a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Saturday, 25 August 2012

08/25/12 Point Production By Age and the Implications For Edmonton

At what age do players peak in the NHL? At what age do they begin to decline? These are questions that will be important to the Oilers in years to come. Though at the moment there's nowhere to go but up, eventually the window will close. How much time do the Oilers have?

To try to answer that question, I looked back at the top 100 NHL scorers through the ages of 18 to 37 from the 1969-70 season to the present. I added the total point production from each group and used the average for the chart above. It's worth noting that these aren't always the same players, just the best of a certain age group.


It doesn't take a statistical genius to follow the way players perform as they age. The 100 most prolific players from 1969-70 to now went from mediocre 18 year olds to spectacular in a hurry, and then after the age of 26 things begin to slowly fall off.

It doesn't always hold true that a particular player gets worse as the years drag on, but for the group that seems to be the trend. The good news for the Oilers is that most of their best players should still be on their way up, as they have yet to reach their mid-twenties.

Point production isn't everything, though. These young Oilers will gain a lot of valuable experience as they spend more time in the league, and it may not be a simple matter of scoring goals that gets them to the ultimate prize.

On the other hand, point production from players does have a shelf life, and based on the top 100 of a particular age, it seems that things start to go south at around 27 years old.

That means that we should expect Taylor Hall to begin his elite-level production in this coming season, and stay there for at least five more. Jordan Eberle was 21 for the 2011-12 season, so it makes sense that he would be in the range of rising point-producers. Based solely on the trends from the chart above, Sam Gagner should be able to better his 22 year old season before he ultimately falls into a slow decline a few years from now. Nugent-Hopkins has more room to grow than any of the group except Yakupov, and it will be interesting to see how his development follows the curve.

This chart shows why it is so important to accumulate young talent in a cluster. The Oilers will have their best players reaching their peak years all at the same time, which is a difficult thing to do in the NHL. More often than not, players get big contracts based on what they have done and not what they will do, so it's great for the Oilers to have a plethora of young, rising players who can be held onto for a relative bargain price. In a cap world, that's paramount.

Will it translate into Stanley Cups? Only time will tell, but the Oilers have put themselves into a very good position to be successful.

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