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I recently wrote about Jack Hughes, Kaapo Kakko, and the narrative the latter drastically out-performed the former
at the World Hockey Championships.
In short, through the majority of the tournament their underlying numbers and micro-stats proved that to be untrue. They were much closer than many would have you believe.
I promised to be back when I had a more complete data set to work with, though, so here I am.
Rather than quickly dumping the numbers, I want to go through and comment on how they performed in each major category. I should note I tracked 9/10 games Kakko played in (the other was not made available) and all seven for Hughes.
Quite honestly, both players fared a lot better than I expected given their age. They didn't just help their teams control the shot share. They helped their teams dominate it – and in very different fashions.
Hughes' ability to drive through the neutral zone and gain the line with possession, which I'll get to later, consistently led to opportunities for USA, while Kakko's dominance down low resulted in a lot of sustained offensive zone pressure for Finland.
Though Hughes' numbers were a little better, it's fair to point out his supporting cast – despite constantly changing – was more talented.
5v5 Shot Contributions
Hughes may not have the raw totals to prove it, but he helped facilitate a larger portion of his team's offense than Kakko did. Hughes contributed to ~48% of the one-ice attempts, whereas Kakko contributed to ~44% (still impressive, by the way).
They once again went about it in much different styles. Kakko's attempt% was nearly double his assist%. A large differential between the two has been a constant throughout this whole tracking process. In 15 games across all competitions, he's taken 25.45% of the shots and assisted on ~15% of them.
Hughes didn't take quite as many shots as he did against players his age group, however, he assisted on an identical 24.47% of the attempts. His 47.87 contribution% wasn't much lower than his overall number of 50.53%.
I guess he can still create against men. Shocking!
5v5 Zone Entries
Their non-empty net goal point production (43 per game for Hughes, .50 per game for Kakko) was similar. Their Corsi (59.1% for Hughes, 57.9% for Kakko) was similar. Their shot contribution numbers (47.9% for Hughes, 43.7% for Kakko) were fairly close as well.
The one area Hughes really distanced himself from Kakko in this tournament is through the neutral zone.
Hughes was very dynamic, averaging better than five controlled entries per game (mostly playing bottom-6 minutes). By force or choice, he only dumped it in 10% of the time.
Kakko averaged just 2.88 controlled entries per game and dumped the puck in 31.58% of the time. Sometimes his team was able to recover it, of course, but that also led to several losses in possession.
If you want to say Kakko had the better tournament based on a) actual production and; b) the success of his team, I completely understand it. But it's certainly worth noting Hughes' underlying numbers/micro stats were as good or better across the board.
The narrative Kakko was dominant while Hughes struggled to hold his own couldn't be further from the truth. That's part of the reason, while some now believe Kakko the better player, I still remain on #TeamHughes.
I believe Ray Shero and the New Jersey Devils feel the same way.
Note: shoutout to the great website ProspectShifts.com for clipping the games and making my life much easier.
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The Kaapo Kakko blog™
The Jack Hughes blog™