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Initial possession and overall NHL player rankings: Week 5

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Ranking the forwards and defencemen in the early part of the 2014-15 NHL season by combining various advanced statistics.

Richard Wolowicz

The possession and overall rankings in this article combine several advanced statistics into a single score to give an idea of how players are performing relative to their peers.  Statistics used and how they are combined are detailed in the article introducing this project for the 2014-15 NHL season.

The rankings in this article are created using five-on-five data from WAR On Ice.  Samples for defencemen and forwards include all players who had played at least five games by the end of Saturday, November 8th.  A total of 205 defencemen and 398 forwards met that minimum game requirement.

Possession Rankings

The possession scores used to create these rankings are a combination of players' team-quality-adjusted Corsi-for percentage and their deployment quality (as described in the introductory article linked above).

Ranges of team-quality-adjusted Corsi-for percentage (TQA CF%) in this sample:
Defencemen: 62.0% (Ryan Ellis) - 35.4% (Ryan Stanton), median of 50.1%
Forwards: 64.8% (Magnus Paajarvi) - 32.4% (Adam Burish), median of 50.2%

Ranges of deployment quality:
Defencemen: 1.9098 (Erik Gudbranson) - 0.2754 (Brad Hunt), median of 1.0695
Forwards: 1.6347 (Matt Halischuk) - 0.2407 (Nail Yakupov), median of 0.8456

Worst possession defencemen

Worst possession defencemen Nov 8

There is a good reason why the Arizona Coyotes are located near the bottom of the league standings, having the three worst possession defencemen on their roster.

Christian Ehrhoff currently has worse numbers with the Pittsburgh Penguins than he had as a member of the Buffalo Sabres.  I don't expect him to stay near the bottom of these rankings this season and will very likely highlight him many times as a player on the rise in future editions.

Best possession defencemen

Best possession defencemen Nov 8

Nashville's Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm have taken advantage of some relatively easy minutes to put up some incredible Corsi-for pencentages.  The Winnipeg Jets are mounting a good challenge for the Central Division-leading Predators with the help of three of the top twelve possession defencemen, including the top-ranked Adam Pardy.

Worst possession forwards

Worst possession forwards Nov 8

Nail Yakupov has been given the easiest deployment of all NHL forwards and has still not been able to outpossess his competition.  The story is very similar for Alex Killorn, Vincent Lecavalier, and Tanner Glass just ahead of him.

The Colorado Avalanche once again complement their skilled group of top-six forwards with some of the worst players in the entire league.

Best possession & defensive forwards

Qualification as a defensive forward is determined by comparing a forward's personal defensive zone start percentage to that of his team to obtain a relative defensive zone start percentage.  The cutoff for consideration is having at least a median-level DZSt% rel, which is approximately -0.5% in this sample.  Players below that level are highlighted in red in the list of best possession forwards below.

Best possession & defensive forwards Nov 8

These non-defensive players are still among the league's best in controlling the puck given the situation they are placed into, but that situation is deemed to be easier than that of the defensive players.  You can see that defensive forwards outnumber their non-defensive counterparts in this list.  Six of the top seven team-quality-adjusted Corsi-for percentages belong to forwards deployed in a defensive role.

Matt Halischuk has managed an adjusted Corsi-for percentage significantly above 50% with the tenth-toughest zone starts.  Jesse Joensuu and Boyd Gordon of the Edmonton Oilers are close to equalizing shot attempts for and against despite the majority of their zone starts taking place in their own end.

And just a reminder that Jaromir Jagr is almost forty-three years old.

Top possession rookies

Defencemen

Top rookie possession defencemen

The youngest defenceman in the NHL has been handling himself very well to begin his rookie season as Aaron Ekblad is currently number two on this list and 38th among all defencemen.

Forwards

Top rookie possession forwards

Cedric Paquette has only seen limited action in six games so far this season, but has significantly outpossessed his opposition in that time.

Montreal Canadiens

Defencemen

Habs possession defencemen

Jarred Tinordi has had an incredible start to the 2014-15 season, playing with one of the toughest deployments of all defencemen (including the sixth-toughest defensive zone starts) and having a TQA Corsi-for percentage near 50%.  Beaulieu has also been great, having the best shot attempt differential of the team's defenders; higher than PK Subban, despite a tougher deployment.  Both of these defencemen are also experiencing another season yoyoing between Montreal and their AHL affiliate Hamilton Bulldogs.

Tinordi and Beaulieu are most often partnered with the under-appreciated veteran Mike Weaver, who is currently ranked among the top 30 possession defencemen.

Alexei Emelin has been the worst possession defenceman on the roster this season.  He is second on the team in terms of five-on-five minutes per game behind Subban.

Forwards

Habs possession forwards

Lars Eller has been the best possession forward on the team and is followed closely by the two players who have spent the most time playing with him.  Expect new linemate Brandon Prust to be one of the biggest movers in the week seven rankings.

Manny Malhotra has been great in the faceoff circle, but has struggled once the play has gotten underway, owning the second worst adjusted Corsi-for percentage of all forwards.  The recent removal of Travis Moen as an option for one of his linemates may help to improve the numbers of the remaining fourth liners.

Possession filter views

The Google Documents spreadsheets containing all of the data used in creating these rankings (separate files for defencemen and forwards) are publicly available and can be viewed by clicking either the 'Defencemen' or 'Forwards' links in the table below.  If you would like to jump directly to the rankings/scores for players of one particular team or just see how this season's rookies compare, you can use the filter views I've created in those sheets.  The "Def." filter shows the list of defensive forwards.  The team defensive zone start percentages used in determining that status can be found in the "Team DZSt% 14-15" sheet.

You can click the links below or go to 'Data' > 'Filter views...' within the spreadsheets, although some of the views may be hidden from view off the screen via that method.

There are also links for the individual files containing the four previous seasons' rankings that I created last year using five-on-five data from the now-defunct Extra Skater.

Defencemen Forwards
Eastern Conference Western Conference Eastern Conference Western Conference
Atlantic Metropolitan Central Pacific Atlantic Metropolitan Central Pacific
BOS CAR CHI ANA BOS CAR CHI ANA
BUF CBJ COL ARI BUF CBJ COL ARI
DET NJD DAL CGY DET NJD DAL CGY
FLA NYI MIN EDM FLA NYI MIN EDM
MTL NYR NSH LAK MTL NYR NSH LAK
OTT PHI STL SJS OTT PHI STL SJS
TBL PIT WPG VAN TBL PIT WPG VAN
TOR WSH Rookie Defencemen TOR WSH Rookies Def.
2013-14 2012-13 2011-12 2010-11 2013-14 2012-13 2011-12 2010-11

Overall Rankings

The two factors used in creating the possession scores are combined with a time-on-ice-adjusted scoring statistic to create the overall scores

Ranges of primary points plus per sixty minutes (P1+/60):
Defencemen: 1.99 (Victor Hedman) - 0 (multiple players), median of 0.53
Forwards: 4.69 (Rick Nash) - 0 (multiple players), median of 1.24

Best overall defencemen

Best overall defencemen Nov 8

Ryan Ellis tops the list to begin the season, combining the tenth-best primary points plus per sixty minutes with his league-leading adjusted Corsi-for percentage.

The discovery of a cancerous tumour doesn't seem to have negatively impacted the on-ice play of Olli Maatta in the least, as he checks in at number two thanks in large part to his third-highest P1+/60.

Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie pick up where they left off last season, re-establishing themselves as one of the elite defensive pairings.

The Tampa Bay Lightning will be missing the services of Victor Hedman.  Thankfully for them, off-season acquisition Anton Stralman has picked up quite a bit of the slack in his absence.

Best overall forwards

Best overall forwards

Nikita Kucherov has been the best forward this season, while Lightning teammates Cedric Paquette, Tyler Johnson, and Brett Connolly feature prominently among the league's best.

Much ado has been made about "That 70's Line" this year, and the Kings' Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson, and Jeff Carter all rank in the top eleven.

Rick Nash doesn't have particularly good possession numbers, but he more than makes up for it with the best P1+/60—over 0.5 primary points plus per sixty minutes better than Kucherov has produced in second place.

The New York Islanders are competing with Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins for the lead of the Metropolitan Division.  The addition of Mikhail Grabovski is a big reason why.

Top overall rookies

Defencemen

Best overall rookie defencemen Nov 8

Ekblad noses ahead of Zach Trotman in the overall rankings thanks to a slightly better P1+/60, although Damon Severson of the New Jersey Devils leads both rookies in that stat.

Forwards

Best overall rookie forwards

The Ottawa Senators currently have three of the top 10 rookie forwards, with Mark Stone heading the trio.

Filip Forsberg is the most productive of the 2014-15 rookie crop with the eight-best P1+/60 of all NHL forwards.

Montreal Canadiens

Defencemen

Habs overall defencemen Nov 8

Jarred Tinordi has been truly exceptional at the start of the season.  Not only is he the best possession defenceman on the team, he ranks second behind only PK Subban in offence.

The sixteenth-ranked production of Subban propels him up the overall rankings and makes up for what has been some uncharacteristically poor possession ability.

Forwards

Habs overall forwards Nov 8

Lars Eller and rookie linemate Jiri Sekac have been the Canadiens' best players, recently finding their offensive touch to complement their excellent possession stats.

Dale Weise has exhibited a surprising amount of offensive ability to rocket from 341st in the possession rankings to 242nd on the overall board.

There is an 84-position drop from Alex Galchenyuk to top-line centre David Desharnais, whose offensive numbers are only slightly better than the recently-demoted Rene Bourque even though he receives the easiest deployment of all forwards.  Max Pacioretty, who has spent over 90% of his five-on-five ice time alongside Desharnais, is 130 positions higher than his most common centreman.

Travis Moen contributed zero offence to his terrible possession stats before heading off for Dallas and is currently ranked as the third-worst forward in the NHL.

Overall score filter views

The overall ranking sheets are located next to the possession sheets in the Google Docs files.  They are linked, along with their filter views, in the following table.

Defencemen Forwards
Eastern Conference Western Conference Eastern Conference Western Conference
Atlantic Metropolitan Central Pacific Atlantic Metropolitan Central Pacific
BOS CAR CHI ANA BOS CAR CHI ANA
BUF CBJ COL ARI BUF CBJ COL ARI
DET NJD DAL CGY DET NJD DAL CGY
FLA NYI MIN EDM FLA NYI MIN EDM
MTL NYR NSH LAK MTL NYR NSH LAK
OTT PHI STL SJS OTT PHI STL SJS
TBL PIT WPG VAN TBL PIT WPG VAN
TOR WSH Rookie Defencemen TOR WSH Rookie Forwards
2013-14 2012-13 2011-12 2010-11 2013-14 2012-13 2011-12 2010-11

Next update

A new edition of these rankings will be created after the games ending Saturday, November 22nd.   Those will include all players who've dressed for at least six games.  There will also be a report on which players have been the biggest movers on the rankings boards since these initial rankings for the 2014-15 season.