Canucks Points Projections: Top-Six

Robert Vollman
October 23 2012 11:10AM

The point projections you find in hockey magazines are based on the intuitive guesses of analysts who follow the teams closely, and can therefore occasionally be skewed by personal biases or wishful thinking.  That's why it's best to supplement (not replace) them with purely statistically-based projections.

For the third season in a row over at the Flamesnation sister site we're using the two most popular statistical projection systems, Tom Awad's VUKOTA and my own Snepsts67, to anchor our expectations.  The former is more established and has the advantage of also estimating games played while the latter defines lower and upper ranges, and finds good historical examples within.</p>

For a spreadsheet with complete results and a bit more of an explanation head on over to Hockey Abstract.  Speaking of which, figuring out how a player is going to be used is the trickiest part of a projection, and that context can generally be found in the Player Usage Charts also available on that site, so have that handy too.

Today we'll start with the top-six forwards here today, analyze the defensemen next time and then the remaining secondary forwards in a third and final piece.  Let's dig in!

Daniel Sedin

How did the Sedin twins jump from an established level of 0.95 points per game up to almost 1.30 at age 29?  Their usage changed completely in 2009-10 when they became the league's poster children for ice-tilting. 

While Daniel Sedin started 52.4% of his shifts in the offensive zone back in 2008-09, it sharply increased all the way to 79.6% last season, consistently finishing among the league leaders by a wide margin.  Similarly the Sedins generally rank between 10th and 13th among Canuck forwards in the average quality of competition they face.  While past evidence prevents anyone from claiming the Sedins can't play two-way hockey, coach Alain Vigneault is clearly keeping them focused solely on the offensive aspects of their game.

Unfortunately the team's shooting percentage when Daniel Sedin was on the ice fell from its regular position over 11.0% to just 8.8% last year, leading to an even-strength scoring rate among the mere mortals at 2.3 points per 60 minutes after three straight seasons over an amazing 3.0.  On the power play, and unlike his brother Henrik, Daniel is a little below-average for a top-liner, consistently scoring in the 3.4-3.6 per 60 minutes range.


          GP    G   A   PTS
Last Year 72   30   37   67
VUKOTA    69.9 26.2 35.9 62.1
Best      82   37.2 51.9 89.1
Worst     82   15.2 34.0 49.2
Average   82   30.4 40.3 70.7

Even with the advantageous playing conditions, Daniel Sedin's scoring isn't likely to rebound into Art Ross territory.  Nevertheless, half of his closest historical matches scored at least 30 goals, and six of his ten closest matches got at least 73 points.

In the unlikely event that Sedin is used in a more typical, balanced fashion, the worst case would be about 50 points, like Alexei Kovalev.  Otherwise a more realistic historical match would be Marian Hossa when he was in Detroit, scoring 40 goals and 71 points in 74 games.

Henrik Sedin

There aren't a lot of differences between the Sedins, especially in their playing conditions but Henrik is more of a playmaker, doesn't work the shootout and takes more penalties than he draws.  His scoring rates also tend to be different from Daniel's – much higher with the man advantage (an effective 5.4 points per 60 minutes) and usually lower at even-strength (generally a superb 2.6-2.8 points per 60 minutes, except in this 2009-10 season).


          GP    G   A   PTS
Last Year 82   14   67   81
VUKOTA    68.7 15.5 46.6 62.1
Best      82   27.8 58.1 85.9
Worst     82    9.7 22.9 32.6
Average   82   19.1 48.6 67.7

Five of the ten closest historical matches managed 20 goals, with a sixth close behind, and six of the ten managed 70 points.  Of his closest historical matches, Marc Savard's may be the most interesting and applicable.


Sedin  GP  G  A PTS
Age 28 82 22 60  82
Age 29 82 29 83 112
Age 30 82 19 75  94
Age 31 82 14 67  81

Savard GP  G  A PTS
Age 26 45 19 33 52
Age 28 82 28 69 97
Age 29 82 22 74 96
Age 30 74 16 63 78

Savard's next season was 25 goals and 88 points in 82 games – his last great season before concussions forced him out.  Other close matches, like Doug Weight, suggest his numbers would have declined after that.

Ryan Kesler

A great two-way player, Ryan Kesler is perhaps Vancouver's top penalty killer up front, is 7 for 21 in the shoot-out over the past few years, and a fantastic face-off man (last year's 53.6% was actually his worst).  Given that he scored 22-26 goals and 27-33 assists in three of the past four seasons, his scoring should be pretty easy to predict (if healthy).


          GP    G   A   PTS
Last Year 77   22   27   49
VUKOTA    73.2 22.8 26.9 49.7
Best      82   38.5 42.3 80.7
Worst     82   12.7 14.0 26.7
Average   82   24.1 33.1 57.2

There were only two bad results among his ten closest historical matches, otherwise everyone managed at least 20 goals and 52 points, including my favourite match Jacques Lemaire.

Any significant change in his scoring would like be a consequence of his usage.  He used to face the highest quality of competition on the team and primarily in the defensive zone, but for the past two seasons he's been used in a more balanced fashion against more secondary competition. 

Unfortunately his shooting percentage slid to 9.9% last year, resulting in just 22 goals, and his even-strength scoring rate dropped from its usual 2.0-2.4 points per 60 minutes to a third line level of 1.5.  Even his power play scoring, which is normally a highly effective 6.0 points per 60 minutes, dropped to a still-solid 4.3 last season.  If healthy, expect somewhat of a rebound.

Alexandre Burrows

Alexandre Burrows won the linemate lottery, enjoying the easiest ice-time in the league alongside two of the games great offensive forces. 

Though he hasn't contributed much as a secondary power play option, the enviable offensive boost has blessed Burrows with a solid even-strength scoring rate between 2.2 and 2.8 points per 60 minutes over the past four years, leading to 26-28 goals and 22-24 assists in three of the past four seasons. 


          GP    G   A   PTS
Last Year 80   28   24   52
VUKOTA    74.1 20.5 21.8 42.3
Best      82   35.9 46.4 82.4
Worst     82   18.6 17.1 35.7
Average   82   24.1 24.9 49.0

Of his ten closest historical matches, six topped 20 goals, including three in the 30s, and all but one were in a tight band between 36-51 points.  Though neither of them had a hot season like Burrows's 2009-2010 campaign, his closest historical matches were fellow defensive wingers Magnus Arvedson, who finished on pace for almost 40 points, and the more physical John Ferguson who was on an only slightly slower pace.  Each of them had only one or two more strong seasons left.

This paints a somewhat bleak picture of Burrows, but only offensively.  He remains a strong defensive player, a top penalty killing option and has scored 10 goals in 19 recent shoot-out attempts.

David Booth

A favourite among the statistical community for his great possession numbers, David Booth's third-line level even-strength scoring rate between 1.4 and 1.7 points per 60 minutes over the past three seasons was probably stunted by a team shooting percentage under 7.0% when he was on the ice.

Now a secondary power play option in Vancouver after two weak seasons in Florida, Booth is used to getting an offensive zone boost at even-strength – which is a lot larger in Vancouver than it was in Florida, though he stopped facing top-six competition a couple of years ago.  Booth is a fairly physical player and doesn't kill penalties, so will definitely be focused on providing that secondary offense.


          GP    G   A   PTS
Last Year 62   16   14   30
VUKOTA    64.4 16.4 15.5 32.0
Best      82   40.4 24.4 64.7
Worst     82   17.7 14.7 32.4
Average   82   24.1 23.2 47.3

Based on two of his closest historical matches Milan Michalek and Sergei Berezin there's actually some strong potential for a big 35 goal, 60 point season.  These totals become quite realistic if Booth were to get some time on the top line, or if Vancouver's player usage were to change to his advantage.


Booth   GP  G  A PTS
Prior  221 74 62 126
Age 26  82 23 17  40
Age 27  62 16 14  30

Michalek   G   A  PTS
Prior  317 91 123 214
Age 25  66 22  12  34
Age 26  66 18  15  33
Next    77 35  25  60

Berezin   G  A PTS
Age 25 73 25 16 41
Age 26 68 16 15 31
Next   76 37 22 59

Jannik Hansen

Jannik Hansen has developed into a strong, physical two-way forward and top penalty killing option for the Vancouver Canucks.  He starts primarily in the defensive zone (except for in 2009-10), and consistently finishes between 3rd and 5th in toughest quality of competition among Canucks forwards, both of which partially excuse his negative possession numbers.  Thankfully exceptional .945 and .934 on-ice save percentages these past two years have boosted him to a good plus/minus.

Hansen is also a decent bet scoring-wise.  Though he doesn't get any power play time (yet), his even-strength scoring rate was back up to 2.1 points per 60 minutes after two seasons at the lower-top-six of 1.7.  Barring a major role or health change, all statistical indications see his scoring remaining in the 30s.


          GP    G   A   PTS
Last Year 82   16   23   39
VUKOTA    71.6 13.2 18.6 31.9
Best      82   28.8 39.2 67.9
Worst     82    9.5 18.9 28.4
Average   82   16.3 23.2 39.6

Of his ten closest historical matches, two managed 20 goals and half were between 37 and 44 points.  Three distinct historical matches jump out in particular: Matt Cooke, Gaetan Duchesne and Chris Kelly. 

Cooke was certainly a more physical player, obviously, but played the same role as Hansen.  Duchesne was another late pick, and as disciplined as Hansen, but played in a higher scoring era, so we adjusted his statistics to the modern equivalent.  Finally, Kelly is perhaps a more modern example of what the Canucks are hoping Jannik Hansen can be.  Despite the diversity of the group they all point to roughly the same scoring level, 30-35 points (and not the 40+ upside).


Hansen GP  G  A PTS
Age 24 82  9 20  29
Age 25 82 16 23  39

Cooke  GP  G  A PTS
Age 23 82 13 20  33
Age 24 82 15 27  42
Next   53 11 12  23

Duchesne   G  A PTS
Age 23 80  7 20  27
Age 24 74 12 26  38
Next   80 17 17  34

Kelly  GP  G  A PTS
Age 25 82 10 20  30
Age 26 82 15 23  38
Next   75 11 19  30

Chris Higgins

Managing a consistent 160-165 shots in each of the past three seasons, Higgins has maintained a top-six even-strength scoring rate of between 1.9-2.1 points per 60 minutes these past two seasons.

Higgins plays a very balanced secondary role, and generally against top-six competition.  Though not a primarily penalty killer he still remains a usable secondary option, and last year marked a bit of a rebound after a truly horrible track record on the second power play unit.


          GP    G   A   PTS
Last Year 71   18   25   43
VUKOTA    65.2 14.3 19.1 33.4
Best      82   32.5 31.3 63.8
Worst     82    8.6 14.9 23.4
Average   82   15.9 23.0 38.9

Half of Higgins's historical matches were in a very tight band between 39-42 points, which is very likely where he'll fall, if all things remain equal.

Next Time

It's been a pleasure to put this analysis together for you guys, and I hope you enjoyed it.  If you did, stay tuned for the next part, which will feature the defensemen, before we wrap it up with a final article covering the remaining secondary forwards.

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Rob Vollman of www.HockeyAbstract.com is a regular feature writer on ESPN Insider, co-author of Hockey Prospectus 2010-11 and 2011-12, and regular contributor to NHL Numbers, Flames Nation and Arctic Ice Hockey. Innovator of Player Usage Charts, Quality Starts, GVS (Goals Versus Salary), the Snepsts Projection System, and known for work in League Equivalencies (NHLE). Twitter: @robvollmanNHL
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#1 Jeff Angus
October 24 2012, 04:22PM
Trash it!
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Great analysis Rob. I am really interested to see how these projections play out.

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