Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Caleb Jones is the Bakersfield Condors MVP

I was going to wait to call something like this until I had every player's data worked out; on ice and individual; with-you and without-yous, video review too and so on - but by the time I got to sorting everything out for Jones I'd seen enough and started to alter the outline and frame of this piece to reflect his status as the most valuable player for the Bakersfield Condors this year.

It was a bit of a worry, Jones's player-identity lines up with my preferences in a defenseman (the kind I would ice six clones of) and we'll get into what that means, but the trouble was essentially that I was getting ahead of myself based on the eye-test before I had the data to challenge and adjust the perception that was forming, which is always something you want to avoid in either direction. This was also after the early part of the NHL audition he earned, where I was very impressed with his third pairing work and had no expectation of success to disappoint when it came to his entirely too early 'promotion' to Larsson's pairing.

In fact, I remember the exact play when I realised the player had - crucially - taken his eyes and his sense with him to the NHL, while keeping the heart rate in a healthy range. It's that point when you realise that someone gets it.

It's kind of funny that at the time, and still now, I can't really tell if this is something of little significance that bias is blowing up because of the trauma we know as Oilers fans from watching defensemen puck-watch or puck-chase or be puck-paralysed in this exact situation so many times, or if instead it was a cue that an unbiased, normal, non-Oilers-watching-brain-having person would take note of.

After tracking another 16 games where the shot-share dominance persisted (probably more-so than I have recorded because of the score-effects of the recent win streak) I started to want to pick out the strong-links, find who the drivers were. Marody and Benson were obvious suspects, but they've always been outscored understandably by the glued-together veteran line that was better at busting cycles in the defensive zone, and generally more consistent at puck-recovery as a trio all of elsewhere in the rink.

But I also had noticed Jones many times, doing things that you seem to pick up on when you're a tracking project like this. A lot of the stuff that we went through in my Sekera post, the back three-quarters. Picking the puck out of traffic in the defensive zone and wheeling away, testing forechecker's cardiovascular facilities, solving the puzzle of the neutral zone with a neat pass. The type of play that you encounter if you're watching a strong possession defenceman for the first time in awhile.


A fortunate part of my confidence in the identification of Jones as the main engine on the blueline at 5-on-5 is courtesy of the fact that his tracked games were split up in such a way that's sometimes rare for regular defenceman. In my sample - which is an accurate reflection of his season; all but five of Caleb Jone's games in the time period are tracked, and the time period tracked is up to February 9th - he's played on a default pairing with Stanton ~43% of the time, Lagesson 48% of the time, and the other games were with Gravel.

The reason that this is fortunate is because of a problem that's always run into: Whether you're model-building, pursuing a wider view by informing yourself of a player's stats (advanced or traditional), or even just using the eye-test, is that the difficulty of accurately dividing up blame and praise for any player's contribution to any given situation is a large part of the fundamental and daunting barrier of analysing the game - that's much more easily scaled when you have both a large sample size to draw from, in which there's a large array of teammates (of varying qualities and identities) to help isolate the player's effect on the game.

So, what'll happen a lot with defensemen is that they'll end up playing a ton with just one partner, meaning their time apart with which you're trying to solve a question based on an assumption (they're both good together, but who is better apart is the better player) often has a couple major maladies: the sample size is small, and the player that is better in the coach's eyes plays the harder minutes away from their regular partner. Say there's a defense pairing with one savvy veteran and one talented rookie - when the rookie is already in the process of sheltering by virtue of playing with the smart established player, it logically follows that that rookie's situations away will be soft ones where the coach is capitalising on the tactical vulnerabilities of the opposing team, and the veteran's ones will be mostly spot duties where the vulnerability is his team's own.

This is a solved problem in my sample when it comes to Jones's defense partner, and with the forward line teammates. Jones' pairing is typically the top/tough comp. one (my partially-educated guess, though, is that Woodcroft runs a top-four style Dcorps as opposed to there being a top-pairing and two others) and so they do play more with the top-six forward group the Condors ice by virtue of both who they're deployed against and the fact that they play the largest portion of game-time and so do the top-six forwards.

In terms of shot-events, I manually went through and counted each that occurred where Jones was on the ice with one centre and no others. Around 16.9% of such events with Marody, 20.1 with Currie, 30% with Malone, 17.7% with Vesel, and 15.3 with Esposito.

Given that our sample then has a good division between both defense partners and forward lines, I'll assert that if, for the majority of them, their better minutes are with Jones as opposed to without him, we can safely assert that (within our sample) Caleb Jones is the man most pushing the possession margins for the team on an individual basis.

Let's find out if that's the case, starting with the two defense partners that Jones started and spent the vast majority of his 5-on-5 minutes with for 90% of the games in our sample:

This is pretty stark. I imagine that it's somewhat likely the inequality of possession in the AHL between teams and their players is greater than in the NHL, as teams have raced (for longer) to close those gaps in the highest league where they were first noted, discussion, and subsequently addressed to the point where CF% is less likely to predict GF% than it was in the past - and this discussion (in public) hasn't really occurred in regards to the AHL.

What I mean is that a player with Jones's ridiculous shot share (64.47 CF%) is perhaps a lesser standout (percentile-wise) in the AHL than the NHL.

I'm attempting not to fawn.

Below is the same deal, but with the centres. One detail of note is that since these are events that occurred when each centre was the only centre on the ice, excluded is the minutes spent the recent line of Benson-Marody-Currie (which were probably positive shot-share) and the season-long phenomenon of DZ faceoffs with whatever centre plus Luke Esposito taking the draw (which were probably negative shot-share). Another is a reminder that we saw Benson, who played on one line for a majority of my sample in my previous posts (the profile on him and the update on the team) crank up the shot share for the team in a major way. Does he or his line with Marody pull up Jones's numbers?

There's a sore thumb here (and in the next) that I'll address real quick: The Josh Currie numbers are a result of a few very successful lines deployed in the beginning of the season when the Condors were especially dominant on the shot clock, combined with four later games where the Benson-Currie-Puljujärvi line essentially torched every 2nd shift for 3-7 shot attempts, resulting in dumb stat-lines like 26-5 CF-CA goosing some already strong numbers to the point of absurdity. It should be mentioned, though, that most of those dominant shifts were (as we see here) spent with Jones and given what we know so far, it's fit to wonder how much the defenseman figured into that equation.

Again, the uniformity here does a lot of the work for you in terms of figuring out who's doing what. The important bit here is that the two taller blue pars are representing a pairing that, as we've seen above, the centres do worse away from. This is a boat-floating player, in terms of possession.

Let's wade into goals. More specifically, shot-shares against goal-shares, team-wide, Jones-on versus Jones-off.

Something that has to be noted before we do, though, is that the numbers I'm now going to be using are going to be the ones that are recorded officially by the AHL itself. They're not limited to my sample, and so I won't be speculating on the difference between the shot and goal-share as if the delta is from the exact same set of games, just games from the specific time period (start of season up to and including the game on February 8th, 2019). Essentially the question to be answered is, how much were the shot-shares from my sample representative of goal-share of the team over that period of time in totality?

Interestingly enough, goals outperform shots when Jones is off the ice, and shots outperform goals when he's on. The shot-share dominance is still too large - the goals can only wander so far from it (typically goaltending only goes between .890-.930, shooting 5-11, you're not going to end up south of 50% goals if you're pushing 60% of the shots very often once the sample size grows large enough) for it to go into an awkward place where the possession is essentially for naught. Still,  Jones not standing out in 5v5 primary points per hour either (that stat ranks the Condors regular six in the order of Day, Stanton, Jones, Lagesson, Bear, Lowe) prompts an exercise in establishing whether or not there's a bunch of inflationary corgis baked into this thing offensively.

Turns out, in terms of conversion, Jones has the typical talented young defenseman effect of increasing the GF/60 to a great extent and the GA/60 to a lesser one en route to his net beneficial effect to the team's goal differential over time. Credit should be given to Woodcroft for cashing this, because it's a gambit that commonly has been rejected outright by traditional hockey coaching and management staffs - to their profound disadvantage - for at least the past decade-plus that we have the data to reference, and likely many before.

(For those interested in how I got these numbers - you're not going to find them by googling - these estimations were the product of grabbing the estimated TOI and player-level and team-level on-ice goals for numbers from, and then using the fact that NHL teams played 48 minutes 5v5 per game on average this season and using that as a rough reference to give the Condors 2352 5v5 minutes played given their 49 games played at time of writing. Then I just divide and conquer the on/offs from there.)

Remember the breakdown of partners from earlier? The defensemen Jones was partnered with for 90% of the games I tracked (and, since I still watch the games I don't track, I can tell you that ratio applies to all Condors games, or close) are 4th and 6th among the Condors six regular defencemen. That primary implications (if these estimations are close to accurate) of that, in my view are population two:

  1.  Jones' GF/60 would likely be even greater if he were partnered with better offensive facilitators.
  2.  The theory of Jones' numbers being inflated by the possibility that he could have been deployed in the most favourable situations (most minutes with the top-six, offensive zone draws, OTF abuses, weak competition) takes a bit of a hit when you see a lead this large over his partners in those minutes - for the record, I'd also wager the third pairing with Logan Day gets the most red meat in terms of deployment. 
Even I didn't expect that he alone would be the primary driver of actual goals per hour on the blueline.


An exercise of interest for me, under the umbrella of post-mortem team analysis, will be to dig into how much of the Condors shots-for at 5-on-5 come from defensemen, or from the point in general - and then slice that up into each different player and how they effect that. From a visual standpoint, Jones doesn't have the best shot of the Bakersfield Dcorps but he certainly finds himself or others in tighter on a more regular basis and is exceptionally (among this group) aggressive in jumping up in the play. Only Logan Day is similar in that regard, but he certainly doesn't pick his spots as well.

It'll be interesting to observe whether or not Jones' on-ice GF% will come closer to his CF%, and if it does whether or not that's via the share of the shots decreasing or the conversion-rate/save-percentage increasing; and all of the same in regards to the inverse situation of the Jones-off hours.

Last thing on the hard possession numbers: There's a split in performance from before he departed to the NHL, and after. There was some talk from Ken Hitchcock right after it was announced Jones was to be sent back down, the coach putting forth that the player had lost confidence and was in a bad place on the ice and off. That could be one explanation for the splits, but Jones has also put up 9 points in 10 games since returning to the AHL. I'll suggest the team is playing different games now, they're leading more, their overall possession advantage has eroded slightly (but goal differential has improved) as you'll learn about in my next team update if that difference is still present at the time of publishing. This likely combines with a readjustment to the game he plays in the AHL as compared to the one he does in the NHL; the shift that's likely more comfort than confidence based.

Let me give you a look at the early game logs; and mind this is also a good demonstration of what the game-to-game CF-CA splits of a player who puts up near 3:2 ratios really looks like. We'll move on to the video after this - and you'll see what I mean when I talk mentioned the different 'game he plays in the AHL' - but check out this run:


I want to start by reintroducing the division of a defenseman's game that I used to contextualise my look at Sekera's return to pro hockey, that you can read about in the beginning of that piece.

Jones lays waste to the AHL in this area, but I want to cut the back three-quarters in half again - though not by area. I want to instead mark the difference between a set, proactive play and a broken, reactive play. It would be significantly more difficult to communicate this distinction so cleanly with one clip of one ~30 second run of hockey time, but luckily there was a great example within those parameters to be found.

To quickly brief you on it, the first part is a clean breakout by the Condors where they lure each of three Roadrunners, pulling them far enough to make a backcheck mightily inconvenient and sendin Jones on his way for a clean-to-clean exit-to-entry. The brain is there on this play, but so is the head-up, four-way mobility by Caleb himself, especially in the last pass out of the zone where he seperates from his check far and fast before receiving the puck. Later, you'll see an example of Jones taking advantage of the timing and spacing of the opposition, on a more broken play, that he must react to.

When I'm tracking games, the primary goal is to get all of the data down accurately and quickly. Aside from that, I've also made a habit of marking down specific time-stamps of plays to return to and clip, with just short words or phrases making an umbrella under the massive array of unique sets of play that happen in the game of hockey. One of them, is 'stop'. It's when a player that's in front of the puck stops the flow of play in their direction; 'stop and go' is when in that same stopping motion there's an immediate and successful pivot that sends the play safely (for their team) and dangerously (for the other) back the way it came.

One can break down every little part of a player's game on video in equal-ish partitions, but it's much more efficient to take a combination and blow it up for the majority of the analysis if your goal is to give the best impression of both a player's identity and how effective they are with it and I'll show you now how it works: Here's a compilation of Caleb Jones stopping, going, and his 'stop and go'.

There's a lot of common themes here. The opposition generally doesn't know if he'll pass or skate; when or where he'll do either. There's a useful hesitation (Oilers fans will know what useless hesitation looks like) that fakes out opposition without Jones' forward linemates running out of track. This area of the game (the reactive half of the back three-quarters) is just so important in the environment that is the neutral zone in today's professional hockey game.

An argument that plays like in the clip above are the majority reason that Jones drives possession is a convincing one; the same if you're arguing that he sets himself up well for an NHL future by doing this at twenty-one years of age. Add to that the commonality between what Jones brings and what the Oilers lack and it's hard to imagine a 2019-20 season that doesn't see Jones in Oilers silks for much of the campaign, barring injury.


The offensive zone game is where Jones's ability is less unique, but still effective enough to become an NHLer - though if he'll be powerplay-playing defenseman is better left to a scout or one of those sort than I. He's not being groomed to be one, I haven't done a ton of work on the Condors powerplay but often they'll play two defencemen and in points it's a split between Logan Day (who's essentially deployed as an offensive specialist), Caleb Jones, and Ethan Bear. Of the 26 PPP earned by defensemen on the team, those three make up 22 of them: Day with 9; Bear with 8; Jones with 5.

I'll top off my doubts with a two-parter that I have of Jones' powerplay game that I feel pretty accurately represent what his impact is at the 5-on-4 game-state. Phrased shortly, he's as good as you'd assume (based on his 5-on-5 back three-quarters game) at facilitating the zone entries, which is critically important, but just regular good as a distributor once everything's set up. Here's an example of the Condors entries, two unique-ish ones regular speed and the default, go-to ones sped up:


Below is an opening clip of what illustrates Jones' ability to take and make a pass that's beneficial on at 5-on-4, followed by a series of clips that gives a good reflection of what's the game-by-game, more unassuming participation of Jones on the Condors' powerplay. He's not Erik Brannstrom (who has a billion powerplay points in this league as a teenager) so it's more a matter of getting your teammates to the latter stages of what becomes a scoring play than directly participating in them.


I want to make a quick pivot to the player's shot, and goal scoring. Jones' goals come from hard slapshots, and that's primarily the setup for his shots - where he leads the Condors with 2.29 shots per game all-strengths - as opposed to trying to sift wristers through, and he'd rather use a slapshot for an inside-out deflection (from the centre-slot, say) than a slap pass for a outside-in deflection - backdoor tap-ins and the like. Here's the player's clean goals.


As you could probably guess seeing as the player facilitates offense as opposed to being a point-producing passenger, he's pretty close to full value on his assists. Some of them are more remarkable than others; being plays that essentially span the whole ice surface, turning a blocked shot or pass against into a fast break goal. Here's some of my personal favourites.


At this point, I hope to have hypnotised the reader to exhaustion, and that their brains are now fertile to any conclusion I'm willing to put forth due to the sheer enormity of labour in writing this piece overpowering any opposition . That the mountains of evidence are so vast that even if I've interpreted them incorrectly, there's no easy defense against a turning-handle mounted machine gun spitting out innumerable falsehoods.

Seriously though, I do hope that I've made a persuasive argument for Jones as the most successful Condor, but before that or anything else I hope the most that I've given a good snapshot of what Jones has been this season, and the type of AHLer he is. I hope that someone who's never watched Jones or the Condors at all this season gets a good impression of what the prospect does well and how well he does it - and that regular observers of the team or closer examiners of Oilers prospects have their knowledge base expanded as well.

I'll end now, as in my profile of Tyler Benson, with my prescription: It'd be wise to not outright gift a third-pairing role on the Oilers to Jones outright, but believe your eyes if you see that he torches all competition for that slot; between NHL hopefuls and NHL veterans alike.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Slick Reggie Wheels; Stunts on Stint

Imagine you're Andrej Sekera.

You stubbed your toe (actually, got your toe stubbed by some strange sadistic man) and then fell down a staircase immediately after recovering and then have to patiently recover while your team rolls around in a puddle of gasoline. Pressure mounts as your return comes closer on the calendar, the fanbase's collective anxiety builds a house of cards of emotional stability.

Then, you escape the frigid landscape to California, play your first hockey-game hockey in relative ages, and some dude on the internet records every one of your shifts and writes down everything that happened in them.

What a world.


The early seen-him-good takes are out, and I'm not about to contend with them (I seen it too) but rather contextualise where he was good, what I know and don't know, and for those inclined provide the picture the data invokes in its admittedly miniscule sample.

It's a lot easier to do this deal with a guy we know because I'm not exactly starting from scratch in terms of my understanding of the player, and my understanding of the fanbase's understanding of the player.

Every good son & daughter loves Andrej Sekera's work as an Oiler for the same reasons, more or less. He's (arguably?) Chiarelli's best addition on the blueline, he was the first free agent to say "Connor McDavid", and he was the first top-four defenceman the Oilers just got in a while. When he or Klefbom took on tough competition for the majority of the 5-on-5 time that type of competition was on the ice for in 2016-17, fans could watch the team in the back three-quarters of the ice wondering (with some degree of calmness) how they were going to get out of this one, as opposed to wondering how they were going to get out of this one. Sekera and Klefbom gave the impression that if they were ever in possession of a hand-grenade, they were at least going to handle it deftly.

The back three-quarters is a distinction I'm going to use to split the focus of the video review of Sekera's game. Before we check out the February 8th game, let's get one thing out of the way:

  • I'm not trained, educated or particularly well-read on  anything skating conventions and form, nor am I particularly adept at sussing out where the exact line is for each individual player's skating that, should they fall below it in ability, significantly hurts their capacity to help the team when they're on the ice. I can tell a fast skater from a slow one, I can tell who's quick, who has a "plus" first couple steps, but in the most populous part of that bell curve of NHL skater's skating level, I can't tell the 55th percentile from the 45th. I'm not going to pretend to be the ultimate arbiter on this player's skating and whether it will or won't be an issue because that's not my current capacity.

What I can tell - because of its undeniable demonstration - is whether or not a player gets somewhere on time.


When I watched the Condors' games this weekend, I was thinking about what's missing on the NHL team's blueline, and what would be the antidote for the game-to-game issues that ail the team.

Part of the opening barrage of verbal from Ken Hitchcock in his first month of press availabilities (or perhaps it was in the videos that I looked up) was the introduction of a tempo-based phenomenon in hockey he called the three-quarter ice game. It was described as something that arises when one team is hemming the other in, abusing change timings and reducing their attempts to move up the ice to uninspired, soft chips out past centre ice before high-tailing it to the bench. This probably sounds familiar to anyone mercilessly punishing themselves with regular viewings of the Oilers for the past weeks, as the Oilers have the league-worst score & venue adjusted shots-for rate at 5-on-5 in the NHL over the past 25 games.

It's a team concept, and one that's effectiveness you can't exactly bring with you in your suitcase from farm to big-leagues as any particular individual player. So we're not looking for, say, how often the Condors ground-and-pounded the other team when Sekera was on the ice. Rather, we're looking for what he did individually to react to each time the puck (intended to) come out of the offensive zone, or started there. How did he help to defuse rush attempts, muffle carry-in attempts or outwit forecheckers on the recovery. What's the reaction - and is it a good one - to the puck coming down the tracks at him, or when he has the puck and a forechecker is on his way? Perhaps most importantly, is he up to the pace of a professional game?

(Of course, this also has great utility for my untrained eyes to figure out all things mobility, given that how quick you close - or separate - is half of everything that happens)

Here's a compilation of plays that are lumped together for a reason you'll implicitly understand (all of my readers are sterling intellectuals) as you watch. If you read or watched nothing else in this article, this video would give you a good idea of what people mean when they're writing or talking about Sekera looking good so far.

Bonus theatre, from here to the end, is getting a good look at #37 William Lagesson as well.

They're all plays that, whether or not the situation demanded it or not, the middle of the ice is used to make a play that is on its surface perhaps more risky, but is in fact the safest, cleanest play to get the puck moving the other way.

As is familiar, Andrej Sekera has this kind of nifty way of tricking checkers, like in our profile of Benson (and with all intelligent players), he wants the first layer of checking to come as close to him as possible. It makes their road back to the play longer, and the gaps in their frame (five-hole, triangle) larger by virtue of them being closer and therefore easier to pass through.

Obviously Sekera being able to make these plays shouldn't be surprising and is largely irrelevant, but I feel the frequency with which he's making them speaks to confidence and trust in a newly recovered body.

Let's pivot to three-quarter ice shifts where possession was established by the opposing team; shots or chances against occurred; etc. Essentially the collective failure to regain possession, and the role Sekera played in it. Shallow pool, by the way, he was on for 4 shot attempts against at 5-on-5 total.

(These will all be colour-coded like past projects because there's no common thread and I need to note specifics)

Red has Sekera toiling away, playing inside on his checks pretty well with maybe a second and a half of letting a bad screen sit, but gets the first step on his man when the puck actually comes his way. A bit too casual on any distribution from there and he turns it over, but he still tailed the puck carrier enough for it to lead to nothing.

On orange an opposing forward definitely has positioning and space on Sekera, but a combination of Sekera closing quickly and the forward having seemingly no interest in even trying to use his speed has the play passed out to Lagesson's check and Andrej just follows his man effectively.

With blue, Yamamoto and Sekera end up with an awkward situation and giveaway a pretty easy exit opportunity, but you'll recognise the later part of the clip where Sekera gets pass past the opposing point man. Shortly after, Lagesson makes a nice outlet pass for an Actual Possession Exit.

Black marks a smart, already aggressive gap being closed and the support Andrej knows he has lets him step in and just knock the puck off of the carrier's stick. Sekera's D partner Lagesson kind of just gets baited by the Barracuda floating and threatening to split the D at the blueline and the outside guy is wide open for the pass with speed. Lagesson then makes up for his mistake quite well and takes him to the wall, but ends up with a holding penalty in exchange for the extra sauce.

Red's a play you might have seen on Twitter, where Sekera just seemingly accidentally crushes someone. Before all that, though, he's got a good stick on everything and never wanders, which is a theme.

The puck hops over Starrett's stick in the play marked orange, which is fun. The key part here is the recognition to stay inside on the Barracuda closing in case the puck bounces their direction, and then the wherewithal to make a better play than just blasting the puck up the boards with his head down (which is a deficiency of the major league team) and fakes like he's going to, to boot.

Starrett tosses Sekera an absolute grenade in the next play, late and far out from the wheelhouse. A bit of a freeze follows but he emerges with the puck and gets pretty clearly held, so an unfortunate sequence. The next time the puck arrives, Sekera ends up taking two Barracuda out of the play physically (?) and the sortie is solved from then on.


Moving onto the question that should always tag along with watching for this or that: In total, what happened? We can use the eye test to examine each event, but what we last saw and what was the most memorable play can cloud our recollection of what happened in aggregate. The tracking project this data is (exclusively) from has doubled its sample size to 32 games now; so the numbers from this explainer-post aren't up to date but this is a good briefing on what I'm trying to do.

Also, I'll note that nearly every shift was spent with William Lagesson, whom Sekera has talked about playing alongside in Jim Matheson's piece here, and that these numbers are from both games combined at 5-on-5, not just the February 8 game featured in the video.

Metric - Sekera on / / Sekera off

CF - 38 / / 76
CA - 20 / / 55
CD - +18 / / +21

FF - 20 / / 51
FA - 10 / / 33
FD - +10 / / +8


And there you have it, folks, a psychotically detailed report on two games played by a hockey player who's just trying to get his legs under him; warm up the hamstrings.

We'll be going back to player profiles now, but I can also post the shift-by-shift compilation of both of Sekera games on YouTube if it's requested since I gathered it already for this piece. I'll link it here and/or post it on Twitter if so sometime after work today; 8-10 MST.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Woodcroft's Corsi Condors & the Guts of the Project

About a month ago I realised that if I only published the numbers from my tracking project for the Bakersfield Condors after every single player was up to date with each of the data points I was tracking, I'd be doing this stuff way further past real-time updating than I wanted to be, maybe even into the summer.

I found this unacceptable; so instead we're going to build this thing on the fly.

For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, over this AHL season I've been manually tracking certain events that I find invaluable for evaluating both what a team is attempting to do and how much they're succeeding at it, and sussing out the same in terms of individual player's identities and how much they're succeeding with them.

This post is both an update on the project and an attempt to get out in front of some of the questions readers may have about the data I'm citing (sometimes as the focal point) in upcoming player profiles like the one published yesterday featuring Tyler Benson.

I've been compiling the following data-points:

Team Totals of-

  1. Shot Attempts For; Against
  2. Unblocked Shots For; Against
  3. Offensive Zone Carry-in Attempts; Successful Carry-ins; Failed Carry-outs/Turnovers
  4. Offensive Zone Pass-in Attempts; Successful Pass-ins; Failed Pass-in Attempts
  5. Offensive Zone Dump-in Attempts; Set Play Dump-ins; Recovered Dump-ins; Set Play Recoveries; Failed Dump-ins/Turnovers
  6. Defensive Zone Carry-out Attempts; Successful Carry-outs; Failed Carry-outs/Turnovers
  7. Defensive Zone Dump-out Attempts; Set-Play Dump-outs; Recovered Dump-outs; Set Play Recoveries; Failed Dump-out/Turnovers

Individual Totals of-

  1. Shot Attempts 
  2. Unblocked Shots 
  3. Shot Attempt Assists 
  4. Unblocked Shot Assists 
  5. OZ Carry-in Attempts; Successful Carry-ins; Failed Carry-ins/Turnovers 
  6. OZ Dump-in Attempts; Recovered Dump-ins; Failed Dump-ins/Turnovers 
  7. DZ Carry-out Attempts; Successful Carry-outs; Failed Carry-outs/Turnovers 
  8. DZ Dump-out Attempts; Recovered Dump-outs; Failed Carry-outs/Turnovers

How I define each of these may vary from others' understanding of them, so I should flesh that out. A lot of these are based in my individual philosophy of what the optimal play in hockey is, and what is the true importance of events as well as other tweaks that are purely my arbitrary distinctions that are not necessarily and airtightly based on empirical data and undeniable evidence. I'll willingly internet-argue about them until either of us dies or my mind is changed; the latter I promise is possible.

I'll also note that the following is entirely optional reading for this piece. This is pure nuts-and-bolts stuff, and isn't at all necessary to understanding what I'm doing and what the data is or means. If you're familiar with micro-stats concepts and don't really care about the minutiae of what's under the hood, skip it. To easily get past it, ctrl-f the phrase 5-on-5.
Shot Attempts - On-ice and Individual

One place where I may stray from others in shot attempts is that I think an individual fanning on a shot is still a shot attempt. I think this is important because if a player makes a good pass or the team is controlling play, I don't want poor execution by the individual shooting to deflate an event that was earned by the other four players on the ice or the passer. It also adds to the distinction between players who get more of their shots on net, players who can work with hot passes and operate within checking distance. It also adds to a distinction between guys whose passes end up legit shots, getting passes in a guys wheelhouse where it's easier to get a good shot off. Another reason I think this is important is because you're going to have to arbitrate this either way at some point along the spectrum between fanning on the puck so much it barely moves, and fanning on the puck but it still hits the net. A player can flub a shot completely, or they can not get all of it. When does it turn into a shot attempt? If it hits the net or not? What happens to fanned shots that miss the net? Aren't they still valuable in terms of being able to redirect? You run into this issue at some point whether you want to or not.

Additionally of note; I count shots from outside the blueline as successful dump-ins (not necessarily un-recovered or recovered though) and not individual or on-ice shots, even if they hit the net - unless they result in goals. I understand this is heretical because those are absolutely still shots technically and that they've resulted in goals before. I compare it to how the NHL doesn't count shots from behind the net as shots on goal unless they bank off of the goalie/a player and go in, resulting in a heatmap of scoring likelihood (blue is shots that have  below 6-point something percentage of resulting in a goal and orange are shots above that, forget how it was constructed) looking like this:

(Via Emmanuel Perry, by the way)

A third difference is an on-ice distinction - This may be more heresy, but if a player leaves for the bench and a shot for or against happens immediately after another player replaces them, I'm giving that event to the player(s) who left the situation unless the replacement makes it to the blueline. This works in the DZ to punish the bad changer and not the replacement, and in the OZ to reward the defensemen who were on for the successful break-out and not the guy who changes on into a favourable (in shot event terms) situation. Obviously change effects aren't eliminated by this choice of mine, but the more extreme change-based punishments/rewards are.

The reason I don't record actual SOG is because one, I don't typically use SF% in evaluation for a variety of reasons; and two, it's already recorded by the AHL and so I can use it without recording it manually and to inform where big gaps from FF and SF exist. There's also a second witness in this way.

Zonal Transition

Let's define the distinction between a success and a failure. To me, a successful carry-out or carry-in means the player fully crossed the line both technically and in effect. What I mean by in effect is this: by NHL-style, video-review, photo-finish maybe a player crosses the line completely with the puck before getting rubbed out along the boards without any puck support and turning the puck over, but that's still a failure to carry the puck in because the effect is the same. If you don't make it five feet into the OZ before turning the puck over, I don't think any hockey coach is going to consider your turnover not a blueline turnover, the fatal kind, just because you technically did or didn't get across the line. I decide at what point the carry-in is successful on a case-by-case basis, with a focus on whether or not the puck supports existence or inexistence is of the player's volition. Meaning, is he attempting an carry-in entry to the offensive zone while his entire team is changing and turning the puck over, resulting in a headman pass to an opposition forward who hard-punishes the wholesale change for a breakaway chance? Or does he get separated from the puck at the exact moment his puck support arrives, who picks up the loose puck with ease and the going gets going?
In this way, a recovered puck is never a failure. I split credit for individuals who recover the puck on dump-ins, because that's the way forechecks work most of the time. The first forward comes in, disrupts the defending team's recovery of the puck and attempt to break out the puck by separating the recover-er (typically but not always a defenseman) from the puck and the second forward collects. In that situation, both guys get 1 credit for a recovery. In the rarer situation where it's a one man show busting an attempted breakout and recovering the puck all by himself, I give him a 2

What follows is the team totals data that I feel comfortable publishing right now. What I mean in terms of comfortable, is that I've vetted these numbers fairly heavily and feel they're at a decent enough sample size. In terms of distance from being published, I'd say more shot-events data is closer to being here, and zonal-transition team totals are a bit further away, and zonal-transition individual totals are the furthest away in our timeframe. Right now, a lot of stuff (all the zonal transition data) isn't to my standards of publishing, but that also means it's not under the hood when I'm posting player profiles and pieces like that. The only information I'm citing in those posts is the on-ice numbers that follow, as well as the individual players' shots, shot assists, and on/off data that'll be released as each player is profiled and all fit into what we see here. None of the data that's unpublishable is being used or cited in a black-box manner.

5-on-5 Shot Attempts

The games I have tracked are purposely diverse in terms of opponent and date. I have games from each month fairly evenly, none of the months have groups of games all in a row tracked, except for the four games Jesse Puljujärvi played because I was very curious about them. To be transparent, each of the game reports are listed below.

(I'll also add the AHL-recorded all-strengths shots-on-goal totals along with the amount of powerplay opportunities for each team to 'show my work' in verifying that my records aren't out of the realm of reasonable from what the league themselves have on record. The way this works is we're going to look at where any of my 5v5 shot attempt totals are much different from what the AHL-recorded all-strengths shots-on-goal ones are, and then check if the amount of powerplay opportunities given to each team could have resulted in the total numbers getting goosed either way by one team getting, like, 10 more powerplay shots from being awarded 3 more powerplay opportunities. Remember that this is a fairly crude instrument because not all powerplays or powerplay opportunities are equal in shot generation rate or duration. To be clear: The 5v5 data is mine, the All-Strengths totals are from

October 20th vs. San Diego Gulls


CF - 72
CA - 33
CD - (+39)

All-Strengths (PPOP)

SF - 49 (5)
SA - 23 (3)
SD - (+26)

October 27th vs. Stockton Heat


CF - 48
CA - 34
CD - (+14)

All-Strengths (PPOP)

SF - 30 (7)
SA - 24 (1)
SD - (+6)

November 16th vs. San Diego Gulls

CF - 76
CA - 34
CD - (+42)

All-Strengths (PPOP)

SF - 47 (2)
SA - 40 (7)
SD - (+7)

November 17th vs Colorado Eagles


CF - 41
CA - 20
CD - (+21)

All-Strengths (PPOP)

SF - 42 (5)
SA - 25 (1)
SD - (+17)

November 20th vs Colorado Eagles


CF - 43
CA - 54
CD - (-11)

All-Strengths (PPOP)

SF - 30 (3)
SA - 30 (3)
SD - (0)

November 23rd vs. Ontario Reign


CF - 58
CA - 49
CD - (+9)

All-Strengths (PPOP)

SF - 33 (4)
SA - 30 (6)
SD - (+3)

November 24th vs. Ontario Reign 


CF - 41
CA - 29
CD - (+12)

All-Strengths (PPOP)

SF - 29 (5)
SA - 33 (5)
SD - (+4)

November 29th vs Ontario Reign


CF - 46
CA - 36
CD - (+10)

All-Strengths (PPOP)

SF - 37 (4)
SA - 25 (7)
SD - (+12)

December 5th vs. Manitoba Moose


CF - 50
CA - 56
CD - (-6)

All-Strengths (PPOP)

SF - 31 (1)
SA - 32 (1)
SD - (-1)

December 8th vs. San Jose Barracuda


CF - 55
CA - 22
CD - (+33)

All-Strengths (PPOP)

SF - 35 (7)
SA - 18 (1)
SD - (+17)

December 19th vs. Stockton Heat


CF - 56
CA - 41
CD - (+15)

All-Strengths (PPOP)

SF - 42 (2)
SA - 31 (4)
SD - (+11)

December 22th vs. Colorado Eagles


CF - 45
CA - 48
CD - (+3)

All-Strengths (PPOP)

SF - 35 (4)
SA - 35 (4)
SD - (0)

December 31st vs. Ontario Reign

CF - 58
CA - 34
CD - (+24)

All-Strengths (PPOP)

SF - 31 (4)
SA - 31 (4)
SD - (0)

January 5th vs. Tucson Roadrunners


CF - 59
CA - 37
CD - (+22)

All-Strengths (PPOP)

SF - 35 (5)
SA - 24 (3)
SD - (+11)

January 9th vs Texas Stars


CF - 49
CA - 54
CD - (-5)

All-Strengths (PPOP)

SF - 30 (3)
SA - 26 (2)
SD - (+4)

January 18th vs Stockton Heat


CF - 47
CA - 31
CD - (+16)

All-Strengths (PPOP)

SF - 36 (5)
SA - 20 (6)
SD - (+16)



CF - 844 (52.75 per game)
CA - 612 (38.25 per game)
CD - (+232) (+14.50 per game)
CF% - 57.97%


SF - 572 (35.75 per game)
SA - 447 (27.94 per game)
SD - (+125) (+7.13 per game)
SF% - 56.13%

PPOP - 66 (4.125 per game)
TSH - 61 (3.81 per game)

I figure another important point here is to find out whether or not I've selected games where the Condors generally have a better powerplay opportunity differential than in the rest of their games that aren't tracked. This could also pollute the sample; what if the games I've selected have, in aggregate, the Condors getting more PPOP for and less against (and from there more all-strength shots-for than against) than they usually do, which would cover up the possibility that I've been too generous a shot-tracker to Bakersfield? The AHL website's team stats section has records of this and has the Condors are 161 powerplay opportunities, and 162 times shorthanded. Over 42 games, that's a rate of 3.83 times on the powerplay per game, 3.86 times shorthanded per game. Given that our sample's rate of PPOP is above and TSH below, we can infer that the group of non-tracked games have an even lower rate of PPOP and higher rate of TSH than in our sample in order for the total rates of the tracked and non-tracked games to land in the middle like that.

So, if we assume there's a normal distribution in regards to AHL team's shot generation on the power-play (meaning the Condors, and their opponents in aggregate, all get effectively close to the same average amount of shots-on-goal per powerplay opportunity) the all-strengths and 5-on-5 numbers seem fairly close and allow for a small amount of a great many possible factors, like perhaps the Condors getting more of their shot attempts from the point or from sources unlikely to register shots-on-goal (more on that in the future) result in the difference there. Perhaps the penalty kill is poor and allows more shots-on-goal than the powerplay registers and that pulls the all-strengths numbers down. If none of these (or a multitude of other factors) are true to any degree, then the only remaining one is that my tracking is generous to the Condors. This could always play a factor, but given the fact that the AHL-tracked numbers are in the same neighbourhood it's unlikely that many points I'm going to be making by drawing on the data I've tracked is fully invalidated by this effect.

Either way, it's useful to the readership to spill the guts on the results of an audit like this (however flawed) so that they (you) can better inform your own decisions and takeaways from my writing.

And now, what we've all been waiting for, Actual Hockey Goals, even-strength, from the AHL themselves.

Even-Strength Goals for and against

GF - 102 (2.45 per game)
GA - 84 (2.00 per game)
GD - (+18) (+0.45 per game)
GF% - 54.84%

There you have it, folks. Even with the considerations listed, I'd posit that the Condors are a shot volume team and that this has translated into a strong even-strength goal differential, though some gets lost along the way. By video, this is a McLellanite team through-and-through. I don't mean this as an insult, but if you watched the early 2017-18 Oilers team, the Condors operate a lot like them in the way they pursue their goals. The breakout is along the boards, and the offensive-zone play often consists of going low-to-high after a dump-in retrieval and hammering the opposition with point shots.

We'll get to a video and zonal transition data based analysis and critique of these things in time - in terms of the team and individual players - but since I'm launching my profiles of individual players using some of the stuff I've tracked so far, I figure now was a good time to update everyone on my processes, and on the early results in totality to give you a good idea of where I'm at in a macro sense of dissecting this team.

I hope this pre-emptively answers most of the questions people have about where I'm at with everything and how I'm managing the endeavour; and gives a better idea of what I'm setting out to do and some of the obstacles that stand in the way. I look forward to publishing more player profiles as things go along and updating them as the project starts to more resemble its finished form.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Player Profile - #16 Tyler Benson

The following is an except from the intro of an upcoming article of mine that talks about the status of my tracking project for the 2018-19 Bakersfield Condors:

About a month ago I realised that if I only published the numbers from my tracking project for the Bakersfield Condors after every single player was up to date with each of the data points I was tracking, I'd be doing this stuff way further past real-time than I wanted to be, maybe even into the summer.

I found this unacceptable; so instead we're going to build this thing on the fly.

For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, over this AHL season I've been manually tracking certain events that I find invaluable for evaluating both what a team is attempting to do and how much they're succeeding at it, and sussing out the same in terms of individual player's identities and how much they're succeeding with them.

One of the players I have a decent enough sample size (16 games;) to share the data for is one of the Oilers fanbase's deserved intrigue: LW Tyler Benson.

I've got his individual shot events vetted and ready to go, so I thought I'd give a profile on his work this season so far. The following is entirely from the 5-on-5 game-state.

On-ice Totals:

CF - 222
CA - 112
CD - (+110)
CF% - 66.47%

Condors without Benson:

CF - 622
CA - 500
CD - (+122)
CF% - 55.44%

iCF - 42
iCF/GP - 2.63

iFF - 34
iFF/GP - 2.13

iCFA - 67
iCFA/GP - 4.19

iFFA - 55
iFFA/GP - 3.44

(iCF is an individual shot attempt, iCFA is a shot attempt assist, iFF is an individual unblocked shot, iFFA is an unblocked shot assist. I should also mention that I only count primary shot assists; there is only one assist credit given out for each shot - if there is one - and it goes to the player who makes the last pass before the shot is taken)

So, spoiler alert - you'll see this in the team-based post - the Condors are a strong possession team (in my sample), and look to drive their collective 54.8 even-strength goalshare (a data-point from their 42-game body of work that I grabbed manually from available stuff on and by sheer shot volume. Benson succeeds through this system to a staggering degree in my sample, but remember that if he plays the 13.01 5v5 minutes estimates him to, we're only looking at about 200 minutes here.

They're a McLellanite team, a lot of their breakout style runs along the walls and the way that they're heavy shot-blockers combines with hammering from the point in the offensive zone into a system that in effect reminds me most of the early season 2017-18 Edmonton Oilers - and I don't mean that in an inflammatory way. Again, more on this in the team-based post.

Benson is in the upper group among the entire team in many areas and vies with Marody for the lead in passing categories. The Condors will often times utilise a hard top-six type deployment, where Benson plays on a skill line with some of Marody, Hebig and Currie. The other main line always features Malone at centre, often with Gambardella and Russell or Christoffer and they bear such responsibilities that indirectly inflate Benson and co's possession shares.

He was centred by Marody or Currie (often with both splitting centre duties, again McLellan-like) 14 of the 16 games, spending the other two with Tyler Vesel in games where Woodcroft spread the wealth - typically games where Cameron Hebig was his opposite wing.)

His most impressive game in puck distribution was November 17th versus the Colorado Eagles, where he assisted nine shot attempts and seven went unblocked. On December 19th versus the Stockton Heat, he had seven shot attempts himself and assisted on 7 more shots attempts.

Benson's sense and his understanding of checking is the reason he scores, but his sense and his understanding of timing is the reason he's dominant territorially. Woodcroft's Condors love to break out like McLellan's Oilers, but when Benson's on the ice he appears to be trusted to take plays through the middle and frequently finds teammates moving up the ice after he takes the first pass from a defenceman on the breakout.

I could show you a million clips like this, where he makes things very easy on his teammates:

And then once he's in-zone, there's a number of tricks up his sleeve. He's a crafty forechecker  and disrupter of breakouts, knowing just how to punish turnovers. Note too his positioning in front of the net on the Bear goal, and how he frequently occupies would-be shot-blockers or keeps defensemen engaged on him. A favourite move of his, which you'll see a couple examples of, is the spin-o-rama or behind the back pass:

(The following also features a slick play by Ethan Bear)

But he was perhaps at his strongest in the forechecking discipline when he was paired up with Puljujärvi during the latter's dominant stint in the AHL this year.

In the second part of the last clip, you can see Benson use his edges to shake a check, which is extremely important for him to be able to do because although he does want to draw attention to himself by holding onto the puck, he's not of the frame to bully checkers physically like a power forward might. Because of this combined with his inability to outright burn opposing players with speed, he's essentially got to be able to both know where he's going to send the puck far before he lets it go, and pass through layers of checking when he does. He's usually able to do so.

Should Benson play at the next level, you'd get the most out of him by playing him on at least your secondary powerplay unit. He often plays off of the half-wall, but given his threat level behind the net, he's likely able to perform as a goal-line player as well.

We should note that Benson's outsized shot share hasn't fully translated into goals-for percentage. His GF% via prospect-stats is still 55% and +3.46 relative to team, and it's not uncommon in the NHL for rookie players (who go on to be good NHLers) to have a similar effect of impacting possession before the goal-share catches up.

A certain factor is his own 4.55 shooting percentage at all strengths, despite sharing the team lead in total shots-on-goal with 110. He's still figuring out how to beat professional goalies, which is certainly a hint that the organisation is doing him a great favour in letting him develop on the farm. If he had an individual shooting percentage closer to some of his fellow teammates who also play leading roles on the power-play, he would have closer to 10-11 goals - putting him right at a point per game in the AHL.

He doesn't, and I believe the time at which he advances through this phase is an indicator for or not he plays years on a second line in the NHL, or a third, should he make it. There's enough work here at an early age to suggest it's more likely than not he plays 100 NHL games in an organisation that operates like Edmonton does, but there's also a chance for much more. His elevated scoring play when partnered with other NHL-calibre futures like Jesse Puljujärvi, Cooper Marody and Kailer Yamamoto reads like a player who can play-up in terms of offense, which in tandem with the players ability to extend offensive zone play and get the puck there in the first place gives him a chance to be the complementary third-best offensive player on a line that scores well during the hardest game-state of the hardest league.

My prescription would be to leave he, Kailer Yamamoto, and Cooper Marody together on the farm to give all three the best chance to be full-time contributors to the 2019-20 Edmonton Oilers.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Early look at scoring vs. scouting in the first semester of the 2019 draft class

The early draft rankings are coming through now, and draft boards are coming into view - especially the names who will go in the first round, the names that will go in the first ten. 

As such, it should make for a fun exercise to see where the lowest-ranked highest-scorers and highest-ranked lowest-scorers are, to provide a snapshot to (casually) follow the relationship between scoring data and draft ranking throughout the year.

First, lets' get an idea of what this scoring-based ranking would have looked like last year, for players whose game-logs I could get a hold of.and have played enough for clear even the low bar we're using for samples.

That's CHL, KHL, MHL, SM-Liiga, SHL guys - no Junior Europeans, Junior A, NCAA, USNTP or USHL guys (which kills a lot of this, but we'll get them next time).

It'll be interesting to observe a few things here:

  • Are the players close at all to their end-of-year rates, on average?
  • Do guys with larger discrepancies' draft rankings change before or after their scoring picks up? As in, do scouts identify guys who will likely score more later in the year, or do they adjust their boards after?
  • Which leagues are the most volatile? Is it ones with sample size differences due to schedule, or men's leagues because overall scoring is lower so each point changes the rate dramatically?
  • Do European forwards generally receive an uptick in scoring later in the year due to earning the coach's trust for more 5-on-5 and powerplay time?

Easiest guess is that players who play in European leagues will have established close to their p/gp,  with CHL players on and off as a generality. Possible muddying factors for those CHL players could be players pre-trade, and subsequent heater, like Joe Veleno. Injured.

Draft Selection - Player - November 16th P/PG / / Final P/PG (Difference) midterm to final ranking change

#1 -Rasmus Dahlin - 0.44 / / 0.49 (+0.05)

(#1 to #1 EU)

Dahlin was the consensus #1 by his D-1 U20 WJC where most North-Americans first saw him and stayed that way. Very stable point production mirrors that.

#2 - Andre Svechnikov - 1.40 / / 1.64 (+0.24)

(#1 to #1 NA)

Svech went from a race between him and Zadina, to being a standalone #2, to competing (within the draft discourse) for #1, and his second-half contributed to that.

#3 - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - 0.39 / / 0.51 (+0.12)

(#9 to #6 EU)

Kotkaniemi was the draft's most famous riser, and his uptick in SM-Liiga towards a Laine/Puljujarvi point pace, along with a strong U18 tournament finish was responsible for that.

#5 - Barrett Hayton - 0.85 / / 0.95 (+0.07)

(#6 to #9 NA)

The second most famous riser (perhaps because of his controversial rankings where some had him top-5 and others 15-30) was an interview riser and a VOD review riser - by that I mean he looks better on second watches due to his hockey IQ, as opposed to the first watch where he doesn't draw your attention with puck skill or shooting.

#6 - Filip Zadina - 1.38 / / 1.44 (+0.06)

(#2 to #3 NA)

Zadina was the combine and interview faller, which blesses some team outside the top-5 every year.

#9 - Vitaly Kravstov -  0.31 / / 0.18 (-0.13)

(#10 to #3 EU)

This is misleading because I didn't include playoffs, where Kravstov got to see some ice and scored a bunch of powerplay goals, leading to the best U18 KHL playoff run in recent (?) history.

#10 - Evan Bouchard -   1.10 / / 1.30 

(#5 to #4 NA)

Bouchard began rising when London sold off their players and he started to pathologically dismantle cowering OHL team's penalty kills and become the spooky puck-mover we now know.

#12 - Noah Dobson -  0.82 / / 1.03  

(#8 to #5 NA)

Dobson had both a sustainable rise in the late-season and a Memorial Cup run, in another year he would have gotten into the top-10, just as he was on plenty of rankings.

#13 - Ty Dellandrea -  0.70 / / 0.88

(#76 to #25 NA)

Dellandrea was the hipster pick where scouts probably were saying something like "I had him as a first-rounder in November) He was also just a guy everyone wants to succeed. Flint was and is awful, and I will observe him as an extreme case in quality-of-team and its effects on prospect scoring.

#15 - Grigori Denisenko - 0.56  / / 0.71 

(#4 to #7 EU)

Denisenko is and was the skill eye-test pick version of Hayton, I'd call him a VOD riser but he was already in this range. The MHL is strange, no other league gets players drafted more independently of their scoring rates.

#17 - Ty Smith - 1.00 / / 1.06

(#14 to #14 NA)

Ty Smith was only good because of Anderson-Dolan who was only good because of Kailer Yamamoto. Or something. He's a should-have rose that also shouldn't have had to rise.

#18 - Liam Foudy - 0.17 / / 0.62

(#91 to #19 NA)

This is the ultimate riser. Family, combine, rate rise, interview. Which is what it takes to get drafted at #18 with 0.62 P/GP in the OHL who is not even a late-birthday. London wasn't even truly bad either.

#20 - Rasmus Kupari - 0.28 / / 0.36

(#6 to #11 EU)

Fairly stable scoring rate, as we'll see for a lot of the men's league guys who have already played 20 games by this point. A rare faller with an inverse scoring rate, who appears to just be the victim of being a non-riser surrounded by risers.

#21 - Ryan Merkley - 1.30 / / 1.06

(#21 to #45 NA)

Merkley fell in the draft for reasons other than his scoring, but it is interesting to see the amount of in-season heaters the scoring defensemen have. Something to remember.

#23 - Isac Lundestrom - 0.39 / / 0.36

(#3 to #8 EU)

Another stable guy in the men's league, Lundestrom's offense was underrated the entire draft year. Fell past Kaut, Kotkaniemi, Kravstov, and Ginning (???) rises.

#27 - Nicolas Beaudin - 1.00 / / 1.01

(#36 to #31 NA)

Very stable in both counts. Slight scouting rise could be due to the slanting of the draft towards his player-identity. 

#29 - Rasmus Sandin - 1.00 / / 0.88

(#15 to #11 NA)

Sandin didn't come over to the Soo at first so his sample size is smaller than other CHLers. VOD (he's a clean in execution, cerebral player), Mem. Cup, draft-slant rise.

#30 - Joe Veleno - 0.95 / / 1.33

(#13 to #8 NA)

The most mysterious faller. We can speculate between his apparent lack of dynamic skill, perhaps bad interview, combine, maybe he's a bad-looking second-watch player. Either way, this is the only player who not only drastically increases their scoring rate, but also rose in rankings, yet fell - hard.

#31 - Alexander Alexeyev - 0.76 / / 0.82

(#26 to #22)

Slight scoring rise, slight ranking rise, went right around his rank - there's typically 5-8 EU players in the first round so if you're mid-20s NA you're going right at the end of the first, or early 2nd. He's also a guy that missed some time early, played 14 of 22 Rebels games by this time last year.

This isn't a study, no strong conclusions can be made from this one-year look, and if I write scripts to grab this stuff easily I'd have a since-2010 mega-list and we could pull actual statistical trends.

The upside, however, is that these names are fresh in our minds (I think) and we remember the atmosphere of the draft day and the chatter before and after the picks.

We can see that you can kill discussion between yourself and someone else, as a prospect, by throwing up a 0.20 P/PG increase over the competition like Zadina did, or Evan Bouchard. We can also see that usually, rate-increases will result in ranking increases of varying levels, but it can be thrown out on draft day.

Also, some guys completely off the scoring-rate radar can sneak all the way up to the top 15.

As for prospects who are ranked highly respite their scoring rates, like Hayton, they can stay there in the area even if they get passed and don't meaningfully increase their scoring above the competition.

NHLe versus the Dobber Consolidation

The ranking we're going to use is the consolidation done by here.

Four lists from Oct 22 to November 5th are included, sources are Future Considerations; Craig Button; Cam Robinson; Steve Kournianos. They range from top 62 to top 109 in quantity, we'll be cutting it off after 29.

The metrics are point-per-game adjusted through Emannuel Perry's factors, which are the same concept as NHLe's past but use intra-season data instead of inter-season data, and the relationship between leagues below the NHL in order to get factors for leagues where no player goes straight from to the NHL. In general, it's strong on players playing in  European men's leagues, doesn't like USHL and NCAA players (I think this may be because most USHLers will go straight into the NCAA and get freshman minutes, artificially delaying their scoring-arc, and because the database he used has no separate conferences of the NCAA). I'm also strong on men's league Europeans, but I think the USHL/NCAA thing is a fault in the database, because different conferences in the NCAA have vastly different NHLe's - like in Vollman's, where the NCHC is just as hard to score in as the SM-Liiga.

So, you get a situation where a player scores a ton in the USHL, goes to a tough-conference NCAA team and scores little because of the strength of the league and the lack of EV/PP minutes freshmen get, and all of the sudden it looks like his USHL scoring didn't matter at all.

I don't pretend to know the ground-truth, but that's my theory on why his 0.09 NHLe (compared to the OHL's 0.17) is so harsh on USHL players.

(The same applies to some U20-playing European players who don't have the trust of their SHL/SM-Liiga coach when they're elevated)

To balance it out, I list a second NHLe, a per 82 number using Vollman's factors. For USHLers, I use the QMJHL's factor arbitrarily. I use Perry's factors through a per-82 for 2nd tier EU leagues.


#1 - Jack Hughes - 0.15 Adj. P.GP / / 30.60 NHLe

As mentioned previously, Emmanuel Perry's adjustment doesn't like USDP/USHL players as much as I like them. Strange to say about a centre without size at #1, but Hughes has a significant eye-test factor because he's in the Nathan MacKinnon range in terms of skating - whatever's just below Connor McDavid. He's spectacular in a translatable way, and so I think Kakko would have to approach Barkov's scoring rate in Finland and the team drafting first would have to be thinking of Kakko as a centre or Hughes as a winger for there to be a switch here. It should be noted, though, that because Hughes is staying in the league he is, he'll have to start scoring more in order to take a real step forward from last year. This is even noted by scouts. He will legitimately have to separate himself in a meaningful way from Kakko in order for the debate not to heat up.

#2 - Kappo Kakko - 0.29 Adj. P/GP / / 20.74 NHLe

This is the opposite case to Hughes for our metrics. 0.29 is a tad higher than Petterson's 2017, as a comparison. Monster prospect, and with his frame and ability he is going to arrive next fall. At this point it appears he's going to lead the field in the adjusted points unless Hughes blows up above-curve. Kakko's in the Laine-Puljujarvi-Kotkaniemi range below Barkov and could end up being the best player between the three of them. In terms of his junior scoring at each age-season from 14 up, he follows Puljujarvi's path most closely, and should emerge earlier because of an enthusiastic organisation and coaching staff wanting their #2 draft pick to succeed.

#3 - Vasili Podkolzin - 0.12 Adj. P/GP / / 9.76 NHLe

Here's where rankings begin to wander away from scoring rate implications - this is a pure tournament pick in my view. There's a beginning of a trend now with the MHL, where purportedly, strange things happen with ice-time and deployment, plus team-strength. That's not an out-there claim, considering in the KHL rookies will get anywhere from three shifts, to seven minutes of ice-time a game. According to the league website, the player's getting around 15 a night though. Nevertheless, forwards drafted out of the MHL lately are plucked indiscriminately from their scoring, there are five U18 MHL forwards with higher points-per-game than Vasili, but he scored a billion goals at the Hlinka. He's described as a dually physical and cerebral player, which I can appreciate.

#4 - Dylan Cozens - 0.20 Adj. P/GP / / 31.4 NHLe

A very stable candidate. This is a player with size, skating, and an "I've arrived" D-1 season of hanging around the neighbourhood of point-per-game in the CHL. This is a guy who's unlikely to move around too much, and is pretty reasonably ranked compared to his scoring. If skating can get Liam Foudy and Alex Formenton drafted very early, Dylan Cozens should surely keep him ranked very favourably considering he scores well. This 0.20 range has served as a good cutoff for  me in looking back through other drafts, it's the home of Kotkaniemi, Zadina*, Bouchard, Lundestrom, Hischier*, Glass, Necas and Vilardi from the past two drafts. It's a marker that says they'll likely arrive very early to the NHL and be pushing hard in their 1st and 2nd NHL camps.

*Nico and Filip were in their first year of North-American hockey, which has a temporary, material depressing effect on scoring rates near-universally among prospects that rebounds with more experience - meaning they're stronger scorers than their first year shows.

#5 - Kirby Dach - 0.24 Adj. P/GP / / 39.14 NHLe

If the draft took place right now, Dach should the first taken after Hughes and Kakko, and thought about for a time by both teams selecting before #3 as well. These are completely obscene numbers and are put up by a 6'4" centreman. It's splitting hairs between him and the prospect Leon Draisaitl was, except Dach's a better skater per reports. 17 5v5 primary points in 22 games according to prospect-stats, which is pushing towards Andre Svechnikov territory. If he truly goes outside the top-5 like some lists have him, he'll be the first to step from that range straight into a full NHL season, I think, depending on team strength.

#6 - Bowen Byram - 0.11 Adj. P/GP / / 18.45 NHLe

This appears to be a prospect from the Noah Dobson range, which makes it surprising to see him up high in a draft with an extra row of elite-ish forwards in it. He's got all of the assets that scouts lean into when it comes to defensemen - mean-streak, skating, leadership - but he'd need to seriously increase his scoring rate to give the impression that he's going to be a strong powerplay option and producer in the NHL. Definitely another large divergence from where the data stands today, and I doubt if he and every other player continues on-pace it'll hurt him by draft day because his a player-identity that goes high every year.

#7 - Alex Turcotte - N/A / / N/A

Turcotte's been injured, but he's another guy up high from this famed 2001 USNTDP class. In terms of projecting him based on his D-1 scoring last year, he seems to be in the Joel Farabee range. He's a centre though. Also mirrors Farabee with his two-way reputation.

#8 - Trevor Zegras - 0.13 Adj. P/GP / / 50.51 NHLe

The third from the USNTDP dream-team, who will either deliver on their promise, or be taken too high because of the affects of both driving each-others qual-team (with Hughes at the helm) and the fact that they're all in the program during their draft year, compared to other high-end guys who left for the NCAA due to age. On the surface, it looks like there's an Eichel-level guy and then 4-5 more Clayton Keller level scorers in this draft all from the same program. It'll become the stuff of legends any way the draft ends up going, good or bad.

#9 - Matthew Boldy - 0.09 Adj. P/GP / / 36.9 NHLe

The stuff of legends. At any rate, this is another USHL-NHLe problem case and it'll be very interesting to follow, but there's not much more to be said about it just yet. A lot of these guys are interchangeable, though, and seeing where they all get drafted if they all continue to score parallel to each other should be revealing in terms of scouting practices and how they deal with with-you, without-you problems.

#10 - Peyton Krebs - 0.19 Adj. P/GP / / 32.87

Peyton's listed at LW or C depending on where you're at, my understanding is he's playing centre for his team at the moment. Remember the company of the 0.20 line, Peyton is the reliably significant scoring prospect ranked below a few who aren't. His frame (5'11") is one where, when you see scouts have him ranked high, you can follow with an assumption of strong skating, sense, and two-way play.

#11 - Ryan Suzuki - 0.24 Adj. P/GP / / 37.55

As you can see, Suzuki is underrated here and his #11 spot here is actually just the result of sitting a few rankings in the #5 area he deserves according to the data, and others in the #15 range where he's a stronger scorer than all but a few ranked above him. The fine print? He's got a sky-high secondary assist rate that takes a 0.72/GP chunk out if you exclude it. Which should be done with caution, given the existence of one Mr. Mathew Barzal. Still something to keep an eye on.

#12 - Raphaël Lavoie - 0.15 Adj. P/GP / / 25.20 NHLe

Lavoie is a prospect of goal-scoring fame, and brings just that at an equal level on-paper to anyone but one standout in the class. He scores goals like Dach, Kappo and is 6'4", but is also the oldest prospect named so far, by a lot. He's just at the cutoff area, September 25th, and his 30-goal season last year would be a better comparison for a lot of the younger goalscorers in the class. A bright spot, though, is that he's not on any kind of heater but just a very reasonable (for a junior star) 14.29% shooter

#13 Philip Broberg - 0.08 Adj. P/GP / / 6.75 NHLe

This is another skating pick. By any commentator I can find he's truly exceptional on his feet and that'll get you gone early. Scoring wise, his draft-minus-one year was a dead-ringer for Robert Hagg's, down to the decimals, well below offensively-gifted players in their 16-17 year-old season like Boqvist and Brannstrom. This makes it difficult, because if he can skate circles around everyone, with requisite hockey sense he should be scoring more, because right now he's in the range of guys who need a few years in the AHL and then third-pairing work to see what you have. I'm all about skating defencemen, but they have to know where they're going.

#14 - Alex Newhook - 0.10 Adj. P/GP / / N/A NHLe

Here it is, the pick that's going to set Twitter on fire. The BCHL is extremely sketchy to draft from, and it has NHL scouting departments in some cities thoroughly in love with it. In June 2016, Tyson Jost, Dante Fabbro and Dennis Cholowski all left their seats very early and only one has truly arrived so far in the NHL as players like Chychrun, DeBrincat, Girard, McAvoy and Mete leapfrog them in NHL so far. There's miles more of story to tell on everyone from the 2016 draft, but what we do know is that the scoring rates have something to say in terms of arrival time when it comes to Jr. A.

(Author's note: I realise earlier that I didn't mention this when talking about the point adjustment, but my argument for the USHL players applies also to the AJHL/BCHL players - they go to the NCAA and have depressed scoring rates for a couple of years unless they're an exceptional prospect, which pulls down the average.)

#15 - Cole Caufield - 0.10 Adj. P/GP / / 34.44 NHLe

Cole's going to be a very interesting selection. He may be the best goal-scorer in the class, his 23 goals in 32 games in the USHL games of the U18 team last year stands as good as anybody since Thomas Vanek's 2000-2001 USHL year. In terms of other development program guys, there's Matthews at 20 in 24 and then Caufield, but Caufield did his 4 months younger. He's got 7 goals in 5 games now in 2018-19, and with the strength of this team and his pure scoring talent it's going to be an all time number in the 'by-far' category, in terms of U18 USHLers.

#16 -  Cam York - 0.07 Adj. P/GP / / 19.09 NHLe

York's the best defenseman on the dream-team. He's in the Adam Fox area, which is a rich neighbourhood in a world where Fox has 12 points in his first 5 games to start his junior year at Harvard. Decent trade throw-in, no big deal in my opinion. Really though, it's a worry when you're looking at a guy who's on the powerplay with playmakers and shooters of this calibre. There were point-per-game defencemen for miles and miles last draft, not so this year, but on data this is still too high.

#17 - Arthur Kaliyev - 0.20 Adj. P/GP / / 37.49 NHLe

Kaliyev is a potent goal-scorer whose unbalanced game spooks scouts a bit. He's tied for the lead in adjusted goals per game, but has been described as an Owen Tippett type archetype whose fall is in advance of that comparable. Teams love goal-scoring talent, but even Oliver Wahlstrom left the top-10. And interesting follow, considering his on-paper playmaking is as strong or stronger than many ranked ahead and contrasts against his labeling.

#18 - Victor Soderstrom - 0.07 Adj. P/GP / / 5.16 NHLe

Vic has 1 pt in 9 SHL games, and 8 in 14 SuperElit games. You'd want him to be around 2-3 points per 9 games in the men's league and closer to point-per-game in the SuperElit to warrant being picked here or above - 12 or 13th, where he's sometimes ranked, against the backdrop of recently selected SuperElit guys like Boqvist and Brannstrom. It's tough, though, because if he's right in the Klefbom range. It's a scouting pick to be sure, but one that I don't hate. It's still hard to separate him from a guy like Albert Johansson in the exact same class.

#19 - Matthew Robertson - 0.11 Adj. P/GP / / 14.86 NHLe

The difference between this year's draft and last is the amount of high-scoring defencemen and centres. This draft has centres, 2018 had defencemen. Scouts like Robertson, and if teams do too I could see him going even higher than this because of the scarcity, but the math doesn't back it up. Staying on this pace, he'll be outside of the top-10 defencemen in adjusted scoring. Strange in a draft with a player like Thomas Harley who scores more as an August birthday, and is a smooth-skating 6'3" defender.

#20 - Anttoni Honka - 0.12 Adj. P/GP / / 9.40 NHLe

This is a strange happening. Honka the younger had a scoring rate almost twice as good as it is now, last year, and has a lower aTOI. He's a player with requisite offensive history as a Dman in the Jr. A SM-Liiga with 17pts in 29 games there last year, and with the 9pts in 20 games in the Liiga on top of that he was the most productive defenseman by far coming in. It's got to be a powerplay thing, but I haven't found out for sure. Either way, he beats out Dmen ranked ahead of him terms in production.

#21 - John Beecher - 0.05 Adj. P/GP - 22.96 NHLe

A depth player on the dream-team, where I suspect that either some teams will find some gems that get less attention and ice-time than they deserve, or that they'll be overrated because of team-strength and the fame of the crop. Remember with these USHL guys that they haven't played very many games in the league, more going to the UDNTP exhibition-type games that I'm not sure how I feel about including yet.

#22 - Jakob Pelletier - 0.20 Adj. P/GP - 34.44 NHLe

Literally Vitaly Abramov. Seriously, look it up. Creative small forward running a point and a half per game average over the QMJHL. Vitaly also went in the third round, so it's interesting how Pelletier is all the way up here despite Abramov not making his mark on the NHL or any other outcome that screams not to make the mistake of not drafting a guy like that again.

#23 - Tobias Bjornfot - 0.04 Adj. P/GP - N/A NHLe

A player whose production has taken a step back since last year, in a junior league. Quite curious seeing him this high when he doesn't play in the SHL, either. Scouting report says the usual about being a complete defender with skating.

#24 - Simon Holmstrom - 0.08 Adj. P/GP - N/A NHLe

This is a player I like. Forwards in the SuperElit who post around a point-per-game in their D-1. The next step is to go towards 1.30+ points-per-game  in their draft year, currently Simon is at 7 in 6. I'd still believe in him even if he stagnates, because I've been burned by Samuel Fagemo recently, but not at this draft slot.

#25 - Nolan Foote - 0.14 Adj. P/GP - 20.91 NHLe

Name and frame pick who's a bit below the production you'd want to see for a November birthday (and 3rd WHL season) here, but it could be context-related - bottom line is he's only scoring  0.05 points-per-game higher than his last year. An easy 25-40 pick, where he goes will depend on how much teams like him. I could also see a good combine in his future getting him into the top-20, but the math doesn't support it.

#26 - Mikko Kokkonen - 0.20 Adj. P/GP - 14.85 NHLe

This is the largest discrepancy in scoring and ranking there is in this draft, with Bobby Brink. He's a defenseman whose adjusted points-per-game is in the near elite-forward cluster with Cozens. He was the only U16 defenseman playing in the U20 league in 2016-17, and had a scoring rate that would be draft-worthy if he was 18. Next year he split time in the men's league, this year he had 8 pts in 16 games, when I first noticed him, before going pointless in the last three. Could be a heater, but even if it was it's a rare heater we don't see U18 Dman going on. Comparables for his 0.42 rate are Ristolainen's 0.29; Heiskanen's 0.27. If he continues at this pace, he should fire up the rankings on merit.

#27 - Albin Grewe - 0.11 Adj. P/GP - N/A NHLe

Another high-octane, Berggren-type guy in the SuperElit. No problem at all with taking him here, as we're seeing what guys like Jesper Boqvist and Niklas Nordgren, who torch the junior leagues all the way up are doing. I think he's up here because of Kournianous or Button ranking him real high, because he's also absent from some lists and much later on others.

#28 - Nils Hoglander - 0.11 Adj. P/GP - N/A NHLe

Nils' strongest statistic is the fact that he was playing in the HockeyAllsvenskan at 16 as a 5'9" forward. His offense in the SHL isn't good, but again we can go back to his draft-minus-one year and see he was at a point-per-game in the SuperElit. No problem with this pick.

#29 - Alex Vlasic - 0.04 Adj. P/GP - 11.48 NHLe

Being a 6'5" defenseman who skates well will get you a job in today's NHL. The scoring, however, is a concern and if he's not putting the puck in the net that much on the stacked USNTDP team, it's either him getting no powerplay time, or he's Adam Ginning. Which is fine, but not at #29.

Until next time

We'll come back later - there's a ton of players to keep an eye on. Broberg, Byram and Newhook should stay no matter how the scoring shakes out, but it'll be interesting to see if Kokkonen's offense continuing doesn't make him the #1 defenceman prospect in the class. Dach is separating from Cozens, but the league loves skating. The goalscorers Caufield, Kaliyev and Lavoie all have the chance to be one of the most valuable in the crop with their rare abilities, but two of them will likely not make it as 25 goal-scorers in the NHL. Ryan Suzuki is a top-5 pick on scoring, will he move up lists or will his secondary assists collapse and the scouts are proven right?

Number one thing to watch for? Whether or not this USNTDP actually scores at a high enough level to warrant taking up half of the top-20. 

Number two? Podkolzin. Like I mentioned, teams wave away MHL scoring - we'll see if the team wielding #3 overall will, and whether all the scouts will be converted and agree with that decision at the time.