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USING NUMBERS TO LOOK AT THE NHL'S FUTURE STARS
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.
World Hockey Championships
If you use or share this data, please cite this blog as the resource. Thanks!
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.
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.
If you use or share this data, please cite this blog as the resource. Thanks!
With several high-end draft eligibles – Lawson Crouse (KGN), Travis Konecny (OTT) and Dante Salituro (OTT) – squaring off in an important Eastern Conference clash on Sunday, I decided to track some numbers considering I was going to watch the game anyways.
I usually like to track two players per team – anything more than that is very time consuming and hard to keep up with – so I decided I’d throw Kingston forward, and LA Kings prospect, Spencer Watson into the mix. He’s a guy who put up huge numbers last season, but was selected towards the very end of the draft because he’s undersized.
Anyways, here are the numbers…
Kingston is a very defensive minded team (2nd last in goals for, 3rd best in goals against) and they love to ride their top guys, so it shouldn’t be surprising Crouse and Watson were given the toughest of assignments, especially considering Kingston was playing with just 15 skaters in this one.
Both Crouse and Watson are above average skaters and are capable of carrying the puck into the opposing end with possession (you’ll see those numbers below) so I can understand the heavy defensive usage. That said, ideally you get your two best forwards some more OZ starts and give them a real chance to make something happen.
As for Konecny and Salituro, it was clear Ottawa didn’t want them starting shifts in the defensive zone, at least at evens. Those are the 67’s two most prolific offensive players, and they were given favorable zone starts whenever possible. Surprisingly neither registered a point in Ottawa’s 3-0 win, but they both created some chances.
There’s nothing too crazy here. The two best forwards off both teams carried the puck safely into the offensive zone more often than not. Regardless of where you rank Crouse, he’s not without skill, so it’s not surprising that he enjoyed some success in this aspect of the game. All of these guys can skate and possess above average puck skills.
Given the lack of offensive zone starts, it was pretty impressive to see linemates Crouse and Watson drive possession at better than a 50% rate. For the most part they were matched up against Ottawa’s top-6 forwards (Konecny on L1, Salituro on L2) so it wasn’t as if they were playing soft competition. Crouse and Watson dominated possession in the 1st period, but Ottawa controlled play for the final 40, perhaps due to fatigue with Kingston having a short bench.
Konecny started slow, but was better as the game went on. He generated quite a bit of offense in the 2nd period, though in the 3rd his line seemed more concerned with eating clock in the corners than generating offense. As a result, they didn’t get many shot attempts despite spending most of their time in the offensive zone.
Salituro was decent, but considering he only started one of 16 shifts in the defensive zone you’d like to see some better numbers.
If you use or share this data, please cite this blog as the resource.