Sochi Olympics 2014: Norway Roster Analysis

Image courtesy of ctvnews.ca.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Olympic Games may be well under way, but Ice Nation UK will continue to bring you analysis of each Men’s hockey team in contention.  Enjoy!

The eve of the World’s greatest international hockey competition is upon us.  As teams make their final preparations, and strategise for the tough road ahead, Ice Nation UK is going to break down each and every roster in attendance.

Keep checking in over the next couple of days as we bring you the very best in analysis, and you might learn a thing or two about how the best hockey nations on the planet stack up against each other “on paper”.

Next up: the oft-forgotten Scandinavian sister, Norway.

THE ROSTER

Forwards (14):

  • Image courtesy of nhl,com.

    Morten Ask

  • Anders Bastiansen
  • Robin Dahlstrøm
  • Kristian Forsberg
  • Mads Hansen
  • Marius Holtet
  • Sondre Olden
  • Ken Andre Olimb
  • Mathis Olimb
  • Mats Rosseli Olsen
  • Niklas Roest
  • Martin Røymark
  • Per-Åge Skrøder
  • Patrick Thoresen
  • Mats Zuccarello

Defence (8):

  • Alexander Bonsaksen
  • Jonas Holøs
  • Henrik Solberg
  • Daniel Sørvik
  • Ole-Kristian Tollefsen
  • Mats Trygg
  • Henrik Ødegaard

Goal (3):

  • Lars Haugen
  • Lars Volden
  • Steffen Søberg

FORWARDS

Norway Forwards Analysis – Scoring Stats

In order to analyse the forward selections, the first port of call is quite obviously their scoring numbers.  Hockey is won by the team that scores more goals, so what better way to evaluate the players whose job it is to do just that?

The following table displays each forward named to Norway, followed by their position, age, their statistics for each of the four seasons leading up to the Olympics, their totals, and the averages.

Seasons coloured GREEN are those spent entirely or partially in a league other than the NHL.  Scoring totals include those obtained while playing in other domestic leagues around the globe, both professional and junior (if applicable).  Click the image to enlarge it.

NOR FWD - STATS

Statistics courtesy of NHL.com; table created by Chris Hext.
  • Clearly very little in the way of NHL talent here, with Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers representing the only player to have played even a minute in the league over the last 4 years.
  • Not only is Zuccarello in the NHL, but he’s an extremely effective player at that level despite his 5’7″ frame.  With 77 points in 125 games to-date, and playing at a 0.74 points per game pace this year, he’s looking like just about the best Norwegian hockey player in history (former Blue Jacket Espen Knutsen might argue that point, but Zuccarello is trending to be more effective).
  • Joining Zuccarello as the superstars of Norway is Patrick Thoresen.  Thoresen spent 106 games in the NHL between 2006 and 2008, scoring 24 points, primarily being used in a defensive role.  Since then however, he has proven himself as one of the best forwards at both ends of the ice that the KHL has ever seen, with 242 points in 240 career games and an outstanding defensive game.
  • Young forward Olden looks like a very capable scorer in Europe, as does Ask, but on the whole this isn’t the most offensively talent roster out there.  They will be relying on Thoresen and Zuccarello a lot.

Norway Forwards Analysis – Deployment and Usage

The next table displays the usage of each forward on their respective NHL teams, including their relative ranking on their team in terms of Time On Ice.  Those who are top 3 on their respective teams in any of the disciplines can likely be considered to be highly trusted and valued players by their coach.

This is not a perfect measure by any means — some players are probably unfairly punished due to the depth on their teams — but it does give some indication as to how Norway might be expected to use them.  Click the image to enlarge.

NOR FWD - TOI

Statistics courtesy of NHL.com; table created by Chris Hext.
  • Mats Zuccarello plays second-line minutes at 5v5 and top line powerplay minutes, indicating a guy trusted by his coach to play fairly significant minutes.  His scoring numbers would suggest he has more than earned these minutes.
  • Thoresen isn’t receiving cherry minutes for his KHL team this year, which makes his numbers all the more impressive.  One would have to suspect he sees time in all situations, given his numbers and the verbal about his two-way game over the years.

Norway Forwards Analysis – Underlying Numbers

Finally, let’s dig a bit deeper and explore these players’ underlying numbers.  Thanks to Robert Vollman’s Player Usage Charts, we can track how players are doing in terms of their possession game, as well as the kind of competition they are taking on.  The following chart displays this information for the Norwegian forwards.

NOR FWD - PUC 2

  • The bluer the bubble, the better the player’s Corsi number; the x-axis displays the offensive zone start percentage, and the y-axis is the quality of competition.
  • Zuccarello is having an outstanding season, being a dominant possession player while playing above average competition.  He is receiving cherry zone-starts, but he’s making the most of the opportunity.  Combine that with his scoring ability and you have a dangerous forward at hand.

The following table displays each forward, their individual Fenwick For Percentages (shot attempts) and PDO numbers (on-ice shooting and save percentages added together, an expression of “luck”), the FF% and PDO numbers for their respective NHL clubs, and their clubs’ NHL Conference rank at the time of writing.

NOR FWD - ADV

Statistics courtesy of ExtraSkater.com; table created by Chris Hext.
  • We can see here that Zuccarello really is knocking it out of the park, performing at a high level in terms of puck possession.  It will be interesting to see how his numbers are on a comparatively poor team, such as this, and if he’ll be able to maintain a similar number.

DEFENSE

Norway Defense Analysis – Scoring Stats

The following table displays each defender named to Norway, followed by their position, age, their statistics for each of the four seasons leading up to the Olympics, their totals, and the averages.

Seasons coloured GREEN are those spent entirely or partially in a league other than the NHL.  Scoring totals include those obtained while playing in other domestic leagues around the globe, both professional and junior (if applicable).  Click the image to enlarge it.

NOR DEF - STATS

  • Three guys here have experience in North America, two of those in the NHL.  Jonas Holos saw 39 NHL games with Colorado back in 2010/11, but has been in Europe ever since, and Norwegian hockey legend Ole Kristian Tollefsen, who spent 163 games in the NHL with Columbus and Philadelphia between 2005 and 2010 before injuries forced him back to Europe, where he’s been a quality defensive defender in the SHL ever since.
  • This isn’t a group that is likely to create a lot of offense, much like the forward group, but does possess some solid defensive players who will give an honest effort night in and night out.

GOAL

To evaluate goalies who play outside the NHL, the number most indicative of actual ability is likely save percentage.  A number higher than 0.910 is generally speaking a solid number at the very least (the NHL average is 0.917).

NOR GOAL - SV%

  • Again, zero NHL talent on this list.  A young group of goalies, Haugen is the oldest at 26 but has been playing in weaker leagues than Volden, who may get significant game time to prove himself.
  • Soberg is a skilled if undersized goalie, who is likely along to gain experience more than anything, though his numbers indicate a guy who can stop the puck fairly well against second-tier competition.

CONCLUSION

Image courtesy of nhl.com.

Finishing at the bottom of Group B following the preliminary rounds, Norway finds itself in a difficult spot.  Their 3:12 goals for/against ratio lines up with the numbers above that suggest a team that can’t score and without the talent to truly compete against hockey nations that are simply far better.

Per-Age Skroder, Mathis Olimb and Patrick Thoresen led the way with 2 points each in 3 games, with Jonas Holos picking up 1 point but also a ghastly -7 rating.  They face a determined and ridiculously talented Russian team in the qualification round; this is not going to be pretty.

Stay tuned for the next installment.

Follow Chris on Twitter, and whilst you’re at it follow Ice Nation UK for all the best hockey talk.

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