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Vulgar Statistics: The Top 100 NHL Forwards

09/19/13
by

Many of you have seen and reacted to ESPN’s ranking of the Top 99 NHL forwards and Ilya Kovalchuk.  Look, I’ll say right off the bat that it’s stupid to even do this.  I’m stupid for doing this, they’re stupid for doing this, we’re all really, really stupid.  Okay.  That having been said, ESPN attempted to, and I think succeeded in achieving maximum stupidity.  Their “methodology” was asking their “experts” to rank players on a scale of 1 to 10 based on their current play.  So we ended up with what we always end up with:

The Top 99 Most Hyped NHL Players With Bias Given to Original Six Teams…

…and Ilya Kovalchuk.

I’m not really going to get into individual instances of stupidity because it’s idiotic to rank forwards against each other when:

  • They play different positions.
  • They have different responsibilities.
  • You employ Linda Cohn.

Also, considering that the 30 NHL teams typically start 12 forwards, that leaves 360 forwards in the lineup if all thirty teams play at once, so probably around 300 regulars and another 200 scrubs fighting for the final 60 spots over the course of an average NHL season.  The top 100 is really just the top 33%.  And it doesn’t include Bobby Ryan.  Haha sucks to be Bobby Ryan.

I decided to use advanced stats from the past two seasons, those being Goals and Assists per ice time, Ice Time itself, Quality of Competition, Relative Corsi, and Zone Start differential (Offensive Zone Start Percentage minus Offensive Zone Finish percentage).  I would have liked to include special teams figures but there were too many variables to account for and the game is played at even strength most of the time anyway.  Understandably this hurt players that were sheltered or that were special teams specialists, but hey, if you’re limited as such you’re probably not one of the best forwards in the NHL.  (Or you are because such lists are stupid.)

I guess I’ll start with players that ESPN included that I left off and why.  Full chart is here by the way, all data is from Behind the Net and ESPN.

My rank). Name – ESPN rank

101). James Neal –  29 – Twenty-ninth place for a body on the ice that Sydney Crosby uses to bank passes off of?  Neal is a good shooter, there’s no doubt about that.  He also plays with Crosby against lesser competition and starts in the offensive zone more often than not.

102). Henrik Sedin – 13 – You see what I mean about such lists being kind of dumb.  Low goal scoring and extreme offensive zone starts hurt Henrik.

103). Michael Ryder – 85 – Mediocre advanced stats all around.

108_. James van Riemsdyk – 54 – Decent goal scorer, decent competition, meh everything else.

109). Frans Nielsen – 87 – Same as Ryder, but with assists.

115). Kyle Turris – 68 – He’s a great story if you like guys that were top picks, kind of busts, and then somewhat not busts.  He has 44 even strength points in 103 games.

116). Nicklas Backstrom – 29 – Much like Henrik Sedin, great distributor, not so great elsewhere.

118). Matt Moulson – 59 – I like Moulson.  If this was an eye-test, I’d have him on my list.  The numbers say his competition is weak.

124). Tomas Plekanec – 50 – Okay competition.

129). Teddy Purcell – 95 – I feel like ESPN threw on a bunch of no-names just to try and prove they didn’t just look at hyped players.  Purcell has certainly been okay, but top 100?  No.

133). David Clarkson – 64 – Advanced stat people knew this.  Moving on.

134). Tomas Fleischmann – 95 – We watch the Panthers, we swear!

137). Jiri Tlusty – 93 – Again, good player, but top 100?  Really?

142). Jeff Carter – 31 – Jeff Carter can score goals.  Jeff Carter cannot control possession and the San Jose Sharks beat the hell out of him last playoffs (third worst Kings’ Rel. Corsi among forwards).

143). Derick Brassard – 87 – Mandatory overrating of an Original 6 player part I.

147). Sam Gagner – 69 – Top 100 in assists per 60 (93rd) and ice time (76) and that’s it.

149). Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – 51 – Hyped player, but keep an eye on him, his Rel. Corsi was solid.

150). Troy Brouwer – 90 – Tough competition, but middling at everything else.

142). Derek Stepan – 47 – Mandatory overrating of an Original 6 player part II.  Actually I might have put Stepan on my list, zone starts killed him.

163). Milan Michalek – 71 – Can score goals, but takes a ton of ice time to do it against poor competition.

165). Brendan Morrow – 99 – Perhaps a bit underrated on my list because he starts in the d-zone a lot, but he wasn’t top 100 at anything else.

167). Marian Gaborik – 60 – I probably could have included him, but his advanced stats numbers are rough.

168). Mike Ribeiro – 72 – Quality distributor and not much else.

182). Alexander Ovechkin – 7 – Great goal scorer.  Also hogs ice time, has poor competition and benefits greatly on the man advantage.  If you throw in cost, I don’t think he gets anywhere near a top 100.

192). Sven Baertschi – 100 – Incredibly small sample size (25 games), why he got on ESPN’s list is beyond me.

195). Jonathan Huberdeau – 55 – Promising, but ultimately mediocre so far.  Panthers injuries no doubt hurt.

221). Cody Hodgson – 90 – Also promising, but also benefiting from playing with Thomas Vanek.

232). Mike RIchards – 47 – Richards has not been a good possession player as of late.  The Thornton line just manhandled him last year.

240). Vladimir Tarasenko – 85 – Promising, but green player that was benched at one point last year.

250). Alex Galchenyuk – 58 – Promising, but green player that wasn’t benched last year.

271). Jaden Schwartz – 98 – He has 15 even strength points in 52 games, come on.

285). Wayne Simmonds – 60 – Terrible possession player.

294). Mika Zibanejad – 94 – Oyyy…

My List, With The Occasional Comment

  1. Sidney Crosby – 1 – The system works!
  2. Jordan Staal – NR – Because I relied on advanced stats and not idiocy, my list was much, much kinder to defensive forwards.
  3. Andrew Ladd – 47
  4. Patrice Bergeron – 8 – Sixth highest Rel. Corsi among forwards.
  5. Pascal Dupuis – NR – No doubt benefitted from playing on a loaded Pens team.  Also 5th in goals per 60 minutes.
  6. Alexander Steen – 75
  7. Anze Kopitar – 18 – If you accounted for things like age, cost, and health, he might be my number 1.
  8. Joe Thornton – 20
  9. Cam Atkinson – NR – Small sample size, but 14th in Rel. Corsi with decent competition.
  10. Claude Giroux – 10
  11. Bryan Little – NR – Solid all around player.
  12. Joe Pavelski – 39 – Twelfth highest quality of competition.
  13. Corey Perry – 13
  14. Jonathan Toews – 3 – Probably more controlled in his zone starts than people think.
  15. Brad Marchand – 36 – Ninth in goals per 60.
  16. David Backes – 37 – Sixth in quality of competition.
  17. Eric Staal – 24
  18. Derek Roy – NR – I know, I know.  His advanced stats are good.
  19. Ryan Getzlaf – 20 – Logs a lot of ice time with diminishing returns as of late.
  20. Blake Wheeler – 64 – Flies under the radar in Winnipeg.
  21. Jamie Benn – 39 – Underrated scorer.
  22. Zach Parise – 12 – More dependent on power play goals and less an all around player than people think.
  23. Taylor Hall – 27 – Tenth highest Rel. Corsi.
  24. Carl Hagelin – NR – This was the Ranger that needed to be overrated.  Good possession vs. decent competition.
  25. Phil Kessel – 20 – Lots of ice time.
  26. Martin Erat – NR – Third in assists per 60, 25th in quality of competition.
  27. Mikhail Grabovski – NR – Vastly underrated possession player who faced tough competition.
  28. Joffrey Lupul – 51 – Fourteenth and 8th in goals and assists per 60.
  29. Patrik Elias – 60
  30. Pavel Datsyuk – 4
  31. Ray Whitney – 90 – Sixth in assists per 60.
  32. Henrik Zetterberg – 10 – Probably a better all around player than Datsyuk.
  33. Ryan O’Reilly – NR – Twenty-second in Rel. Corsi.
  34. Justin Williams – 78 – Fifth in Rel. Corsi.
  35. P.A. Parenteau – 78
  36. Nazem Kadri – 78 – Perhaps riding a bit of a hot streak, but solid Rel. Corsi.
  37. Gabriel Landeskog – NR – Better all around at this point than Tarasenko or Galchenyuk.
  38. Jakub Voracek – 60 – Nineteenth in goals per 60.
  39. Steven Stamkos – 5 – A goal scoring freak, but middling elsewhere.
  40. Mikko Koivu – 55
  41. Tyler Seguin – 75 – Third in Rel. Corsi.
  42. Jason Pominville – 78
  43. Dainius Zubrus – NR – Does some heavy lifting for NJ.
  44. David Legwand – NR – ESPN forgot the Predators existed apparently.
  45. Mike Fisher – NR - Fourth highest quality of competition.
  46. Radim Vrbata – 87 – He’s been better than anyone had any right to expect him to be for the Coyotes.
  47. Jordan Eberle – 39
  48. Max Pacioretty – 45 – Ninth in Rel. Corsi
  49. Lee Stempniak – NR
  50. Marcel Goc – NR – Goc is one of my favorite players and I’m glad he made this list.  An elite defensive forward who can score the occasional goal, Goc was 20th in quality of competition and +5.3% in zone starts vs. zone finishes.
  51. Chris Kunitz – 44 – Thirteenth Rel. Corsi.
  52. T.J. Oshie – 69 – Twenty-third highest quality of competition.
  53. Evgeni Malkin – 2 – Great offensively, but too sheltered to rank high.
  54. Patrick Marleau – 43 – A sneaky 5th highest quality of competition.
  55. Curtis Glencross – NR – No one faced tougher competition.
  56. Jarome Iginla – 83 – Still matching elite foes.
  57. Logan Couture – 13 – Good, but too hyped.
  58. Loui Eriksson – 37
  59. Bobby Ryan – NR – YAYYY!!!!!
  60. DanielSedin – 13 – Highest Rel. Corsi.
  61. David Krejci – 26 – Good scorer.
  62. Daviod Moss – NR – Second highest quality of competition.
  63. Kyle Brodziak – NR – Scored 20 goals once.  What?
  64. Kyle Okposo – NR – ESPN watched him in the playoffs, right?
  65. Ryan Callahan – 34 – Vastly overrated original 6 player part III.
  66. John Tavares – 6 – Competition was poor.
  67. Shane Doan – NR – Because grit.
  68. Vinny Prospal – NR – Columbus’s best player last year.
  69. Martin St. Louis – 13 – Fading.
  70. Patrick Sharp – 23 – Zone starts man…
  71. Johan Franzen – 64
  72. Clarke MacArthur – NR – It’s the Rel. Corsi
  73. Vincent Lecavalier – 72 – Still a quality even strength player.  Still over paid.
  74. Brad Richards – 97 – See Vinny.
  75. Ryan Kesler – 42 – Not nearly as good as everyone thinks.
  76. Milan Lucic – 45 – Overrated original six player part IV.
  77. Rick Nash – 28 – Where team building goes to die.
  78. Alex Burrows – 83 – And half of each Sedin.
  79. Alexander Semin – 51
  80. Jannik Hansen – NR
  81. Steve Downie – NR – Good possession player.
  82. Thomas Vanek – 31 – Proof that I had no bias here.  Advanced stats are meh.
  83. Brandon Dubinsky – NR – Rangers gave up more than they thought.
  84. Evander Kane – 55
  85. Brandon Saad – 78 – A hyped player maybe worth it.
  86. Jason Spezza – 33
  87. Marian Hossa – 18 – Would have been way higher for me.  Quality of competition and Rel. Corsi not what they once were.
  88. Tyler Ennis – NR – Just mediocre enough to crack the top third.
  89. Matt Duchene – 35
  90. Patrick Kane – 9 – Advanced stats man…
  91. Dustin Brown – 24 – Just because he’s a jerk.  Seriously though, overshadowed by Kopitar.
  92. Scott Hartnell – 72 – Won best hair though.
  93. Rob Klinkhammer – NR – Good competition, good possession.
  94. Chris Higgins – NR – Competition.
  95. Erik Cole – NR – All goal coring.
  96. Matt Cullen – NR
  97. Steve Ott – NR – Bonus points for looking like Alan Tudyk.
  98. Martin Hanzal – NR
  99. Todd Bertuzzi – NR
  100. Artem Anisimov – NR – Solid all around player, much like Goc.
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