(Author's note before I begin - There's a different font this article because whenever I copy+paste from word onto blogspot, it shows up in a super-tiny font and that is unchangeable and doesn't respond to any editing, so a work-around I'm using is to change the total font to something larger. I'm totally not mad as hell, and definitely didn't spend 45 minutes trying to fix this, and I'm absolutely not rage-typing this at a million WPM right now.)
(Second Author's note - If you're skeptical of GAR/WAR metrics, count me with you, and this doesn't mean the piece isn't for you. What we have here is something to look back on - if these are far off from what happens, we can learn about either why I'm a poor interpreter of the metrics, or why the metrics aren't accurate, or both to varying degrees. The spirit of these two articles is examining the ways in which these controversial metrics run counter to a popular notion that the Oilers are more vulnerable on the blueline than they are up front. )
I believe the Edmonton Oilers have miles more problems at forward than they do on the blue.
Aided by this summers’ developments like the still-ongoing Nurse negotiations, the Sekera re-injury and subsequent Jerabek addition, as well as the drafting and present-time evaluation of Evan Bouchard, much of the talk about the upcoming season is focused on the defense.
There are reasons for this, a decade-long conditioning from having one to two top four defencemen on the team, the still-stinging memories of an overwhelming amount of defensive lapses, and the sheer magnitude of the goals-against number the Oilers accrued last year. The fall from the previous successful years’ team defense went to much lower depths than the team offenses’ tumble.
What, then, is the reason to be more concerned about the forwards? It’s two-fold – the role that the forwards played last year in the demise of a previously successful defense, and the plentiful reasons for a rebound from the defencemen and goaltending.
The Oilers, last year, had three forwards that contributed at a top-six level, and added no sure things while taking away the next closest in Patrick Maroon. As I’ve mentioned before, this team needs at least three gambles to pay off in order to ice six scoring forwards – Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto’s swift emergence, and a full rebound from Milan Lucic.
And that’s without touching the team’s transitional problems from having so few truly skilled wingers who can pass or carry the puck from zone to zone – Jesse Puljujarvi being the only true winger who exhibited any ability in this area.
To illustrate this point, I’ve decided to repeat my exercise used in the Sans-Sekera piece and go from team to team looking at their forward groups comparatively – an imperfect process when prior to training camp. Still, most of the important players are where they are and a critical difference between the Oilers and their competition is the numerical amount of such players.
As with every project I set out to do, this ended up being much more work than I thought it would be, so I’m splitting them into separate articles detailing the American teams, and then the Canadian teams.
On these graphics will be three (sometimes two) metrics, along with a display of my considerable gifts with Microsoft Paint.
For Corsica Player Rating, and my view on models and what they can give us, refer to my previous post here, and my follow-up comment with the formula for Game Score here.
In situations were there was no GAR from Chace McCallum, I used EvolvingWild’s numbers, their twitter is here and the website is evolving-hockey.com where you can find the tables. In situations with rookies, I'm using NHLE and NHLP.
Here's a quick utility-explainer for each:
Corsica Player Rating - ( https://www.corsicahockey.com/nhl-player-ratings-explained )
- These ratings are the key metric for overall evaluations in this article, and most properly grasp the players ability moving forward.
- This is a metric that makes a ton of sense for where it has pretty much every forward, except for (sometimes) parts of large TOI share player duos, which of course is a problem that's present in pretty much any method of evaluation, to the point where the ground truth itself is obscured.
- A particular strength of this metric is comparing players with large time on ice disparities in comparison to the game score and GAR, which I'll explain further shortly.
- This is a rate metric, one that gives us more context on who was most efficient in their time given in 2017-18.
- The metric does what it says it does well - it's slanted towards shooters and scorers and box score contributors
- CPR does not use points, so Game Score is a good contrast as it measures goals-established scoring ability, and gives us an idea of who has efficient point producers throughout their lineup.
- A second rate metric, to contrast against Game Score's shooter and scorers slant and attempt to better identify defensive contributions, and compartmentalise contributions in general.
- Deployment seems to muddy the waters in those defensive areas.
- Whenever I'm mentioning penalty differentials or defensive contributions. I'm talking about those components of Chace's GAR.
- I considered using Emmanuel Perry's GAR here but decided to stick to the Sekera piece script.
- This is an estimation of the amount of points a player would score based on their points per game in another league.
- These are non-age adjusted factors, and I will contextualise further when they come up.
- This is an estimation of what a players career season in the NHL will be based on their CHL production.
- I will use this alongside NHLE for players drafted highly, to capture what the upper end possibility could be - although few forwards peak in their rookie season, scoring forwards show themselves early and a stronger season than raw NHLE is possible for high first rounders.
In short, CPR are the overall guiding light, then we use Game Score (per 60) to illustrate the box score power and which teams will likely have the highest forward GF totals, and then we examine a players GAR to see what they bring in different areas.
Then for fun I'll do two little unscientific, novelty combinations of the metrics, along with a third that I think is Actually Important:
Top-Six Rating - the sum of the projected top two lines of forwards' Corsica Player Rating
Soft-Parade Potential - the total net amount of previous-season Offensive GAR (from Corsica.hockey/WAR)that a team has outside of their top two lines
Potential Negative Against Replacement Candidates - The amount of players who have a history of delivering negative GAR totals, or whose totals in offense are so low that they sit right at the water line and have a negative GAR season easily within their personal variance, oftentimes these are 4th liners who get caved on the shot clock and take penalties
The last one is important because theoretically if you have three or four guys taking a couple goals away each, that's basically subtracting a quality, salaried forward's entire contribution out (eight goals against replacement is a fine total for a forward).
A lot of what can be said about the Anaheim Ducks can also be said about the other two teams that compete in-state. Their financial audit reads almost exactly the same; there’s a collection of older players on contracts with different combination of movement protection and large dollar commitments - these vary in their projected value, and can often wildly swing in output even year-to-year. Take Dustin Brown’s pact, one that was often and early mentioned in any discussion of the most problematic contracts around the league every recent year until last.
All three of the sunshine-state team’s forward corps consist quite uniformly of these contracts, some middle or late twenties players that are middle-first round hits on good contracts, and potent, potentially highly valuable ELCs.
Possibly subject to immediate change is Ryan Kesler’s
appearance here. In late May this year, Elliote Friedman detailed in a 31
Thoughts column that there was a chance Ryan Kesler would not play the 2018-19
season at all. They’ve already got their contingency in Adam Henrique, who also
works in that role if Kesler’s
performance last season is indicative of his play going forward. That’s to say
Henrique might be their 2C on merit even if Kesler is healthy. Henrique is a
player who’s fairly controversial – he’s been playing tough matchups for a long
time without a ton of overt success. You can look at his numbers and excuse
them due to his particularly difficult deployment, but there are other players
who play in that role with more success than him. What he does have going for
him, though, is when he takes a defensive zone face-off against a tough
matchup, the defencemen behind him are one of the very best pairings in the
Contrast this centre depth with the rest of the division and
it doesn’t look fantastic given the risk factors. Getzlaf is still as good as any non-McDavid centre, but
after that it doesn’t particularly seem like they’ve got anyone playing below
their established level of ability unless Kesler is both healthy and at a level of play of two years ago, and that would be so generous that if you had time for that possibility you'd have to have time for the absolute best case scenario of every other team.
At Left Wing
Rakell is the high-end against this group and the division, and his
presence makes the position a mirror image of the centre group, where there’s an elite player at
the top of the lineup, a skilled checker below with metrics in disagreement, followed
by a bottom end that offers exploitability to opposing teams. Brian Gibbons was
a good bet for the Devils last year, cost nothing and they got a lot of
important goals out of him in the early part of the season. He got himself a
follow-up deal in California, and good for him. He’s one of many smaller
players to trash the AHL without further opportunities for many years of their
twenties. The math doesn’t like his chances at a repeat performance, however.
Nick Ritchie is an extremely dangerous player to ice, capable always of taking unnecessary penalties and often missing coverage. He’s also liable to draw penalties, however, just as every player of his player type does – mysteriously drawing more calls than more offensively dangerous players by virtue of provocation. He’s volatile both ways, could add or subtract three or so goals against replacement in a year.
At Right Wing
This is a position of balance for the Ducks, especially in
comparison to the other top-heavy columns. The top-heaviness of Anaheim’s right
wing is instead in the financial sector, consisting of their fanbases’ most
loathed contract – Corey Perry’s – and below three positive value contracts,
with one concrete and two subject to speculation.
Despite Corey Perry’s decline in season-total scoring, he’s
still a player that draws penalties and provides 5v5 offense at a first line
per hour rate, in the 83rd percentile to be precise. He’s become a
drag on possession, however, especially once you factor in how good his
linemates are and his favourable deployment, particularly for a veteran player.
The most alarming part of his production is that he’s begun to undershoot his
expected goals, meaning his finishing talents are waning and he’ll likely have
to transition into a playmaking role, much like what Oilers fans saw Mike
Cammaleri do this spring first-hand. He’s also one of Capfriendly’s most
popular buyouts – I’d say a rebuilding team should absolutely explore a trade
for him as his decline while real seems overstated.
Jakub Silfverberg is a success story in defensive deployment
with a killer shot whose only weakness
is that he has a bad penalty differential. What’s also interesting is that at
age 27 his defensive contribution actually declined year over year, and I
personally trace that back to the slashing crackdown. The
Cogliano-Silfverberg-Kesler line was one of the most hand-slash-happy units in
the NHL for years, and they’ll pay in both effectiveness and infractions for
the crackdown that’s come to the once-ubiquitous tactic that was especially
prominent in teams coached by Bruce Boudreau past or present.
Below those two we have two players highly likely to provide
value beyond their salaries, to buoy Perry’s impact in that area. Ondrej Kase
delivered a balanced season last year, being one of the most efficient scorers
in his minutes while also providing fantastic defensive value even against
rather sheltered minutes. Everything about him is a bargain – he’s a former 7th
rounder on a 2.6mm AAV contract that has that elusive third year on a bridge.
The second potential value contract is Troy Terry’s, a former 5th round pick that formed one of the best lines in college hockey despite him and his goalscoring partner – Henrik Borgstrom, age 20 – being much younger than typical feature lines in that league. Who you play with is very important in any league, so you can be wary of his NHLE, but anecdotally I seem to see only the third member of a forward line having inflated value, unless the first is generational or close. The verbal out of Anaheim says he’ll at least get some NHL time, and it’s been since he participated in the USA Olympic squad that it’s been implied he’ll have every chance to make the Ducks.
Overall, I’d say Anaheim’s flirting with disaster at centre,
has a just as top-heavy but significantly less risky left side, and a well
balanced and deep right wing.
Top six rating - 456.45
Soft parade potential – +8.17 OGAR
NAR candidates – three, one on the third line and two on the fourth.
Arizona’s had a top end problem for years. They didn’t hit
well in the first round at all at forward, and didn’t win any lotteries. Despite having a
defenseman like Ekmann-Larsson to ease the burden of playing at the top of the
forward line-up, no one really hit that lowered threshold of ability until
Stepan-Keller. Stepan had thoroughly better metrics in New York, and now that
the pairings are more set behind him, I think a lot of the possession value
will turn as well as Keller’s second year improving his offense. There’s more
centres on this team than those listed, but consulting the talk about the team
it appears this is how they’ll run on default - there's a number of battles but I'm betting on draft clout and skill to force guys up the lineup. Whether I'm right or wrong on who plays where, we still have a good read on the amount of impact players available by potential or pedigree.
What we’ve got here is a low-end 1C, followed by a
powder-keg in Galchenyuk who could blow up with minutes at his natural position
and decent wingers like the efficiently productive Hinostroza. Or, he could
prove why he was so sheltered in Montreal and get eaten alive by other team’s
skilled lines. You can see which metric bets for and which bets against.
Dvorak got a somewhat strange long-term contract this
summer, core-identifying and rich in term and average annual value. He’s
certainly not the worst 3C in the division, but he looks to be about Ryan Strome-level
and he’ll need both of his wingers to
help him score 5v5.
Speaking of not scoring 5v5, Brad Richardson’s sole value is
in his average defensive contribution pulling horrific scoring rates out of the
negative and a slightly positive penalty differential compounding into meagre
value, rating him as one of the better 4C’s in the division against some other
team’s possibly negative contributors.
At Left Wing
Arizona’s LW is the opposite of Edmonton’s. They’ve got a
sure bet at the top end, and then two intriguing youngsters at the bottom 6
instead of the top six. Which is good, because Perlini’s a heartbreaker of a
#12 overall, one of the ones I mentioned earlier in this Arizona feature. His
only redeeming ability appears to be finding the back of the net, but he
doesn’t do so often enough to outweigh the bad defensively. This is said,
unfairly, about a great many skilled forwards, in his case it’s much more
accurate than most.
Grabner is one of my favourite players, he's some kind of lab experiment. His scoring numbers, even in the WHL, look like they're of a players' work previous to the implementation of the forward pass. He's a bit of a dangerous player to acquire, as he can hurt you if you put him in the wrong spot, but because he's selling goals, he can be a money sink based on market value if you don't get his one dimension in spades. I think the best spot for him might be a sheltered forward line rounded out by a young defencemen who also needs those soft minutes but whose headman passing is beyond his years.
Lawson Crouse is a much lesser bet numerically, but still has draft pedigree and only needs to contribute in a complementary fashion offensively to become a useful player. If you’re Arizona, you hope to turn him into a player who can be the third on a skilled line for cheap, and penalty kill on the top unit. He was a bad bet for an impact player at #11 overall, but is a better one for a checker after being a useful AHL player with a good playoff spring. Still, it could be too early and the lack of offensive flourish could mean he brings down the unit a bit
At Right Wing
Richard Panik’s showing here surprises me, and It’s rather uniform, too. His GAR is made up of great complementary offense, above average defense, and a fine penalty differential. I don’t like the type of trade that was made, but among its kind it’s a wildly successful one. Panik pushes talented players down at this position, delivering respectable depth to the top nine.
Hinostroza is the latest boon from the Coyote’s cap-gaming dealings, and I’d mark it most successful if the competition wasn’t so heavy. The Hawks losing this player is devastating to a suspect middle forward group, and he arrives just in time to another, bringing efficient scoring and good zone-moving ability.
Fischer is a similarly efficient player who’s more defensively valuable, and he checks well without taking many penalties. His last year represents a likelihood of an extremely important 2nd round hit. He scored 15 goals as a ~5% shooter, that’s encouraging for the probability of an even better second season. The third in the order for each of Arizona’s forward positions seems to point to the possibility that should the team falter, it’ll be because of the top end and not the depth giving goals back.
Arizona's got much better depth than a number of teams in-division and balances out well with an assortment of offensive and defensive forwards, passers and playmakers. They're missing a scoring piece, and that's critical - especially given their drafting lately being slated away from some of the top producers available. They're in very good shape should either Dylan Strome or Nick Merkley hit some time during the year.
Top-Six Rating - 443.36
Soft-Parade Potential - +3.46 OGAR
NAR Candidates - two, both fourth liners
Los Angeles Kings
Several players could arrive right on time for this club.
The Kings had a problem, and they still do, too. The half-turn around from last year, in fairness to Darryl Sutter, can’t be entirely explained by coaching. Adrian Kempe emerged last year in a big way, after appearing to flounder in the AHL. In fact, his 16 NHL goals is four higher than his single highest one-season total on the Ontario Reign.
He joined two former Reign who made the jump in Iafallo and Amadio, and solved some of the top-heaviness of the Kings offense that was beginning to sink the ship. Players like Dwight King, Trevor Lewis, Kyle Clifford and crew were giving back against weak competition what Carter and Kopitar were earning in the stronger minutes (sound familiar?) and as the defence declined behind them, the talent of the top-end was being obscured.
This is a team that made the playoffs without some 50 games
of Jeff Carter, who is still an excellent player capable of forming as strong a
second line as any in the division. The elephant in the room is the question of
whether Brown’s resurgance was a blip, and if Kovalchuk still has it. They’ll
have plenty of help via Hart candidate centre and a Norris candidate defenseman
killing plays and moving the puck up the ice.
Kopitar is one of the very best players in the league, and his talents offer elite value in every facet of the game as he defends to near perfection while taking little penatlies against top competition and then turns around and scores on them endlessly as well.
As with each of the Hart nominees, what we likely witnessed was a career season in points, though that may not be true for MacKinnon due to the youth of his linemates. It’s unlikely that these players deliver on their GAR, and I would say their also-but-less flattering Corsica Player Rating may capture the potential their upcoming season holds more realistically.
Jeff Carter’s GAR is an unscientific projection based on his small amount of regular season games where he was likely running hot, to re-use the point just made about Kopitar. Still though, he’s more than enough as a second line centre especially between two strong offensive wingers like this. Skaters such as him seem to age slower than the rest, though the injury problems may continue.
In consulting some reporting about the teams upcoming training camp, what I found was that Vilardi is rehabbing his back, and may start on the team as a wing. His potential also mirrors Dylan Strome’s, his only weakness is his skating but it’s alleviated by the utterly ridiculous Junior numbers translated through NHLE. A better decision may be patience, but it’s been stated that he has every chance to make the team. Adrian Kempe is like a lot of young players – he gives back some of what he earns in offense according to GAR models.
Amadio and Lewis will play as the two centres on the fourth line, and this represents danger as the young player is the only of the trio to bring offense to the table, meaning a lapse in goaltending could easily put them in the red. The less offense you provide, the lower the threshold for what’s out of your control to be able to lose you your minutes in goalshare.
*projected GAR provided by @EvolvingWild
Kovalchuk is an erratic player to project. I’ve included projected GAR by EvolvingWild, and it may be shy. As noted earlier, his is a spot in the lineup that’s both important but one that he’ll have plenty of help in as a likely first-unit powerplay player and playing shotgun for a Hart candidate. His NHLE is ridiculous due to his strength of team somewhat, but it can’t be ignored. Tanner Pearson remains underrated, and isn’t out of place at all on a second line, though he isn’t wildly above average among the division.
Alex Iafallo’s season should be an interesting phenomenon – he played many minutes in Kovalchuk’s spot, and will be a fun little case-study in what happens when you reduce a player’s quality of teammate along with quality of competition. He added value immensely on the defensive side of the puck, but was playing mostly with Kopitar and Brown, and models can have trouble divvying up the separate contributions of large samples of minutes players played together, whom then played little minutes apart. Is
Alex Iafallo truly a player that adds 2.4 goals against replacement defensively, against top competition, by himself? Surely that will take a little step back, but the amount is what counts and it’ll be interesting to see.
Clifford is a generic fourth line guy who’s a negative against replacement candidate. More teams would do well to do what good teams have done, and cheaply turn over the bottom of the roster with younger players with more offensive potential, especially when they have a top line and defense pairing that can do all of the important checking for them.
Brown stepping back a bit from a second-half career season is to be expected, but this development should stop well short of putting him below first-line-wing category, particularly so due to the contingency the Kings run here, being able to put Pearson or Iafallo into Kovalchuk’s place should he falter and anchor down the line.
Toffoli is a bit of a one-way player, but given quality of linemates and competition he has and can easily continue to thrive, and should actually post better numbers than last year due to Carter’s health, though this did expose a bit the extent to which he relied on him. From the transition data, Toffoli appears to dump the puck in a ton, likely since Carter is the carrier of the line. His possession metrics should then improve with his centre’s return.
Everything written before about the third line dynamic of Vilardi and Kempe applies to the RW situation, as does the dynamic of Lewis as the second flank to a veteran fourth line that has trouble both transitioning the puck with possession, and with generating real chances and finishing them.
Overall, the Kings are well above average in their first unit, simply above average at the second, and have a question-mark third line with the ubiquitious archetype of youth and defensive uncertainty. Following is a commonly-found fourth line with two potential negative players and a skilled youngster tasked with putting them above water, made difficult because of the defensive depth at the same area of the roster among the blueliners.
Top-Six Rating - 465.54
Soft-Parade Potential - +5.47 OGAR
NAR Candidates - Two fourth liners
San Jose Sharks
This is the most complete forward group in the division, a title won through little competition, however.
It’s an envy-inducing compilation of all of the types of players a successful contending team can acquire to extend their window – a balance between successful mid-late first rounders, and late round picks converting at a high rate into complete role players, with an added bonus of a star from 7th round
Just fine Is their centre group, provided Thornton is healthy.
Thornton is a balanced player, adding just as much defensively as he does offensively in terms of percentile in his GAR, with substantial powerplay offense on top. It’s fairly difficult to construct a powerplay unit with this player on it that doesn’t score. He is declining, however, as in 2015-16 his line added about fifty-three (53!!!) goals against replacement between him(19.56), Pavelski(19.69), and pre-Dustin-Brown Tomas Hertl(13.67). This rolled down to about 14 in 2016-17, and 11 last year.
The numbers don’t rhyme on Couture, who is one of the best centres in the league by Corsica Player Rating, but has a rather pedestrian GAR in comparison. This is made up of strong offense, and then a curious defensive bite taken out of the net contribution from last year. This is out of character for Couture, who typically adds value both ways. I’m inclined to believe whatever Emmanuel Perry is doing to contextualise how hard his minutes lies closer to the truth on this player – and this could also be alleviated when Thornton returns.
Tierney is just average at 3C, with a better GAR percentile rank than CPR… but half of his GAR comes from the fact that he takes almost no penalties. It’s basically most important that he has wingers that provide offense for him as he treads water in almost every way. By our principle of likelihood to deliver negative impact, he works just fine.
There’s a battle for 4C, just like in most teams training camps, and Gambrell could easily win it by what I’ve read. He owns an impressive NHLE, but there’s danger here as each of his strong college years have been spent on excellent University of Denver teams next to players who either are or project to be good NHLers – Danton Heinen, Will Butcher, Troy Terry, Henrik Borgstrom, Ian Mitchell. He was drafted overage after a successful year on Heinen’s line after considerable press. It’s considerable likelihood that his offense is inflated as both of his 17 and 18 year old seasons in the USHL were mediocre in that area, especially the last one which was also spent playing with 19-year-olds. By our probability of negativity index, there’s a sign here, albeit not a flashing red one. This is important because the wingers have a history of this, as well as his possible competitors for the job.
Evander Kane adds a crown jewel to what would be a shy
top-nine otherwise. Post-Dustin-Brown Hertl hasn’t delivered the quality his
rookie season promised, but becomes much more valuable if pushed down to the
second line. Joe Thornton talks glowingly of Kane, and all signs point to him
as the first ingredient added to Big and Little Joe. This is a position that
merely lacks a truly elite player, but with a total added value of about 25
goals in the top-nine looks just fine going forward, especially age considered.
Contrast that with Calgary, who gets more than 25 goals off of just their top
two left-wingers but then gives ~8 back in the bottom-six, or Edmonton, who
only adds 13 total.
They do, however, run the risk of giving a little back on
the fourth line, which isn’t a glaring weakness but is something that’s so easy
to fix it should really get the attention it needs, given the more-than-meagre
Would you look at that, another 25 goals. This is a
masterclass in internal development, with two 7th rounders, and
undrafted player and a 4th rounder.
Joonas Donskoi is a fantastic carrier, by far leading his team in
entries and a close second to Thornton in exits, both with possession of
course. Labanc is a fascinating selection, plucked from the middle of the
lineup of his junior team, his point totals gated by his ice time who
subsequently exploded in his post-draft junior career and has doubled his
totals year over year in the NHL. He near literally tripled his draft year
total from 35 to 107 points and is now a well balanced middle sixer who is
useful both even strength and on the powerplay. As an aside, off all the teams
to select Ryan Merkley, the Sharks may be one of the most dangerous based on
Goodrow completes an a trio I’ve selected from the fourth
line competitors ahead of the Sharks camp, with no player in particular
changing the outlook – this may be a negative unit. Though this effect will
easily be made back by the relatively strong third line, it would behoove the
Sharks to make an easy fix and acquire more offensive players for their fourth
line to complete their attack even further.
Top-Six Rating: 459.34
Soft-Parade Potential: +2.23 OGAR
NAR Candidates: Three, entire fourth line
Vegas Golden Knights
Among many tropes, conspiracy theories and regular theories
for the Knights’ success, perhaps the most popular besides feelings-fuel was
the one explaining that Vegas had four second lines, or unparalleled depth
threatening the weak underbelly of salary-starved bottom sixes opposing them.
This is untrue by the numbers, which illustrate that an
elite first-line resultant from franchise-altering mistakes slaughtered the
league in front of average defensive depth and red-hot goaltending.
While this replicated itself in the playoffs, so too were
the fairy tales.
There are, however, been two major moves made to form a stronger second line of attack, featuring two players who have shown over different years that they can add that level of ability.
Someday, a winger will be credited publically with driving a
line as often as it happens in reality.
Yesterday was not that day.
Karlsson is the second-best player on his line, going
forward his Corsica Player Rating is likely more telling of his innate ability
than the single season GAR/82 rate, as with any player far to either side of
average variance. Accounting for that, he still stands above a few in-division
first line centres, and has more than enough skill to keep up with his
superstar winger and outscore almost any competition with some consistency.
Paul Stastny had a similar year, though a further regression
to career mean is likely in order due to age, and those who hold the memory of
his playoff run with Winnipeg as their evaluation on the player may be
overestimating him going forward, as there’s a particularly pronounced step
down in linemates coming.
Erik Haula being pushed down by Stastny, however, is found
money for the Knights. He does everything at an above average rate, and ends up
netting out at a couple GAR higher than your typical third line centre. Given
this, the Knights have a strong ability to elevate one of their rookies and run
them for a half season, like Cody Glass, given the amount of contingency on the
wings should this fail.
Cody Eakin is… a face-off man. On the surface, he’s a 15-goal
bottom sixer and that has value. Digging deeper, he does this in minutes where
replacement level outproduces him, and he typically doesn’t make up for this
defensively. He dumps the puck out, and he dumps the puck in. This player
flirts with negative numbers often, and is a candidate to take a chunk - albeit
not a large one - out of the goalshare.
Jonathan Marshessault is a superstar play-driving winger,
full stop. He’s the carrier on his line, he added 8.9 GAR in 5v5 offensively to
the next closest of 6.3, is the common denominator on the powerplay, and
doesn’t give anything back defensively. He’s in the rank 7 peer-group in
Corsica Player Ratings. He has the highest shot contributions on his team.
There precious few possible upgrades on
I began writing this well before the Pacioretty trade, and
so to contextualise how impactful the replacement on 2LW is, I’ll first start
with what I had written previously about Tomas Tatar:
Tatar was what should have been a highly controversial
acquisition, but the team’s success shielded the move somewhat. They got very
little out of him, though he’s had better years than last. He’s a powerplay
guy, delivering last season a 37th percentile 5v5 offensive contribution
but a 70th powerplay one. Interestingly, his defensive contribution
rockets up by that same measure if you look at his previous year. Which of
course prompts me to investigate his linemates – where I find a partnership
with one Mr. Henrik Zetterberg making up the large majority of his minutes. I’d
wager also that Gerard Gallant would have a thing or two to say about that if
you gave him a truth serum, given that the player was a healthy scratch in the
playoffs. His entry data and passing metrics don’t shine on him either, leaving
me still searching for an area strength.
Now, Max Pacioretty has been one of the best players at his
position for some time, this much is certain. He’s a player that gets a lot
done in tough times and without quality help, excluding just the last year. He
drives offense against tough opposition perennially at a 90+th percentile level
at even strength, doesn’t give a ton back and draws far more penalties than he
takes. He does this without being a one-dimensional shooter, as well, as his
passing metrics are far above average, and he was the rare player type that is
an exceptionally good zone exit artist, making his centre (or whoever is F1 at
the time) and defensemen’s jobs easier because of his intelligence,
positioning, and skill with the puck coming off of the wall in the defensive
zone. His talents are so pronounced that, if you add just one year to his last
one, the aberration washes out and then some and he still ranked high
percentile in important areas. A massive add to a position that needed it, one
that will help to balance the Knights’ top-heavy attack. The key is whether or
not last year wasn’t indicative of his impact going forward.
Ryan Carpenter is another damned Sharks product that’s a
valuable all-around player, offensively ungifted but disciplined defensively,
wins a big enough share of face-offs to add value there and can penalty kill
competently as well. Him and Nosek could be swapped practically, and I wouldn’t
doubt it could happen but they’d lose a little as they may be similar players,
but Carpenter shows up a little bit better at everything. The good news is,
there’s no negative history here.
The fourth left-wing is likely Tomas Nosek, but as with most
teams I’ve detailed his spot is in contention. He’s a player that provides so
little offensively that, if he had a history of bad penalty differential he’d
be a risk factor. He doesn’t, but his prior history in the AHL shows a player
with a fine goal differential and season PIM totals commiserate with his estimated
TOI, so the bet is he’s fairly disciplined.
The second gift from the wise men is Reilly Smith, who
rounds out the top line nicely though is generally accepted by each model and
by traditional analysts to be the complementary player of the three. Still,
given he adds up to a first line winger it would take quite a drop-off in
performance for him to be ill-suited for the role. He’s just a good player,
offensively defensively and on the powerplay.
Alex Tuch is a player who seemed to be obscured a bit in the
NCAA and AHL – his potential based on scoring numbers was much higher in the
USHL and I do wonder what his role was at BC. Regardless, he brought all kinds
of tools up from the minor leagues and is now inspiring fans all over to
project his success onto their favourite team’s 21-year-old AHL forwards.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare is a living stereotype and is much
rarer in player identity than he sounds. Usually, when a veteran player is
known for providing little offense but checking consistently to a draw, both
qualities are overrated and obscure what is a negative contribution player.
Bellemare is an exception, I first noticed this player on Team Europe in the
2016 World Cup playing well above his pay grade and have been fascinated to
find that he’s a success case of classic checking wing. He takes away offense
against replacement for -1.4 goals, but then adds 3.8 goals defensively while
critically taking little obstruction penalties, hanging out at four goals above
sea level. I hope I’m contextualising just how rare this is, 3.8 goals
defensively places him in a lofty percentile in that discipline.
Ryan Reaves as a player is so far into meme territory that
it’s difficult to talk about the player. From goon-turned-good-player the
traditional hockey media says about him, to the facetious first-round-pick-fodder moniker given to him
from the analytically-inclined, there’s a wide range of opinion on the player.
Here’s the deal: there’s a boatload of evidence that he’s just a comically
famous fourth line player. He dumps the puck in, he dumps the puck out. He hits
people, he gets hit by people. He throws hands, and he catches hands. A
bona-fide legend, to be sure, but I’m not at all convinced he affects Vegas’
chances on the ice in a positive way and he’s a candidate for a
Here’s what’s becoming a trope: the Knights could save
themselves a chunk of goal differential by turning over the bottom end of their
roster and running Daniel Carr, Bellemare and adding someone such as Nick Shore to essentially erase the risk they
run of eating into others’ positive contributions. Especially if they’re
looking to come out of the West again.
Top-Six Rating - 466.73
Soft-Parade Potential - +8.27 OGAR
NAR Candidates - Entire fourth line