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Behind The Numbers

Rookies boost Devils, not Bruins, in standings

Statistics show Hischier, Butcher, Bratt big part of New Jersey's success

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com Correspondent

The Toronto Maple Leafs improved by 26 points in the standings from 2015-16 to 2016-17, due in large part to the contributions of rookies Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, William Nylander, Connor Brown, Nikita Zaitsev, Zach Hyman and others. Could the New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins or Los Angeles Kings receive a similar boost this season?

 

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Last season, Toronto's nine rookies combined for 304 points (123 goals, 181 assists).

This season, Devils rookies have combined to score 61 points (18 goals, 43 assists) in 27 games and are on pace for 185 points (54 goals, 130 assists) in 82 games.

Through 25 games, Bruins rookies have combined for 59 points (21 goals, 38 assists) and are on pace for 193 points (69 goals, 124 assists).

The primary difference between these two teams is that the Devils have received that production from four rookies -- forwards Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt and Blake Coleman, and defenseman Will Butcher -- and the Bruins have used eight.

Three of the Devils' top four scorers are rookies. Hischier, their second-leading scorer, has 20 points (five goals, 15 assists); Bratt has 19 (nine goals, 10 assists); and Butcher has 18 (two goals, 16 assists). Coleman has four points (two goals, three assists). Each of the four has played all 27 games.

Video: FLA@NJD: Hischier buries quick shot from the slot

The rookies have had a positive impact on the Devils' special teams. Butcher is tied for fourth among NHL defensemen with 10 power-play points and has helped lift the Devils to a power-play percentage of 21.4 percent, which ranks 10th in the League; New Jersey was 22nd last season at 17.5 percent. Shorthanded, Coleman averages 2:13 per game and Bratt averages 1:46. New Jersey has a penalty-killing percentage of 82.3 percent, which ranks ninth; the Devils were 23rd last season at 79.6 percent.

Charlie McAvoy is the only Bruins rookie being used in a primary role. He leads NHL defensemen in even-strength ice time per game (20:43) and has 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 25 games, tied for 24th among defensemen.

Boston has used several rookies on the power play. In addition to McAvoy, who is averaging 1:57 of power-play time per game, there's Peter Cehlarik (2:25), Danton Heinen (2:15), Matt Grzelcyk (1:54), Jake DeBrusk (1:51) and Anders Bjork (1:32). However, they haven't had a great impact; they have totaled 12 power-play points (four goals, eight assists) and the Bruins rank 16th with a power-play percentage of 18.75 percent.

Boston's eight rookies have combined for 130 games played in 25 games, for an average of 5.2 rookies in the lineup per game. Each of New Jersey's four rookies has played all 27 games.

The only other team with a greater average number of rookies per game (4.3) is the Los Angeles Kings, with a combined 124 games played in 29 games. That usually includes forward Adrian Kempe, who is tied for 11th among rookies with 17 points (10 goals, seven assists) in 28 games; forward Alex Iafallo, who is fifth among rookies with 62 shots in 29 games; and defensemen Kurtis MacDermid (21) and Oscar Fantenberg (20 games).

In terms of the overall impact on the standings, Toronto's rookies were worth 33.3 point shares in 2016-17, according to the metric devised by Hockey Reference. Given the intended one-to-one relationship between point shares and points in the standings, Toronto's rookies were estimated to have been responsible for 33.3 of the Maple Leafs' 95 points.

From that perspective, New Jersey's rookies lead the League with 7.4 point shares, which works out to 22.5 over 82 games.

Between 2013-14 and 2016-17, the Devils averaged 28 points in the standings by the 27-game mark, or eight fewer than their total of 36 this season.

The Bruins have 6.5 point shares from their rookies, which works out to 21.3 in 82 games. However, Boston's point total (28) is lower than its average at the 25-game mark over the past four seasons (30.8). That means the rookies are not boosting the Bruins, but may simply be replacing the contributions of veterans Boston has lost to injury, free agency, trades and the NHL Expansion Draft. Now that the Bruins are close to full health, the rookies may start lifting them in the standings.

The Kings, who lead the Pacific Division with 39 points, have 5.5 rookie point shares. They are 2.2 points ahead of their four-season average of 36.8 points at the 29-game mark.

Video: BOS@NSH: McAvoy fires far-side one-timer for PPG

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