Yesterday, GM Peter Chiarelli of the Edmonton Oilers, and young center Leon Draisaitl agreed to an 8 year, $68 million deal. This is relevant because a lot of Bruins fans and media alike (such as Joe Haggerty) think that Draisaitl is comparable to David Pastrnak. However, I don't think they have much in common at all besides their age and regular season point totals. Pastrnak and Draisaitl are two completely different players who not only play different positions (C & RW), but they also play very different styles of hockey. Draisaitl is a silky-handed playmaker and uses his elite passing ability to create space and opportunities on the ice. Before I get ahead of myself, let me mention that while Draisaitl is a natural center, he sees ample time playing the wing(s) for McDavid where he can showcase his pure scoring ability too. While Pastrnak also has soft hands and can also deliver some nice passes, he is at his best being on the receiving end of passes where he can utilize his elite shooting ability to score goals.
BY THE NUMBERS:
Pastrnak - GP: 172 G: 59 A: 64 PTS: 123
Draisaitl - GP: 191 G: 50 A: 87 PTS: 137
Pastrnak - GP: 6 G: 2 A: 2 PTS: 4
Draisaitl - GP: 13 G: 6 A: 10 PTS: 16
The playoff performance is also part of the reason why Draisaitl is just so much different than Pastrnak right now. Often times throughout the OTT series, I thought Pastrnak was a non-factor on the ice and needed to settle his game down. He was making some pretty frustrating mistakes such as over-skating and being impatient with the puck. When the Bruins really needed someone to step up in the series, he wasn't their guy. Now, before you crucify me here, Marchand and others also disappeared when the team needed them the most. So Pastrnak wasn't the only one who lacked the big time plays to help the team out, to be fair to him. However, it was the exact opposite for Draisaitl in the playoffs for the Oilers. He seemed to always be making good plays with and without the puck. If he wasn't creating space, he was playing good defense and had his stick in the correct places. In my opinion, Draisaitl had a tremendous showcase of two-way hockey in the playoffs this year. I mean in all honesty he was an absolute beast when his team needed him the most, and that is a huge reason why he got paid $8.5m per year. While I do believe that Pastrnak will evolve into a big-game playoff guy for the Bruins, he just isn't quite there yet and thats OK. It will come with time, but this is why Draisaitl makes for an unlikely comparison to Pastrnak.
Ok, so if Draisaitl isn't a good comparison (in terms of play-styles or RFA situation) to Pastrnak, who is? Well, this is where we bring in Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Loui Blues. Right off the bat, the first thing that pops out to me is their draft years. Tarasenko and Pastrnak were drafted in the second half of the first round in their respected draft classes. Tarasenko was selected #16 overall in 2010 while Pastrnak was selected #25 overall in 2014. Draft pedigree isn't exactly a good unit of measure in terms of a players success, but it is in terms of how highly touted they were as prospects. Players like Draisaitl (#3 overall in 2014) get much more attention when they are top 3 draft picks. For the most part, the players like Tarasenko and Pastrnak have to create their own spotlight by performing at the NHL level.
Tarasenko is a 6 foot tall right winger, which happens to be the same height and position that Pastrnak also plays. While Tarasenko weighs significantly more (about 220lbs, where Pastrnak is around 200lbs) the two share a similar style of play. Pastrnak as I've stated above, is much more of a shooter than he is a playmaker; the same can be said for Tarasenko. They both have great, hard & accurate shots and can absolutely let it rip when the passes are fed to them. Tarasenko is a much bigger physical presence on the ice, and also throws his body around more though. This is something that Pastrnak doesn't do that much. However, when Pastrnak is on his game, he can be found loading up a one-timer from the dot on the PP, or receiving passes and tucking them in behind the goalie. These are also things that Tarasenko does well, and the numbers are even more comparable.
(NOTE: I'm using Tarasenko's first three NHL seasons going into his RFA summer. This is where you can see the comparison being drawn, and since Pastrnak hasn't played more than that yet, it is also the most relevant)
BY THE NUMBERS:
Tarasenko - First Three NHL Seasons:
12'-13' - GP: 38 G: 8 A: 11 PTS: 19
13'-14' - GP: 64 G: 21 A: 22 PTS: 43
14'-15' - GP: 77 G: 37 A: 36 PTS: 73
Pastrnak - First Three NHL Seasons:
14'-15' - GP: 46 G: 10 A: 17 PTS: 27
15'-16' - GP: 51 G: 15 A: 11 PTS: 26
16'-17' - GP: 75 G: 34 A: 36 PTS: 70
When comparing these three seasons, you'll notice that the trends are pretty similar, especially factoring in that Pastrnak was battling some unfortunate injuries in his first two seasons. Their second seasons were really the only ones that were significantly different in terms of point totals. Pastrnak also played in 13 fewer games than Tarasenko did during his sophomore campaign. The growth and trajectory here are similar, with the 3rd season leading into their RFA status being a breakout season. The breakout season for both of them were nearly identical, being separated only by 3 points and 3 goals. The number of assists they racked up in their breakout campaign were also identical sitting at 36 each. Something else to keep in mind is that when Tarasenko made his first full-time playoff debut, he appeared in 6 games and had 4 points. This is identical to when Pastrnak made his playoff debut this Spring where he also played in 6 games, and had an identical 4 points.
With Pastrnak being an RFA he obviously needs a new contract ASAP. Draisaitl's new contract is worth 8x8.5m in terms of years x AAV (Annual Average Value). When Tarasenko was an RFA, the Blues inked him to a contract worth 8x7.5m AAV. Draisaitl just got paid $1 million more per year than Tarasenko did, and that is okay. He is worth 8.5m per year and I don't think there are many cases to be made against him. I also don't think his contract should have any effect on what Pastrnak gets. Pastrnak is much more similar to Tarasenko and I expect him to be paid accordingly. The Bruins have a young star on the rise who is showing potential to be a consistent 70 point scorer for many seasons to come. If him and his agent are asking for contracts that look like any of the following: 7x7m AAV, 7x7.5m AAV, 8x7m AAV, or 8x7.5m AAV - then I think that it is actually fair for both sides. Now, obviously I would love for them to come to terms with something in the range of 6x6.5m AAV. In this hard cap league, I can see why fans and media are quick to be worried about committing such a large sum of money and term after one breakout season. Pastrnak is only 21 years old and already has one 30+ goal, 70 point season under his belt. If he keeps that up and continues to post season totals like that, then any contract under 8m per year will turn out to be a steal.