Cage Match: Johnny Gaudreau vs. Taylor Hall

by Rick Roos on February 10, 2016

We get back to forwards this week, with Johnny Gaudreau taking on Taylor Hall. Both have already proven themselves to be elite, so the question becomes what their realistic near and long term points ceilings are, and which one makes the better own. Time to find out – Cage Match starts now!

 

Career Path and Contract Status

Gaudreau, 22, was selected 104th overall in 2011, his draft position likely being owed to having played in the USHL and standing only 5’6’’ tall. He then played at Boston College for three seasons, where he morphed from exactly a point per game in 2011-12, to just under 1.5 points per game in 2012-13, to exactly two points per game in the 2013-14 campaign that also saw him win the Hobey Baker award. Despite Gaudreau’s collegiate accomplishments, there were concerns his size and type of game might not translate into NHL success; however, he quickly proved naysayers wrong by posting 64 points, tied for tops among rookies last season. And much like what happened to him in college, he’s improved in his second NHL season, flirting with point per game numbers thus far.

Hall, now 24, was definitely not a hidden draft gem like Gaudreau. Instead, Hall was the first overall pick in 2010 after a three season OHL career that saw him finish with nearly 100 more points scored than games played. After a rookie NHL campaign of 42 points in 65 games, Hall proceeded to collectively post better than point per game numbers over his next three seasons (183 points in 181 games), making him easily the youngest one of four NHLers to meet that criteria while playing 180+ games (Phil Kessel, John Tavares, and Claude Giroux being the others) during that time frame. There was concern when Hall limped – literally – to only 38 points in 53 contests last season; however; like Gaudreau, Hall has been right around the point per game mark in 2015-16 thus far.

According to Cap Friendly, Gaudreau is finishing his ELC this season and therefore counts only $0.925M against the cap in 2015-16, while Hall has already signed his first long term deal, which has a yearly cap hit of $6M and runs through 2019-20.

 

Ice Time

 

Season

Total Ice Time per game (rank among team’s forwards)

PP Ice Time per game (rank among team’s forwards)

SH Ice Time per game (rank among team’s forwards)

2015-16

20:12 (J.G.) – 1st

19:43 (T.H.) – 2nd

3:33 (J.G.) – 1st

2:49 (T.H.) – 1st

0:03 (J.G.) – 12th

0:03 (T.H.) – 11th

2014-15

17:43 (J.G.) – 4th

19:13 (T.H.) – 2nd

2:48 (J.G.) – 3rd

2:30 (T.H.) – 4th

0:00 (J.G.)

0:14 (T.H.) – 10th

2013-14

20:00 (T.H.) – 2nd

3:10 (T.H.) – 1st

0:22 (T.H.) – 12th

2012-13

18:37 (T.H.) – 4th

3:14 (T.H.) – 1st

0:03 (T.H.) – 15th

 

Ice Time data appears to correspond to each player’s production. After all, in the one season (2014-15) among these four where Hall’s production slumped, his Ice Time was indeed lowest. For Gaudreau, he’s now receiving top minutes at both even strength and on the PP, and has responded with just under point per game output.

 

Masked by Hall’s still strong Ice Time, is how it’s plummeted since Connor McDavid returned. In the first four games with McDavid back in the fold, Hall’s Ice Time averaged only 15:27 per contest! What’s odd is in the 13 games prior to McDavid’s injury, Hall’s Ice Time was below 19:00 only twice, and above 21:00 six times! For purposes of this column we’ll assume what’s happening is a temporary bump in the road for Hall, since it hasn’t affected even 10% of his total games this season; however, it should be monitored closely going forward and could change my ultimate conclusions if it continues indefinitely.

 

Beyond that, the reality is both players might be close to maxed out in Ice Time, and, with that, in production. After all, for 2015-16 there are only two wingers with more Total Ice Time than Hall or Gaudreau who don’t also happen to have 0:50+ of SH Ice Time per game factoring into their Ice Time; and those are Alex Ovechkin (20:29 per game) and Patrick Kane (20:40), arguably the most elite wingers in the NHL and the fantasy universe. That being said, it’s quite possible Hall could still land a good bit more PP Ice Time per game, as although Gaudreau’s per game PP Ice Time average already puts him 11th among all forwards for 2015-16, Hall sits way down at 70th.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2015-16

0.19 (J.G.)

0.63 (T.H.)

0.31 (J.G.)

0.96 (T.H.)

0.15 (J.G.)

0.61 (T.H.)

2.70 (J.G.)

3.70 (T.H.)

0.21 (J.G.)

0.16 (T.H.)

2014-15

0.17 (J.G.)

0.75 (T.H.)

0.17 (J.G.)

1.26 (T.H.)

0.33 (J.G.)

0.70 (T.H.)

2.08 (J.G.)

2.98 (T.H.)

0.26 (J.G.)

0.11 (T.H.)

2013-14

0.58 (T.H.)

0.72 (T.H.)

0.54 (T.H.)

3.33 (T.H.)

0.22 (T.H.)

2012-13

0.73 (T.H.)

0.53 (T.H.)

0.44 (T.H.)

3.42 (T.H.)

0.31 (T.H.)

 

Although some diminutive players are fine with throwing around what little weight they have (see here for two examples), apparently Gaudreau didn’t get that memo. For both his NHL seasons, if you add up his PIM, Hits and Blocked Shots, you don’t even approach one per game combined! That’s pretty much as bad as it gets in today’s NHL, as only one other NHL forward (Phil Kessel) has played in 40+ games this season and has worse per game averages than Gaudreau’s in all three categories.

 

What’s more – Gaudreau’s SOG per game rate, although improved versus last season, has him outside of the top 40 forwards, and only one player (Tyler Toffoli) has more goals despite firing fewer total shots than Gaudreau. Although of course Gaudreau is still well worth owning in nearly any multi-cat league thanks to his scoring, the reality is you’ll need to compensate for his overall multi-cat shortcomings in order not to lose ground in various categories.

 

That’s not the case with Hall, whose numbers are pretty solid in the categories where Gaudreau is weak. And Hall’s SOG per game has exploded, to put him in the top seven for all NHL forwards. The glaring issue is his PPP, which was a key part of his early success. Hall is currently the only player among the top 24 NHL scorers with single digits in PPP (nine). And Gaudreau isn’t much better, with only ten PPP.

Although their lack of PPP production hurts poolies in that category, it’s an example of a negative actually having some positive to it. After all, since their numbers have been higher in the past, that means they could rebound, in which case their overall scoring would further benefit. Hall’s lack of PPP this season is seemingly more excusable, since he’s posted solid PPP in the past, and his PP Ice Time per game is down. Meanwhile, Gaudreau’s PP Ice Time per game is up by 26% versus last season, yet his PPP per game scoring rate is down by roughly 20%. Unless Gaudreau’s 5×4 IPP is unsustainably low, this is not a good sign in terms of him being capable of better than his current 75-80 point scoring pace.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

 

Season

Personal Shooting Percentage

PDO/SPSV (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

2015-16

15.2% (J.G.)

9.0% (T.H.)

993 (J.G.)

996 (T.H.)

78.4% (J.G.)

90.2% (T.H.)

62.5% (J.G.)

75.0% (T.H.)

58.6% (J.G.)

54.0% (T.H.)

2014-15

14.4% (J.G.)

8.9% (T.H.)

1027 (J.G.)

1019 (T.H.)

60.4% (J.G.)

72.2% (T.H.)

63.0% (J.G.)

50.0% (T.H.)

56.2% (J.G.)

56.9% (T.H.)

2013-14

10.8% (T.H.)

1002 (T.H.)

98.1% (T.H.)

57.1% (T.H.)

57.9% (T.H.)

2012-13

10.4% (T.H.)

1003 (T.H.)

94.3% (T.H.)

81.2% (T.H.)

54.8% (T.H.)

 

Based on this data, it’s pretty easy to discern Hall’s only poor season among these four (i.e., 2014-15). Amazingly, Hall is in the midst of his third season with combined IPPs over 155, which is remarkable in general, but especially so for a wing (as opposed to a center). Any doubt that he can sustain those IPPs can now be removed, as they represent a collective two full seasons’ worth of games spread into three different campaigns with different linemates.

 

The downside to such high IPPs for Hall is that cuts somewhat against him being able to up his scoring, unless he gets more minutes (which, as we saw above, could occur on the PP) or his team scores more with him still factoring into the added goals, or his PPP rate improves (which is conceivable). In short, Hall is a very special player; however, it’s not clear whether (and, if so, by how much) he could improve upon his current point per game scoring expectation.

 

Gaudreau’s Personal Shooting % seems high at first glance; however, all 12 players with more goals than him this season are scoring on 13.5% or more of their shots (with eight having a shooting % higher than Gaudreau’s 15.2%), so this kind of success rate comes with the territory of being a goal scorer. Beyond that, Gaudreau has seen his OZ% inch slightly upwards; but it’s still not over 60%, and ranks him only 41st among the 251 forwards who’ve played 40+ games this season.

 

And although Gaudreau’s 5×5 IPP has risen this season, it’s still a reasonable percentage for a top line winger who helps drive offense. After all, Gaudreau has been able to score more this season despite Calgary sitting down in 18th in goals scored as a team, versus 6th last season. As for his 5×4 IPP, it’s essentially the same as last season despite, as noted above, a drop by 20% in Gaudreau’s PPP per game rate, which is concerning.

 

Who Wins?

 

Both players had more “questions marks” than I thought I’d encounter; however, finding fault in players like Hall and Gaudreau is kind of like criticizing Miss Universe contestants. Make no mistake – both are, and should remain, elite fantasy owns. As for the winner, it’s Hall, who I see as an 80-85+ point player, compared to Gaudreau’s 75-80.

 

Not only does Hall come with far better multi-cat output, and roster flexibility via dual position eligibility (C and LW, versus LW only for Gaudreau), but it appears he also has more realistic room to possibly improve his production. For one, Hall not only gets less PP Ice Time than Gaudreau, but Hall’s PPP production is lower than it once was, with there being no reason to conclude it couldn’t rise once again. Also, Hall fires more considerably more SOG, which, as Ryan Ma recently underscored, is such a key to elite production. Case in point – each of the top three forward scorers for 2015-16 are averaging more than three SOG per game, like Hall.

 

Hall’s main drawback is his injury track record (he’s a certified Band-Aid Boy). But if you remove last season from the equation, he’s missed seven games out of more than 170, so it might be that his injury troubles are at least somewhat in the past.

 

Gaudreau’s Ice Time looks to be nearly maxed out, and his SOG total has yet to threaten three per game in his young career. He’s also a multi-cat nightmare and has seen his PPP production go down despite more PP Ice Time and no unsustainable bad luck. In the end, as good as Gaudreau already is, he’s in an echelon slightly below Hall.

 

If you are looking to own either player in a one-year league or keeper, you might be forced to pay at, or even above, their proper value, what with Hall being owned in 99% of Yahoo leagues and Gaudreau in 95%. My specific advice would be – for whichever of the two you want, try to work him into a multi-player deal, since then it would become easier to disguise his value based on the inclusion of one or more other players.