age Kassian is now, he had yet to play an NHL game. There has been no career derailing injury. Kassian’s AHL results this season, as a rookie professional, are far superior to anything Stojanov accomplished at the minor league level over his entire career – and that’s before we account for the fact that Stojanov played in a higher-scoring era.

Zack Kassian may or may not rise to the heights some project him to attain. But there’s no chance that he’s the new Alek Stojanov.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 VC
March 02 2012, 01:56PM
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Not to be glib about it all, but Jason Krogg had awesome AHL numbers, never translated to the NHL. I don't really think it is fair to be making these comparisons, the intangibles, like their heart, will and desire cannot be measured.

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#3 Anymouse
March 04 2012, 05:25AM
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Thanks for this.

For the most part I find blog articles to lack anything of interest however your is good.

Its nice because the collective trauma that is Canuck fans and trades needs to be addressed logically.

for myself I was intially disappointed we traded hodgson at this time. I figured hed be traded and never jumped on the Hodgsons a bust bandwagon nor the Hodgsons a good, rookie of the year bandwagon so my intial disappointment dissapated once I learned a bit more about Kassian.

Then you get the trauma induced comparison. Will this be the Neely trade all over? Will this be us trading Naslund for Stojanov?

Fact is Neely was traded for an aging star. So no comparison. In reality Neely shouldnt have been traded but the managment felt Sandlak had better defense.

As for Stojanov you have nicely shown why Kassian is not Stojanov. I followed the CHL close back then and Stojanov was nothing more than a big tough guy with some skills.

Kassian on the other hand is a skilled guy who also happens to be big and tough.

Stojanov was very much a product of his time where teams felt they could get a guy who was tough and hand some skills and develop him into the next power forward. This was especially true of nucks managment at the time.

As much as the nucks planned to draft Forsberg until philly swooped in how Stojanov went 7th overall is still a mystery only somewhat answered by the general thinking of the time.

Stojanov could have been a decent player but to expect him to have got more that 40 points a season is ridiculous. More likely would have been 20-30.

Kassian is a whole other beast and the comparable in terms of skating, hands and vision is Bertuzzi although Bert maybe more skilled.

At worst he becomes a 3rd liner in the mold of a Steve Ott.

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