Each week, Scott Cullen will dive into the numbers to unearth some analytical insights to help your fantasy team.
This week shot rates and percentages tell some interesting stories early in the 2020-2021 season.
#1 Carolina Hurricanes center Vincent Trocheck is having a wonderful season. He has 19 points in 21 games but in those 21 games he has a grand total of one assist during 5-on-5 play. So, while he is not likely to continue scoring on 40% of his shots on the power play, Trocheck is also bound for more assists at even strength.
#2 There is no player that is more primed for in-season regression than Philadelphia Flyers left winger James van Riemsdyk, who is in the midst of the most productive season of his career. He has 26 points in 19 games, good for 1.37 points per game. His previous high was 0.76 points per game, in 2013-3014 and 2016-2017, two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
#3 How is van Riemsdyk scoring at such an unusually high rate? For one thing, he has a 5-on-5 on-ice shooting percentage of 18.6%. For frame of reference, the forward with the highest on-ice shooting percentage last season (minimum 300 5-on-5 minutes) was Edmonton’s Kailer Yamamoto at 12.5%.
#4 How do those percentages manifest in van Riemsdyk’s favor? He has 2.31 secondary assists per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play. The second-highest rate in the league (minimum 150 5-on-5 minutes) belongs to Tampa Bay’s Anthony Cirelli at 1.39. That is an enormous gap.
#5 It is not only van Riemsdyk riding the wave of high percentages in Philadelphia. Sean Couturier (20.3% in just nine games), Joel Farabee (16.2%), and Scott Laughton (16.2%) have all been extremely fortunate during 5-on-5 play. Farabee, the 21-year-old winger, had 21 points in 52 games as a rookie last season but has 10 goals and 19 points in 19 games this season. Still, like van Riemsdyk, he is due to have his lofty percentages decline.
#6 He is sidelined on the Covid-19 protocol list right now, but Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby is having an unusual start to the season. He has 18 points in 20 games which isn’t up to his usual scoring standards, but the underlying numbers indicate that his offensive production should be down. During 5-on-5 play, Crosby’s shot attempt, shot, and individual expected goal rates are all at career lows. His on-ice numbers tell a similar story as the Penguins are generating 55.9 shot attempts per 60 minutes, the lowest rate of his career.
#7 The saving grace for Crosby is that his defensive numbers have been outstanding. The Penguins allow 46.1 shot attempts per 60 with Crosby on the ice this season, a career low and down from 55.9 shot attempts per 60 last season.
#8 Montreal Canadiens right winger Brendan Gallagher leads the NHL with 1.26 individual expected goals per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play this season. He is a crease crasher who takes a lot of high percentage shots so it is not necessarily a surprise, but he also had the highest rate last season and the season before that. In the past three seasons, Gallagher has a league-best 1.32 ixG/60.
#9 Ranking second in terms of individual expected goal rate since 2018-2019 is Ottawa Senators left winger Brady Tkachuk, at 1.16 ixG/60, so Gallagher is in the lead by quite a significant margin. Tkachuk is the player that the Senators use to elevate the performance of others on the roster. Since 2018-2019, Tkachuk has played more than 200 5-on-5 minutes with 18 different Ottawa Senators. Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is the only one that had better shot differentials away from Tkachuk and even Stone had better expected goal differentials when he played with Tkachuk. He may not have huge scoring numbers yet, but Brady Tkachuk is a force to be reckoned with.
#10 It is hard to imagine a forward being more snakebit than Anaheim Ducks winger Rickard Rakell, who has two goals on 69 shots, a shooting percentage of 2.9%. Even in a 56-game season, Rakell is on pace for nearly 176 shots. Since the NHL started tracking shots on goal in 1959-1960, the lowest shooting percentage for a forward with at least 175 shots in a season has been 4.3% (Tomas Fleischmann in 2013-2014 and Nathan Gerbe in 2014-2015). This is to say that Rakell should expect to score at a higher rate unless he is somehow a historically poor finisher, which would be a strange description for a two-time 30-goal scorer.
#11 Okay, maybe Buffalo Sabres left winger Taylor Hall is having an even harder time putting the puck in the net. Hall has one goal on 54 shots (1.9 SH%). He scored that goal on the power play in the first period of the season opener. Hall has had some seasons in which he struggled to finish, scoring on just 6.9% of his shots last season with New Jersey and Arizona, but this is ridiculous.
#12 How ridiculous? The Buffalo Sabres, as a team, are scoring on 5.1% of their 5-on-5 shots. In the modern stats era, since 2007-2008, there has never been a team with such a poor 5-on-5 shooting percentage for a full season. The worst of the worst would be the 2014-2015 Arizona Coyotes at 5.7%. So far this season, Buffalo is well below that and the Nashville Predators, at 5.4%, are below that threshold as well. Statistically, the expectation has to be that the results will get better for Buffalo and Nashville but if the teams are out of playoff contention, it may not matter if they ever get that expected improvement in the percentages.
#13 Nashville center Matt Duchene has been among the more disappointing forwards so far this season, especially as a player who has seven seasons with at least 55 points, scoring three goals on 46 shots (6.5 SH%) and Duchene is one of just seven forwards taking more than 70% of their faceoffs in the offensive zone so even with that tilt of the ice, he is struggling to score.
#14 It isn’t going any better for Nashville center Ryan Johansen, who has yet to score a goal and has one even strength assist in 14 games. Duchene and Johansen are counting $8 million each against the salary cap for Nashville, the two highest paid forwards on the team, so they are the ones who take the heat for Nashville’s offensive struggles and as rumors swirl about the Predators rebuilding, they are left to embark on that process around two centers that are not living up to expectations.
#15 A fifth-round pick in 2015, Arizona Coyotes winger Conor Garland had a respectable first couple of seasons in the league but has erupted in his third NHL campaign. Garland is producing 3.1 shots per game and 3.15 points/60 during 5-on-5 situations, one of 10 players in the league this season with more 3.0 points per 60 (minimum 10 GP) so he is not getting propped up by power play production.
#16 After scoring a career-high nine power play goals last season, New York Rangers left winger Chris Kreider has continued to thrive with the man advantage this season, scoring half of his 10 goals while the Rangers are in a 5-on-4 situation. That production is legit, too. Kreider ranks third in individual expected goals per 60 minutes of play at 5-on-4 with 3.74, behind only Florida’s Patric Hornqvist (3.84) and Boston’s Patrice Bergeron (3.79).
#17 There have been 59 defensemen with at least 30 minutes of 5-on-4 ice time this season and Montreal Canadiens veteran Jeff Petry seems to be the best of them at getting pucks to the net. He ranks second in shots/60 (18.4), behind only Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere (20.4) but Petry is much more efficient, with 80.0% of his shot attempts resulting in a shot on goal, ranking second behind Chicago’s Duncan Keith (83.3%). This is to support Petry’s surprising power play production as he already has nine points with the man advantage.
#18 On the other end of the spectrum, Arizona’s Jordan Oesterle (0.0%), Philadelphia’s Erik Gustafsson (16.6%), and Boston’s Charlie McAvoy (22.2%) are the three defensemen from that group that have had the lowest percentage of shot attempts resulting in a shot on goal.
#19 He is still battling just to earn a spot on the Edmonton blueline but 2018 first-round pick Evan Bouchard has shown great potential, generating 12.5 shots per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play. Among defensemen to play at least 150 minutes, that ranks first…by a lot. Second place is Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm (8.6) and third is Carolina’s Dougie Hamilton (8.2). It may require some patience but Bouchard’s ability to get pucks to the net could have huge long-term value in dynasty leagues.
#20 Sometimes shot rates bring out surprises. The leaders in 5-on-5 shots/60 are not entirely unexpected: Brendan Gallagher, Brady Tkachuk, David Pastrnak, Max Pacioretty, Adam Gaudette. Wait, Adam Gaudette? The 24-year-old Canucks winger is not playing much and is in a 13-game goal drought, but he is putting pucks on net (12.2 shots/60) in his limited ice time. If there is a shake-up in Vancouver and Gaudette gets a better opportunity, maybe he could be worth keeping an eye on.
- Advanced stats via Natural Stat Trick.