Todd Cordell

USING NUMBERS TO LOOK AT THE NHL'S FUTURE STARS

Tag Archives: Connor McDavid

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

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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By The Numbers: Soo Greyhounds vs Erie Otters – April 28, 2015

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The Erie Otters were hosting the Soo Greyhounds on Tuesday night looking to grab a commanding 3-1 series lead before heading back to the Soo for Game 5.

Both teams are stacked from top-to-bottom and loaded with NHL prospects, but I decided to stick with draft eligibles in this one.

For Erie I tracked Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome, while I did the same for Blake Speers and Zach Senyshyn off SSM.

Score: 7-5 Erie.

Zone Starts

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Dylan Strome and Connor McDavid are arguably the two best players in the OHL, and they are quite capable of playing at either of the rink. I think the zone starts reflect that, as Erie didn’t seem too adamant about starting them in offensive situations.

Zach Senyshyn and Blake Speers are both very good players who play primarily in Soo’s bottom-6 because their absurdly balanced and talented lines. Head coach Sheldon Keefe has skilled players on all four lines, so I don’t think he was overly concerned with matchups besides getting Darnell Nurse out against McDavid.

Zone Entries

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Storm showed the ability to gain the line with possession, however, he wasn’t the go-to-guy on his line in that regard, as 2016 eligible Alex DeBrincat seemed to carry that load.

McDavid was dominant through the neutral zone. He possesses elite speed and high-end acceleration, which forced Soo’s defense to back off and respect him. That shows in the results.

Senyshyn is a real good skater who also showed the ability to safely carry the puck into the offensive zone. He didn’t play a ton – though he did take a few shifts with Nick Ritchie on the top line – but did well in his small sample.

Speers didn’t play a ton and started 50% of his shifts in the offensive zone, so he didn’t have many carry-in opportunities. He made the most of what he did have, though.

Shot Attempts

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Strome was on the ice for five shot attempts against on his first shift and he never really recovered. He blocked some shots defensively and did a good job of limiting the chances Erie allowed when he was on the ice, however, it still wasn’t a good even-strength performance. He helped make up for that with strong special teams play, as he scored a goal and tallied an assist on the man advantage.

McDavid didn’t have a great game in terms of possession, but he spent most of his time playing against a) Nick Ritchie’s line and; b) Darnell Nurse’s defense pairing. Those are tough matchups for anyone, and McDavid still came out almost even in possession while dominating through the neutral zone and recording four assists — including a beauty to Alex DeBrincat.

Senyshyn started just two of nine shifts in the offensive zone, and still did exceptionally well in possession. He showed why he’s rising up a lot of draft boards.

Speers had a really good game. He didn’t get on the scoresheet, but he created several chances throughout, and SSM carried play when he was no the ice.

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By The Numbers: Erie Otters vs London Knights – April 14, 2015

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Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters were in London to take on the Mitch Marner-less Knights in hopes of completing the sweep, and advancing to the Western Conference final.

With Marner out of the lineup, the lone Knight I tracked was Max Domi (Coyotes) while I kept my eye on a pair of draft eligibles centers in McDavid and Dylan Strome for Erie, as well as 2016 draft eligible winger Alex DeBrincat.

Final score: 4-2 Erie.

Zone Starts

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Alex DeBrincat played primarily on a line with Dylan Strome so their numbers were very similar. That said, when Erie was defending the lead Strome had a couple defensive zone starts without DeBrincat by his side, which explains the difference.

Connor McDavid and Max Domi went head-to-head the entire game – there were only a couple shifts they weren’t matched against each other – which is why their numbers are almost the exact opposite. McDavid had more offensive zone starts early, but when London was pressing late to tie it Domi was able to get some offensive zone starts in.

Zone Entries

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DeBrincat didn’t have a ton of entry attempts because a) Strome took some of them and; b) he didn’t start many shifts outside of the offensive zone, but he certainly showed the ability to gain the line with possession. He’s a very quick, shifty player so London’s defenders regularly backed off to ensure he didn’t blow by them.

Strome wasn’t dynamite through the neutral zone, but he also showed the ability to safely carry the puck into the offensive zone. His lone failure was when he was trying to accept a pass in stride and he was poke checked in the process.

A lot of McDavid’s shifts started on the fly so he had more entry attempts than Strome and DeBrincat despite similar zone start numbers. The offense runs through McDavid when he’s on the ice – as it should – and because of his high-end speed and pace London’s gaps were loose, and this was the result.

It wasn’t hard to see why Dale Hunter was confident matching Domi up against McDavid regardless of where his shifts started. Domi plays with such great pace, and is a dynamic skater, which makes him very effective carrying the puck up ice. He put forth a dominant neutral zone effort and made it look easy at times.

Shot Attempts

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DeBrincat started 70% of his shifts in the offensive zone, and played on a line with Dylan Strome, while avoiding London’s best defense pairing/forward line on a regular basis so it was less than surprising to see him post these numbers. Still, it was a good performance from him — he did what he was supposed to do.

I was really impressive with Strome’s game. He took a couple extra shifts away from DeBrincat in defensive situations, and still dominated in possession while tallying a goal, an assist, and getting sucker punched.

For a big name like McDavid you’d expect better numbers, but 50% is hardly a disappointing effort when you factor in a) he was playing against London’s best forward line in Domi, Christian Dvorak (Coyotes) and Matt Rupert, as well as London’s top defense pairing. I think a big part of the reason he didn’t come out higher in possession was that almost every time London gained possession of the puck Domi was safely carry it into the offensive zone, which led to a barrage of shot attempts.

Domi put forth an impressive performance in what will go down as his final junior game. Playing primarily against McDavid’s line he came out above 50% in possession, dominated through the neutral zone, and scored one of London’s two goals.

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2015 NHL Draft Eligibles: OHL Split Stats

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The NHL Draft is sort of like a stock market.

Past years matter, but who is trending up or down the most when the draft rolls around often weighs heavily on which prospects are chosen where.

With that in mind, one thing I like to do every year is look at a prospect’s games played totals, divide them by two, and tally up how many points said prospect records in each half.

The OHL regular season recently came to a conclusion, so I did just that.

There is a lot that goes into production – linemates, usage, etc – and this isn’t a perfect system, but generally it gives a pretty good idea of which prospects improved as the year went on, and which prospects failed to sustain early season success.

To start, I charted the nine highest scoring draft eligibles from the OHL, and sorted them into a top-tier (OHL defensemen and the 2nd tier of forwards will be featured in later posts).

Below you will see the 1st half production, 2nd half production, and the differential – either positive or negative – for those nine prospects.

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Oddly enough, Connor McDavid’s scoring rates were identical in the 2nd half of the season. Ideally you’d like to see higher totals in the 2nd half, but McDavid is so far above the rest and sets such a high standard that it’s almost impossible to improve on his totals.

Both Mitch Marner and Dylan Strome improved on their 1st half totals, but the difference was insignificant.

Travis Konecny entered the season regarded as a potential top-5 pick – and top-10 lock – but didn’t produce much out of the gate for a variety of reasons (including injury). His production rose significantly in the 2nd half, though, as he saw the biggest differential out of all OHL draft eligibles. In the 1st half he posted a respectable .87PPG. In the 2nd half he put up points at a 1.4 per game clip. That’s over a .50PPG difference. He’ll rise in draft rankings accordingly, I imagine.

Pavel Zacha possesses a ton of talent, but due to a) playing on a mediocre team and; b) missing a bunch of time due to injuries, suspensions, and the World Juniors he never really got going. Given all he went through it’s actually pretty impressive he almost produced at a point per game clip.

Lawson Crouse is another guy who took off in the 2nd half. Part of that is the return of Sam Bennett, but Crouse’s point production was improving prior to Bennett’s return. If he wasn’t already graded so highly by most services he’d be looked at as a riser. Say what you want about him, but 6’3′ prospects who average over a point per game (for the 2nd half, anyway) don’t come around all that often.

Nikita Korostelev started the season pretty well, but his production has dipped in the 2nd half. I haven’t seen him/Sarnia enough to pin point exactly why his production has dipped, but he is still a prospect I like.

Blake Speers tore it up in the 1st half of the season, averaging over 1.2PPG. His 2nd half production dipped a fair amount, but he’s still averaging over a point per game. As much as anything, I think his decrease in production could be attributed to playing a lesser role after deadline acquisitions such as Sabres prospect Justin Bailey and Ducks prospect Nick Ritchie joined the Greyhounds.

Lastly we have Dante Salituro. He’s a very small guy – listed at 5’9′- so naturally he’s not ranked highly by a lot of people despite his impressive point totals. It’ll be interesting to see where he goes come June.

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