“For Mark Stone himself will descend from Heaven with a cry of celebration, with the takeaways of an archangel, and with the wild hair of God.”
It has long been foretold. Has Alfie finally come again?
Since entering the league in 2012, Mark Stone has drawn considerable comparisons to the ex-captain of the Ottawa Senators (but still captain of our hearts), Daniel Alfredsson. While he is not a carbon copy of Alfredsson by any means, Stone’s game bears certain similarities to his predecessor.
First off, let’s take a look at their path to the NHL. Daniel Alfredsson was drafted in the sixth round (133rd overall) by the Senators in 1994. The right-wing forward was a long-shot to be a regular on an NHL team, let alone crack an NHL roster period. That should have been that. But as we well know, Alfredsson proved the nay-sayers so very wrong.
Mark Stone, RW, was also a sixth round selection (178th overall) by the Senators in the 2010 draft. Stone didn’t immediately make the leap to the Sens, spending a fourth season with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL. Oddly enough, Stone’s Senators debut came in the 2012 playoffs, where he played a single game, registering a single assist. He would spend the majority of the following season with the Binghamton Senators in the AHL, playing four games with the NHL club. Many doubted if he could make the transition to the NHL because of his speed and style of play.
It wasn’t until 2014-2015 that Stone was considered a full-time NHL player, and boy did he prove his critics wrong. Stone had himself a monster campaign, amassing 26 goals and 64 points in 80 games. He was a big reason the Senators made the playoffs that year, and put up incredible numbers during the second half of the season. The league took notice and his performance earned him a Calder Cup nomination. He would ultimately lose out to Aaron Ekblad of the Panthers. Alfredsson himself won the prestigious rookie award in his first NHL season (1995-96).
Despite his Calder Cup loss, the league was put on notice: Mark Stone was legitimately good. He had fantastic chemistry on any line, and could be relied upon to contribute up and down the line-up. His defensive awareness was off the charts for a player of his age, and a forward no less. In the 2016-17 season, he currently leads all players in takeaways with 82. The next closest player is Connor McDavid with 59. Stone has, on average, 1.41 takeaways per game, enough to lead the league (of players with 3+ takeaways). Every shift he’s on the ice, the puck magnetically finds his stick.
His style of play is reminiscent of Daniel Alfreddson in many ways. First, both players are defensively phenomenal on the ice. They both possess the ability to know where the puck is at all time, and can get it at a snap of their fingers. Like Alfredsson, he is a player you want on the ice in the final minute of a game 7, down by one goal. Both are perennial plus-players and a large factor in the team’s offence. One accolade both players are deserving of, but lacking, is the Selke Trophy for best defensive forward. Alfredsson came close, finishing 3rd in Selke voting in 2005-2006. As for Stone, maybe it’s the fact that he is “sheltered” in Ottawa, or that other players have more star-power, but it is unfortunate that he has not been widely recognized for his defensive play outside of Ottawa. We can only hope that one day Stone will receive the league-wide attention he so clearly deserves.
The statistics for both players over each of their respective first five seasons are very, very interesting. Here are some numbers:
Shot %: 10.6
Shot %: 16.3
Pretty neat, right? Both players have very similar goals/game and points/game statistics. Obviously Alfredsson played more games in his first five seasons, with Stone having an almost 100 game disadvantage. But I’d be interested to circle back to this topic once he hits game 328.
Alright, so MAYBE Stone being the second coming of Alfie is a stretch, but if it is, it’s not a far one. While they’re not identical players, they share a lot of similarities in terms of their statistics and their style of play. It is unlikely that Stone ever matches Alfredsson’s career numbers in Ottawa due to playing era adjustment, but he may very well keep pace with Alfredsson’s era-adjusted numbers, if not surpass them in his career. There is no doubt Stone is already adored by fans in Ottawa during his short time here. In a recent poll conducted on Twitter, many of you named Stone amongst your favourite all-time Senators players, a high honour for a kid who has only played 236 NHL games. Like many, I only wish the rest of the league appreciated his skill-set and puck handling abilities. And those amazing Stone faces. Those faces man…
As a bonus (and because, let’s face it, Sens fans need a reason to be happy right now), let’s take a look at Alfie’s and Stone’s best (most heroic) goal. Which do you think is better? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below!