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Behind The Numbers

Analytics All-Stars after first 20 games of season

These six players are making a difference in unheralded areas

by Rob Vollman / Correspondent

Regardless of the method of choosing an All-Star team through the first quarter of the season, the focus is squarely on those age 23 or younger. The three top spots in the NHL scoring race are held by players in that group: Connor McDavid (19 years old) of the Edmonton Oilers; Mark Scheifele (23) of the Winnipeg Jets; and Nikita Kucherov (23) of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

This analytics all-star team is not intended to be the six best players by position, but rather those who are performing in ways that aren't often publicized. As such, it includes the NHL statistical leaders in unheralded areas, such as drawing penalties, driving possession, playing tough minutes, and any other metric that can be obtained from game files.


Left wing

Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg Jets

One of the NHL's most effective young lines is Winnipeg's top scoring trio of Ehlers (20) Scheifele and Patrik Laine (18). They have combined to score 30 of the Jets' 65 goals and have 65 points through the first 25 games.

Because of the line's speed, talent and energy, Ehlers has drawn a League-leading 16 penalties, six shy of his total of 22 drawn penalties in 2015-16, his rookie season (as aggregated at Corsica Hockey). Having taken five minor penalties, Ehlers has a plus-11 penalty differential, the best in the NHL.

Nazem Kadri of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who led the NHL in drawn penalties in three of the past four seasons, drew five penalties and took 14 entering play Wednesday.

Video: WPG@ARI: Ehlers buires point-blank wrist shot



Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

Giroux (28) has won 287 of his 526 faceoffs, a .546 percentage that ranks 26th among players who have taken at least 100 draws. However, there is a better way of measuring faceoff success than the scorekeeper's subjective opinion about who touched the puck first.

Since the goal of a faceoff is to secure meaningful possession, success can be measured by whether the team in the offensive zone had a shot attempt within 10 seconds of the faceoff.

From this perspective, Giroux has been the most effective player in the faceoff circle at 5-on-5 this season. With him, the Flyers have taken an extra 9.8 post-faceoff shot attempts in the offensive zone, and prevented 9.6 shot attempts in the defensive zone, relative to a League-average center. Added together, that results in a League-leading 19.4 net shots post-faceoff (NSPF), as calculated by Puckbase.

Video: BOS@PHI: Voracek, Giroux connect for PPG on one-timer


Right wing

David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins

The most effective two-way line in the NHL has been Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins.

Representing this line on the Analytics All-Star Team is Pastrnak (20), whose 13 goals in 18 games represents nearly 25 percent of Boston's total of 54 goals.

In terms of the underlying analytics, the Bruins have outshot opponents 304-188 when Pastrnak has been on the ice at 5-on-5, for an SAT of plus-116 that ranks second in the NHL to Marchand, who's plus-137.

Video: BOS@OTT: Pastrnak nets a nifty spinning PPG



Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

Karlsson (26) is well known for his offensive acumen. He has 19 points (four goals, 15 assists) in 23 games and leads the Senators in scoring.

He also is known for being Ottawa's workhorse. Karlsson is averaging 27:12 of ice time per game, which ranks third in the NHL and leads the Senators by 4:30.

Karlsson's lesser-known statistical contributions include his League-leading 70 blocked shots, and his two game-deciding shootout goals, which are tied with Giroux for most in the NHL. Karlsson is 2-for-2 in the shootout; all other NHL defensemen combined have scored nine times in the tiebreaker.

Video: OTT@PHI: Karlsson puts SO winner off the post and in



Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo Sabres

When it comes to playing the tough minutes, the NHL's most valuable defensemen could be Ristolainen. He handles a lot of minutes, many starting in the defensive zone and/or shorthanded.

Ristolainen (22) is within a few faceoffs of being among the 13 defensemen who have a zone-start percentage below 40 percent (minimum 10 games). At 5-on-5, he has lined up for 116 faceoffs in the offensive zone and 170 in the defensive zone, for a zone-start percentage of 40.6 percent.

He also is one of 20 defensemen to average at least 3:00 per game killing penalties (minimum 10 games), with an average of 3:16. Deryk Engelland of the Calgary Flames is the only defenseman on both lists.

Ristolainen is averaging 26:18 of ice time, which leads the Sabres by 3:43 per game and ranks sixth in the NHL. During the past two seasons combined, Ristolainen has played 2,651:39 minutes, which is 649:24 more than defense partner Josh Gorges, who ranks second on the Sabres.



Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild

Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens is widely acclaimed as this season's best goalie, but his numbers are almost identical to those of Dubnyk (30).

Price has a .947 save percentage; Dubnyk is at .946. Dubnyk has a slightly lower goals-against average (1.66) than Price (1.68). The only real difference between them is Price has a 13-2-1 record and Dubnyk is 9-6-2. It may not be fair to hold that against Dubnyk, who hasn't received the same goal support as Price.

Statistically, there are two areas where Dubnyk's numbers surpass Price's: Dubnyk is the only goalie with four shutouts and he has 15 quality starts in 17 games, for a League-leading .882 quality start percentage, as calculated by Hockey Reference. Price has two shutouts and a quality start percentage of .750 (12 of 16).

Video: WPG@MIN: Dubnyk denies Scheifele with stick save

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