Blog 4: Player evaluation – The Forwards

In the previous blogs I have showed, that LS-GAA can describe team performance really well. It correlates almost perfectly with goal differential. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the model works equally well on the player level. When you look at individual players in detail, you can find examples of players being overvalued or undervalued. This is where the eye-test and scouting comes into play. Just remember that the model works great on the team level, so if you think one player is undervalued, then there must be at least one other player on the same team that is overvalued.

I consider LS-GAA to be a great player model if it can do the following:

  1. For the most part agree with consensus thinking. If the model ranks players completely different than everyone else, then it’s probably not a good model. Unless of course everyone else is wrong.
  2. At the same time, you want the model to be able to find diamonds in the rough. Players that do all the little things right, but aren’t getting the recognition they deserve.
  3. Finally, the model should be predictive. Past results can hopefully tell you something about future results. I will look at this in the coming blogs.

Now, let’s look at some actual numbers. Here’s the top 20 players in terms of career numbers (from 2007 to 2020):

PlayerTOI_ALLTotal
Henrik Lundqvist44587284.65
Sidney Crosby17226144.42
Pavel Datsyuk11728133.06
Jaroslav Halak29050105.57
Steven Stamkos15559104.49
Anze Kopitar21093100.28
Alex Ovechkin2060999.67
Evgeni Malkin1661396.92
Brad Marchand1326896.81
Joe Thornton1805296.48
Jonathan Toews1873695.90
Joe Pavelski1860588.07
John Gibson1640386.68
Mark Giordano1946884.83
Patrice Bergeron1605783.86
Carey Price4021483.76
Shea Weber2185482.08
T.J. Oshie1490676.72
Zdeno Chara2281776.45
Jared Spurgeon1461175.25

I talked about Henrik Lundqvist in blog 3, so I won’t discuss him here. I think it’s a pretty good list, but T.J. Oshie and Jared Spurgeon are surprise appearances in my mind. 

I will focus on the forwards for the remainder of this blog. So here’s the top 20 forwards in terms of LS-GAA per 60 minutes. I have set the minimum TOI at 2500 minutes.

PlayerTOI_ALLTotalper 60
Pavel Datsyuk11728133.060.681
Elias Pettersson255424.590.578
Connor McDavid753165.690.523
Mark Stone849372.230.510
Sidney Crosby17226144.420.503
David Pastrnak674055.760.496
Brayden Point551644.140.480
Anthony Cirelli271121.440.475
Auston Matthews529941.100.465
Nikita Kucherov925571.540.464
Brad Marchand1326896.810.438
Vladimir Tarasenko892663.580.427
Steven Stamkos15559104.490.403
Artemi Panarin769949.820.388
Evgeni Malkin1661396.920.350
Yanni Gourde389922.740.350
Oliver Bjorkstrand355920.490.345
Jake Debrusk314818.050.344
Nikolay Zherdev368820.900.340
Alex Debrincat389121.690.334

Okay, so there’s a few to take notice of in this table. The model absolutely loves Datsyuk and Petterson. The list also includes players like Cirelli and Gourde, who probably doesn’t belong there, but Tampa Bay has been so dominant in the last couple of years, that their numbers are likely a bit to high. Bjorkstrand is one of those players, that flies under the radar. The model thinks he’s elite.

Next I would like to look at the defensive forwards, so I have listed the best forwards in terms of Even strength defense per 60 minutes of even strength play.

PlayerTOI_EVEVOEVDEVD_60
Tom Wandell2307-12.6113.740.357
Andrew Murray2034-4.569.600.283
Pavel Datsyuk896340.7539.790.266
Justin Fontaine21425.569.340.262
Dmitrij Jaskin3436-9.9514.790.258
Ryan Shannon2697-8.4911.570.257
Mathieu Darche2348-3.329.330.238
Patrice Bergeron1156733.6945.310.235
Mikko Koivu12695-11.3249.670.235
Marcus Kruger5572-12.3421.200.228
Joel Eriksson Ek2526-6.209.600.228
Daymond Langkow41052.1315.270.223
Jordan Weal2523-3.029.200.219
Riley Nash6186-16.1122.050.214
Cody McCormick2830-17.449.960.211
Peter Regin2681-3.289.180.206
Blake Coleman3117-3.0710.590.204
Nick Shore3136-14.7810.500.201
Boyd Gordon5997-28.4819.240.193
Marcus Foligno68870.5322.080.192

The list includes Datsyuk, Bergeron and Mikko Koivu as expected, but also a lot of lesser known players with bad offensive numbers.

Finally, I will look at this season. Here are the top performers of the 2019/2020 season (so far):

PlayerTOI_ALLEVOEVDPPSHPENTotal
Brad Marchand136210.701.580.200.752.3615.59
Elias Pettersson12608.912.440.380.003.1814.91
Artemi Panarin142212.161.010.970.000.3514.49
Auston Matthews14689.461.451.660.001.1913.76
David Pastrnak13277.38-0.575.290.000.6512.75
Nathan MacKinnon14658.770.430.410.002.2311.84
Brayden Point12489.200.450.700.051.2911.69
Nikita Kucherov128310.631.27-0.520.00-0.1911.18
Oliver Bjorkstrand8797.494.44-1.390.000.5811.12
Jack Eichel15025.960.610.24-0.073.7710.51
Valeri Nichushkin9143.585.82-1.400.481.179.65
Dominik Kubalik97810.78-0.23-0.740.00-0.329.49
Travis Konecny11096.59-0.011.390.001.349.31
Anthony Cirelli12553.143.540.22-0.442.669.13
Jake Guentzel8055.791.090.590.121.479.06
Max Pacioretty12716.552.140.930.00-0.718.92
Patrice Bergeron11423.562.473.490.49-1.088.92
Mark Stone12616.111.041.76-0.12-0.018.78
Mika Zibanejad12337.04-2.433.32-1.591.728.06
Leon Draisaitl16058.38-4.603.96-1.441.487.79

This list definitely consists of a few players that are either overrated by the model or not getting the recognition they deserve. Leon Draisaitl who will likely win the Hart, is just ranked 20th and McDavid is ranked even lower. This is primarily due to bad defense, but it seems to low if you ask me.

And here’s the numbers if we look at the per 60 data:

PlayerTOI_ALLTotalper 60
Oliver Bjorkstrand87911.120.759
Elias Pettersson126014.910.710
Brad Marchand136215.590.687
Jake Guentzel8059.060.676
Valeri Nichushkin9149.650.633
Artemi Panarin142214.490.611
Dominik Kubalik9789.490.582
David Pastrnak132712.750.576
Auston Matthews146813.760.563
Brayden Point124811.690.562
Nikita Kucherov128311.180.523
Travis Konecny11099.310.504
Jesper Bratt8396.860.491
Nathan MacKinnon146511.840.485
Craig Smith9267.440.482
Andrew Mangiapane9327.450.480
Patrice Bergeron11428.920.468
Anthony Cirelli12559.130.436
Max Pacioretty12718.920.421
Jack Eichel150210.510.420

The list is a combination of the big guns and some lesser known players. The question is if players like Bjorkstrand, Konecny and Mangiapane are overperforming this season or if they can sustain this level of play in a bigger role for their teams.

That’s it for this blog. You can find all the data in an excel document if you press Data in the top right corner. Next blog I will look at the defenders.

Conclusion:

  • LS-GAA is a tool you can use to evaluate players, but you still need to use your common sense. No statistical metric can ever tell the whole truth on the player level. I think LS-GAA is the best evaluation tool I have come across, but I still need to be skeptical sometimes.
  • LS-GAA explains team results almost to perfection. So if one player is undervalued, then at least one other player on the same team has to be overvalued.

Stay safe and remember to be kind

All raw data from evolving-hockey.com

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