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Using statistical comparables to project Adam Gaudette’s next contract and potential

Never tell Adam Gaudette the odds.

When it was time for his entry draft in 2015, Gaudette had to wait until the 5th round to hear his name called by the Vancouver Canucks. He was supposed to be a longshot to make the NHL.

Rarely do forwards who score 30 points in 50 games in the USHL in their draft year ever develop a regular job in the NHL. In fact, long time readers of Canucks Army will remember Gaudette’s abysmal expected success percentage in his draft year. In Jeremy Davis’ prospect Graduation Probabilities System (pGPS), out of all of Gaudette’s statistical draft year comparables, only 1.9% of them became NHL regulars (200 NHL games played).

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Despite the numbers, Gaudette wouldn’t let the odds define his story.

Determined to be the outlier, his abilities grew leaps and bounds during his three seasons at Northeastern University. A Beanpot championship and a 60 point Hobey Baker winning season later suddenly, the odds were shining ever so brightly in the American centre’s favour. Davis’ pGPS system found that his statistical comparables went on to become NHL regulars 50% of the time in his 2017 season and 21% of the time when he left college for the professional ranks at the end of the 2018 season.

While Gaudette worked tirelessly in his youth to hear his name called at the draft and even harder to become one of college hockey’s top players, his hardest test was yet to come. His first extended NHL opportunity came in 2018-19 when Gaudette suited up for 56 games and registered 12 points. At 22 years of age, 0.21 points-per-game was a less than stellar campaign especially when his sheltered deployment and unfavourable possession metrics are considered. For the heralded third-line centre of the future, questions began to arise, expressing doubt in Gaudette’s potential.

If there is one common thread to Adam Gaudette’s hockey career so far, it’s that when given an opportunity, he will do whatever it takes to seize it.

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In his second full season in the NHL, Gaudette proved to be a strong third-line scoring centre for the Vancouver Canucks, albeit with heavily sheltered deployment. 33 points in 59 games is fantastic production for a team’s third-line centre. In fact, his 0.56 points-per-game was good for 68th out of all NHL centres this season. From a point production perspective, Gaudette was one of the league’s top offensive third-line centres.

With Gaudette in need of a new contract this summer, I thought it would be poetic to project what his future may hold by once again comparing him to his statistical matches.

In order to do so, I first looked at 23-year-old centres since 2007 that produced 0.56 points-per-game with a variance of around 27%. This meant that I was looking at a range of 0.41 to 0.71 points-per-game and resulted in 82 matches. To further filter down the pool, I cross-examined the matches with Gaudette’s 22-year-old production of 0.21 with a variance of 45%. I also eliminated any players that played more than 10 NHL games in their U22 seasons to align with Gaudette’s career path. This leaves us with just four statistical comparisons.

The Comparables

Player Age 23 P/G Age 22 P/G U22 NHL GP
Adam Gaudette 0.56 0.21 5
Vinnie Hinostroza 0.50 0.29 7
Phillip Danault 0.48 0.20 2
Valtteri Filppula 0.46 0.23 4
Radek Faksa 0.41 0.27 0

The first thing many will notice is that all four players are established NHL players. There are an overwhelming amount of 22-year-olds that produced like Gaudette did and never found extended success at the NHL level. However, Gaudette’s steep improvement the very next season left him as a unique case as most 23-year-olds that are producing over 0.5 points-per-game are already established NHL players. Very few jump from 0.21 to 0.56 between their age 22 and 23 seasons. I think it is fair to say that Gaudette has proven himself a talent worthy of holding down an NHL spot and the chances of him reaching 200 NHL games seem extremely realistic. You’ll also notice that Gaudette has the highest points-per-game of any comparable. As mentioned before, while this isn’t ideal, Gaudette’s career trajectory is so unique that no other players in the past 13 seasons have followed it except for these four.

There are some intriguing names on this list including two second-line offensive centres in Phillip Danault and Valtteri Filppula. Both of which really came into their own as secondary offensive options during their second contract. Radek Faksa and Vinnie Hinostroza are middle of the lineup players with the former being used in a defensive role and the latter in an offensive.

In my view, Hinostroza currently looks like the best comparable for Gaudette in terms of history. For starters, they both went the college route and had a point-per-game career. Gaudette was the more successful collegiate athlete but Hinostroza still registered 44 in 42 in his second season before leaving for the AHL. Where their career paths differ is that Hinostroza spent his 21-year-old season in the AHL whereas Gaudette stayed for his third season of college. They both had a quick taste of the NHL that year with 7 games for Hinostroza and 5 for Gaudette. In their first 2 seasons in the NHL, they also played comparable roles as third-line centres with sheltered minutes while producing similar results. I would say that based on Gaudette’s ability in the NCAA compared to Hinostroza’s, he projects as being a better player but Hinostroza serves as a strong baseline comparable.

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Second Contract

Player Age 24-29 P/G Second Contract Length Second Contract AAV Second Contract % of Cap Expiry Status
Vinnie Hinostroza 0.44 2 Years $1,500,000 2% RFA
Phillip Danault 0.61 2 Years $912,500 1.25% RFA
Valtteri Filppula 0.63 5 Years $3,000,000 5.29% UFA
Radek Faksa 0.37 3 Years $2,200,000 2.93% RFA

So what will Gaudette’s next contract look like? I took the liberty of organizing the four comparables and their production during what should be their prime seasons, their second contract length, average annual value, percentage of the salary cap at the time of the signing, and what would happen to their rights come contract expiry.

Three of the four players signed bridge deals that would leave them as a restricted free agent at the end of the contract. The outlier is what Detroit did with Valtteri Filppula who bet on his upside and offered him a five-year contract worth 5.29% of the cap. This would be a little over $4,300,000 in today’s salary cap.

Vancouver’s salary cap situation is difficult with the available cap space, the number of roster spots they need to fill, and the carryover of performance bonuses that they need to pay out to Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson. $4.3 million may not be feasible to even consider given the circumstances but for the sake of this article, it is worth discussion.

Filppula would average 50 points in each of his next 5 seasons which made him well worth the initial risk of the contract. In the case of Adam Gaudette, 50 points seem like a reach at this point. Something closer to the 40 point mark would be a reasonable expectation for Gaudette during the prime of his career. 50 point seasons are certainly not out of the question and given Gaudette’s history, ruling him out has proven to be a mistake.

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Where I give pause for concern are in Gaudette’s underlying numbers. If Gaudette wasn’t propped up by 36% of his points coming from the man-advantage, a 16% shooting percentage, and sheltered minutes that still accompany a negative shot attempt share, I would be open to the idea of betting on Gaudette, but at this point in time, I am much more comfortable with a bridge deal. However, there is something to be said about having the salary cap flexibility to be in the position to even consider betting on one of Vancouver’s young mid-level players in the hopes that it pays off in the long run. But that is a discussion for another time.

Using the other three comparables for Gaudette, it would appear a two-year deal in the range of $1,630,000 to $2,241,250 cap hit would be Vancouver’s best option given precedent. This would equate to 2-2.75% of Vancouver’s total cap hit which places him correctly at the top of Hinostroza, Danault, and Faksa. Gaudette had the best 23-year-old season of the trio and should be compensated as such. The Canucks wouldn’t be able to offer three years as the Stars did with Faksa due to the five NHL games Gaudette played at the end of the 2017-18 season. Those five games burned a year of RFA eligibility which is a common incentive for signing NCAA players.

Down the middle, the Canucks have one of the league’s best, young one-two punches in Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat. Depth will still be needed to round out the rest of the lineup and if history is any indicator, Gaudette will find a way to contribute. It all begins with his next contract.