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By the Numbers: What if the Hurricanes... Weren’t the Hurricanes?

This week’s edition of By the Numbers takes a look at what this Hurricanes team would look like if we replaced each player with their closest comparable according to Corsica.

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NHL: St. Louis Blues at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re a regular reader of this column, you no doubt have seen me using a website called to present data to you.

I’ve written previously about the expected goals statistic that they’ve created that I often like to use.

Today, I went through and used a tool they have available called the similarity calculator.

The similarity calculator takes certain statistics, assigns weights to them, and can compare one player’s performance in those metrics to all other players in the league. It will then assign a similarity score, expressed as a percentage, to every other player.

For example, Pittsburgh winger Conor Sheary is quietly having an incredible season with 35 points in 42 games, and he’s producing points at even-strength at an impressive rate.

For some perspective as to how a larger number of his advanced metrics compare to those of his peers from current and previous seasons, I ran him through the similarity calculator. The most comparable individual player season to what Sheary is currently doing was Jordan Eberle’s 2011-2012 season followed by Jamie Benn’s 2014-2015 season.

You may have long seen where this is going, but I also did the exact same thing with every member of the current Hurricanes team to see what the Hurricanes’ roster would look like if they were replaced with the player from this season who Corsica’s program designates as the most similar to them.

The players I used for this exercise are as follows: Skinner, Rask, Lindholm, Aho, Teravainen, Staal, Stempniak, Ryan, McGinn, Nordstrom, Nestrasil, McClement, Stalberg, di Giuseppe, Slavin, Pesce, Hanifin, Faulk, Hainsey, Tennyson, and Murphy.

I’m not going to tell you which player aligns with which, that’s going to be up to you to guess.

The Offense

The similarity calculator pays no attention to forward position, so some wingers’ highest comparables were centers and vice versa. Here’s what the group came out looking like:

Robby Fabbri (STL) - David Krejci (BOS) - Vladimir Tarasenko (STL)
Mikkel Boedker (SJ) - Jason Spezza (DAL) - Patric Hornqvist (PIT)
Jon Marchesseault (FLA) - Riley Sheahan (DET) - Alex Radulov (MTL)
Alex Chiasson (CGY) - Roman Lyubimov (PHI) - Beau Bennett (NJ)
Extras: Brandon Tanev (WPG), Zack Kassian (EDM)

There are obviously some eye-popping talents here. Tarasenko is an elite scorer, and thus you’ll probably have a pretty easy time figuring out which Hurricane he compares to.

You probably wouldn’t think of Spezza and his comparable as similar players at all, and neither would I.

This is a much more veteran group than the Hurricanes’ actual forward unit, though Fabbri is an exciting young talent for the Blues. The depth on the right wing is very strong, though there wasn’t a whole lot to choose from at center.

Marchessault has quietly had a very, very good year without garnering a whole lot of attention from around the league, as has his Carolina counterpart.

The Defense

For the defense, I had to adjust the settings a little bit due to the model apparently being designed for forwards. I toned down the weight of points per 60 minutes and upped the importance of expected goals against per 60 minutes relative to team to make the comparisons a bit more defenseman-friendly.

Here’s what it came up with:

Mattias Ekholm (NSH) - Ryan Ellis (NSH)
Markus Nutivaara (CBJ) - Anton Stralman (TBL)
Yannick Weber (NSH) - Matt Irwin (NSH)
Extra: David Schlemko (SJ)

Whole lot of Nashville flavor in here, to be sure. There must be something to the whole Southern-fried defense thing, I guess.

I must say I was a little bit surprised at the lack of some bigger names on this part of the team, though a solid top pairing and Stralman certainly make it a pretty good unit on the whole.

Personally, I’m glad that the real Hurricanes are who they are and not those comparables. I think the above would be a pretty good team, but the lack of youth and room for improvement for a lot of those players would make them a whole lot less exciting to watch.

The tool is a lot of fun to play around with, and I can’t recommend it enough if you’re in need of a hockey info fix and have some time on your hands.

I’ll leave you with some interesting similarity scores from this season’s Hurricanes to some seasons from other players in recent memory.

  • Sebastian Aho, as a rookie, has a 94.21% similarity score with 2009-2010 Jamie Benn and a 94.33% score with 2012-2013 Joe Pavelski.
  • Jordan Staal has a 92.13% similarity score with 2010-2011 Evgeni Malkin.
  • Elias Lindholm has over a 96% similarity score with last year’s versions of both Jack Eichel and Claude Giroux.
  • Jaccob Slavin, in his second year, has a 95% similarity score with 2013-2014 Anton Stralman. Stralman was outstanding with the Rangers that year and cashed in with a big contract with the Lightning that offseason.

Don’t forget to leave your guesses as to which ‘Canes players are represented by the comparables in the lineup in the comments! Some of them were very surprising to me, so I’d be very impressed if anyone could get most of them without using the actual tool.