The season is half over now which makes for a good time to look back on what happened as well as look forward to what should happen.
The two thoughts are related because how well a player plays changes our perception of them going forward. There’s certainly puck luck and bounces that toy with these opinions on both sides, but the only way to really project the future is looking at trends from the past while trying to look past the noise.
We have a statistical player model based on Game Score that we used during the pre-season to estimate team strength that can roughly determine how good each player in the league is. It looks at their previous numbers over the past three years in each individual stat and regresses appropriately to determine what their future output should look like. With it, we can check in and see which guys are improving or declining throughout the year.
We highlighted these two extremes at the end of the first quarter and now it’s time to do it again at the end of the second quarter. Guys who see their stock rise and fall is typical hockey lexicon, but rarely do you see it quantified, mostly because it’s generally difficult to quantify a player’s total value.
It’s especially tricky because 20 games shouldn’t be enough to completely change minds, especially if it’s just a hot or cold streak, but it is enough to move the needle and warrant a reassessment of the player going forward. Based on Game Score, here are three players who have seen a big stock rise over the second quarter of the season, and three players who have seen their stock drop.
Anthony Mantha, Detroit Red Wings
Q1 Value: 0.89 wins
Current Value: 2.22 wins
This is a tough one (and kind of cheating) because his sample size was so small before this that there would naturally be a lot of volatility. Mantha has 35 career games under his belt, and the previous value was based on his first 15 where he projected to be a solid middle six player notching five points in 15 games with a respectable possession rating. Since then he’s exploded and has been arguably the Red Wings best player, pacing the team in goals, points, shots, and Corsi. The point and goal totals are likely to come down as he gets more NHL time, but it does show his scoring ability exhibited in junior is starting to translate. What’s really impressive here is his shot ratio. Over the second quarter, he was +60 which was easily the team’s best. Other than his linemates Tomas Tatar (+57) and Henrik Zetterberg (+53) as well as number one D-man Mike Green (+23), pretty much everyone else on the team was deep in the negatives. To be that far above water on a team that’s basically drowning is a very good sign. Mantha always showed a lot of promise given his high ranking in our annual Future Watch, and he’s finally living up the hype. If he’s not already Detroit’s best forward, he will probably cement himself as it soon.
Viktor Arvidsson, Nashville Predators
Q1 Value: 1.23 wins
Current Value: 1.71 wins
Halfway through the season, there’s a short statured fresh face near the top of the Predators scoring leaders. Arvidsson is in his second NHL season and he’s already taken a big step this year scoring at a nearly 55 point pace and has been among Nashville’s best forwards. Did anyone see this coming? Some people did actually, based on how often he fired the puck in the AHL, and in the NHL last season in a limited role. In his first full year he averaged 3.9 shots per game in the AHL and somehow increased that further the next season, firing 85 shots in 17 games for the Admirals before being called up to the Preds full time. This year he’s parlayed the big shot totals into better point totals all while being a solid play driver. He’s also doing highlight reel stuff like this. If you didn’t know how good Arvidsson was yet, now you do, as he’s become one of the Preds biggest scoring threats and a crucial part of their forward corps.
Jeff Petry, Montreal Canadiens
Q1 Value: 0.77 wins
Current Value: 1.20 wins
Shea Weber gets all the hype in Montreal, but since cooling off after a hot start he hasn’t even been the best D-man on the Habs. That’s not a fancy stats pot shot at him, he’s been excellent this year, it’s simply a testament to how fantastic Petry has been lately. By Game Score, Petry was the third best D-man in the entire league over the last quarter because of his incredible ability to drive play (+102 in shot attempts) and because he somehow found an offensive spark in him. Petry has generally always hovered around the 20 to 25 point mark, but this season he’s already got 21 in just 39 games. Part of that is more power play time, but it’s also because he’s putting more pucks on net. He’s always been a very sound defensive D-man – a guy who’s a solid number three, maybe even a two on a good day – but with the way he’s pushing play and also his newfound offensive game, he’s starting to look like much more than that.
Honourable Mentions: Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs; Sam Gagner, Blue Jackets; Justin Schultz, Penguins
Gustav Nyquist, Detroit Red Wings
Q1 Value: 1.53 wins
Current Value: 1.09 wins
While reading about Mantha, you surely wondered how Detroit could still be so bad if they added a star rookie like him. That brings us to the rest of the team which has severely declined, with no one worse than Nyquist. It’s been a troubling year for Nyquist who’s really fallen off the map since his explosive full season debut. After back-to-back seasons with 25 or more goals (the first of which was in just 57 games) Nyquist notched just 17 last season. This year he has four. The last time he scored was on November 23, 20 games ago. He’s only got five assists since, too. It’s not like he’s helping the team in other ways either as he was the team’s worst player by Corsi over the time frame. There’s still hope he can regain form – he’s firing more pucks on net recently – but it’s been a huge decline from the promise he showed just a couple years ago.
Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
Q1 Value: 1.70 wins
Current Value: 1.30 wins
Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
Q1 Value: 1.00 wins
Current Value: 0.71 wins
Life comes at you fast. One day, the Sedins are the pinnacle of puck possession hockey and the Canucks are Stanley Cup contenders. The next day, the Sedins are somehow languishing near the bottom of the Corsi leaderboards for a terrible team posting 45 and 46 percent rates after adjusting for score, venue and zone. Part of that is a lack of support around them and they’re constantly dragged down by guys like Brandon Sutter or Jayson Megna. The other part might be a tougher pill to swallow for Canucks fans. Age catches up with everyone at some point. Some guys like Jaromir Jagr are freaks of nature. Some guys like Dany Heatley inexplicably fall off a cliff. The Sedins are 36 now and the fact they went on for this long playing elite hockey is impressive. But those days are likely in the past now as it’s become clear they can’t carry a top line anymore by themselves. Over the second quarter of the season, the Sedins were Vancouver’s worst players by Corsi, and while Henrik picked up a respectable 14 points in 22 games, Daniel only managed 10. Henrik is only barely on a 50 point pace this year, while Daniel is below the mark and with their inability to control play anymore, it’s looking like their days of dominance might be over.
Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks
Q1 Value: 2.08 wins
Current Value: 1.61 wins
Like I said in the intro, sometimes a cold streak will make us question and reassess our thoughts about a player. Perry is ice cold right now with just three goals over the 22 games he played in the second quarter and has just seven goals this season. It’s not like his shot totals have gone down drastically, it’s just a dastardly low shooting percentage, one that’s very unlike him. The guy is a consistent 30 goal threat that scores on 13 percent of his shots for his career (and for what it’s worth this is exactly what he’s projected for by the model). This year it’s just 6 percent. He’ll regress back up, but for now his value goes down a bit, especially because his ice-time is trending down too thanks to the funk he’s in. It’s not just the goals though. He had a negative Corsi and goal differential during the second quarter and was among the worst Ducks in both departments. He was very good here to start the season and maybe that’s what he needs to focus on to get back on track. Take care of the little things and the rest will follow. I don’t doubt Perry will bounce back, but given his age and his recent performance, his reputation as one of the league’s best wingers is in question until he finds his groove.
Honourable Mentions: Christian Dvorak, Coyotes; Jake Muzzin, Kings; Benoit Pouliot, Oilers