FanPost

The Best (and Worst) Possession Players in the NHL: Forwards

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

*This project was introduced with possession rankings for the NHL’s defencemen here, and revised and expanded with overall rankings that included scoring here. Please read those first to understand the numbers used in this article. All stats were obtained from ExtraSkater.com.*

This article uses the same calculations that were performed earlier on the defencemen.

2011-’12 Regular Season

All analysis in this post includes players who played in at least 20% of the games for the season in question. For the 2011-’12 season, that means all forwards who played in at least 16 games. A total of 460 players met that minimum game requirement.

Possession and Defensive Rankings

Quality of On-Ice Personnel (QoOIP)

Below is a table showing some of the players with the toughest, median, and easiest personnel deployments. The ‘Norm.’ column is the normalized value of the QoOIP numbers, which takes the range of the numbers (Kevin Westgarth’s 24.2% to Trevor Smith’s 30.5%) and turns it into a range from 0 to 1.

Montreal Canadiens

Defensive zone start percentage (DZSt%)

Here is a table of players with the toughest, median, and easiest zonal deployments for the 2011-’12 regular season.

Montreal Canadiens

A player’s teams are listed in order of number of games played with each team over the course of the season, so Montreal is listed first for Andrei Kostitsyn because he played more games with the Canadiens than he did with the Predators, while Nashville is listed first for Blake Geoffrion as he played more of his games with the Predators. The team defensive zone start percentage (‘Team DZSt%’) is the average defensive zone start percentage of all the forwards who played the majority of their games with a particular team--the team listed first. Relative defensive zone start percentage ('DZSt% rel') is a player’s personal defensive zone start percentage minus the defensive zone start percentage of the team he played the most games for. This DZSt% rel stat isn’t used in calculating the possession rankings, but will be used later on in this article.

Deployment Quality (DQ)

Malevolently Deployed

Benevolently Deployed

Montreal Canadiens

Team-quality-adjusted Corsi-for percentage (TQA CF%)

Montreal Canadiens

Possession Rankings

Worst possession forwards in the NHL for the 2011-’12 regular season

Best possession forwards in the NHL for the 2011-’12 regular season

These are players who put up very good Corsi-for percentages given their deployment quality, and includes players who put up great numbers with mid-range deployment, like Ryan Garbutt, Alexander Steen, Brad Marchand, and Jonathan Toews, alongside players who put up respectable numbers with tough deployments, like previously-identified malevolently deployed players Claude Giroux, Eric Staal, Paul Stastny, and Trevor Smith.

To get a list of the best defensive 5-on-5 forwards in the league for the 2011-’12 season, you need to look at just those who were deployed in a defensive role during the season. For that, I will return to the relative defensive zone start percentage I described earlier and include only players who had team-average zonal deployment. The cutoff for qualification will be median-level DZSt% rel, or -0.2% in the 2011-’12 sample.

Players in the top 30 who are disqualified from the defensive rankings because of lower-than-team-average zonal deployment are:

Top defensive 5-on-5 forwards in the NHL for the 2011-’12 regular season

Montreal Canadiens possession rankings

Overall Rankings

P1+/60

Top 10 highest P1+ per 60 minutes of ice-time

Montreal Canadiens

Overall 5-on-5 forward rankings

Worst overall 5-on-5 forwards in the NHL for the 2011-’12 regular season

Best overall 5-on-5 forwards in the NHL for the 2011-’12 regular season

Montreal Canadiens

2012-’13 Regular Season

In 2012-’13, 451 forwards played in at least 20% of the games, or 10 of the 48 games in that lockout-shortened season.

Possession and Defensive Rankings

Deployment Quality (DQ)

Malevolently Deployed

Benevolently Deployed

Montreal Canadiens

Team-quality-adjusted Corsi-for percentage (TQA CF%)

Montreal Canadiens

Possession Rankings

Worst possession forwards in the NHL for the 2012-’13 regular season

Best possession forwards in the NHL for the 2012-’13 regular season

Disqualifications from the defensive rankings because of lower-than-team-average zonal deployment (median in the 2012-’13 sample is approximately -0.4%):

Top defensive 5-on-5 forwards in the NHL for the 2012-’13 regular season

Montreal Canadiens possession rankings 2012-’13

Overall Rankings

P1+/60

Top 10 fewest minutes per P1+

Montreal Canadiens

Overall 5-on-5 Forward Rankings

Worst overall 5-on-5 forwards in the NHL for the 2012-’13 regular season

Best overall 5-on-5 forwards in the NHL for the 2012-’13 regular season

Montreal Canadiens

2013-’14 Regular Season

A total of 465 forwards played 16 of the 82 games in the 2013-’14 season to meet the 20% criterion. Rookie forwards are indicated by the ‘(R)’ following their names.

Possession and Defensive Rankings

Deployment Quality (DQ)

Malevolently Deployed

Benevolently Deployed

Montreal Canadiens

Team-quality-adjusted Corsi-for percentage (TQA CF%)

Montreal Canadiens

Possession rankings

Worst possession forwards in the NHL for the 2013-’14 regular season

Best possession forwards in the NHL for the 2012-’13 regular season

Defensive ranking disqualifications (median in the 2013-’14 sample is a relative defensive zone start percentage of -0.3%):

Top defensive 5-on-5 forwards in the NHL for the 2013-’14 regular season

Top 10 rookie possession forwards 2013-’14

Montreal Canadiens possession rankings 2013-’14

Overall Rankings 2013-'14

P1+/60

Top 10 5-on-5 point-scorers

Also...

Montreal Canadiens

Overall Rankings

Worst overall 5-on-5 forwards in the NHL for the 2012-’13 regular season

Best overall 5-on-5 forwards in the NHL for the 2013-’14 regular season

Top 10 overall 5-on-5 rookie forwards 2013-’14

Montreal Canadiens

Analysis

Los Angeles Kings vs. Buffalo Sabres

In the article on defencemen rankings, I looked at the players who played for the best Corsi-for percentage team--the Los Angeles Kings--and the team that finished last in terms of team CF%--the Buffalo Sabres.

The Los Angeles Kings were shown to have one of the best defence corps in the NHL for the 2013-’14 season. Now to see how the forwards ranked.

The Kings have the consistently-excellent Anze Kopitar in their lineup, as well as top-quality possession players in Justin Williams, Jeff Carter, and rookie Tyler Toffoli. They acquired Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline to help them with their goal-scoring, and he had his best possession season of the three that were looked at in this article in 2013-’14. After those players, the forwards are fairly average, but by filling out the first two lines with top-120 players, the rest of the forwards can slot into a position where they can play below their talent level (i.e second-line calibre players on the third line, third-line players on the fourth). Los Angeles also did not employ many bad possession players in the 2013-’14 season, and their worst player, Matt Frattin, was handed off to Columbus with some conditional draft picks in the Gaborik acquisition.

While Buffalo didn’t have the exceptional defence corps of the LA Kings, they did have a good group of possession defencemen in the 2013-’14 season. So why did they finish last in the Corsi-for percentage rankings?

Matt Ellis, Buffalo’s best possession player this season, played less than eight minutes per game in the 50 games he was in the lineup. Their second-best possession player, Johan Larsson, was a rookie who had a 28-game season. Unlike the situation the Los Angeles Kings enjoyed, with no top-90 (first-line) calibre possession players every forward on the Sabres roster needed to play above his station in the 2013-’14 season and was unable to perform optimally under those circumstances.

New Jersey Devils vs. Colorado Avalanche - Possession

The defencemen for the New Jersey Devils and Colorado Avalanche were compared earlier to see the personnel differences between a high Corsi-for percentage team that missed the playoffs and a team with one of the lowest CF% that qualified for the playoffs. It was shown that the New Jersey had better possession defencemen than Colorado. Now to compare the forwards. I’ll limit the list to players who played at least 41 games and spent the majority of their season as a member of either the Avalanche or Devils to eliminate players who didn’t have as much influence on the teams’ CF%.

New Jersey had two outstanding possession players with Travis Zajac and Jaromir Jagr on the roster, but Colorado had four players in the top 100. There is quite a drop off from the 97th-ranked Gabriel Landeskog to PA Parenteau in 248th position. Avalanche players also occupy five of the bottom six positions in this table, including three ranked 424th (out of 465) or worse, with each of those players playing in no fewer than 71 games this season.

New Jersey Devils vs. Colorado Avalanche - Overall

Colorado had some great overall players this year with five forwards in the top 120, including the 16th-ranked Matt Duchene. They also had some terrible players filling out their lineup. The New Jersey Devils’ lack of scoring (no player ranked in the top 100 in P1+/60) saw only three forwards ranked in the top 210 overall spots. Even so, their worst forwards aren’t far removed from fourth-line overall quality.

New York Islanders

I noted in the article on defencemen that the New York Islanders had a very impressive defence corps led by rookies Calvin de Haan and Matt Donovan. How promising is the future at the forward position?

If the newly-acquired Jaroslav Halak can prove to be the answer in goal for what was the third-worst team in goals against in 2013-'14, I anticipate the New York Islanders making a major splash in the Metropolitan Division next season.

Conclusion

The spreadsheet with all of this information is available for you to view, with separate sheets for Silver Scores and possession rankings for each season. The defencemen spreadsheet is also available if you haven’t looked at that and would like to look at the numbers for those players as well.

You can view players by team, see just the 2013-’14 rookies, and also get a list of all the players who qualified for consideration in the defensive rankings by using the filter views I created.

Fanpost content is created by members of the community and is not published by the authors, editors, or manager of Eyes on the Prize.

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