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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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
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.
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.