Examining the Mike Richards-Brayden Schenn Comparison

Image courtesy of Amy Irvin of 38 Photography (http://www.Facebook.com/38Photography)

Hi everyone! My name’s Stephane Hardinger, and I’ll be doing some writing here at Flyers Faithful for the foreseeable future. This is my first post, and I hope you enjoy it!

Disclaimer: this post features a sizable chunk of analysis via advanced statistics. These numbers can all be found at behindthenet.ca. For those who are unfamiliar with how advanced stats work in hockey, here’s a pretty good primer from SB Nation’s Tampa Bay Lightning blog Raw Charge.

I really liked the way my Sean Couturier-Jordan Staal post turned out (you can read it here if you’d like), so I figured I’d tackle the other oft-cited comparison of a young player on the Flyers’ roster: Brayden Schenn to Mike Richards.

While Richards was the 24th pick in the 1st round of the loaded 2003 draft and Schenn went 5th overall in a weaker 2009 draft, Richards was the primary comparison for Schenn coming out of juniors. Richards was 2 inches shorter, but they weighed the same amount and both put up points while also playing a physical brand of hockey that was their calling card.

Richards played in the OHL with the Kitchener Rangers for his junior hockey. In his first year of juniors (age 16-17, 2001-2002), Richards had 28 goals and 58 points in 65 games. In his second (draft-eligible) year of juniors (age 17-18, 2002-2003), Richards improved his game to the tune of 37 goals and 87 points in 67 games. After being drafted by the Flyers 24th overall in 2003, Richards returned to Kitchener for two more seasons of junior hockey. He tallied 36 goals and 89 points in 58 games during 2003-2004 and put up 22 goals and 58 points in 43 games for his final season of juniors in 2004-2005. Richards was called up to the Flyers’ AHL affiliate the Phantoms for their 2004-2005 Calder Cup run and he didn’t disappoint, accumulating 7 goals and 15 points in 15 games. He opened the 2005-2006 season with the big club in Philadelphia.

Schenn played his junior hockey in the WHL with the Brandon Wheat Kings, but as this article at behindthenet.ca notes, the WHL and OHL have nearly identical levels of competition and thus this shouldn’t be too big of an evaluating factor in this comparison. In Schenn’s first season with the Wheat Kings (age 16, 2007-2008) he scored 28 goals and had 71 points in 66 games. In his second (draft-eligible) year in Brandon (age 17, 2008-2009), he saw his production increase to 32 goals and 88 points in 70 games. After being taken 5th overall in 2009 by the Kings, he played 1 game in LA before returning to Brandon for another year, where he put up 34 goals and 99 points in just 59 games during the 2009-2010 season. Schenn got a more extended look with the Kings to open the 2010-2011 season with an 8 game tryout that saw him record 2 assists before being sent back down for a 4th and final year of juniors. After just 2 games with Brandon, he was traded to the Saskatoon Blades. Between the two clubs, he had 22 goals and 57 points in 29 games before beiing called up to the LA Kings’ AHL affiliate in Manchester for the end of the season, where he had 4 goals and 11 points in 12 games including a 5-game playoff run.

Both also played in the World Junior Championships for Team Canada in their last season of juniors before entering the NHL. Richards had a respectable showing in the 2005 WJC with a goal and 5 points in 6 games en route to a gold medal. Schenn, however, dominated his with 8 goals and a Canadian-record 18 points in 7 games during the 2011 WJC. However, his Canadian team lost the gold medal game to Russia.

So the two had pretty similar paths entering the NHL. Schenn played in 9 NHL games over his last 2 years of juniors, including his 8 game tryout at the beginning of the 2010-2011 season, but both spent 4 years in juniors putting up high point totals (Schenn’s higher than Richards’) and then acquitted themselves well in short stints at the AHL level after their 4th year in juniors. Schenn’s peformance in the WJC was also better than Richards’, which helped him earn the moniker of “the best prospect not in the NHL”. Entering their first seasons, everything seems to be relatively concurrent between the two with one notable exception: Schenn, of course, was traded in June of 2011 to the Flyers along with Wayne Simmonds and a 2012 2nd round pick for, of course, Mike Richards. It’s impossible to quantify whether changing organizations would have an impact on Schenn initially, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it did in some way factor into Schenn’s production his first season. Let’s take a look at the rookie years for Richards and Schenn.

Image c/o NHL.com

Year 1: Mike Richards, 2005-2006

Richards had a solid rookie year, with 11 goals and 34 points in 79 games. At first glance, it looks a lot like Sean Couturier’s rookie season of 2011-2012. However, the underlying numbers make Richards’ year even more impressive. While we don’t have Corsi numbers for the 2005-2006 season, Richards’ shot totals are evidence that he was the victim of some bad luck. He put 168 shots on goal over those 79 games, good for 2.13 shots per game. This is a pretty impressive number for a rookie. However, he only shot 6.5% on those attempts. The average shooting percentage for NHL forwards that year was 11.6% (via Quant Hockey) and Arctic Ice Hockey says we can expect players to shoot between 11-11.5% as 20-21 year olds. Despite this, Richards’ numbers of 0.14 GPG, 0.29 APG, and 0.43 PPG were nothing to sneeze at and his low shooting percentage makes them even more impressive. In fact, if we were to apply a shooting percentage of, say, 11.3% (between the range of Richards’ age and the league average) to his statistics, he would have scored 19 goals instead of 11 and would have finished with 42 points in his 79 games. Let’s now look at Brayden Schenn’s production in comparison.

Year 1: Brayden Schenn, 2011-2012

Schenn, unlike Richards, didn’t make the Flyers’ roster out of training camp, though this was due in large part to a shoulder injury. After a quick 4 game stint in the NHL, Schenn broke his foot blocking a shot on October 26th and was sent down to the AHL after recovering from his injury. He made it back up to the NHL for 2 games in early December but didn’t become a permanent fixture in the Flyers’ lineup until December 27th. When things were all said and done, Schenn played in 54 games for the Flyers, recording 12 goals and 18 points.

With a 0.22 GPG, 0.11 APG, and 0.33 PPG, Schenn’s rookie year seems relatively comparable to Richards’ averages of 0.14 GPG, 0.29 APG, and 0.43 PPG. However, Schenn only had 97 shots on goal in his 54 games, an average of 1.80 shots per game that, while still a good figure, was 0.33 SPG behind Richards’ number. The difference in their goal-scoring rates was due largely to a 12.4% shooting percentage from Schenn that was nearly double Richards’, though not enough of an outlier to prove to be ridiculously unsustainable. If we extrapolated Schenn’s numbers through his 54 games to 79 games, like Richards played, Schenn would have finished with 18 goals and 9 assists for 27 points in 79 games.

While we don’t have the benefit of advanced statistics for Mike Richards’ rookie year, we do for Schenn’s. Schenn started in the offensive zone a favorable 54.8% of the time, but only finished in it 47.3% of the time, meaning he didn’t drive the play forward all that much. In his defense, it’s hard to finish in the offensive zone nearly 55% of the time regardless of where you start, but you’d like to see him closer to 50%. Schenn received 11:50 of 5v5 ice time per game, which ranked him 17th on the Flyers and 10th among forwards (behind, although this figure is skewed by the fact that he only played 54 games and he would rank higher otherwise. Schenn also received 1:41 of 5v4 TOI per game, which ranked 11th on the Flyers and 9th among forwards. Again, this is skewed by his large chunk of missed time, and he would rank higher otherwise. Schenn was not a factor on the penalty kill, playing just 5:30 on it all season. Schenn’s Corsi Rel QoT was -0.359, which ranked 13th on the Flyers and 6th among forwards. His Corsi Rel QoC was -0.232, which ranked 20th on the Flyers. Only Eric Wellwood, Erik Gustafsson, Andreas Lilja, and Jody Shelley played easier competition, and Schenn had the easiest competition of any Flyer who played 50 games or more in 2011-2012. Despite not having the best teammates, one would have expected him to produce a little better given his favorable zone starts and low quality of opponents. One small thing I noticed that would have helped his production a bit is that he had an on-ice shooting percentage of just 6.19%, over 2 percentage points lower than the league average of roughly 8.3%.

Here’s a Schenn-Richards comparison in table form:

Traditional statistics                                   Richards                     Schenn
Games

79

54

Goals

11

12

Assists

23

6

Points

34

28

Shots

168

97

Goals/game

0.14

0.22

Assists/game

0.29

0.11

Points/game

0.43

0.33

Shots/game

2.13

1.8

Shooting %

6.50%

12.10%

 

Richards fired more shots on net and had more assists per game and points per game than Schenn. Schenn had more goals per game, but that was likely due to Richards having a shooting percentage nearly half of Schenn’s.

Here are Schenn’s advanced stats from his rookie season:

Advanced statistics Richards         Schenn
Corsi Rel n/a -2.6 (15th, 10th among Fs)
Corsi Rel QoC n/a -0.232 (20th, 13th among Fs
Corsi Rel QoT n/a -0.359 (13th, 6th among Fs)
O Zone Starts n/a

54.80%

O Zone Finishes n/a

47.30%

On-ice shooting % n/a

6.19%

Top linemates n/a Simmonds (53.1%), Briere (26.8%)
5v5 TOI/game n/a 11:50 (17th, 10th among Fs)
5v4 TOI/game n/a 1:41 (11th, 9th among Fs)
4v5 TOI/game n/a 0:06 (18th, 9th among Fs)

 

Schenn

Schenn in a 2013 game against the Winnipeg Jets Pic c/o Amy Irvin http://www.Facebook.com/38Photography

Year 2: Mike Richards, 2006-2007

Richards only played 59 games, and in those 59 games Richards posted 10 goals and 32 points on 130 shots. Richards’ numbers of 0.17 GPG, 0.37 APG, and 0.54 PPG were all improvements from his rookie year. His 2.20 shots per game were pretty much in line with his SPG as a rookie, but his shooting percentage went up slightly from 6.5% to 7.7%. So Richards’ sophomore season was very similar to his rookie year, but with increases of varying degrees in his goals per game, assists per game, shots per game, points per game, and shooting percentage. Once again, we don’t have advanced statistics to look at for Richards’ second year. How did Brayden Schenn do?

Year 2: Brayden Schenn, 2013

Richards playing less than a full season in 2006-2007 was a positive for this comparison, since Schenn’s second year was also shortened by the lockout. In his 47 games, Schenn had 8 goals and 18 assists for 26 points on 79 shots. These numbers were good for 0.17 GPG, 0.38 APG, and 0.55 PPG. All of his numbers are nearly identical to Richards’ second season. He only had 1.68 shots per game, which was a slight decrease from his rookie year and also widened the gap in that category between him and Richards. His shooting percentage dropping to 10.1%. While it was still higher than Richards’, 10.1% is slightly below league-average for both the league that season (10.6%) and what we’d expect from a 21 year old (11.4%).

We don’t have the advanced stats for Richards, but we do for Schenn. Schenn finished with a Corsi Rel of 2.9, good for 6th on the Flyers and 4th among forwards behind Jakub Voracek, Scott Hartnell, and Claude Giroux. His Corsi Rel QoC was 0.523, which was a dramatic shift from his rookie year. Schenn took on the 6th-hardest competition on the Flyers, and was only behind Max Talbot and Sean Couturier among forwards. His Corsi Rel QoT was 1.385, good for 7th on the Flyers and 5th among forwards. He had an on-ice shooting percentage of 8.24%, started in the offensive zone 52.8% of the time, and finished in it 52.5% of the time. His 5v5 TOI of 12:39 ranked 6th on the team, 3rd among forwards behind only Giroux and Voracek while his 5v4 TOI of 2:25 ranked 5th on the Flyers, 4th among forwards. He was not a factor on the penalty kill.

So compared to his rookie year, Schenn started in the offensive zone less often, finished in it more often, and played against better opponents with better teammates. His primary linemates were still Simmonds (52.8%) and Briere (38.5%). He got more power play time and even strength time and his on-ice shooting percentage increased, which were likely largely responsible for his assists per game numbers increasing. Here’s the comparison between him and Richards in table form:

Traditional statistics                     Richards                     Schenn
Games

59

47

Goals

10

8

Assists

22

18

Points

32

26

Shots

130

79

Goals/game

0.17

0.17

Assists/game

0.34

0.38

Points/game

0.54

0.55

Shots/game

2.2

1.68

Shooting %

7.70%

10.10%

 

So the goals, assists, and points per game were identical, but Richard generated roughly half a shot per game more than Schenn and his 7.70% shooting percentage was unlucky and way below average, which explains why he didn’t score more than Schenn despite shooting better. Here are Schenn’s advanced stats compared to those from his rookie year, since Richards’ aren’t available:

 

Advanced statistics Schenn (Y1) Schenn (Y2)
Corsi Rel -2.6 (15th, 10th among Fs) 2.9 (6th, 4th among Fs)
Corsi Rel QoC -0.232 (20th, 13th among Fs) 0.523 (6th, 3rd among Fs)
Corsi Rel QoT -0.359 (13th, 6th among Fs) 1.385 (7th, 5th among Fs)
O Zone Starts 54.80% 52.80%
O Zone Finishes 47.30% 52.50%
On-ice shooting % 6.19% 8.24%
Top linemates Simmonds (53.1%), Briere (26.8%) Simmonds (52.8%), Briere (38.5%)
5v5 TOI/game 11:50 (17th, 10th among Fs) 12:39 (6th, 3rd among Fs)
5v4 TOI/game 1:41 (11th, 9th among Fs) 2:25 (5th, 4th among Fs)
4v5 TOI/game 0:06 (18th, 9th among Fs) 0:03 (16th, 9th among Fs)

 

Even though his competition got better, Schenn’s Corsi Rel dramatically improved. This likely could have been due to an increase in the quality of his teammates (though his most frequent linemates were the same as his rookie year). He saw less frequent offensive zone starts but drove play forward much better, and his on-ice shooting percentage increased. He also saw his role at 5v5 and at 5v4 increase dramatically from his rookie year. Now let’s check out Mike Richards in year 3.

Brayden Schenn checks Sidney Crosby

Year 3: Mike Richards, 2007-2008

Richards played 73 games and broke out in a big way with 28 goals, 47 assists, and 75 points. His rates of 0.38 GPG, 0.64 APG, and 1.03 PPG were all roughly double his numbers from his previous season. This can be attributed to 2 things. One, his shots per game jumped up to 2.9, which was an increase of 0.7 SPG from his sophomore season. The other was his shooting percentage increasing to 13.2% from 7.7%. It’s no surprise that his goals per game doubled after his shooting percentage nearly doubled, with an increase in shots on goal making up for the rest of the difference.

Behindthenet.ca started tracking advanced statistics in 2007-2008, so for the first time we have the benefit of looking at Richards’ numbers in those metrics. Richards had a 4.7 Corsi Rel, which ranked 7th on the Flyers and 5th among forwards behind Scottie Upshall (huh?), Patrick Thoresen (what), Denis Tolpeko (srsly?), and Jeff Carter (there we go) among players with at least 20 games played. His Corsi Rel QoC was 0.468, which ranked 10th on the Flyers and 6th among forwards. He also had a Corsi Rel QoT of 0.610, good for 9th on the Flyers and 6th among forwards. He only started in the offensive zone 31.5% of the time, an extremely low figure, yet was able to drive play forward and finish in the offensive zone 43.5% of the time. His on-ice shooting percentage was 10.44%, which is about 2% above average. His primary linemates were Joffrey Lupul (40.8%) and Scott Hartnell (40.0%). He played 12:37 of 5v5 per game, which was 12th on the Flyers and 7th among forwards (though the nominal leader in this category was Vinny Prospal, who spent much of the season with Tampa Bay. Richards also missed 9 games). His 4:25 of 5v4 TOI per game ranked 4th on the Flyers, 3rd among forwards behind Danny Briere and Mike Knuble. His 3:01 per game of 4v5 TOI was 2nd on the Flyers and tops among forwards.

Here’s a comparison of Richards in years 2 and 3:

Traditional statistics                  Richards (Y2)                   Richards (Y3)
Games

59

73

Goals

10

28

Assists

22

47

Points

32

75

Shots

130

212

Goals/game

0.17

0.38

Assists/game

0.34

0.64

Points/game

0.54

1.03

Shots/game

2.2

2.9

Shooting %

7.70%

13.20%

 

It goes without saying, but this was an excellent season for Richards. The 13.2% shooting percentage would prove to be sustainable, as he stayed between that figure and 12.5% for the rest of his time in Philadelphia. Despite his relatively low 5v5 TOI, he made up for that by being among the team leaders in 5v4 and 4v5 TOI. His quality of competition isn’t as high as you would think by looking at his extremely unfavorable zone starts. His quality of teammates was pretty good as well. It’s astounding to me that Ritchie was able to put up over a point per game with 31.5% offensive zone starts, and finishing in the offensive zone 12% more often is a testament to his ability to drive play forward extremely well. Let’s take a look at what Schenn is on pace for this season through the first 10 games (extremely small sample size, I know):

Year 3: Brayden Schenn, 2013-2014

Schenn has 2 goals, 4 assists, and 6 points through 11 games this season on 23 shots. If he kept up that pace for the rest of the season, he would finish the year with 82 games played, 15 goals, 30 assists, and 45 points on 172 shots, good for 2.1 shots per game and an 8.7% shooting percentage. These numbers are extremely similar to his numbers from last season. If we extrapolate Schenn’s numbers from last year and this year so far to 82 games, here’s how the two would compare:

Traditional statistics                    Schenn (Y2)                     Schenn (Y3)
Games

80

82

Goals

14

15

Assists

31

30

Points

45

45

Shots

134

173

Goals/game

0.17

0.18

Assists/game

0.38

0.37

Points/game

0.55

0.55

Shots/game

1.68

2.1

Shooting %

10.10%

8.70%

 

Nothing wrong with that, per se. Schenn’s numbers stay roughly the same despite an increase in shots due to a lower shooting percentage.

Traditional statistics                         Richards                            Schenn
Games

73

82

Goals

28

15

Assists

47

30

Points

75

45

Shots

134

172

Goals/game

0.38

0.18

Assists/game

0.63

0.37

Points/game

1.03

0.45

Shots/game

2.9

2.1

Shooting %

13.20%

8.70%

 

Yikes. Richards would have more assists in 73 games than total points for Schenn in 82 games. Despite Schenn having a shooting percentage 4.5% lower you can see Richards is clearly the better player. Now let’s go to the advanced statistics to see if anything changes there for Schenn. Obviously, again, this is an extremely small sample size.

Schenn’s 0.2 Corsi Rel ranks just 10th on the team, and 7th among forwards despite having the 3rd-lowest Corsi Rel QoC on the team (only Zac Rinaldo and Jay Rosehill have played against worse competition).and the 2nd-best Corsi Rel QoT behind only Claude Giroux. His zone starts aren’t the problem either, as he’s starting in the offensive zone 47.7% of the time and finishing in it 44.1% of the time. His top linemates have been Jakub Voracek (38.6%) and Wayne Simmonds (31.4%), though that figures to change as he’s centering a line with Scott Hartnell and Voracek for the foreseeable future. He’s 9th on the Flyers in 5v5 ice time at just over 13 minutes a game (4th among forwards) and 4th in 5v4 ice time at 3:40 per game, behind only Giroux and Voracek behind forwards. So the opportunities have been there with Schenn: he’s getting a lot of ice time with good teammates and favorable zone starts against bad opponents. So why hasn’t he been producing more? Well, his 8.7% shooting percentage and 4.62% on-ice shooting percentages are both somewhat below-average, but it simply seems like a slow start to the year for Schenner. He’s been in a tough situation, getting juggled from RW with Hartnell and Giroux to LW with Lecavalier and Simmonds to now center with Hartnell and Voracek (though something tells me Sean Couturier would love to have these problems). Hopefully he can settle into a role as a 2C and provide a 20-goal and 50 point season. He’s been juggled around a lot this year, between RW (with Hartnell and Giroux) to LW (with Lecavalier and Simmonds) to C (with Hartnell and Voracek). Hopefully he can settle into a role as the 2C and put up a 20-goal, 50 point season from that spot. He’s already close to that sort of pace despite his below-average personal and on-ice shooting percentages and possession statistics.

Here’s a comparison of their advanced stats from year 3 if Schenn’s stay at this rate all season:

Advanced statistics Richards Schenn
Corsi Rel 4.7 (7th, 5th among Fs) 0.2 (10th, 7th among Fs)
Corsi Rel QoC 0.468 (10th, 6th among Fs) -1.745 (3rd-last)
Corsi Rel QoT 0.610 (9th, 6th among Fs) 4.543 (2nd)
O Zone Starts 31.50% 47.70%
O Zone Finishes 43.50% 44.10%
On-ice shooting % 10.44% 4.62%
Top linemates Lupul (40.8%), Hartnell (40.0%) Voracek (38.6%), Simmonds (31.4%)
5v5 TOI/game 12:37 (12th, 7th among Fs) 13:04 (9th, 4th among Fs)
5v4 TOI/game 4:25 (4th, 3rd among Fs) 3:40 (4th, 3rd among Fs)
4v5 TOI/game 3:01 (2nd, 1st among Fs) n/a

 

So Richards would perform better with worse teammates and worse zone starts against better competition, while also driving play forward much better and contributing heavily on the penalty kill. Yikes.

But maybe it’s time to stop comparing Brayden Schenn to Mike Richards. While that might have been a popular pre-draft comparison and while Paul Holmgren mentioned it at the news conference after the infamous trade, they’re not being used in similar roles at all. Instead, it might be more prudent down the road to compare Brayden Schenn in his current role as a relatively sheltered 2nd-line C to the man he replaced in that role: Daniel Briere.

One more thing, though: Schenn’s on-ice shooting percentage is not going to stay at 4.62% all year. And his personal shooting percentage is probably not going to stay at 8.7% all year given what he’s shown in his career thus far. If we bump his personal shooting percentage up to 11.4% (his average as a Flyer in the last 2 seasons), he would reach the 20 goal mark. Add that to the 30 assists he’s already on pace for and Schenn’s hit the 20-goal and 50-point benchmarks people are looking for from him. And with his on-ice shooting percentage rebounding to, say, 7.2% (the average from his past 2 seasons, which is still a below-average mark), Schenn could have the potential to reach 60 points.

I’ll revisit these numbers as there’s a bigger sample size for Schenn available. But at this point in his career, Schenn isn’t Mike Richards. Richards was a rare and elite talent, able to drive play forward and generate a lot of shots on goal despite unfavorable zone starts. But Schenn is a useful player in his own right, and it’s time for us to start evaluating him as such. We need to start looking at his numbers independent of expectations based on what other players have done in the past and go from there.