I think we can agree that the best measure of the value of an offensive forward in the NHL is how he performs at even strength. Scoring on the PP does have value but, especially with fewer and fewer penalties being called, being able to score at evens is critical and, of course is even more valuable in the playoffs where the referees tend to swallow their whistles.
So, early this season, who is killing it at even strength?
Last season, the 5 most dominant scorers P/60 5V5 were:
1) Ryan Getzlaf – 3.32
2) Corey Perry – 3.11
3) Jamie Benn – 2.95
4) Taylor Hall – 2.91
5) Tyler Seguin – 2.84
It would seem that elite scorers need to produce above a rate of about 2.25 P/60 to be in the conversation.
So, let’s take an early look at who is killing it so far this season and who is struggling.
There are currently 107 players who meet the 2.25 threshold and you know that regression will weed out a lot of those in the coming weeks but there are a few players whose early season production has been eye popping.
1) Rick Nash – 6.67
2) Jeff Carter – 6.19
3) Mikhail Grabovski – 5.67
4) Tyler Toffoli – 5.63
5) Tanner Pearson – 5.55
6) Jamie Benn – 5.24
7) Matt Cooke – 4.95!!!
8) Ryan Strome – 4.79
9) Ryan Getzlaf – 4.76
10) Corey Perry – 4.74
11) Brock Nelson – 4.66
12) Chris Higgins – 4.59
13) Nick Bonino – 4.39
14) Ryan Carter – 4.35
15) Jakub Voracek – 4.34
16) Jason Zucker – 4.08
17) Nikita Kucherov – 3.98
18) Jaden Shwartz – 3.94
19) Henrik Zetterburg – 3.91
20) Tyler Seguin – 3.91
Some observations about that list would seem to be in order.
I have no idea what’s gotten into Rick Nash. Last season he produced at a pitiful 1.84 P/60 at evens. Perhaps the easiest and most accurate analysis is that his shooting percentage this season is 31% and that’s not likely to persist. Nash is 18th is SOG this season at 29 so I imagine he should drop down the list pretty quickly.
“That 70’s Line” in Los Angeles should likely be renamed “The Killers”. What prompted this column is that I noticed Tyler Toffoli was producing elite scoring while playing only 16 minutes a night. With Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik both out with injury, that line’s ice time will go up so it will be interesting to watch how that affects their production. Based on my viewings of the Kings, I expect they won’t miss a beat…they’re that dominant.
The New York Islanders are a pretty good hockey team. With 3 players on this list, they are producing a lot of offence and are quietly in a position to take over the top spot in the entire NHL if they can beat the Winnipeg Jets at home tonight. I wouldn’t bet against them.
The Vancouver Canucks were worried about secondary scoring when they traded Ryan Kesler to Anaheim in the offseason but, so far, their second line has been very, very good.
Chris Higgins, Nick Bonino and Alex Burrows (2.64 P/60 5V5) have certainly held up their end of the bargain and with the Sedins (Daniel 3.82), (Henrik 3.78) and (Radim Vrbata 2.73) all well ahead of the 2.25 mark, their scoring is not an issue although their D has been weak so far this season.
Worth noting in the Kesler vs. Bonino race, Kesler has 3 goals and 7 points while Bonino has (you guessed it) 3 goals and 7 points. However, when you look at P/60 5V5, Bonino is outpacing Kesler by a wide margin…4.39 vs 1.25
Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff decided a few games ago to overload his 1st line by running Benn – Spezza – Seguin as a unit so I imagine you might see the Stars’ numbers actually improve. You have to remember that all 3 members of that line can play at centre and watching Ruff deploy them has been an interesting exercise in coaching tactics.
So far this season, Spezza has taken 120 draws while Seguin is at 51 and Benn is at 49. Nice problem to have!
And then there is Matt Cooke. What the hell is he doing on this list anyway?
Well, I expect he won’t be for long but, despite his long, long rap sheet, Cooke is a pretty good hockey player when he’s not doing something stupid.
A few other observations when parsing the numbers:
Sidney Crosby is off to a relatively slow start to the season (2.30). That’ll change at some point.
Watch out for Zack Parise. He’s currently sitting at 3.61 but he also leads the NHL in shots on goal with 48 in only 7 games played. If he keeps shooting at that rate and his shooting percentage rises from the current 7.5% to his career average of 11.3, he’ll climb this list pretty quickly.
The “high flying” Edmonton Oilers offence isn’t.
The Oilers leader by this metric is Benoit Pouliot at 2.55. That’s a decent number but Jordan Eberle is the only other Oiler player above the 2.25 mark while RNH (2.24) and Taylor Hall (2.18) are struggling to hit the mark. The Oilers have recently had a steady diet of home games against EC opposition so, when the rubber hits the road and they play a schedule more heavily filled with the Big Boys in the WC and the Pacific Division in particular….we’ll, let’s just say “objects in the mirror are closer than they appear”.
The Oilers are also letting David Perron die on the vine by playing him on the 3rd line. Last season, Perron posted a good, not great, 5V5 number of 1.96 which has dropped to a mediocre 1.62 this season. Unless his role changes, I can’t imagine he’ll be too eager to re-sign with the Oilers when his contract is up.
Is something wrong in Chicago?
Although the Hawks are off to a very good start (5-2-1) Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews haven’t been producing much at all at even strength. Kane is sitting at 1.08 while Toews has yet to produce a point at evens 0.00
Something worth watching.