An Early-Career Comparison: Brady Tkachuk vs Mark Stone
Who’s ready for a deep dive?
Back in October, I was doing some thinking. Given Brady Tkachuk’s success in the early part of his career, I wondered where you all thought he’d turn out, at the peak of his development.
Naturally, I turned to Twitter for an answer.
Curious to hear your thoughts. Brady Tkachuk will turn out to be:— Brandon Maki (@BrandonMaki6) October 17, 2019
I have to admit, I was a little taken aback by these results. Mark Stone is arguably a top-five player in the National Hockey League, and it would say a lot about Brady Tkachuk to be compared to his former landlord, but I never saw the gap as being that wide. Going purely on the eye test, Brady has all the makings of an upper-echelon forward. His impact at both ends of the ice, at the very least, seems reminiscent of Stone’s early days.
I’m always fascinated by these types of comparisons, so I decided to do some digging, and go down a stats rabbit hole. Brady Tkachuk has, at the time of this writing, played 142 NHL regular season games over two campaigns. While it would have been great to simply compare their first two seasons, it took Mark Stone almost four years to play that many, so the 142 games will have to be our benchmark, taking Stone to early-January of 2016.
All stats are courtesy of NHL.com, NaturalStatTrick.com, and HockeyViz.com, all fantastic resources for everything hockey.
Before we really get into the individual performances, let’s have a look at how the Senators performed in each of those seasons. The obvious caveats here are that the 2012-13 and 2019-20 seasons were both shortened, and Stone wasn’t a full-time NHLer until 2014-15.
Year by Year
What we can glean from this, is Ottawa’s offensive output in Brady’s two seasons is actually fairly similar to that of Stone’s campaigns, but they’ve been markedly worse defensively. It’s also worth noting that in Tkachuk’s rookie campaign, Stone was still on the squad for much of the season.
Now, let’s have a look at their individual performances through the first 142 games of their respective careers:
Through 142 Games
There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s break it all down.
It took Brady Tkachuk two seasons to hit 142 games, at the age of 20. Mark Stone, meanwhile, hit the mark in his fourth seasons, at the age of 23. This can be attributed to Tkachuk being a more NHL-ready prospect, as Stone’s development took longer to bear fruit. It’s also fair to say that the Ottawa lineup was harder to crack during Stone’s early days.
In terms of offensive output, Stone is the clear winner. While Brady scored more goals, Stone had a whopping 18 more assists, and 15 more points. On average, Ottawa was better offensively during these seasons, but much of Stone’s output came from a 64-point 2014-15 season, when he was runner-up for the Calder Trophy. The shooting percentage is similar, but Brady took vastly more shots than Stone. More on that later.
When moving to the advanced stats section, Stone still wins, albeit not quite so decisively. Mark Stone has been a possession beast for most of his career, so it’s not surprising that his numbers were so exceptional. Brady’s are nothing to sneeze at, but Stone’s two-way impact exceeds that of young Tkachuk’s.
Where things get really interesting, however, is when we compare the quality of offence generated by both players. For Brady Tkachuk, and his 473 shots, he creates a stunning, and deceptively high amount of offence, evidenced by his expected goals rating. In terms of sheer offensive production, Tkachuk creates more high-quality chances than Stone, despite the latter scoring more points through this 142 game period.
In fact, Brady Tkachuk has been among the league-leaders in xG for much of the season, at times posting higher percentages than the likes of Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin, and Auston Matthews.
Look at some of the names on that list.
Further to this, let’s have a glance at each player’s isolated 5v5 impact through the years in question, courtesy of HockeyViz.com. The charts below are each player’s individual impact, aside from the respective teams they had around them. The zone on top is the offensive zone, and the one below is the defensive zone. Red means lots of shot opportunities, blue means less:
The one outlier in both aspects for Stone is the 2015-16 season, wherein the Senators had a relatively poor season. His offensive impact improved steadily through the four seasons in question, creating a lot of high-percentage opportunities. Defensively, very few quality chances were created on his (right) side of the ice, but that’s hardly surprising.
The improvement in Tkachuk’s offensive production in just one season is absurd, making all those who believed his game would suffer without Stone look like fools. While he generated most of his chances from the goalmouth in 2018-19, Brady completely dominated the entire left side of the ice in his sophomore campaign, sporting a boost of 21.4 percentage points. On the flip side, it can be difficult to have a positive defensive act on a porous Ottawa team, but Brady’s shown slight improvement there as well, especially on the left side.
Not quite Stone’s level of defensive prowess, but getting there.
So, now that I’ve thrown a million different numbers and obscure statistics at you, what conclusions can we make?
Well for one, Mark Stone is the better player in terms of tangible offensive output. That’s inarguable, 15 more points, and vastly more assists have him ahead of Brady. That said, in only his second season, Brady Tkachuk is generating as much high quality offence as the league’s best talents, and his numbers will likely reflect that fact once he fully matures, and the Senators improve as a team.
Defensively, Brady is improving, but has his work cut out for him in order to catch Mark Stone. Possession-wise, a young Stone was superior to Brady, and better at limiting opposition chances. Brady is close, Corsi and Fenwick numbers above 50% on a team as bad as this version of the Senators is impressive to say the least, but he’s not quite a possession “beast” yet.
My take? All in all, I think Brady is right on track to becoming a Mark Stone-calibre player. He’s a complete workhorse, strong on the puck, and a nightmare for teams trying to defend him. He has work to do in his end, but I firmly believe that getting Tkachuk a better supporting cast, aligned with his maturation as a player will yield a sort of Mark Stone 2.0.
But, of course, I want to hear your take. Remember that poll from the beginning? Let’s try it again:
Brady Tkachuk will turn out to be:
|Better than Mark Stone||81|
|About the same||127|
|Not as good as Mark Stone||68|