• All Hail The Nuge

    by Tyler Dellow • December 5, 2011 • Hockey • 14 Comments

    David Staples has a post up over on Cult of Hockey in which he basically has a Jon Landau moment, saying, in so many words, “I saw the future of hockey and its name is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.”

    David referenced my piece having a little fun with John MacKinnon’s column earlier this year, in which he basically said the same thing, although expanded to encompass all of the Oilers, predicting that “…sorting out which goals belong on the highlight reel may be a larger problem than identifying where the goals will come from” on the basis of the contributions from The Nuge and the other young fellows.

    I haven’t really taken a look at the Nuge’s numbers in a while, so I thought I’d check back in on him. Truth be told, at ES, I haven’t been all that impressed. Here are the important ES numbers:

    RNH3

    There are a lot of really interesting numbers there. The Nuge is squarely in the one percent during the BTN era when it comes to his ZoneStart – very few guys have had a more favourable mix of offensive/defensive zone faceoffs as he has. Like 0.3% have started in more favourable spots on the ice. I used ordinals for the QualComp – of the regulars up front, nine have tougher QualComps than the Nuge. He starts in the fun end of the ice against guys who aren’t very good. There’s nothing wrong with that per se – it’s just something that you have to take into account when you’re evaluating him. Renney slants the ice for him as much as he can.

    Against that context, the Oilers getting 48.7% of the shots when the Nuge is on the ice isn’t particularly good. As I’ve shown previously, a more favourable ZoneStart will up the percentage of shots that we’d expect a player to get when he’s on the ice. The only players to play at least 40 games in a season and at least 10 ES minutes a night were the Sedins and Alex Burrows last year and Mike Ribeiro in 2007-08. All four were comfortably in the black shotswise. The Oilers aren’t getting enough of the shots when the Nuge is on the ice, given where he starts from.

    The Nuge’s numbers actually look pretty good right now – 2.5 5v5 P/60 is excellent for a rookie. It’s a mirage though. When he’s on the ice, the Oilers are shooting 11.05%. He’s shooting 23% and the rest of the team is shooting 7.5%. I wouldn’t expect him to keep shooting 23%.

    Say, for the sake of discussion, that he’s a 9.5% shooter – this is, I think, charitable. At his shooting rate, we’d expect him to score 0.62 G/60 from here on out. If we figure he has 55 games, at 13.3 ES minutes a night, left, that’s another seven or eight 5v5 goals on the season – I’d be pretty comfortable betting that he will score somewhere between four and eleven more, assuming good health and a constant ice time level.

    I’m not sure that the assist level will change all that much – I’ve fiddled with some numbers and it looks reasonable. So that’s another 12 5v5 assists or so – call it somewhere between 9 and 15. Add it all up and he ends up with a mean of about 8-12-20 for the rest of the season at 5v5, to go with the 10-6-16 so far. That’s 18-18-36 at 5v5, which isn’t bad although, again, you have to keep in mind that he’s being handed pretty favourable ice time. For some comparison, Hall and Eberle went 14-17-31 and 12-18-30 in 65 and 69 games respectively last year at ES. Renney was running his bench like a minor hockey coach too and they weren’t really sheltered or given favourable starting points on the ice.

    If we’re talking purely about ES, I’m probably more impressed with what Hall and Eberle did than I am with what Nugent-Hopkins looks like he’ll do.

    There is, however, the PP to consider. Having looked at the numbers here, I’ve come to a conclusion: he is a witch. Here are the numbers:

    RNH2

    OK – he isn’t going to keep shooting 23% on the PP and the Oilers aren’t going to keep scoring on 20% of their shots with him on the ice. The NHL does not work that way. I did a little math though and figured out how many 5v4 points Nugent-Hopkins gets the rest of the way if he and the Oilers shoot at a certain percentage, assuming that he plays all 82 games and averages the same amount of 5v4 TOI that he has to date.

    League average on the PP is around 12%. Say, for the sake of discussion, that the Oilers put up 13% from here to the end of the line with RNH on the ice and he racks up 30 PP points (leaving aside any 5v3 or 4v3 points he might get). That would be a PHENOMENAL accomplishment. How phenomenal would it be? Well, there’s data available for rookie PP scoring from 1987-88 to present. What follows is the complete list of rookies to break the 30 point barrier on the PP and, where available, their PP TOI along with the number of PP opportunities their team had. I’ve run RNH and the Oilers out for a full season to provide a comparison.

    RNH1

    !

    !!

    !!!

    You’ll notice that RNH is a pretty good bet to make that list despite having significantly less ice time/team PP opportunities than virtually everyone else on the list. The only guy even remotely in his ballpark is Paul Stastny, who I suspect was not really carrying the load and, in any event, was three years older.

    You really can’t say enough about the year that it appears likely that RNH will have on the PP. If he makes it to 30 PP points – and I think that this is likely, even with significant regression towards the mean – he’s likely going to post the best PPP/60 number that’s been recorded. Considering the names of the guys who’ve accomplished this and the fact that he’s 18, he’s going to find himself in some pretty spectacular company by the end of the year, injuries permitting.

    About Tyler Dellow

    14 Responses to All Hail The Nuge

    1. David Staples
      December 5, 2011 at

      I see the Nuge starting to suffer more for his own zone play as well.

      http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2011/12/05/ryan-nugent-hopkins-superstar-on-offence-struggling-kid-on-defence/

      I hope he proves both of us wrong. And he might.

      Or maybe we’re both right, but he’s still the best young Canadian centre to arrive in the NHL since Toews.

    2. Woodguy
      December 5, 2011 at

      Renney slants the ice for him as much as he can

      This was true when Renney was running 14-93-14 along with 94-10-28. Horcoff’s line was getting the Maholtra treatment with ZS% in the 20′s.

      Since the Chicago road game Nov 13th, he’s mixed them up a bit and settled on (when health) 4-10-83, 94-93-14. He’s starting RNH is the Dzone more so his ZS will start to flatten out.

      After the first 15 games or so he was 77%ish OZ, and now is running 69.5%.

      Two examples of this are last game where he had 3 Dzone 5 Neuzone and 5 Ozone starts, whereas back on Nov 22nd vs NSH he went 1D-4N-6D, and the Dzone was due to an icing.

      Renney was running his bench like a minor hockey coach too and they weren’t really sheltered or given favourable starting points on the ice.

      Looks like’s back to that, putting O’Marra out with a one goal lead against Iginla and also giving O’Marra a Ozone draw after an icing when the score was tied in the 3rd. Renney really shit the bed last game on line matching.

      Had no idea that RNH was on track to post the best PPP/60 since its been counted. That’s amazing.

      So Tambellini was right to tank last year?

    3. Woodguy
      December 5, 2011 at

      Obv. first line combo should read 4-93-14 (Hall, RNH, Eberle for non-Oiler fans)

      • Woodguy
        December 5, 2011 at

        Should read:

        Two examples of this are last game where he had 3 Dzone 5 Neuzone and 5 Ozone starts, whereas back on Nov 22nd vs NSH he went 1D-4N-6D, and the Dzone was due to an icing.

        I see more errors in my post, but I’ll quit now.

        Lordy.

    4. misfit
      December 5, 2011 at

      I went to an Oiler game earlier this year, and he turned me into a newt!

      …I got better

    5. December 5, 2011 at

      Knowing what you know now, Ty, would you still have sent him down? Just curious.

    6. PunjabiOil
      December 5, 2011 at

      To be fair, he’s a young 18. Hall was nearly 19 when the season began, and Eberle was 20. Comparison’s at EV to Hall or Eberle have limited usefulness.

    7. gogliano
      December 5, 2011 at

      Not sure why the responses seem to be reading the post as pessimism.

      Those powerplay numbers are huge. The NHL is all about winning in situational play. Whatever else he is RNH looks like he might be one of the best PP performers to play the game. He is 18 and we don’t know yet but those stats are remarkable.

      • Doogie2K
        December 6, 2011 at

        Not necessarily. The number of power-plays has gone down every year since the lockout. This comment at EOTP shows the numbers for the last four years. It seems to me that the number of PPs called goes down over the course of a season, though I haven’t seen any numbers to that effect, so I wouldn’t expect this year’s trend to more PPs to last. The point being, EV play matters much more now than it did 5-7 years ago.

        Incidentally, for those feeling the Habs have been doing it with mirrors for the most part the last few years, that post will make you smile. Though it’s ironic that, as EV play becomes more important, the Habs have finally improved their possession numbers, only to get smacked around by their goaltending and special teams, the very things that kept them afloat during all those years of mediocre-to-awful EV play.

        • Doogie2K
          December 6, 2011 at

          And I failed to scroll down to the next comment. My bad.

    8. FastOil
      December 6, 2011 at

      From what I’ve read on stats sites the NHL is all about winning even strength play. Special teams can be shut down, especially in a series when coaches have time to focus on systems – hey Canucks!. Out-chancing, out-shouting, puck possession win games in the long run usually, and some luck. Gravy if you win on special teams too.

      • Woodguy
        December 6, 2011 at

        There was a good post by Chris Boyle on the Montreal Canadiens SB Nation site relating to 5v5 play becoming more important.

        He looks at Fenwick becoming a better predictor of playoff position as penalty minutes come down.

        Linky: http://www.habseyesontheprize.com/2011/12/4/2609043/fear-and-loathing-in-montreal

        This stat from the comments section highlights the trend in penalty minutes in the NHL:

        2008 – 17,107 minutes/1871 PP goals/7 teams
        2009 – 16.487 minutes/1938 PP goals/5 teams
        2010 – 14,854 minutes/1664 PP goals/4 teams
        2011 – 14,339 minutes/1571 PP goals/2 teams
        2012 – 15,090 minutes/1583 PP goals/?? teams

    9. Dennis
      December 6, 2011 at

      I always cite the EV stats, too. When I log SC’s I have a margin at the bottom right hand corner where I list chances by period and the furthest right I list ST stats. I subtract those from the overall total at game’s end and the resulting EV stats are what I always come back to.

    10. gogliano
      December 6, 2011 at

      I just think there is a reductionism going on here. Because EV is more important than PP, we seem to be overlooking what a real difference on the PP might make. If RNH really is an elite PP performer, that is a real advantage for a team. Yes, the advantage diminishes with the playoffs; yes, the advantage has seemed to diminish over time; yes, PP performers get paid more.

      As a general rule, a player who can dominate EV is a great thing to have. But having players who can truly dominate in particular situations — i.e., truly move the needle beyond the player they are replacing — is better than a collection of players who are average in each situation. The effect will change with circumstances (e.g. number of penalties drawn, time for preparing systems) and coaching, but I just think we’re looking at the problem wrong. I don’t think the stats contradict this point, either, though I recognize there is the line of argument that the game is dominated by EV play and paying for PP performers is inefficient.

      I also won’t concede that RNH won’t turn into a special EV player. He is really too young to know much, and being able to translate his game to the PP at such a young age is encouraging on more than the PP front. But those PP numbers thus far are truly remarkable.

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