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?
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:
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
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.