I am a big fan of Vince Dunn, so much so that at the Blues Casino Night in February 2018, I made it a point to compliment him by telling him to his face, “You don’t play like a rookie”. His numbers speak for themselves in that category: he really doesn’t.
Though only 21, he is already proving to be one of the top three prospects, or “probies”, that I would highly advise against Armstrong trading to opposing teams.
Why? See for yourself.
Per Hockey-Reference.com, in his first season in the NHL, Dunn played 75 games, and recorded 5 goals (G) and 19 assists (A), for 24 points. His +/- was +1; he recorded only 20 penalty minutes. His average time on ice (ATOI) was 17:14 minutes. Dunn had 138 shots on goal, and a shooting percentage of 3.6%. He had 59 blocks, 29 hits, 29 takeaways, and 38 giveaways. His Corsi for at even strength was 54.7%. He was ranked third on the team in Corsi for during the 2017-2018 season, for any player who played more than one game. To give a bit more context to this stat, the top ranked player, Jaden Schwartz, had a Corsi for of 57.1%, and Dunn outranked Brayden Schenn (54.6%) by a hair, a mere .01%.
Place him side by side to a few other notable defensemen, another picture forms (Please note: Al MacInnis is disqualified from this comparison because… well, he’s Al MacInnis. His stats cannot be touched by anyone thus far).
Chris Pronger at 21 played 78 games, recorded 7G and 18A, for 29 points, with a -18. He recorded 110 penalty minutes, took 138 shots on goal, and had a shooting percentage of 5.6%. His ATOI, blocks, hits, takeaways, giveaways and Corsi were never recorded.
How does Dunn stack against a 21-year-old Barrett Jackman? Jackman played in 82 games, recorded 3G and 16A, for 23 points, and a +23. He had 190 penalty minutes, 66 shots on goal, and a shooting percentage of 4.5%. He averaged 20:03 minutes per night. His blocks, hits, takeaways, giveaways and Corsi were never recorded.
Let’s look at Alex Pietrangelo at 21. Pietrangelo played in 79 games, recorded 11G, and 32A, for 43 points, and a +18. He had 19 penalty minutes. He recorded 161 shots, a 6.8% shooting percentage, and 22:00 minutes on ice. He had 57 hits, 121 blocks, 40 takeaways, and 36 giveaways. His Corsi was 54.9%.
The closest comparison for games played in Carl Gunnarsson’s time was when he was 25. He played 76 games, had 4G and 15A, for 19 points, and a -9. He had 20 penalty minutes. He took 89 shots and had a 4.5% shooting average. His ATOI was 21:42 minutes per night. He gave 114 hits, made 152 blocks, had 34 takeaways, and 65 giveaways. His Corsi was 48.3%.
Finally, let’s compare Dunn’s stats to his defensive partner, Colton Parayko. At 22, Parayko played 79 games, scored 9G and 24A, for 24 points, and had a +28. He took 29 penalty minutes. He made 165 shots on goal, and a shooting percentage of 5.5%. His ATOI 19:23 minutes per night. He landed 102 hits, blocked 122 shots, had 33 takeaways, and 21 giveaways. His Corsi was 54.8%.
What does this all mean?
It means that, when compared to rookie versions of certain key Blues defensemen over the years, Dunn puts up the point totals of younger Jackman and younger Parayko, records the same low amount of penalty minutes of younger Gunnarsson and younger Pietrangelo, and takes the same number of shots as younger Pronger. He’s better than Jackman and Gunnarsson in goals; outscored Pronger, Jackman, and Gunnarsson in assists; has a better +/- than Pronger and Gunnarsson; is comparable to Paryako in takeaways; gives the puck away less than Gunnarsson but on par with Pietrangelo, and during the 2017-2018 season, the team controlled the puck with him on the ice better than anyone of the three current defensemen listed above (Pietrangelo, Parayko, Gunnarsson). His Corsi is on par with Parayko and Pietrangelo at his age, both of whom are considered “elite” or “near elite” defensemen. Dunn takes a lot of shots on goal that may bounce around for dirty goals, stays out of the box, plays key roles in scoring, and can swipe the puck away from the opposing team pretty well. He does not give anyone a chance to steal it from him often; the puck is taken from him less than once per game. He also accrued his stats in less games per season, in less ATOI, than anyone else listed in this article.
Impressive, and he’s only getting started. His future is bright. With what he’s shown so far, I hope his foreseeable future involves the Note on his sweater, because he has the potential to be something truly special on the blueline.