NHL – Goalscoring Sustainability

EDITOR’S NOTE: You guessed it, even though it seems impossible, there’s even more excitement here at Ice Nation and it’s most definitely time for the crumpets to come out! We are delighted to welcome another fantastic writer to our ranks: Ger Devine. Ger, who hails from Cork, Ireland, joins Ice Nation UK as an experienced hockey blogger – already lending his talents to such well-regarded blogs as SB Nation’s Hockey Wilderness, and Sports Illustrated’s Gone Puck Wild. A fan of the Minnesota Wild, Ger will provide in-depth analysis of players, teams and events around the NHL, delving into the sometimes murky realm of advanced statistics. We are pleased to welcome aboard someone as talented as Ger, and whilst this post was written a few days ago (do bear this in mind with the stats) we hope you enjoy his excellent insights as much as we do!
Image courtesy of washingtonpost.com.

Image courtesy of washingtonpost.com.

N ow that we’re about a quarter of the way through the season, a small group of players are starting to break away from the rest of the pack at the top of the goalscoring rankings. Some of these guys are the regulars who are there every season and some names are more surprising.

I’m going to take a look at some of the underlying numbers to try and get a clearer picture of which guys have a good chance of contending for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy at the end of the season, and which guys are due to hit a dry patch in the near future when their Sh% regresses.

Firstly, let’s take a look at who the top goal-scorers are this season:

Ovechkin 20 20 28.0
Steen 22 17 18.2
Stamkos 17 14 14.3
Pominville 24 13 15.2
Getzlaf 22 13 12.0
Perry 26 13 18.7
Duchene 19 12 18.8
Hertl 23 12 16.8
Seguin 22 12 12.7
Kessel 23 12 17.4
Kane 24 12 14.2
Datsyuk 24 12 14.1
Little 25 12 10.0
Crosby 24 12 14.8
  • Ovechkin and Steen stand out from the group so far. Stamkos may be out of contention for a long time due to the nasty injury he suffered. After those 3, there is a large group of players on 13 or 12 goals.
  • I’ve added a column for their 5v5 Corsi For per 60 minutes because players who are generating a lot of shot attempts stand a better chance of keeping up their goalscoring over the course of the season. Ovechkin scores a lot of goals because he shoots the puck a lot. Bryan Little doesn’t and thus will find it hard to keep scoring at this pace.

Next, let’s look at each player’s shooting percentage so far this year, along with their average shooting percentage from the 2009-10 season to 2012-13. In the 3rd column, I’ve subtracted each player’s average from the previous 4 seasons from their average this year to see who is performing above their usual ability and by how much:

PLAYER SH% 2009-13 SH% Sh% Difference
Steen 23.3% 9.8% 13.5%
Little 21.8% 10.6% 11.2%
Seguin 18.8% 10.1% 8.7%
Getzlaf 21.0% 12.5% 8.5%
Duchene 19.4% 12.6% 6.8%
Pominville 17.8% 11.5% 6.3%
Stamkos 23.3% 18.0% 5.3%
Ovechkin 16.3% 12.3% 4.0%
Kane 16.0% 12.5% 3.5%
Datsyuk 16.7% 13.9% 2.8%
Kessel 13.8% 11.2% 2.6%
Perry 13.7% 13.1% 0.6%
Crosby 13.8% 15.0% -1.2%
Hertl 20.0% N/A N/A
  • This is Thomas Hertl’s rookie year, so he has no previous data to go on and is therefore excluded.
  • Sidney Crosby is, remarkably, actually shooting below his average from the past few seasons. That bodes well for him going forward. If he keeps this up, he should be one of the top goalscorers in the league by the end of the regular season.
  • Corey Perry is shooting only 0.6% above his recent average so he should finish the year with a lot of goals too.
    Image courtesy of frozennotes.com.

    Image courtesy of frozennotes.com.

  • There has been a lot of talk about Alex Steen’s goalscoring form, but he is currently shooting 13.5% above his average from the last 4 seasons. I think Steen has some heavy regression to the mean coming up in the near future. A Sh% of 23.3% just isn’t sustainable, least of all for a guy who has been a pretty average goalscorer throughout his career. That’s not to say he won’t finish the year with a lot of goals. He has enough of them in the bag at this point to endure some regression and still finish with a healthy total. That being said, he is a UFA next summer, and some team is going to see his goals total, overpay him, and then get burned the following year when his Sh% reverts back to normal.
  • The aforementioned Bryan Little is another candidate for some heavy regression. Tyler Seguin is also shooting at a ridiculously high percentage right now.

So, to summarise, here are my 5 candidates to be in the hunt for the Rocket Richard Trophy at the end of the year, and my 5 candidates to drop-out of the race:

5 Favourites For The Rocket Richard Trophy 5 Most Likely To Fall Out Of Contention
1 Alex Ovechkin 1 Alex Steen
2 Sidney Crosby 2 Bryan Little
3 Corey Perry 3 Steven Stamkos (injury)
4 Phil Kessel 4 Ryan Getzlaf
5 Patrick Kane 5 Tyler Seguin


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