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Behind The Numbers

Top 5 skaters of 2016

Sidney Crosby of Penguins, Brent Burns of Sharks headline calendar-year all-star team

by Rob Vollman / Correspondent

A total of 957 skaters played at least one NHL game during the 2016 calendar year, from which we have a selected a five-player all-star team. 

Diving deep into the numbers, each player's performance has been measured and compared statistically, including the 2016 portion of the 2015-16 season, the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs (where applicable), and the first three months of 2016-17. Note: Goalies were covered last week.

Here's a closer look at the top five performers of the 2016 calendar year, listed by position, and the impact each has had on his team.


Brad Marchand, LW, Boston Bruins

The Bruins' top choice in all situations regardless of manpower, opponent or score, Marchand helps Boston play at its best. 

In 2016, the Bruins outshot opponents 1,261-883 in 80 regular-season games Marchand was on the ice at 5-on-5, for an SAT of plus-378 that ranked fourth in the NHL. 

Putting that in terms of percentages, Boston's share of all shot attempts improved from 49.4 percent to 58.8 percent when Marchand was on the ice. That boost of 9.4 percent ranked second in the League to linemate Patrice Bergeron (10.2 percent) among those who played at least 35 games.

Marchand had his best offensive year. He is tied for seventh with 32 goals in the regular season, and his 53 even-strength points are sixth.

Video: WPG@BOS: Marchand makes a fantastic move to score


Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins

On this day last year it was felt that Crosby's time as the world's best player was coming to an end. He finished the 2015 calendar year tied for 36th with 25 goals and tied for 14th with 72 points in 78 games, and was minus-8.

But in 2016 Crosby responded with one of his most amazing seasons. The Penguins won the Stanley Cup and Team Canada won the World Cup of Hockey 2016, with Crosby the captain and most valuable player in each case. 

Crosby led the NHL with 59 goals, including 13 game-winning goals, and 119 points in 99 combined regular-season and Stanley Cup Playoff games. At 5-on-5, the Penguins outshot opponents 1,703-1,323 while he was on the ice for a plus-380 SAT that was fourth in the League (when playoffs are included). Taking on top opponents in both zones, Crosby finished seventh in Selke Trophy voting, the highest finish of his NHL career, according to What will he do for an encore in 2017?

Video: PIT@NJD: Sheary feeds Crosby for 25th goal of season

Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago Blackhawks

Kane had a 26-game point streak late in the 2015 calendar year, which was the longest since the 1992-93 season, and he carried that momentum into 2016, when he became the first United States-born player to win the Art Ross Trophy and the Hart Trophy.

With 85 points in 80 regular-season games in 2016, which was second to Crosby (100), Kane has further confirmed his reputation as the modern-day archetype of a scoring-line wing. In this regard, his greatest competition may be linemate Artemi Panarin, who was tied with Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks for third with 80 points in 78 games. Panarin had 31 more points than any other member of the Blackhawks.

Video: CHI@STL: Kane beats Allen on a breakaway


Brent Burns, D, San Jose Sharks

The Sharks reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time and likely will close 2016 atop the Pacific Division, and Burns deserves a great deal of credit for each achievement.

In 105 combined regular-season and Stanley Cup Playoff games, Burns leads NHL defensemen with 33 goals, 67 assists and 100 points. He had 12 more goals, three more assists and 18 more points than the next closest defensemen. His 415 shots on goal led the NHL and was 133 ahead of Kris Letang (Pittsburgh Penguins), who ranked second among defensemen with 282.

Despite an obvious focus on scoring, Burns is a complete defenseman who takes on top opponents in both zones, was plus-32, and averaged 1:55 of ice time per game killing penalties. He finished third in voting for the Norris Trophy and was named to the Second NHL All-Star Team.

Video: SJS@ANA: Burns dekes around Gibson for OT win


Erik Karlsson, D, Ottawa Senators

There arguably is no single skater who was relied upon to a greater extent in 2016 than Karlsson. The Senators were one team when he was on the ice, and another when he wasn't, which wasn't very often given his total ice time. Karlsson's total ice time of 2,245:05 in 79 regular-season games was second in the NHL to Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild, who played 2,251:01 in 80 games.

Though Karlsson's offensive contributions are well-established, less is written about his shot-based metrics. When Karlsson was on the ice at 5-on-5 in 2016, the Senators outshot their opponents 1,562-1,534, for a shot attempt percent of 50.45. 

That doesn't seem particularly impressive until it's noted that Ottawa's shot attempt percent was 46.25 percent when he wasn't on the ice. The resulting boost of 4.2 percent ranked 13th among the 218 defensemen to play at least 30 regular-season games.

Video: OTT@SJS: Karlsson buries wrister from the high slot

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