Todd Cordell

USING NUMBERS TO LOOK AT THE NHL'S FUTURE STARS

By The Numbers: Evaluating OHL Prospects With Split Stats

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As someone who scouts junior hockey, I like to gather as much information about prospects as possible to help form opinions, rankings, etc.

One thing I started doing a few years ago is splitting draft eligible’s seasons into two halves and comparing the production between the two.

Points aren’t everything, but they are important, and generally a player’s production can help illustrate how well said player is performing. Not to mention if a player isn’t producing much at the junior level it’s probably not realistic to expect them to do so in the NHL.

Another reason I started doing this, is that the NHL entry draft is sort of like a stock market. Prior years of performance factor in, but who is trending up or down the most often determines where a prospect goes come June.

For example, would you rather have a player who posted 40 points in 34 games during the 1st half and 25 in 34 games during the 2nd half, or someone who tallied 25 points in the first 34 games, and 40 in the latter half? Most will pick the guy who produced more in the 2nd half because – on top of recency bias – people want to add players whose progression is noticeable.

For added context, this year I also included shots and shooting percentage.

This helps illustrate if a player’s decrease in goal scoring, for example, is a result of bad luck or a lack of shots/looks. It also helps tell us if a player’s spike in production is due to riding unsustainably high percentages.

OHL Forwards (sorted by 1st half PPG)

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OHL Forwards (sorted by 2nd half PPG)

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OHL Defensemen (sorted by 1st half PPG)

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OHL Defensemen (sorted by 2nd half PPG)

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If you use or share this data, please cite this blog as the resource. Thanks!

By The Numbers: Evaluating OHL Prospects With Advanced Stats

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Intro

Analytics in hockey have been growing rapidly over the last few years but there’s still a long way to go – particularly in junior hockey and with prospects.

While there are some good websites (notably Prospect-Stats.com) out there that provide more insight into what really is going on in the prospect world, there is essentially nothing available when it comes to underlying numbers on a game-by-game basis at the CHL level.

Last season I did track a fair amount of junior and college games, which allowed me to share (for the most part) small samples of numbers for many of the top draft eligible prospects. I was hoping to track a lot more this season but the streaming service I used folded about halfway through the season so I was only able to track nationally televised games down the stretch.

Nevertheless, tracking is a time consuming process and I’m fairly content with the information I was able to gather throughout the season even though it’s a little top heavy.

What Can The Numbers Tell Us?

While for most of the players I tracked there isn’t enough data available to make any dramatic conclusions, this can help give us an idea of how Player Y was utilized by his team, Player Y’s ability to drive play and why Player Y produced as much/as little as they did.

For example, it’s tougher for a player with a lot of defensive zone starts to produce offense than a player who regularly starts in the offensive zone. If Player Y is being spoon fed defensive zone starts his ability to put up points is being hindered.

In terms of zone entries if a player generates a lot of controlled entries on a per game basis it’s probably a reasonable bet to assume he’s normally good through the neutral zone.

Notes & Numbers

A few notes before presenting the data:

– These numbers include all even-strength play (i.e. 5 v 5, 4 v 4, etc.).

– I didn’t combine international hockey to a player’s numbers in North America due to different levels of competition, larger ice surfaces, etc.

– SAF and SAA are shot attempts for and against. OZS, NZS, and DZS are offensive, neutral and defensive zone starts. CE are controlled entries.

– I added sorted stats below the raw table but it’s important to note that time on ice is a very important factor with those numbers.

Without further ado here are the zone start, zone entry and shot attempt numbers from the 2015-16 season for many of the top prospects coming out of the OHL.

Data

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Sorted by SAF/GP

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Sorted by SAA/GP

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Sorted by CE/GP

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On Kasperi Kapanen And How The World Juniors Shaped The Perception Of Him

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Few prospects have been talked about as often as Kasperi Kapanen since he was acquired by Toronto – perhaps as the key piece – in a blockbuster trade that landed Pittsburgh all-star winger Phil Kessel.

Kapanen’s name has been dragged through the mud quite a bit over the last little while and there’s this running narrative that he’s a regressing prospect, which is simply not true.

Kapanen was 4th on Kalpa in goals last season with 11 in 41 games. He did that as an 18-year-old and he played at least 15 games less than the three teammates who finished ahead of him with 15, 17, and 18 goals respectively.

The former 22nd overall pick was 6th on his team in points with 21, however, he finished 2nd on his team in points per game (.51) and the club leader in that regard is 28 years old. By all accounts Kapanen had a solid year in Finland.

That continued after he came overseas, too, as he had two points in four regular season games with Wilkes Barre/Scranton at the end of the AHL season and followed that up with five points in seven playoff games.

Those are pretty impressive totals for an 18-year-old getting his first taste of pro hockey in North America.

So why is there all this talk about a down season and him regressing as a prospect?

Most people will tell you it’s because of his play at the World Junior tournament where he scored just once and didn’t register an assist in five games with Finland.

He was criticized for his play throughout that two week window and the World Juniors are what a lot of people use as ammunition when questioning Kapanen’s legitimacy as a high-end prospect.

With that in mind I decided to re-watch Kapanen’s five games at the World Juniors and track his numbers to see if he did play as poorly as many suggest. The numbers say that was not the case.

World Junior Numbers

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A few thoughts on those numbers:

– Kapanen may not have produced much in terms of points but it wasn’t because he was playing poorly or chasing play in his own zone. Finland generated 56% of all shot attempts at even-strength with him on the ice during their five-game run. The teams Finland went up against: Canada, USA, Slovakia, Sweden and Germany. The Germans were a poor team but beyond them Kapanen was facing some pretty stiff competition.

– Kapanen started shifts in the offensive zone more often than his own zone but it wasn’t as if he was spoon fed OZ starts. If you include NZ starts 42 of 62 zone starts came outside of the offensive zone. He wasn’t always put in positions to create offense immediately and he had to do some driving.

– He was very good through the neutral zone gaining the line with possession 18 times in 23 attempts. He struggled against the Americans (0-for-3) but overall had an excellent tournament in that regard.

Observations

– After singling out Kapanen every shift for a handful of games I have no reservations about his ability to become a top-6 forward. Time will tell if he develops into one but the talent is certainly there.

– He’s not a big guy at 6’0″ and ~180 pounds but he’s not afraid to throw his weight around. He has some feistiness in his game and connected on a few pretty big hits.

– You’ll see it some of the vines below but Kapanen is very elusive in space and he’s crafty with the puck. Combine that with his high-end speed and he’s a tough guy to stop.

– Kapanen loves to work from just outside the hashmark on the left side. He setup some nice chances from there — particularly on the man advantage.

– He’s a bit of a puck hound. He can be relentless after it on the forecheck and he often comes back pretty hard on the back check. I think that’s an underrated aspect of his game.

Video

Conclusion

Kapanen wasn’t dominant at the World Juniors but he was definitely a lot better than most give him credit for. Even if he was terrible, how does five bad games outweigh a season full of good ones?

Like with pretty much any prospect there are no guarantees that he will be an impact player at the NHL level. In saying that there is certainly reason to be optimistic about his future.

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By The Numbers: Evaluating Prospects With Advanced Stats

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Intro

Analytics in hockey have been growing rapidly over the last few years but there’s still a long way to go – particularly in junior hockey and with prospects.

While there are some good websites (notably CHLStats.com) out there that provide more insight into what really is going on in the prospect world, there is essentially nothing available when it comes to underlying numbers on a game-by-game basis at the CHL and NCAA levels.

When I’m not scouting in a rink I often find myself watching junior hockey on TV whenever the opportunity presents itself. Since I’d watch a lot of games, anyway, I decided to start tracking numbers for prospects in the games televised.

Unfortunately it’s a very time consuming process so I only tracked a handful of players per game.

I didn’t start doing this until midway through the season so I missed the opportunity to track a good chunk of games, however, I tracked a fair amount in the latter half of the season and throughout the CHL playoffs.

What Can This Tell Us?

While there isn’t enough data available to make any dramatic conclusions, this can help give us an idea of how Player Y was utilized by his team, Player Y’s ability to drive play up ice and why Player Y produced as much/as little as they did.

For example, it’s tougher for a player with a lot of defensive zone starts to produce offense than a player who regularly starts in the offensive zone. If Player Y is being spoon fed defensive zone starts his ability to put up points is being hindered.

In terms of zone entries if a player gained the line with possession 20 out of 25 times it’s probably a reasonable bet to assume he’s normally good through the neutral zone.

Notes & Numbers

A couple notes before presenting the data:

– These numbers include all even-strength play (i.e. 5 v 5, 4 v 4, etc.).

– I sorted by league to make all the data easier to navigate.

– I didn’t combine international hockey to a player’s numbers in North America due to different levels of competition, larger ice surfaces, etc.

– Memorial Cup numbers have been added to a player’s league numbers since the level of competition is very similar. That means Leon Draisaitl’s numbers, for example, include what he did against WHL teams as well as what he did at the Memorial Cup against OHL/QMJHL teams.

– SAF and SAA are shot attempts for and against. OZS, NZS, and DZS are offensive, neutral and defensive zone starts. CE are controlled entries and EA are entry attempts.

Without further ado here are the zone start, zone entry and shot attempt numbers from the 2014-15 season for many of the top prospects in North America.

OHL

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WHL

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QMJHL

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NCAA

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World Hockey Championships

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Under 18’s

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By The Numbers: Kelowna Rockets vs Quebec Remparts – May 29, 2015

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Intro

Players tracked:

*2nd year eligible

Quebec – F Vladimir Tkachev (2015*), F Dmytro Timashov (2015)

Kelowna – F Leon Draisaitl (Oilers), F Nick Merkley (2015)

Final score: 9-3 Kelowna

Zone Starts

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Vladimir Tkachev started the game on a line with Dmytro Timashov but midway through they were separated and Tkachev didn’t play much in the latter half.

Dmytro Timashov started almost all of his shifts outside of the offensive zone until the very end of the game. He had three offensive zone starts (a couple as a result to icings) in the final few minutes. It was clear that Quebec had no problem with him starting outside of the OZ and they relied on him heavily to drive play up ice.

Nick Merkley and Leon Draisaitl are linemates and were once again relied upon to do the heavy lifting for the Rockets. They fared extremely well in doing so, which you’ll see below.

Zone Entries

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Vladdy Hockey had four controlled entries in the first eight minutes of the game, and just one in the final 52. More than anything that was a result of almost no ice time in the latter half of the game. Despite limited ice he was still excellent through the neutral zone and did a good job moving the puck in the right direction.

It’s not hard to see why Timashov started the majority of his shifts outside of the offensive zone. He’s a very good skater with excellent puck skills so he’s able to dance around defenders even when challenged.

Merkley was absolutely dominant through the neutral zone. He’s a great skater and his speed regularly forces defenders to back up and give him the line. There’s also always the option of dishing it off to Draisaitl which defenders have to respect. That often gives Merkley more space to work with.

Draisaitl wasn’t perfect but was once again very good through the middle of the ice. He’s not a burner but he has a great set of hands on him which makes him tough to defend in space.

Shot Attempts

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Tkachev didn’t bring his best possession game to the table, however, he went huge chunks of minutes without a shift at times which probably didn’t help his cause. One shift he was caught out for seven shot attempts against vs the Merkley/Draisaitl line and that killed his numbers. Beyond that one shift he was actually pretty good and his neutral zone work was excellent.

Timashov played about as well as you can in a 9-3 loss. He was effective through the neutral zone, came out positive in possession despite a good chunk of defensive zone starts and he also chipped in a power play goal.

Merkley somehow didn’t get on the scoresheet despite an excellent showing. He was perfect through the neutral zone and dominated in possession while starting just one of 17 even-strength shifts in the offensive zone.

Last but not least we have Leon the beast Draisaitl. He was excellent in all aspects of the game and that shows up in his underlying numbers. For the standard stat crowd he scored a goal, added two assists and recorded six shots on goal while also winning over 60% of his faceoffs. He was a man amongst boys in this one.

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By The Numbers: Rimouski Oceanic vs Quebec Remparts – May 27, 2015

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Intro

Players tracked:

*2nd year eligible

Quebec – F Vladimir Tkachev (2015*), F Dmytro Timashov (2015)

Rimouski – F Frederik Gauthier (Maple Leafs)

Final score: 4-0 Rimouski.

Zone Starts

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Vladimir Tkachev started the game playing on Antony Duclair’s line but moved to Dmytro Timashov’s line in the 2nd period. As a result they had similar zone start numbers. Both are good through the neutral zone and generally far well in possession in the games I track so starting them outside of the offensive zone isn’t a cause for concern.

Rimouski was the better team and carried play for most of the night so as a whole the team had a lot of offensive zone starts. Still, Frederik Gauthier was spoon fed as many defensive zone starts as he could handle. He played primarily against the Tkachev-Duclair line early on, and shifted his focus to the Tkachev-Timashov duo when they were put together.

Zone Entries

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Tkachev made good of his only entry attempt in this game. For the most part he’d carry the puck up through the neutral zone and dish it off to someone else before gaining the line.

Timashov was very good through the neutral zone. He’s a good skater and he possesses excellent hands which allowed him to elude defenders if he was challenged.

Gauthier was surprisingly good through the neutral zone. He’s not a burner and doesn’t ooze puck skills but he used his big, strong frame to power through contact and stick checks when necessary. I don’t see him as a dominant NZ guy but he was good in that aspect during this game.

Shot Attempts

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Tkachev didn’t get on the scoresheet but he was excellent in this game. His speed made him very tough to contain, and he was creating chances almost every time he touched the ice. It’s pretty hard to defend a guy when he’s setting up teammates while laying on the ice.

Timashov was in the same boat as Tkachev. He didn’t get on the scoresheet but he was still quite good in this game. When you can drive play at a near 60% clip despite starting more shifts in the defensive zone than offensive zone you’re doing something right.

Gauthier played the best game I’ve seen from him in the Memorial Cup. His possession numbers won’t ‘wow’ anyone but when you factor in he was spoon fed defensive zone starts and was perfect through the neutral zone it’s hard not to be impressed.

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By The Numbers: Rimouski Oceanic vs Kelowna Rockets – May 25, 2015

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After dropping their opening games to Oshawa and Quebec respectively, the Rimouski Oceanic and Kelowna Rockets squared off looking for their 1st win of the tournament.

Kelowna jumped out to an early 3-0 lead and, though Rimouski was able to make it interesting for a little bit, never gave up the lead en route to a 7-3 win.

For the Rockets I tracked Oilers prospect Leon Draisaitl as well as draft eligible forward Nick Merkely, while I kept my eyes on Maple Leafs prospect Frederik Gauthier for Rimouski.

Zone Starts

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Nick Merkley and Leon Draisaitl played on the same line in this game. Kelowna seemed hell bent on getting those two away from Frederik Gauthier so they essentially started in whatever zone Kelowna was in when Gauthier left the ice. Both have the ability to drive play up ice and produce offense so I don’t think the Rockets were overly concerned about that duo starting the majority of their shifts outside of the offensive zone.

Gauthier started a lot more shifts in the offensive zone as the game went on. Rimouski was down for almost the entire game and Gauthier is one of their best players so naturally he started more in the offensive zone while the Oceanic were trailing.

Zone Entries

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Merkley didn’t have many entry attempts because Draisaitl is the driver on their line, however, Merkely did show the ability to gain the line with possession in a small sample.

As per usual Draisaitl was a beast through the neutral zone. He’s not a burner but he gets around the ice better than most give him credit for and because of his puck skills and strength he’s very tough to stop.

I didn’t count any entry attempts for Gauthier. The Oceanic are a big, strong team and Gauthier doesn’t ooze speed/puck skills so often when he gained center he would just dump the puck in.

Shot Attempts

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There were 11 power plays in this game so the shot attempt numbers were a little lower than you’d expect to see from top players.

Merkley had a fantastic game scoring a couple goals and creating some glorious chances in the process, but he came out a little less than even in possession. He started more shifts in the defensive zone than offensive zone, though, so finishing almost 50% with three points is pretty impressive.

Draisaitl had a couple shifts away from Merkley throughout the game, and took on some heavier minutes, which shows in the numbers. Draisaitl still tallied three points, dominated through the neutral zone and came out close to 50% in possession despite starting just five of 17 shifts in the offensive zone.

Gauthier really struggled in this game. He started quite a few shifts in his own zone and struggled in the dot – he won 12/29 draws – which led to some shot attempts immediately after the puck was dropped. Rimouski also dumped the puck in a lot and failed to retreive those pucks on most occasions, which allowed Kelowna to grab the puck and take it the other way.

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By The Numbers: Oshawa Generals vs Erie Otters – May 15, 2015

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The Oshawa Generals hosted the Erie Otters in Game 5 of the OHL Final looking to advance to the Memorial Cup with a win, and they did just that.

After allowing the game’s 1st goal, Oshawa scored six of the next seven en route to a 6-2 win over the Otters.

Oshawa doesn’t have any high profile draft eligible forwards (they’re easier to track on TV) so I tracked Islanders prospect Michael Dal Colle for the Generals, as well as Connor McDavid, Dylan Strome and 2016 draft eligible Alex DeBrincat off the Otters.

Zone Starts

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The Generals are a big, powerful team and they don’t have a lot of guys that can drive play up ice and dominate through the neutral zone. Michael Dal Colle is one of the guys they have that can do that, which probably factored into why he started so many shifts outside of the offensive zone despite being the team’s leading scorer (in goals and points).

Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Connor McDavid are Erie’s three best offensive talents. This was an elimination game and Erie trailed for the final 39 minutes. They carried play for much of that time so naturally these three were spoon fed offensive zone starts.

Zone Entries

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Dal Colle didn’t have as many entry attempts as you’d expect someone with so many zone starts outside of the offensive zone, but he was perfect in his four attempts.

Oshawa is a very big, strong team and DeBrincat is an undersized player who is barely 17 years old. Oshawa’s game plan seemed to be to stand him up at the line and separate him from the puck. They did that well.

Strome failed to gain the line in two of his first three attempts. He then rallied off nine consecutive successful zone entries. He put forth by far the best neutral zone performance I’ve seen from him.

McDavid was once again dominant through the neutral zone. He plays the game at such a high pace that basically forces defenders to back off.

Shot Attempts

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Dal Colle struggled in possession in this game, but when you take into account score effects – Oshawa was defending a lead the final 39 minutes – and that he started 19 of 22 shifts outside the offensive zone it’s hard to expect much more.

DeBrincat wasn’t great through the neutral zone and he was spoon fed offensive zone starts, but his numbers were still impressive in this game. When he was on the ice much of the action was in Oshawa’s end.

Strome was excellent in this game. He created chances almost every shift and was exceptional through the neutral zone.

McDavid had a pretty good game for someone who was ‘shut down’. It didn’t reflect on the scoresheet – he had just one point and was on for a few goals against – but when he was on the ice Erie had a much larger portion of the shot attempts and scoring chances. McDavid was also dominant through the neutral zone. He didn’t get the result he wanted, but he was very good in what was his final game in the OHL.

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By The Numbers: Soo Greyhounds vs Erie Otters – May 2, 2015

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After dropping Game 5 in Sault Ste. Marie, the Erie Otters had another opportunity to put the Greyhounds away – this time at home.

They did just that, as Connor McDavid went off tallying five points in a 7-3 win.

As I did in Game 4 and Game 5, I tracked numbers for McDavid and Dylan Strome off Erie, as well as Blake Speers and Zach Senyshyn off SSM.

Zone Starts

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The zone starts numbers were much lower than you’d normally see because there was a lot of special teams play, so it was tough to decipher if Player X was starting in Zone Y because a) the coaching staff wanted them on the ice in that situation or; b) the coaching staff just needed to get them on the ice.

Zone Entries

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Strome didn’t have many carry-ins, but was successful in his limited attempts at evens.

McDavid was once again a beast through the neutral zone. When he gets going he’s nearly impossible to stop, and if you try and meet him at the line he can pull a rabbit out of his like this.

Senyshyn saw limited ice, but showed the ability to carry the puck into the offensive zone with possession. He’s an excellent skater, and generates good speed through the neutral zone, which forces the defense to back off.

Speers also showed the ability to drive play up ice. That’s probably why he has started 50% or less of his shifts in the offensive zone in all three games I tracked from this series.

Shot Attempts

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Strome had a very low-event game considering how many minutes he played. SSM won the shot attempt battle when he was on the ice, however, he started a good chunk of his shifts in the neutral zone, which is certainly a factor.

McDavid wasn’t dominant in terms of possession, but he still fared pretty well in that regard. Playing primarily against Darnell Nurse he came out basically even in the shot attempt battle against a stacked team desperate for a win. He was also perfect through the neutral zone and tallied five points on seven goals.

Senyshyn didn’t play a lot, but generally good things happened when he was on the ice. He had a few successful carry-ins, which led to several shot attempts.

Speers fared very well in possession. Erie is an excellent team, obviously, and he finished close to 70% in possession despite starting as many shifts in the defensive zone as in the offensive zone.

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By The Numbers: Soo Greyhounds vs Erie Otters – April 30, 2015

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The Erie Otters entered Game 5 against the Soo Greyhounds with a chance to knock out the favorite – the Greyhounds are the No. 1 ranked team in the CHL – but were unsuccessful in their attempt to do so.

As was the case Game 4, I tracked Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome for Erie, while I did the same for Blake Speers and Zach Senyshyn off SSM.

Score: 4-2 SSM (ENG)

Zone Starts

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Dylan Strome was used primarily for defensive zone faceoffs early on, but started more shifts in the offensive zone late in the 3rd while Erie was trying to tie the game.

It was clear Erie’s coaching staff wanted to make things as easy on Connor McDavid as possible. He’s still Connor McDavid and is capable of driving play up ice against anyone, but it’s a lot tougher when you’re playing against Darnell Nurse and have guys like Nick Ritchie hunting you down from behind in the neutral zone.

Zach Senyshyn really didn’t play much in this one.

Blake Speers is another guy who is pretty good at driving play up ice, so starting him outside of the offensive zone is not an issue.

Zone Entries

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As is often the case with Strome, he showed the ability to drive play up ice but didn’t do it all that often. Playing with a guy like Alex DeBrincat, who is also good through the neutral zone, takes some of the load off of him.

McDavid wasn’t as dominant through the neutral zone as he was in Game 4, however, he was still darn good — especially when you factor in who he was playing against. He’s almost impossible to contain with the dynamic skating ability he possesses.

Senyshyn and, to a much lesser extent, Speers didn’t play a lot so naturally their zone entry attempts were low. They made the most of them, though, combining to go 3-for-3.

Shot Attempts

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Once again Strome fared poorly in possession. Soo dominated from start to finish and he saw a good chunk of ice. His numbers reflect that.

McDavid coming out at 50% in this game is pretty ridiculous. He was spoon fed offensive zone (and neutral zone) starts, but he played against some of the best players the league has to offer and still came out even in a game where Soo outshot Erie significantly.

Senyshyn didn’t really play much and spent one of his few shifts caught in his own zone, so his numbers aren’t very good.

Lastly, Speers played a real solid game. He didn’t start one shift in the offensive zone and came out at 57% possession against a very good team. That’s tough to do.

**

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