Player Comparison: Kulemin vs Clarkson?

27 Sep


The Maple Leafs will need to wait an extra 10 regular season games to see their prized free agent acquisition David Clarkson wear the blue and white in any meaningful games. In case you live under a rock, Clarkson was automatically suspended for leaving the bench during a game to join in the Scott vs Kessel show down.  If the current practise lines suggest anything, it’s that the current longest serving Maple Leaf, Nikolai Kulemin, will be joining Lupul and Kadri on the 2nd line till Clarkson comes back. Which brings up the question, how well will Kulemin fill in for Clarkson? Here at LeafsHero we’re going to try and find out, in an in-depth analysis comparing Kulemin and Clarkson.

We’ll be making the comparison from a few perspectives…

  • Defensive ability
  • Penalty Killing
  • Skating
  • Scoring
  • Consistency
  • Use on Power Play
  • Physicality and Size
  • Agitating Ability
  • Maturity [Knowing when to take “bad/good” penalties]

We feel with these 9 categories we cover of all Kulemin and Clarkson’s biggest strengths and biggest weaknesses.

We’ll be using a scoring system where for each category a player can get a maximum of 5 points, and the points given each round will be relative. So for example instead of Player A – 2 points, Player B – 5 points, we would do. Player A – 0 points, Player B – 3 points, or more simply written as Player B, 3 points.

Part I – Defensive Ability / Penalty Killing / Skating

For defensive ability we’ll turn to the official pro GM’s best friend, player usage charts. For those unfamiliar with player usage charts they simple graph a players Quality of Competition versus their Offensive Zone Start %. This gives each player a point on the graph. Showing how sheltered a player is, and what role he tends to play. Then each player is given a bubble with his relative Corsi, the more blue the better the Corsi, the more orange the worse. Along with that their bubble size is dependent on their time on ice per game. So we know just by looking at the chart what role the player tended to play, how often he played that role, and how successful he was in that role. Incredibly useful.

Clarkson Kulemin

Firstly we need to acknowledge they played different roles. Kulemin was starting his only 36% of his shifts in the offensive zone and playing against harder competition than any forward in the NHL. While Clarkson was starting just over half his shifts in the offensive zone, playing against even competition.

To paint a picture of what was going on, Kulemin spent the last season playing against the Malkin’s and Stamkos’s of the NHL while Clarkson played against, well… the other Clarkson’s of the NHL, so 2nd/3rd line forwards. When you look at the corsi with that in mind, it’s really no surprise that Kulemin is a much better defensive player.

Defensive Ability, Verdict: Kulemin > Clarkson, Kulemin 3.5 points

Skating is a hard one to compare statistically, and honestly every other person will disagree with every other person when comparing players and who is a better skater. In general, skating is one of Kulemin’s strengths. He’s incredibly strong on his skate, has an effortless stride, and for his size is very fast. Clarkson on the other hand tends to have a hard time staying on his feet. This we’re going to go with a clear win for Kulemin. [Don’t worry Clarkson fan’s the later categories will even the score more.

Skating, Verdict: Kulemin > Clarkson, Kulemin 4.5 points

Penalty killing. Again a place where it’s not a very fair comparison. Kulemin was 2nd amongst Leaf’s forwards and 29th amongst all NHL forwards (who played at least 10 games) in PK TOI/G. Not only did he play a lot, he played a lot on the 2nd best PK in the NHL, 87.9%, second only to Ottawa at 88.0%.

Clarkson on the other hand averaged 1 second of PK TOI/G, the least of any regular New Jersey forward.

Not really a fair comparison, Kulemin is one of the best PK wingers in the game while Clarkson has never spent time short handed.

Penalty Killing, Verdict: Kulemin > Clarkson, Kulemin 5 points

Part II – Scoring / Consistency / Power Play

The first Category saw Kulemin dominate, but part two should be a bit more even.

When it comes to scoring we’ll first look at over there careers what they have shown, and then look at their more recent trend.

Player  Total Goals  Total Points  Total GP  Goals/82 Points/82  Shots/82
Kulemin  75 175 351 17.5 40.8  1.78
Clarkson  97  170  426 18.7 32.7  2.10

Over their careers it seems safe to say that their scoring ability is fairly comparable. Clarkson have 1.2 more goals a season with Kulemin having about 8.1 more points a season.

But we need to factor in what they’re shown they’re capable of at their best, the following table shows a comparison of Kulemin and Clarkson’s best and second best season’s to date.

Player  Year  Games Played  Goals  Assists Points Shots
Kulemin Best Season 10/11 82 30 27 57 173
Clarkson Best Season 11/12 80 30 16 46 228
Kulemin Second Best 09/10 78 16 20 36 145
Clarkson Second Best 12/13 48 15 9 24 180

What this shows is both had one real stand out season, and have a large drop to their next best season, mind you Clarkson could of scored 30 goals again last year it seems if the NHL played a full 82 games.

The career numbers are close, the peak numbers are close, but when you look at the time frame, Clarkson’s two best seasons are his last two while Kulemin’s were 3 and 4 years ago, so since Clarkson seems to be entering his scoring prime now we’re going to give Clarkson the edge here.

Scoring, Verdict: Kulemin < Clarkson, Clarkson 3 points

Consistency is a hard one to measure. For Kulemin he was slowly improving offensively each season until his break out year where he scored 30 goals, fairly evenly through out the year, then suddenly fell off the map offensively all together.

Clarkson also followed a similar trajectory at first, slowly improving his offence, hit a small slump, then broke out two years back. What people tend to forget is how hot Clarkson started the last season scoring 10 goals in his first 14 games, then scoring 5 in his later 34 games. 

Clarkson’s scoring drought is considerably smaller than Kulemins being a 34 games span with only 5 goals as opposed to Kulemins 118 games with only 14 goals. We’re going to give the consistency edge to Clarkson.

Consistency, Verdict: Kulemin < Clarkson, Clarkson 2.5 points

The last offensive category we’re going to look at is the Power Play.

Player  PP TOI/GAME PP Goals PP Points  Goals/Minute Points/Minute   
Kulemin 12/13 0:25 0 0 0 0  
Clarkson 12/13 3:33 6 8 1.7 2.3  
Kulemin 11/12 0:51 1 5 1.2 6  
Clarkson 11/12 3:03 8 16 2.7 5.3
Kulemin 10/11 2:39 5 13 1.9 4.9  
Clarkson 10/11 1:39 1 2 0.6 1.2

Since Clarkson has been given opportunity on the Power Play he has been  more effective than Clarkson, 1.7 and 2.7 goals compared to Kulemins 1.9 and 1.2 when he was given time on the PP. Clarkson also fills a definite need on the Leaf’s PP as a presence in front of the net.

Clarkson wins this one.

Power Play, Verdict: Kulemin < Clarkson, Clarkson 3.0 points

Part III – Physicality and Size /Agitating / Maturity with taking Penalties

A lot of these comparisons need to be done qualitatively, but we’ll try to continue using comparable stats as they come up.

With size, they’re pretty comparable. Kulemin is 6’1, 225lbs while Clarkson is 6’1, 200lbs. When it comes to physicality Clarkson is the clear favourite, but that’s not to imply Kulemin is by any means “soft”.

Player  Kulemin 12/13 Clarkson 12/13 Kulemin 11/12  Clarkson 11/12 Kulemin 10/11  Clarkson 10/11 
Hits 122 84 97 169 101 170 
Fights 0 6 0 8 0 14

We can see over time Kulemin has been hitting more often, while Clarkson hitting less often, but Clarkson has still been keeping a steady amount of fights in averaging close to 10 [pro-rated] fights a year.

When it comes to size Kulemin might have an edge, but when it comes to physicality Clarkson has enough of an advantage to compensate.

Physicality and Size Verdict: Kulemin < Clarkson, Clarkson 3.5 points

Agitating… we’re going to skip right over this and give Clarkson the full 5 point victory. Kulie isn’t a fighter or a pest while Clarkson is pretty good at both of those things.

Physicality and Size Verdict: Kulemin < Clarkson, Clarkson 5 points

Maturity with penalties is another one we won’t spend much time on. Kulemin averages about 10 minor penalties a year, while Clarkson puts his team short handed about 35 times a year. Kulemin wins this one, but it could of been worse.

Physicality and Size Verdict: Kulemin > Clarkson, Kulemin 4.0 points

Final Score Sheet

Player Kulemin 12/13Clarkson 12/13Player Kulemin 12/13Clarkson 12/13Player Kulemin 12/13Clarkson 12/13

Category  Winner By # of Points
Defencive Ability Kulemin 3.5
Skating Kulemin 4.5
Penalty Killing Kulemin 5.0
Overall Def. Kulemin 13.0
Scoring Clarkson 3.0
Consistency Clarkson 2.5
Power Play Clarkson 3.0
Overall Off. Clarkson 8.5
Physicality/Size Clarkson 3.5
Agitating Clarkson 5.0
Not taking bad PIM Kulemin 4.0
Overall Grit Clarkson  4.5
Total DRAW 0.0

In the end, it turns out we have a draw, and really all it shows is that it comes down to the type of player you’re looking for. If you want a player who is smarter with the puck, stronger on his skates, can PK and shut down opposing forwards, Kulemin is with out a doubt the better option. If you want a player who has might be able to continue putting up 20 goals while fighting, agitating and bringing grit to your team, then Clarkson is your best option.

One thing I didn’t include was the contract, right now Kulemin’s contract is much nicer for the Leafs, but we’ll need to see after this season just how much money Kulemin ends up signing for.


One Response to “Player Comparison: Kulemin vs Clarkson?”

  1. Cap_what_Cap September 27, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

    You should break out the scoring details.

    To evaluate points without looking at the PP time doesn’t indicate offensive ability as much as opportunity.

    Kulemin is a much better play maker, almost scored as many even strength points as Clarkson scored total points without getting the 3+ minutes of PP time.

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