Friday, August 17, 2018

A short though on my usage of models

Yesterday @Woodguy55 asked me a question in the comment section of Allan Mitchell's blog

"How do you feel about Corsica giving Larsson and Benning an almost identical Player Rating?"
I added a bunch of additional information(to the preamble directly before the first infograph) about how and why I use models, that should be posted here for reference.

Benning is a guy who we know has better macro shot share impacts, so this is a guy we know who is getting a boost.

Manny’s model we know rewards guys who offensively outperform their xGF, but doesn’t (or sometimes inversely) reward guys who defensively outperform xGA.

If a model makes you double-take, just use general rules about the strengths and weaknesses of it, and see if there’s consistency in players it underrates and overrates. I know Larsson and Benning are gonna have opposite-ended directional pulls just from what the model values before I even peruse their numbers, I’m not surprised by it.

I look at the methodology guys are using /then/ grab their data, every time.
Some of the language gets lost in translation, I do what I can.

Another example, Dom Luscycyzn’s game score loves point production. His model doesn’t like Larsson either. Guys who do more than produce points as play drivers get underrated, Nino-Hall at forward, Tanev-Hjalmarsson at D, to steal Ian Tulloch’s distillation.

You can see the weighting in action here

Player Game Score = (0.75 * G) + (0.7 * A1) + (0.55 * A2) + (0.075 * SOG) + (0.05 * BLK) + (0.15 * PD) – (0.15 * PT) + (0.01 * FOW) – (0.01 * FOL) + (0.05 * CF) – (0.05 * CA) + (0.15 * GF) – (0.15* GA)

Heavy on points.

Larsson’s two seasons in 15-16 and 16-17 tell me models like those two aren’t going to like him because he’s a usage freak who can not get murdered in roles 95% of Dmen would get murdered in.

The purpose of the models in the exercise isn’t really to dig deep on Edmonton’s D corps but to get a cursory glance at the other Pacific teams without having to do the level of research I feel was necessary to get the full scope of things.

I am reasonably comfortable in thinking I have a more detailed understanding of the individual Dmen on Edmonton than what the model can tell me, not entirely so with the other 40+ guys in the division.

The reason I’m not gonna give Larsson a bump in the numbers in the excercise or say that he should get one is because then you have to give that to Tanev and every other guy in that player type, and then you also have to ding Burns et ceter et cetera.

The other part is, especially with the GAR I was curious to see what the projected net of pairings were.

Like I said earlier in the thread, I’m not super confident in my ability to project a /pairing/ because of issues weighting stuff, especially in pairings where there’s one guy who’s good and one guy who’s bad. The GAR gives you a little picture like hey, the guy who’s good adds eight and the guy who’s bad only takes away two, so they might be alright.

That’s an interesting thing to note and come back on, to see if the model was right, wrong, and how often either. Or in what ways they were right and wrong. Then I take that and maybe I’m closer to projecting pairings than I am now.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Sans Sekera

Most of my work here is further post-mortem than days following.

I'll deviate this morning, to address the reaction to Andrej Sekera.

The Oilers fanbase as with any other is often miscast as either a singular entity with a collectively homogenous viewpoint on any particular issue, or two tribal camps opposing one another.

Neither's true, save the second during certain times(typically trying) and I don't mean to play the snooty centrist believing himself above the partisans and star-bellied sneetches but I do believe that the middle ground is most reasonable here in regards to Sekera's absence for what will likely be an entire season.

I'm writing in real time during my research, so I have the unique ability to tell you that my initial reaction coming into this is that the main consequence for this development is the lack of cover for injuries.

As opposed to something like, say, the difference between the starting six prior to the loss of Sekera and after the loss of Sekera being the difference between projecting this team in the playoffs or not.

That might read as my projecting the Oilers to make the playoffs either way, it's not so.

I had the Oilers making it neither way, provided average injury and puck luck, and average goaltending variance.

Oilers Dcorps; up against the Pacific

I figure the most fair way to run this thing is look at what everyone else's got.

I'll make pretty pictures, with metrics I consider to have above-arbitrary value and then provide my own thoughts.

The numbers are projected Goals-Against-Replacement*; Blended Wins-Against-Replacement**; Corsica Player Rating***.

* via Chace McCallum @cmhockey66
** via Sean Tierney @ChartingHockey; Emmanuel Perry @manny_hockey; @DTMAboutHeart; @EvolvingWild

Many don't rhyme perfectly, I count that for and not against the value of putting them together here.

All of the details of their methodology can be found and best explained through their own resources in full thoroughness, but I'll add some especially relevant tidbits about (perceived and real) limitations here:

  • In general, what's been found by most data scientists around hockey is that offensive impacts(and forwards) are much easier to distill than defense, and even-strength play the same comparatively to special team situations, especially penalty kill. 
  • Certain player types are bearishly valued: Penalty differentials are one of the five big parts of these equations, and players who you may perceive to be rated too low often have a combination of the above point about lack of 5v5 offense, and a bad penalty differential. I believe the amount that penalty differential is punished and rewarded is entirely fair, and an understated(among mainstream media; casual fans) concern when evaluating players by traditional methods.
  • Even-strength shot share impacts are heavily weighted when it comes to defensive contributions; more than shot quality impacts This is due to the belief  that players cannot influence the save percentage of the goalies they play in front of. Many people part with the math crowd here.
  • Because of the self-professed (relative) limitations of evaluating penalty killing prowess in GAR, buoyed with the more precise ability to evaluate powerplay defencemen's ability, combined with the point above about shot quantity vs. quality means that most of the discrepancies between eye test and analytics is in the differing valuations of defensive defensemen and more gifted puck-movers and playmakers.
  • If you believe there to be limitations in the evaluation of defending, I would simply suggest you ding who you perceive to be the offensive defensemen who are poorer away from the puck, and boost the better sortie-stoppers as you see fit. Proceed with caution.
  • Each metric has trouble (obviously;understandably) with rookies. I'll fill in the gaps with my knowledge of what a player has to look like pre-NHL to look like something in the NHL.

Anaheim's gross. Though apparently they couldn't stop themselves from signing another couple bottom-pairing vets fully capable of negative-against-replacement play in Sustr and Schenn, indications I have from Ducks fans is that Petersson(#38, 2014) is knocking on the door and Carlyle's baked cookies. Pettersson's never been impressive from a points standpoint in Europe, but what we know about the SHL is it's a damn good league and if you're a good defender young of age over there you know a thing or two, couple that with the fact like similarly to the NHL but even more pronounced is the effect of getting almost no 5v5 points as a defenceman, regardless of ability. Petterson's 6'4", though not yet listed at 200lbs, and was the #7 ranked European by NHL CSS in their final rankings for the 2014 draft.

We also know things about Anaheim's defense drafting and honestly after getting what they did out of Josh Manson (converted forward out of the BCHL turned into one of the leagues premier shutdown guys, puke.) I just plain don't doubt any of their D selections anymore. He has very good relGF% numbers as a top-pairing guy in the AHL, so we're going to guess he's not going to be a negative player third pairing in his rookie year in the NHL. Truth be told that might not be flattering enough versus reality.

I don't have to write much about their top pairing and top four, that's why I haven't yet. Montour's unproven relative to the rest, but nothing seems unsustainable from cursory glances over his first full campaign.

The best D corps in the division, no contest - from myself.

These first two could have been in alphabetical order or in the order of quality and it'd come out the same.

What I mean is that you're looking at a Coyotes team with an actually enviable pile of defensemen.

There's a wrinkle here regarding Goligoski: He had a really, really bad half(or-so) season while miscast in deployment and generally floundering, and put up a negatively influential season, manifesting itself from a combination of negative penalty differential and negative defensive contribution. He'll be lower down the line-up and has had much better seasons before by the same metrics, so I'll say he'll wash out to replacement level on the third pairing.

The key to this configuration, for me, his Hjalmarsson has to not be done. Everything else is good, I think Chychrun may actually be underrated here, he's been talked about as sheltered but is in a spot where his level of success in that situation indicates he's well equipped for a promotion. The Coyotes really like him, and he'll get his shot.

The top pairing is a returning one that's not at the level of Anaheim's, but is sneaky close because of how much Ekmann-Larsson's dinged from the weighting on last season and Demers bouncing around last season. They'll probably end up closer to +20 as a sum in GAR than the 13 that's projected, by my estimation.

Key here is that there/s no-one negative unless Goligoski repeats results despite demotion, and that they have a workhorse top-pairing that can act as a true top pairing in a pinch as opposed to the usually top-four time on ice allocation scheme. This helps if one of the two second pairing guys go down, and the coach isn't comfortable with the spotted duo that results.

This is a very interesting situation to almost everyone following the league.

Dougie Hamilton is one of the very best defencemen in the league, full stop. He was 13 GAR last season(more than Giordano and Brodie's projection combined) that marks him as 99th percentile, he moves the puck extremely well out of his own zone as well as manning the point, puts up even strength offense not just by leeching points but by driving goal and shot rates, does well on the powerplay (even without being given the most PP! minutes!), and remarkably for a defenseman, draws more penalties than he takes, has an impressive arsenal of shots, list goes on.

It's always hard to parse the pairing when it comes to guys who play almost all their minutes together (model-builders admit this) however, and Giordano-Hamilton was like that. Teasing it out comes up Hamilton by GAR and WAR, we'll see. Giordano-Brodie was a little overly-famous pairing when Calgary ran a PDO heater all the way to the 2nd round of the playoffs, not sure if they'll be as good now, and I don't if they were as good as what was said then, considering Brodie's subsequent history away from Mark Giordano. Brodie certainly looks good by Corsica Player Rating, though.

Hamonic's been off for longer than he's been on as of late charitable consider him above water-level then consider his partner'll be a very young defenceman. Still, Hanifin is absolutely on track as a future top-four and we'll find out when exactly that future arrives(or alternative, if it ever does) in pretty short order.

Calgary shares with Edmonton a vulnerability to right shot maladies compounding, one guy goes down and it's top pairing Hamonic, 2nd pairing Stone. There's help on the farm, but they've made curious decisions there in the past in regards to floundering veterans staying in place over mathematically impressive solutions from Stockton.

Los Angeles has some real problems under the hood that they've been powering through with upgrades to their offensive engine both organic and artificial. That trend continues with Kovalchuk, but it's gonna be tough to outrun these negative guys, especially when they're veterans with ink to spare and you wonder if they know they're hurting and are waiting it out, or if reputations built during the cup years have hidden poor performance from their internal analysis. The team's top-heavy at forward too, and if you have one pairing adding value, one treading water and one hideously negative all fair in black and white, what you end up with is which pairing is on the ice swinging your forward line's results wildly and unless that's good, that's bad.

You end up with a situation where having Kopitar or Carter(subject to injury concerns) on the ice with the Doughty pairing is all world; either with the Muzzin pairing being just a hair above average(for a top six unit); the 3rd pairing sinks all boats regardless; and if you add that pairing to either bottom six line you hit the floor of the ocean.

I read something by Tyler Dellow where he mentioned that the Kings were the only team to have a better share of the shots when the opponent's top six was on the ice than they did when the opponent had their bottom six on the ice, and I bet that has a lot to do with that bottom pairing joining their bottom lines with Andreoff, Lewis, Mitchell et al on them and just getting crushed by other teams 3rd and 4th lines.

Now, individually, Oscar Fantenberg's a guy who's just too old to be given the benefit of the doubt on his North-American career based on his play so far in circumstances that should have been favourable. Phaneuf and (in a bordlerline sense) Martinez just seem done. That's who I was referring to in the leading paragraph. From there you've got Forbot playing the Methot role, and Muzzin trying his damndest with whatever he's gonna get. That second pairing sinks? They're a Doughty injury away from having a worse group than Vancouver.

This is what a situation that's almost identical with what happened in Winnipeg with Enstrom: Ryan entered just as veteran Martin aged out. He was bought out in spirit midway through the season, ans Joakim Ryan represented an example of the dividends of drafting and developing defensemen well. He's the most under-the-radar competent top-four guy, or at least Burns buoys him enough to make it look so. #198th overall in 2011. There's differencing defending from the AHL to the NHL, which is why you obviously wait until it happens but in terms of on-ice results in the AHL all signs were pointing to top-four potential with this guy draft position be damned. Again, I could be overstating this as there's the effect of the Burns pairing's deployment as well as Burns ability in general to consider, but if it works it works and it's working for them. Dillon & Demelo are just a few years removed from being utterly exposed by Pittsburgh in the playoffs; they were young then but not young enough to entirely excuse them but in terms of Pacific Division, regular ol' season patrolling they seem just fine at what they do.

Vlasic and Braun have both hit their 30's now, but they have an enduring style of play in both micro and macro time and it's bad business betting against them. Speaking of players the two-hundredth most favourite on draft day, Braun went three picks after Ryan's spot, four years earlier. Did anyone tell you life was fair?

Most everyone needs a mulligan on this whole team.

Engelland's carriable in the top four? And Theodore's that guy?

Yes and yes, apparently, and I'm more sure by eye of the latter (Theodore is a treat to watch) and as long as McNabb's brand of hockey sells that top pairing is in business.

I'm at a loss on these guys. Are they good enough to provide a boat to sail in for the non-Marshessault lines? The question marks are Merrill and again, Engelland, and I'm not a fan of the pairing concept employed here unless the superior is a Doughty-calibre guy, and even then it's a waste in my opinion.

Fleury mucked this whole thing up and I could so easily say so many things here that'd make me a fool in a matter of months. And I mean inordinately.

I'll ignore my own prescription: If McPhee wants to go all in with this core, he really needs to do that Karlsson dance or any other number that finds him a righty. Miller's the only true value-adder in my opinion here, and if Glass ruins the negotiation for you you're basically betting that he himself becomes the engine that makes a non-Marshessault line drive and you win that way because that's honestly what a pairing would do for you like say, Schmidt-Karlsson or McNabb-Karlsson. It's time sensitive too.

Bottom line, these guys work and they're about middle of the road for the division. It's good enough, but they're only gonna go as far as Marshessault-Karlsson-Smith takes them until a Suzuki or Glass bursts onto the scene. Again, time sensitive.

Also again, Fleury though. And I mean that both ways.

Below the spaghetti meteor, here lies the worst defense in the division.

Tanev's a victim, like Larsson of the offense-emphasis in these metrics.

They do fairly rate how poor their offensive contributions really are, though. That part's just the truth, but I saw him(Tanev) take some unfair criticism in the late '17 dust-up over Nylander trade ideas.

Stecher I like, he might be a 4 and I'm not trying to be funny with that, that's value. If you want to giggle at Vancouver I'll inform you that we're paying more for less.

Gudbranson is a guy that, obviously he's victim to his player-typing here but I'm honestly not certain he's been effective at what he's supposed to be. He's not Adam Larsson. What the Canucks have got here is a glowing-red weak-point third-pairing that's more typically of a team that's got enough substance somewhere higher up to be called top-heavy.

The real tragedy here? The fan aren't getting any Quinton Hughes viewings yet. That guy is special.

They need two more.

Edler's dormant explosives at this point, there's a chance he breaks and Tanev's not gonna carry the next one down the line because it's Del-Zotto and that guy is whole-foods Jack Johnson.

You know what I did here? I took Klefbom's 16-17 numbers and said that's the guy, that's who he is. That's my Oilers Optimism. @ me.

Know what else I did? I bet you do, because you can see it. For your information, Kevin Gravel was right around replacement but speaking of replacement I got us another Swede.

Enstrom's a guy who's all defensive contribution that still shows up good in the numbers. I took his 16-17 for the proj. GAR. To-be quite honest with you, I don't even know if he's a Chiarelli guy. I think, though, based on comments he is going to add but based on more comments prior it might be waiver wire. Gravel was definitely a 7D plan, I think Pete believes in him but in that role and not another.

I want to talk about Keegan Lowe. He did work on the Condors last year, the good kind. If I'm projecting Petersson on rels with Anaheim, Keegan's older but he's got those same credentials. This is a training camp thing but I'm not uncomfortable with the idea at all. Whoever you pick up, they're gonna want to play so maybe Lowe's there if waivers won't bring you anything and Toby doesn't pick up the phone.

I mentioned this all the way in the beginning but this is about depth. My plan would have been 77-6; 25-83 in the top four to start with but there's no cover for either of the lefties

I don't have the smartest touch when it comes to taking the temperature on the Oilers fanbase, though I do try and I feel comfortable forecasting that coming in, people are going to  be more sure of Darnell than they are of Oscar, and I'm opposite ways around on it. Far as I can tell, Nurse had one good half one bad half and so did Klefbom but there was no overlap and I think either people were tuned out or they had already made up their mind before Klefbom found redemption along the way.

Klefbom's healthy and that top pairing runs just fine, I'm sure of it. Through all of it, the bum shoulder, the shot demand, and the defensive scheme switch-up by the actual goals Klefbom closed okay.

I talked about all this in The Best Player Available but I'm strong on Benning in his spot, too. It's just the vulnerability to injuries that absolutely will happen. That's what we know.

But let's for a moment imagine that the probability of any player sustaining a long-term injury is equal.

I would say that, from there, there are the same number of season-sewering possibilities up front as there are on the back-end.

Klefbom or Larsson or Benning goes down, and everyone moves up a spot?

That's bad, but if Draisaitl, Nuge or McDavid goes down it's the same thing.

You had one piece of cover in one spot(LHD) and that was a good thing, but even if Sekera was 100% the vulnerability of the team to forward injury is still more dangerous overall. That's the real problem with this team, as of now there's three top six forwards. It was always going to be outside chance at the playoffs. The only way the non-McDavid minutes were even-ish in shot-share is by gaming the volume with point shots. Also, that discrepancy between the goals and the shots overall away from McDavid is going to be less the shots-against being defended poorly and resulting in relatively more goals, and more the shots-for lacking finishers behind them. I know this is a contradiction via the GF and GA rates relative to league average from last year, but I'm speaking from a place where I'm assuming the 5v5 defending will be different(we've been told this).

That being said, Talbot can save us all. But do we want him to? Do we want a first-round playoff exit that encourages status quo?

It seems infinitely greedy to ask for another difference-making forward from the draft, but honestly there's been more traded away than gained since 2015, assuming Puljujarvi doesn't defy the current developmental processes that appear to be inverse to what every other team is doing in their attempts to turn their top draft pick forwards into strong-links. For Kailer, they seem to like him so it's just up to chance whether or not he's Eberle or beyond.

I'm not sure the current organisation can put together what I believe to be a 'cup-guarantee' window, 5 years as a top-5 team, within McDavid's coming eight years with this kind of top talent deficit, given what's been done with a surplus.

I'm rambling, so I'll quit doomsday-preaching for now.

In conclusion, if Sekera's absence changes the year-long outlook of this team for you, we either differ in our evaluation of Sekera or our evaluation of the 2018-19 Edmonton Oilers as they stood before the news hit.


I had an exchange that added some clarity and information in the comments of, and thought I'd add it as a footnote here. I chopped up his original comment to respond to each facet individually:

Jordan said:

Hey Wilde,

Was just thinking about numbers from your projections for the D Corps in the Pacific and I have some questions:

Based on your understanding of the numbers and what they represent, could they be used to project either the value of a specific pairing, or of the defense corp(se) as a whole?

I was curious to see if the numbers correlated to what I thought I understood about the overall strength of a given team’s d-corps, so I aggregated them with the following results:

My response:

I’m glad you asked, I’ve mentioned this before but my main weakness in ‘predicting’ defense corps is putting individual players together into pairings.

For example, Shea Theodore + Deryk Engelland is not a pairing I thought would work.

I didn’t think Sekera + Russell would either.

I can rate defensemen fine, but when it comes to arbitrating who can carry who and who will sink who, weighting TOI shares to project the totality of the Dcorps I’m wrong a lot.

In terms of just the math of putting the numbers together, it’s tough, because of stuff like who plays with who and for how long and how they’re used.

For example, if a D corps’ highest rated guy ends up playing the least and with the worst partner, the net influence of his higher rating is lower

(that's simplified)

You can see in your document Anaheim is the best, and that was my take without putting the numbers together – they’re the easiest to do this with because there’s almost no ambiguity in year-to-year usage and context differences – only the bottom pairing is going to be different and there’s a rookie that’s decently promising and a veteran that’s a massive upgrade on last years’ Bieksa contribution.

You can also see this a bit with the difference between my evalutation of Arizona and your arithmetic: They’re held down by the difference between my personal projection of Ekmann-Larsson being much better and Goligoski being better sheltered and Chychrun continuing his trajectory in the GAR department.


Does the GAR, WAR or PR data take any circumstances of play (Common Linemates, PP/PK/EV TOI, or QualComp data into consideration, or are they “raw” numbers?

Yes and yes and yes, in the preamble about their limitations and discrepancies in evaluation versus traditional measures I talked a bit about disciplines and QoC and QoT, here’s the links to their methodology along with quick summary of components:

(The QoT and QoC and deployment are factored into each of the following)

Chace’s GAR:

3) Even Strength Offence
4) Even Strength Defense
5) Power-play Offence
6) Penalty Differential
7) Extras

Emmanuel Perry’s WAR:

Offensive shot rates

Defensive shot rates

Offensive shot quality

Defensive shot quality


Penalties taken

Penalties drawn

Zonal transitions

(Corsica Player Rating is a weighted stacking of per game WAR from the past 120 games, as I understand it)


Interested to hear feedback – does this provide insight, or does this provide noise?

No, this is useful and I should have included it, up until the ‘Overall D corps rank’. It’s good to see where their guys are by which model and how, as opposed to having to scroll around everywhere. For example, the only place the Oilers are good is the GAR, and you can bet it’s from me grabbing Oscar’s 2016-17 numbers.

Which then you can ask an interesting question: Is the most important facet of this Dcorps having a 2017 version of Oscar Klefbom? I’d say yes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Best Player Available (2/2) (Going long on the future of the Oilers Dmen)

The Oilers, the Oilers used to have a problem.

There's no Hedbergian twist here, they don't still do too.

The problem was the enormous imbalance between right and left shooting defencemen drafted by Edmonton, constructing what was dubbed by Allan Mitchell as the Leftorium:

Note not only the quantity, but the quality of the imbalance. Not only was there only one right-shooter selected in four drafts, the only two first-rounders are left shot guys and, adding up the values via Blue Bullet Report's Chart, the ratio of value spending between both sides is about sixty-eight to one.

The result? The NHL starting six's right side is a traded-for guy, a college free agent, and a left-handed veteran free agent playing his off-side.

Chiarelli walked the walk when it came to the lefty-righty paradigm, and as I write this, we stand with this:

Again, note the quality and quantity.

The only elite prospect, and the only one further than that who can be (reasonably, arbitrated by myself) expected to have a real shot at being a top-4 NHL defencemen, are both right shots. By the previous methodology using draft value, starting in 2015 the Oilers spent six picks on lefties, six on righties, and a value of ~8 on left, ~29 on right(the value is mostly Bouchard at 23.6, just as in the exercise prior the value was mostly Klef; Nurse).

Let's think about the NHL group of Edmonton defensemen as a series of probabilities.

Right now, on the right side there's Larsson who can complete a top four pairing, Benning who has done so in part in his rookie year, and then again in part of last year, and then Russell who can play the third pairing okay.

Larsson has a contract that runs through 2021, and since his value largely doesn't manifest itself in the box score, should actually not warrant that much of a raise. A comparable points-wise. age-wise and draft-position-wise is Karl Alzner, who hit unrestricted free-agency last summer as a 20-point, 28 year-old, former top-5 pick defenceman and signed a contract at 4.625MM for 5 years. The salary cap was 78 million at the time, making that contract roughly 6% of the cap. These financial details and Larsson's age make the future of the Oilers D corps about finding one more top-four capable guy on the right side. Outside of injury, the probability Larsson can be kept on board and contributing long-term as one of the top-four RHD is honestly near one-hundred percent.

Then comes the first relevant probability: Is Matt Benning going to be a top-four defenceman?

He's been one at times. The only thing flashy about Benning's play is his trademark open-ice hits, but good things generally happen when he's on the ice, particularly so in his opening campaign when he replaced Russell on a pairing with Sekera. His is a contribution that commonly falls under the radar, I'm often critical of Peter Chiarelli, and when his supporters come to the aid of his reputation they always(as they should) point to his good deals, typically Maroon and Talbot, but Matt Benning was a college free-agent that added value in a tough role in a rookie season, and that's something, and he'll be something for awhile and I'd count him as the best acquisition or tied with Talbot.

He's the 97th defenceman by Corsica player ratings, he's a projected +5.63 goals against replacement by Chace McCallum's model, he's a positive WAR guy by EvolvingWild's model and in general he just looks good by my parsing of the data as well. If he's 2RD on your team I wouldn't say that's a strength in the roster, but he doesn't appear to be a drag on anything there. There's still not a ton of track-record to him, though, and we don't have a solid idea what his 'normal' is because of how hard it was to evaluate defenders last year under the 5v5 defensive scheme deployed, and the concussion trouble the year before. I would put him as having an above 50% chance of contributing league average level play on the second pairing for some years to come.

Then comes the hole at the third pairing,  currently filled by off-handed Kris Russell. Truth be told there's more third pairing defencemen in the NHL than there is jobs, and most guys of Evan Bouchard's pedigree will make it at least that far. Ethan Bear has a number of things to work on to get to the NHL, then a number more to make it to second pairing level. The game here is you hope that the probability of Evan Bouchard becoming second pairing plus the probability of Ethan Bear becoming second pairing adds up to, at least, the probability of Matt Benning not being second pairing. That way the bet is hedged. Past that, I think where we stand right now the chance that either Ethan Bear or Evan Bouchard becomes a third pairing RHD is near certain or has a sum over 100%, and what this all adds up to is there's a lot that has to go wrong before there's a serious, debilitating vacancy at RHD in the Oilers system.

The age of all these guys being <26 means you can probably leave that alone.

Now, on the left side you've got something interesting going on. in 2016-17, Oscar Klefbom performed at what appeared to be a top pairing level. In 2017-18, Darnell Nurse performed at what appeared to be a top-four level. Add this up and hedge it with the chances Sekera recovers, and we're looking at those two top-four left shot spots being pretty reasonably filled.

What about that Sekera, though? He's got three more years at five and a half million per, and his health is in question. This year, if he recovers fully, the Oilers will have a miles-better third pairing lefty than most of the league.

Marcus Petersson, Alex Goligoski, Nathan Beaulieu, Ryan Murray, Brett Kulak, Erik Gustafsson, Mark Methot, Jon Ericsson, MacKenzie Weegar, Oscar Fantenberg, Nick Seeler, Jordie Benn, Egor Yakolev, Matt Irwin, Thomas Hickey, Ben Smith, Matt Borowiecki, Robert Hagg, Jack Johnson, Brendan Dillon, Jay Bouwmeetster, Braydon Coburn, Ben Hutton, Ben Chiarot.

Those are the names of the third-pairing left-side guys that I think, to varying degrees, can not reasonably be believed to deliver circa 2017 Andrei Sekera level of play in the upcoming NHL season.

There's 25 of them.

That means there's cover at this position. The Edmonton Oilers are not losing ground on the rest of the NHL by not upgrading here with some immediacy, and the on the other side of the same coin have expiring rights to that luxury via Sekera aging out, and the heaviness of his contract in this team's salary cap context.

This makes it a prime candidate for a well-timed upgrade via ELC.

Upgrading a position with an entry-level contract is extremely hard to pull off without either having lottery-level talent coming into the position, below replacement level talent pre-existing in the position, or both.

The Edmonton Oilers upgraded at 1C with an ELC, you've seen what that looks like.

In a less extreme example, look at the top lines of the Colorado Avalanche and the Boston Bruins: Two pre-existing duos with thirds that were upgraded via elite ELC talent. Typically rosters need to be balanced by having units rounded out by closer to replacement-level talent, but the financial power of the ELC allows for the opposite. When Mikko Rantanen has to sign a new contract, or the Avalanche in general get closer to the cap, he may eventually have to be moved off of that line in the talent crunch that comes with the cap crunch.

The Oilers can do this on a defense pairing: Whatever the sum of Matt Benning, Evan Bouchard and Ethan Bears' career arcs is  in a few years has one of them sitting on the third pairing, already being an above-average contributor at that roster spot.

This is where a best player available, say an incomplete but elite talent on left defense can morph the pairing into a terror when the spot in the order for them is considered. In the mold of a Sam Girard or a Ty Smith, a player who drops out of their talent tier at the draft simply because they shoot left and they're not big could be had by the Oilers at the mid-first-round (I believe the Oilers could finish anywhere from 10th-24h in the league this year) and be ready to step in at 21 years of age, and the defence corps iced could resemble something like this:

Klefbom - Larsson
Nurse - Bouchard/Bear/Benning
BPA - Bouchard/Bear/Benning

All this, in a league where a Stanley Cup Finalist can lose the entire series off of a weak-spot third pairing, while paradoxically getting there in spite of them. This configuration, however, ensures that there is would be no pairing that the coaching staff is afraid to send over the boards, no situation where the top-four is run ragged from many difficult hours in the first three rounds of the playoffs.

I don't believe the Oilers will be in a position to draft a real difference-maker forward for the remainder of McDavid's godsent contract. Scouting departments have forwards near nailed-down, with most of the river-pushers going in the very top end of the draft, even the mythical Johnny Gaudreau type third round selections are going extinct as teams wise up to offense predicting offense.

This means that if there's going to be a third line of forwards that push the goalshare in a significant way, it's going to have to involve the continued development of Jesse Puljujarvi into a force capable of levelling the opposition as an individual influence.

Where the efficiency still exists in the draft, where talent drops out of tiers most often is leftie D height optional, and the Oilers have the precise opportunity to ice a level of balance in their blue-line group that ensures expensive free agents and elusive trade targets need not apply.

When I was watching the Hlinka-Gretzky, truth be told none of the Dmen particularly stood out. As the year unfolds, you can be sure that I will be referencing this concept when narrowing down the draft options for 2019.

Names of interest, just based on the data:

Yegor Bryutov - light Russian, was 16 for most of an entire year that he put up crazy points for his age in the MHL. 3rd ranked D by Emmanuel Perry, seldom mentioned elsewhere

Bowen Byram - may go too high, Vancouver Giants guy, very good numbers for a late-birthday draft-1 defenceman last year

Cam York - part of the ridiculous US 2001 group, fits our profile near perfectly. Of all listed, you'll likely hear the most about him.

Henry Thrun - the biggest of this list, numbers roughly in line so far with McAvoy and Hanifin, another American 01.

Kim Nousianen - November guy, good numbers and he fits our profile, we'll find out really early from the math whether he's worth the first rounder because of his maturity relative to the other guys.

Jordan Spence - another guy that, despite not being older for the class will need to establish himself early as it's his rookie CHL year. 

I'll be updating on this phenomenon, and depending on how sour the year goes I'll be more literally applying the ELC upgrade concept to left wing instead, as noted before it's gated by draft position. Hypothetically duos of McDavid and Draisaitl with existing wingers like Yamamoto and Puljujarvi could be rounded out and turned up to ridiculous with an elite third talent.

From there I'll look at the before and afters of adding the Pastrnaks and Rantanens of the world to the Patrice Bergerons and Nathan MacKinnons, and project what happens when you do that except with McDavid or Draisaitl.

Which should be fun, though it would be presumably surrounded by a situation where the Oiler fans are talking draft in the middle of the year and there may be population cullings and public sacrifices, we'll have to play it by ear.

Until then, thank you for reading.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Best Player Available 1/2

A specific phrase of five words can sometimes shut down the discussion about the NHL draft, and amateur procurement as a whole.

Mostly, it's used as a placeholder for someone's contribution of why they'd choose a certain player out of a group, which is half of what you've got to bring to the table for draft talk.

One can survey the group, and end up with an answer from each and every member, but only have been given half of a full effort from many of them:

Ask a question like, for example, who should the Oilers select in the first round of the 2019 draft. You know what you'll get, a lot of the time?

Pick the best player available.

In a situation where we're watching live - that very day in June - and have the precise pool of names available to us as the Oilers are called to the microphone, this could be accompanied by an actual name: Pick the best player available, Player X.

The problem with this is, nobody has ever not picked what they believe to be the best player available.

If you've employed the phrase before(you'd join my past self), what I've just said sounds pretty stupid.

Because the BPA argument only arose in the first place from scouting directors and general managers missing on "better" players by valuing attributes that the critic doesn't value, most commonly passing over more offensively talented players for ones who they perceive to have a better attitude, defensive game, and work ethic, with each of those traits being intertwined. Or, or also, placing a ratio between positional value and making the case that the amplified value of a centre over a winger ends in the centre outvaluing the winger, despite an initial talent deficit.

Trouble is, that's not a process of not picking the best player available and instead selecting a player with those traits, it's a process of thinking those traits makes them the best player available.

In defensive and offensive differences, what they're arguing is that a player who will drive less goals for, but also less goals against will in the end be creating greater differences between goals for and against than a player with simply a higher goals for number. This must logically be the better player, because thegame is decided by goals and goals against.

In attitude and personality differences, what's being argued is that between two raw talents, the better work ethic will outpace the better talent, and as they develop and eventually turn into men, playing in the NHL, the better worker will have honed himself into a more valuable player.

In positional value differences, this manifests itself in population differences of competent NHLers at different positions.

Imagine, for a moment, that one of the brilliant analytical minds in the game today actually and successfully developed a Goals Against Replacement metric that was 100% predictive and valid. Please don't drag me yet, this is a thought exercise.

Imagine this was so, and accompany this vision with a populational difference in different positions much like there is today. During the NHL draft, the Oilers take to the podium with the following players available:

  • Lucas Larsson, RHD, 5 GAR
  • Carson Crookshank, LHD, 10 GAR
Then, take that Lucas Larsson will be one of the highest GAR right-handed defenceman in the league, with the average top pairing RHD outputting 2 GAR, and the population of top pairing RHD is all over the place relative to the top-pairing average. But the average top pairing LHD outputs 10 GAR, and they all closely populate the top-pairing average.

Therefore having a good RHD, and replacing a bad one with a good one, is a more valuable change in player personnel, results in a better goalshare, and the RHD is the net more valuable player.

Now, the problem with this is it's generally not what happens in reality. As I've mentioned, the pick best player available argument's genesis arose as an antithesis to the scourge of overvaluing position, non-hockey attributes, and defensive contributions, resulting in fans watching their team pass over talent for their guy. The draft is profiled more publicly than ever before, with more and more fans of a team looking at a lottery position by midseason doing their due diligence, watching highlights and looking up scoring data. This, coupled with the historical phenomenon of picking by pure scoring rates outperforming traditional scouting, especially when it comes to forwards, gives fans ever-increasing confidence to criticize - often fairly - their teams draft during the moments it unfolds, and placing their hopes even before that that the team will pick the player they like the best.

What those team's mistakes actually are, is drafting out lower tiers before the current one has been exhausted.

I'm very confident in the concept of tiers in prospects because of two reasons:

  1. The parallel with the highest league. In every method of evaluation for players, everyone agrees that the further away that you get from the very best players, the more players there are directly adjacent to each other in value. Replacing Connor McDavid with any other player makes your hockey team worse. But, with each player lesser than that on this team, each individual has a larger group of players around the league that they could be swapped for with negligible effect, provided they play the same position/are the same age. Swap Leo Komarov for Justin Abdelkader and nothing really happens to your team.
  2. It's a very popular method for configuring your draft board. Scott Wheeler and Corey Pronman are draft voices I listen to all year long, both of their modus operandi involve the implementation of tiers. I'm confident that, even if other prospect experts simply send out a numbered ranking, they would also have them broken up into tiers in their head. When speaking about drafts a big further into the future than a few months away, what's often said about players is that they're a first rounder, or a second rounder, or a mid rounder, indirectly reinforcing this concept.
In a way, the only real difference between most draft boards that follow similar philosophies is when one analyst has a player in one tier and the opposing analyst has the same player in another tier.

So when an entire tier of prospects who are of similar value (and the last thing one does in their draft board is the specific ordering of players in the same tier, because it's the most arbitrary and subjective of any of the processes) are available when a team is to make their selection, and no one from a higher tier remains, there is no real best player. You see this effect when a player gets taken out of their exact spot at the top end of the draft - say Kotkaniemi at 3rd this past June - no draft experts that I follow criticized Montreal for picking slightly out of turn; they took the best player available because they believe in a differential between the intrinsic value of the two positions played by similar prospects to make the player they selected more valuable.

Naturally, then, if multiple teams do this in a row, eventually a player drops out of their tier and it becomes no contest, select that player.

Which teams are afforded this luxury, though?

Teams who have depth at every position in the NHL; having no immediate need positionally?

Well, no, because their pipeline is likely barren from graduating so many of their NHL-potential prospects to the NHL. They'll need to then start from scratch, and acquire players at the premium positions first.

Is it teams that have no depth at any position in the NHL, and are rebuilding?

No, because they'll need to order their selections based off of development timings and build out of the back-end, as (almost) every rebuilding team tends to try to do.

What about teams who have star-potential prospects at every position?

I'd argue that doesn't exist, because stars hit the league early so you can never really be on top of all positions in that way. As soon as you plug one hole, another appears after a player jumps straight from junior hockey to the NHL, or does so after just one extra year, one extra draft for the team to add prospects.

I think, more than any other situation, it's a team whose pipeline deficits are in the exact areas that there's a general surplus around the league.

It's a team that could use left handed defensemen(perhaps smaller ones), and/or wingers with skill at the expense of size or two-way ability that can most often pick players who are the best available player at the time of their selection, guys who have fallen out of their talent tier.

Sound like anyone in particular?


Friday, August 10, 2018

What really happened with Yamamoto? (intro, plus thoughts on his part of the story)

The spirit of this blog is to examine the building blocks of the public discourse among Oilers fandom.

For example, when we're talking about Yamamoto's role in this upcoming season - which could very well be substantial - people enter with their conclusions about Kailer's 9 games and go from there. If you believed he wasn't physically ready for the NHL you would remark that if he's put on enough weight or gotten strong enough he'll be able to step in this year. If you believed he was too raw positionally, you'd talk about whether or not he adapts to the system quick enough to not get cut; perhaps you'd wonder aloud if he'll take to new coaches instructions better. Maybe you thought his shot or finish lacked polish or strength (he did not score a single regular season goal) and you'd add if he's got that down he's got his job. You could be one who just thought he wasn't ready in any area, and blasted the coach from the start for keeping him aboard the first few preseason games.

But with any version, you come to the table with your idea of his performance 9 months ago, and then pose your questions and your arguments thereafter.

In this series, we will put your (and my) recollection to the test, and explore the pathways traveled before you arrived at your premise.

First, let's explore what the data can tell us by itself. If you've any interest in non-goal advanced metrics, you'd know that they paint about as positive a picture as it gets of Yamamoto's 9 games in 5v5 play.

This is a map of Yamamoto's individual shots. The (by far) most popular assessment of Yamamoto's season was that he did not yet have the strength to play to the inside against NHL-size defenders, but the clustering of unblocked, on-goal shots in the slot runs counter to that assessment. Of course, by simply having the shot locations one could refute that statement by responding that although most of his shots were in dangerous area, his shot rate is more important and just because he did get his shots off doesn't mean he got them off often enough to be a scoring threat. Is that a valid notion?

         Per 60 minutes
Rank among NHL forwards
    Rank among Oilers
Shot attempts
Unblocked Shot Attempts
Shots on Goal
Scoring Chances
High Danger Chances

Small sample sizes, of course, but the only similarly-small sample members of the top end of the NHL in these metrics were Daniel Sprong and Filip Chytil, two excellent young players who I believe will have long, successful NHL careers.

Along now, to the centremen. Todd McLellan - correctly, in my view - went skill line or no line as an approach for Kailer. Here's how it broke down, by the minute:

  • 67 minutes with Connor McDavid
  • 34 minutes with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
  • 7 minutes with Leon Draisaitl
  • 9 minutes with Mark Letestu

The big question here is obviously if McDavid was zooming him to his ludicrous shot contribution rates. Well, that question is always more-so how much does McDavid zoom someone. You could say Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was carrying him in the non-McDavid moments, but I'd contend that the Nuge doesn't have that kind of ability, not just not at 97's level, but he generally doesn't pull up scoring rates and isn't a very potent scoring presence on by his lonesome at 5 on 5.

I have these side by side because it's better than vertically aligning them in terms of easy comparisons, for my eyes at least, hope yours too, but you'll have to tap/click and zoom in. They are the shot maps for the Oilers with Yamamoto and without McDavid as a standalone, then relative to the team average, then relative then relative to the league average. The rels betray the raw a bit in regards to the centre-slot, but we can easily see a cooling-effect in net-front action. The other effect is an imbalance of shots from the left face-off circle area as opposed to the right. This is a good point of interest for our video reviews: Was Yamamoto trying to shoot from the right, but getting the puck or his body blocked? Or was he over on the left side getting the opposite side one-timer angles? Or, was he passing up opportunities to shoot because he could pass it to the opposite side for a better shot? Remember these are the Oilers shots, not Yamamoto's alone. Was he shooting from higher up at the right circle because he was getting closed on and shied away from contact?

Which brings us to the piping-hot point area. Were the Oilers resigning themselves to point shots because they were getting muscled out of the cycle game? Or were they coached to take more point shots, and this had an effect on the lack of shots down low?

There's a lot to ponder here, and to reflect upon once we start getting to the video reviews.

What I also wanted to get a visual on, was the effect not of McDavid on Yamamoto, but Yamamoto on McDavid:

We haven't talked defense much yet in the data portion of this post, but I included the defensive end for these maps to pivot that direction.

You'll see additional evidence to this assertation in a bit, but, what I'll say now is that there's nothing in the data to suggest that Kailer was a drag defensively. This - and the offensive end as well - is obviously affected by the size of the sample as well as the timing of it. In the early stages of the 2017-18 NHL season, the Oilers were a dominant possession team, no matter who was on the ice.

     Score and Venue adjusted %
               Rank in NHL
      Shot attempts for %
     Unblocked shots for %
     Scoring Chances for %
 High Danger Chances for %

(The Edmonton Oilers, Game 1-12 2017-18, via

 So, when examining players' numbers who only participated in these early contests and contrasting them with players who played the full season, you absolutely must take this effect into account. Of course, these players contributed to this early success and full season's players contributed to the regression, but we can easily see from the uniformity of the effect across the roster that these are the more results of the group, than any individual's overriding influence.

  • Darnell Nurse first 12 games at 60+% all metrics, ~50% final 72 games
  • Connor McDavid first 12 games 58+% all metrics, ~51% final 72 games
  • Leon Draisaitl first 12 games 54+% all metrics, ~51% final 72 games
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first 12 games 53+% all metrics, ~49% final 72 games
  • Adam Larsson first 12 games 54+% all metrics, ~50% final 72 games

You get the idea. Players like Jussi Jokinen, Brad Malone, Eric Gryba and our subject Kailer Yamamoto all have sterling possession numbers, it's important to understand the environment they were in.

When we're just dealing with percentages, though, we don't know which sides is driving Yamamoto's to the positive side of the ledger or how. He could be giving up more shots - we do know from the map that they wouldn't be from the slot; but you could argue that's the defensemen at work and not Kailer, and that those heat-spots up high and far to the side are indeed coming from Yamamoto's mark - and while doing so(giving up more shots) he's simply landing north of a 50% share by having that much more shots-for, offensively. We'll consult the replacement chart:

If he was indeed winning higher event minutes, the blue boxes would be running lower than the red boxes. The effect on the vertical axis - rate of shots against - is negligible.

The point I want to make here, though, is again that you can't argue that Yamamoto is poor defensively or in possession based on the data, but you can't make a terribly strong case of the opposite either. 

So, what are we looking for when it comes to the video?

First things first, I'm going to only be consulting the regular season games, because criticism of choosing to review preseason play is both easily made and easily understood as valid. There's tons of minutes against non-NHL competition and actual-NHL competition that doesn't give a hoot. I will, however, be putting together a small highlight video just to illustrate why the coaching staff could not really send down Yamamoto on merit. This reduces the narrative that Yamamoto shouldn't have broken camp to the argument that he should have been sent down regardless of playing well, as opposed to the argument that he didn't play well. I have time solely for the former, sorry. I hope you'll agree after I've made my case, visually.

Then, within our regular season NHL parameters, what will I be looking for? In order of importance:
  1. Positioning and strength in puck battles
  2. Forechecking effectiveness; stick and body
  3. Shooting quality in power, selection, release time and positioning
  4. Man-marking in all three zones
  5. Puck retention, protection and possession-driving decision and execution
This will be a different format than in the Draisaitl series, where we went game-to-game and contextualised the play within the ebb and flow of the season,  instead just pure compilations of specific plays and situations. If you have anything to add or ask, please let me know, as I have yet to capture the video and so I can grab anything you want along the way.

What follows in this post is my personal view of what this prospect is and what to do with him in the larger scope of the organisation moving forward, added in the interest of letting you know my biases in evaluation and the conclusion I'll likely be subconsciously pulled towards during this project, and will hopefully help frame my mindset going into this, and what my thoughts and biases are on Yamamoto as a player. I also just wanted to get it all out, and that's half the point of this blog. It's rather non-sequitur, hence this disclaimer.


I'll first note that although I'm entering this project as a fan of Yamamoto's immediate prospects of becoming an NHL player, I won't be arguing that he should absolutely be on the team in the fall, in fact it's not even what I would personally do. It's my belief that the best most beneficial move for the organisation would be to start him in the AHL - to the benefit of both clubs. I haven't just recently come to this conclusion, in fact I've tried to get all the moving parts form such a decision nailed down, for example on July 11th on's comments I wrote up this plan for 2018-19 fall:

"I think the way to put a positive 5v5 team on the ice, with the forwards we currently have, is to squeeze together two high event lines and run them hard. Complement that with two low event lines below.

When I say high event, this is what I mean:

Two lines coud have outscored the competition at a three to two rate.

One of them scores three goals an hour and allows two, the other scores 6 goals an hour and allows four.
The former puts their team ahead by one goal an hour, the latter puts their team up by two goals an hour.

This is important because the problem with Edmonton last year is they gave up the goals that McDavid put them ahead by.

When he was on the ice last year 5 on 5, they scored 81 goals and allowed 61, when he was on the bench, they scored 82, and allowed 111. 

That’s plus-20 for Connor, minus-29 without him for a net -9.

Where was this given back? In a couple of areas.

When Letestu was on the ice without Connor, the team scored 13 goals and allowed 27, for a net -14.
That cannot stand, it is over 75% of the edge McDavid gained the team. Part of it is goaltending, but the poor footspeed and subsequently poor coverage had a real impact there. I would not expect this to repeat to such a grave extent, given replacement of the player and an assumption of regression(the good kind) from Cam Talbot.

Leon Draisaitl, playing away from both McDavid and Nuge, was on the ice for 24 goals for and 34 against, for a net -10.

This, this is repeatable. You stick Leon with poor linemates again, and you’re rolling the dice.
The primary goal here, and the most difficult task is to find Leon wingers with two-way ability and actual offense.

If you project Connor on-ice to return to the +30 levels from 2016-17, which is a real possibility given he’ll likely play with Nuge the whole year, then you could construct something like this:

Nuge – McDavid – Strome

– The key here is to stabilise the strongest offensive line 97 has been on thus far in his career. The Rattie version’s concern is the unsustainable conversion rate: both teams got equal high danger chances when they were on the ice, but Edmonton cashed 8 of theirs and the opposing team only 3.

McDavid outpaces the entire NHL at creating and converting these chances, but Nuge has had real trouble with it over his NHL career at 5 on 5 and Rattie’s got little history. 

You can run Rattie to start, but in my opinion Strome should be the first replacement. Over his career, Strome’s had more than a few successful stints on skill lines, and a few unsuccessful ones that appeared to be enough to sour his coach’s idea of him.

( points per hour – teammate – total toi with teammate )

In 2014-15:
  • 2.57 with Anders Lee in 466 minutes
  • 2.50 with Brock Nelson in 384 minutes
  • 2.49 with Frans Nielson in 313 minutes

In 2015-16:
  • 1.07 with John Tavares in 506 minutes <– Spot the career killer?
  • 2.02 with Mikhail Grabovski in 356 minutes
  • 1.41 with Brock Nelson in 255 minutes

In 2016-17:
  • 1.40 with Brock Nelson in 343 minutes
  • 1.71 with Anthony Beauvillier in 245 minutes
  • 1.39 with Shane Prince in 216 minutes

In 2017-18:
  • 2.48 with Leon Draisaitl in 193 minutes
  • 2.02 with Jesse Puljujarvi in 237 minutes
  • 1.82 with Juhjar Khaira in 263 minutes

I think there's an optimistic yet realistic way to interpret these numbers. He blew the doors off 14-15 with a stable line, was oil-and-water in an audition with Tavares that lasted longer that it should have, and had an awful year in 2016-17… where the whole team couldn't score 5v5.

The Islanders, in 2016-17, had all their regular forwards between 6.0 and 9.6 on-ice shooting percentage, and ONE forward above 2.00 5v5 points per 60.

Anders Lee scored 1.22/60 that year. He had 40 goals in 17-18.

There's also an economic advantage to putting Strome here over other players: he's locked in for next year. You're boosting the numbers of a guy already locked into a contract, as opposed to other options(Puljujarvi, Rattie, Rieder, Aberg) who are on expiring contracts.

Rieder – Draisaitl – Puljujarvi

Rieder over Lucic is a good point of discussion for high-event vs low-event. 

Draisaitl with Lucic, away from McDavid: 2.00 goals per hour, in a sample of three hours.

Draisaitl without Lucic or McDavid: 2.95 goals per hour.

This is where you want the higher event minutes. Say the shooting percentage corrects from the 6% Looch and Leon were shooting to raise their GF/60 to 2.5, and both lines give up 2.0 per hour(I don't believe Milan is better than Rieder defensively at this point), you want that extra goal per hour.

Puljujarvi rounds out this line with what I believe to be the best remaining two way ability of the RW's, in both ways. Jesse Puljujarvi with 2.37/60 with Leon with 2.37/60 with Puljujarvi.

Leon, as a centre away from Hall and McDavid, hasn't outscored the opposition thus far. I think this mix of wingers has talent with and without the puck, and speed for days.

As for the rest of the lineup, keeping them low-event is key. It will basically be two fourth lines, Khaira and Brodziak down the middle.

Another option is signing Nick Shore. He is 92nd percentile in shot suppression, that's the key metric for this half of the lineup.

There's also a way to force low event minutes using your D pairing. Using Bouchard or Bear on the third pairing and playing them with one of these lines out would be a no-no. I would nominate a Sekera-Russell or Nurse-Russell pairing here, to solve two problems. You keep the poor-transition game of Russell away from the speedy, rush-happy top lines, and use the chance-suppression of Russell to drive down the danger of having these lines out against more talented opposing third lines.

So, onto the rough projection. Teams spent between 3825 – 4089 minutes 5v5 last year, let's assume the NHL lies again about cracking down on obstruction and calls the same amount of penalties. Let's use 4000 minutes, and a static GA/60 of 2.0/60 for the bottom two lines(this is about what a bubble team scores without their top two lines on), and assume that the top two lines get scored on a more than that due to competition.

Nuge – McDavid – Strome
(1200 minutes)
3.6 GF/60 – 2.5 GA/60
72 GF – 50 GA <– The reason this is lower than last year's 81 is because McDavid will spend some double shifts with other lines
( +22 )

Rieder – Draisaitl – Puljujarvi
(1100 minutes)
2.8 GF/60 – 2.6 GA/60
51 GF – 47 GA
( +4 )

Everyone else
(1700 minutes)
1.5 GF/60 – 2.0 GA/60
43 GF – 56 GA
( -13 )

That all grades out to a +13 5v5 team, 166 GF(The Oilers scored 163 last year) and 153 GA(down from… a lot, pray for goaltending). 

The 52.02 GF% that represents would give them a real fighting chance at the playoffs, the rest would be up to special teams.

Note, this is a rough, rough, rough estimate and is not supposed to actually model anything, just to demonstrate the arithmetic of the concept. Nobody keeps lines together for that many minutes, no shooting and save% are that uniform, nothing, nothing about this is realistic. It's just some concrete numbers to help you visualise what I'm trying to put forth here.

Nor do I believe this is what the Oilers might do. I'd pencil Rattie in for that top line job, it'd surprise me if neither Yamamoto or Bouchard make the team, and Todd McLellan and I have been pretty far apart on deployment steady."

Back to present day, I still believe this is a strong approach. Any line with Yamamoto on it in Bakersfield would easily be one of the strongest youth-driven lines that a minor-league team feeding Edmonton has ever had. The fans in Bakersfield deserve a 40-win team, and the list of beneficiaries from success this fall in that city is long. Jay Woodcroft, Tyler Benson, Yamamoto himself, the veterans carving out a place guiding the youngsters, the veterans being pushed down the lineup into softer minutes, the young defensemen passing pucks to forwards with boots and skill. 

Kailer would not be entering the season still looking for his first professional goal, rather adding his first NHL tally to over a dozen gathered in California.

Make no mistake: Yamamoto would shred the AHL. There should be no questions about the offense of this prospect. To make a point in short, I'll now ball-park his production based on his WHL offense:

Via Gabriel Desjardins' League Equivalencies, WHL players are said to take 43% their points to the AHL. Yamamoto finished last year with 1.6 points-per-game on his campaign, put that through the equivalency and you get 0.69(…) points per game. Past that points to progression, in my opinion, so if by the first 20 games he's got 15 points or more, you call him up and send down Ty Rattie, barring the Nuge-McDavid-Rattie configuration being both real and spectacular.

I expect Yamamoto to be capable of this, and am quietly confident in hoping he blows next year out of the water. I'm vulnerable to overvaluing peculiar players - I love Yohann Auvitu, Milan Lucic, Samuel Girard, Jesse Puljujarvi, Micheal Grabner, Andreas Athanasiou, anyone you can tell who's got the puck without looking at the number. One-trick ponies, uncommon combinations. I was surprised and delighted when Chiarelli called Kailer's name, as this personal pull towards the unique was also married to a data driven viewpoint that Kailer Yamamoto undeniably had top-10 skill. On draft day, my thought was that perhaps there was a chance of offsetting the future-altering trades that lowered the ceiling of the team. Not fully un-ringing the bell, but fate dropping Puljujarvi via centre-bias, Yamamoto via size-bias, and even now Evan Bouchard onto the team already blessed with Connor McDavid.

Which is why I think it's so important to have Yamamoto work out. Using his success at creating dangerous chances against men in the NHL last year to point us in the direction that he'll smash the AHL, we can comfortably project the butterfly effect out from that decision: Puljujarvi getting guaranteed ice-time via lack of alternatives to the coaching staff, Benson getting a truly offensive opposite winger to find out if he really could bring offense to the pro level. We can even use the lesson of last year about Kailer's confidence - we know confidence works both ways - if he had a substantial cooling period after returning to the AHL post-perceived-personal failure in the NHL, could we not project the opposite effect from promoting him to the NHL, post-goalscoring-streak in the AHL? 

Bringing it back to Jay, he should be getting all the help he can get when it comes to forwards. In the coming years, he'll be trusted to numerous shots from distance developmentally. Let's give him a layup. some success preceding the critical cluster of complementary players the Oilers will need. Now Yamamoto and Benson and Marody, next it'll be Safin; Maksimov; McLeod. The winners-bias of AHL free agents is just as real as the NHL version, the race to 40 wins is on. You'd better find out if Woodcroft can win and can develop early, before you're in dire straits if he doesn't. He's a powerplay man and Yamamoto is an effective player there - I've watched Spokane and I'll be watching Bakersfield - between the forwards and Bear and Jones the weapons are there. If he can't get a line and a unit with Kailer and Cooper to score, are you going to lay McLeod, who will be a difficult prospect to bring to his potential, at his feet? I'm not asking that question in a mean-spirited way, just illustrating the urgency there should be (and in some ways, has been) applied to the Bakersfield problem.

Yamamoto is one of the pieces remaining. How many are there? This club has 3 good young top-six forwards, 3 good young top-four defencemen. Bear and Bouchard and Puljujarvi and Yamamoto are on the way, then the Oilers will be right in the race. Problem is, there's no fail-safe. I've said now in a lot of ways how important this prospect is.

It is also important, then, to understand what Yamamoto is today in the NHL based on what he was last fall. Because whenever a team fails to develop a prospect, this ground we're standing on right now gets forgotten, as if it was always a foregone conclusion and the player was never truly likely to do anything but run a course into an early European career. All this about not taking their talents with them to the NHL game, even if the early returns betray that narrative.

So, so far, what did really happen with Yamamoto?