Posted on: January 18, 2012 4:11 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2012 4:43 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at which top rookies are playing some of the toughest (and easiest) assignments in the NHL.
Most NHL teams are going to put their rookies into favorable situations on the ice.
They are usually not going to be asked to play the toughest minutes on their team, against the best opponents and in defensive situations, and instead are going to be put into low pressure situations where they have the best opportunity to succeed. There are, of course, always exceptions, and some youngsters are asked to take on larger (and more important) roles, whether it be out of necessity, or because the player has shown that he's capable of taking on such an assignment at a young age.
This year's rookie class has had some pretty impressive performances so far, including that of top overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (currently the NHL's leading rookie scorer) in Edmonton, Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson with the Devils and, of course, Philadelphia's young forwards Sean Couturier (pictured) and Matt Read, who have not only flashed some offensive ability, but have also proven themselves to be more than capabale penalty killers.
But which of the NHL's top rookies are being asked to play the toughest minutes this season?
Well, that's what the scatterplot picture below helps us figure out. We're using Relative Corsi Quality of Competition (the level of competition the player is playing against -- the higher the number, the tougher the opponent, and vice versa) and Offensive Zone starts (both via Behind The Net) during 5-on-5 play to determine which rookies are being asked to play in the toughest situations by their respective teams.
The closer a player is to the top left of the chart, the harder the assignments he's being given (playing against better players and starting fewer shifts in the offensive zone), while the closer a player is to the bottom right, the easier the assignment (playing against weaker competition and starting more shifts in the offensive zone).
The players included: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Oilers), Adam Henrique (Devils), Nick Johnson (Wild), Luke Adam (Sabres), Cody Hodgson (Canucks), Jared Cowen (Senators), Adam Larsson (Devils), Gabriel Landeskog (Avalanche), Sean Couturier (Flyers), Matt Read (Flyers), Ryan Johansen (Blue Jackets), Raphael Diaz (Canadiens), Craig Smith (Predators), Colin Greening (Senators) and Kaspars Daugavins (Senators).
A few thoughts:
1) When it comes to the NHL's rookie of the year debate the two most common names are, naturally, Nugent-Hopkins and Henrique. They are, after all, the top two scoring rookies in the league, and before Nugent-Hopkins went out with his injury they were neck-and-neck in that scoring race. Now that Henrique is running unopposed for the foreseeable future, he's going to take over that scoring lead (barring an injury of his own, of course) and will probably become the front-runner for the award by seasons end.
Both players have arguments working in their favor.
When we did our mid-season award picks I went with Henrique based on the fact he and Nugent-Hopkins were nearly identical offensively, while Henrique was being asked to play in tougher situations (as the chart above illustrates). Along with that, he is also one of the top penalty killing forwards on the best penalty killing team in the league, and has proven himself to be a threat offensively even when his team is down shorthanded, currently tied for the league in shorthanded points. Conversely, Nugent-Hopkins is getting some of the easiest minutes in the league among the top rookies, and has played just a total of one minute and 16 seconds of shorthanded ice time this season.
That said, it can't be ignored that Henrique is already 21 years old while Nugent-Hopkins is one of the youngest players in the league at the age of 18. Actually, he's the second-youngest player to have skated in an NHL game this season, having been born just six days after Ottawa's Mika Zibanejad, who appeared in nine games for the Senators.
He may not be asked to play in tough situations, but his performance is still darn impressive given his age.
2) Don't overlook the rookie duo in Philadelphia. The Flyers completely re-tooled their roster over the summer, and halfway through the 2011-12 season they haven't missed a beat as far as being a contender in the Eastern Conference is concerned.
Losing Mike Richards and Jeff Carter looked like it was going to be a major blow to their forward depth, and while they are definitely a different team from a year ago, they're still boasting an impressive group of forwards, including their two prized rookies Couturier (selected with the draft pick that came from Columbus in exchange for Carter) and Read. Both are among the Flyers' top penalty killing forwards, and among Flyers forwards that have played at least 20 games this season Read is currently facing the fourth-toughest competition on the team.
3) Mike Yeo, head coach of the Minnesota Wild, appears to have a lot of faith in Nick Johnson, a player the team picked up on waivers before the season. Not only is he playing, by far, the toughest minutes of any of the top rookies in the NHL (he's currently 11th among rookie scorers) his Qual Comp is the highest of any forward on the Wild roster. Perhaps that faith shouldn't be much of a surprise given the connections both have to the Pittsburgh organization (Johnson was drafted by the Penguins, while Yeo was a former assistant).
Of course, age once again needs to be taken into account. While Johnson is playing tougher minutes than all of these other rookies, he's also by far the oldest player on the chart having already turned 26 back in December. A 26-year-old rookie and an 18-year-old rookie aren't exactly the same thing.
Taking into account performance, assignments and age I'd still choose Henrique as the top rookie in the NHL this season (so far), with Nugent-Hopkins, Read and Craig Smith coming in just behind.
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Tags: Adam Gretz, Adam Henrique, Adam Larsson, Buffalo Sabres, Cody Hodgson, Colin Greening, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Craig Smith, Edmonton Oilers, Gabriel Landeskog, Jared Cowen, Jeff Carter, Luke Adam, Matt Read, Mika Zibanejad, Mike Richards, Mike Yeo, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, Nick Johnson, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Pucks And Numbers, Raphael Diaz, Ryan Johansen, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sean Couturier, Vancouver Canucks
Posted on: October 16, 2011 2:24 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 11:30 am
I wonder how Taylor Hall feels this morning? Saturday was a banner night for two of the past three No. 1 overall draft picks. But at least Hall had a good view for half of it.
First, it was John Tavares. the No. 1 selection in the 2009 draft is scorching hot at the moment for the Islanders. Tavares had a hat trick as the Isles took down the Rangers in a New York showdown. For J.T., it marked his second consecutive four-point game that included five goals.
At this rate, maybe Tavares should do the negotiating for a new arena on Long Island. Right now, he can't miss.
Now step over here for the latest showing in Premature Theater: are the Islanders the best of the New York-area teams? Since losing on opening night to the Florida Panthers 2-0 with some boo birds in attendance, it's been mostly smooth sailing for the young bunch.
They have won three in a row, beating the Wild, Lightning and Rangers. They're goaltending has been surprisingly solid with Al Montoya and Evgeni Nabokov. We saw surprising simply because this team was carrying three goalies on the active roster as of a few days ago and not many foresaw Montoya being the No. 1. The offense is showing the promise many people see; largely Tavares can be a superstar and he has some good players around him.
This is the point where we remind ourselves it's only the second weekend of the year. Of course Tavares won't score four points every night. But the Islanders have been taking steps the last two seasons and the signs were there for a breakout, just nobody could see how it happened in a division with the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers and Devils. So far so good.
Not to be outdone
On to the other star of the night. That would be the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Oilers. I'm starting to think maybe the scouting reports had him all wrong. I'm not talking about the knocks on his size, either, but the fact that he is a play-maker. I'd say he's making plays right now, goal-scoring plays.
The Nuge as some have already come to call him, netted his first hat trick of his career in the Oilers' 4-3 loss to the Canucks. So yea, in only his third career game, Nugent-Hopkins wrangled up a hat trick against Roberto Luongo and the defending Western Conference champions. This comes after his game-tying goal in the final minutes against the Penguins in his NHL debut helped Edmonton to a season-opening two points.
But Hall isn't feeling too bad. After all, he had a solid rookie campaign himself last season and he's enjoying the spoils of Nugent-Hopkins' great start by playing on the same line. He has assisted on three of Nugent-Hopkins' four goals this season.
That giddy giggling you hear is coming out of Edmonton, where visions of sugarplums dance in their heads at the idea of Hall and Nugent-Hopkins playing on the same line for years to come. Throw in a healthy Ales Hemsky and you have as exciting and talented a young line as you'll find in hockey.
It's still going to take some time, but this might be the season where the Oilers begin to show that improvement. Of course if they don't, I can't imagine Edmonton would feel too bad with a shot at top draft prospect Nail Yakupov.
Oh, and this Phil Kessel fella is pretty good too. The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of three unbeaten teams remaining in the NHL with a 3-0-0 record (the Capitals and Red Wings the others) and Phil Kessel has been a monster in that start.
Maybe that trade isn't looking that awful anymore.
What's that feeling in Toronto? Optimism? Nice to meet you again.
If a tree falls in the woods ...
The Dallas Stars are 4-1, but not many people in the Metroplex have been around to see it. In their home win on Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the announced attendance was 8,305. That followed up attendance numbers of 6,306 vs. the Coyotes and 7,949 against the Blues.
Now I understand full well that there is a certain other team that is stealing the spotlight in Dallas right now in the Texas Rangers. A World Series run is not easy to compete against. But those numbers are still awfully low, especially this early in the season with a team playing so well.
I'll give Dallas a pass for another week or so until the Rangers' run is done, but with young stars like Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro, I have no doubt the Stars can surprise a lot of people this year and keep that up.
It was like an awkward family reunion when the Coyotes hosted the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night. And it was only fitting that Shane Doan did damage against his "old team" with two assists on the night.
But the intriguing part was the dynamic in the stands. Among the crowd were plenty of Jets fans to see the long-lost brothers battle on the ice. However, Phoenix did a pretty darn good job of keeping them quiet.
"Everybody always talks about we have games when there's a lot of visiting fans in there," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "But what it does is really feed on the emotion of the building because you get some visiting fans in there cheering that really puts a burr in your fans' butt. I thought our fans did a great job tonight. Believe me, I had visions of hearing 'Let's go Jets' a lot more than we heard tonight."
As for Winnipeg, you start to wonder what it will take to win a game. Maybe it's adjusting to life in Winnipeg now, a sense of entitlement as coach Claude Noel hinted at ("It looks like our team thinks we have a free pass to fail."), or none of the above. Either way, there is lots of work to be done.
Hangover Part II
The last two Stanley Cup champions danced in Chicago on Saturday night, and it was the defending champs getting the best of the battle.
Maybe this can be the smelling salts that wakes Horton and the Bruins from their slow start to the season.
Dirty or not?
We could make this a daily feature with the microscope that is being put on his in the NHL these days.
Here's a clip of a hit from the Capitals' Matt Hendricks on the Senators' Colin Greening. This one drew a good amount of attention on Saturday as people were wondering if this would lead to Brendan Shanahan's first in-season suspesion for a hit to the heads that didn't include a stick.
To me it seems Hendricks comes at the hit high, but doesn't specifically target the head. However the high follow through with the elbow going sky high doesn't help make the hit look good. In the end, I would think this doesn't get any more attention and is instead categorized a good hit.
Have a look for yourself (from Washington Times, Japer's Rink)
Photos: Getty Images
Tags: Al Monotya, Ales Hemsky, Boston Bruins, Brian Stubits, Chicago Blackhawks, Claude Noel, Colin Greening, Dallas Stars, Dave Tippett, Edmonton Oilers, Evgeni Nabokov, Jamie Benn, John Tavares, Loui Erikkson, Matt Hendricks, Mike Ribiero, Nathan Horton, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Phil Kessel, Phoenix Coyotes, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Saturday Story, Shanaban, Shane Doan, Taylor Hall, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets