Photo Credit: Sportsnet

No One In the NHL Goal Scoring Race is Getting As Little Help As Brock Boeser

I don’t think many people would argue with the notion that Canucks rookie Brock Boeser has surpassed even the most optimistic expectations. 20 goals for a rookie is nothing to scoff at – that’s the total that all-time Canucks leading goal scorer Daniel Sedin potted in his rookie season – and yet Boeser reached that milestone on December 23rd, with 45 games to go. He currently sits fifth in the NHL in goals.

That’s impressive enough all on its own, and Boeser, now at 21 goals after Thursday’s game, is still on pace to shatter the franchise rookie goal and point records held by Pavel Bure, but there’s something else that makes it even more impressive: he’s had remarkably little help relative to the league’s other goal scoring leaders.

Boeser’s season has been explored from several different angles already. I looked into the likelihood of Boeser hitting the “rookie wall” at the beginning of December, while JD Burke analysed his NHL production from a statistical perspective over at the Athletic. Most recently, our own Ryan Hank pondered whether Boeser has been granted superstar status by the national media.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

I’m going to take a different tack, and look into something that has intrigued me of late: diversity of production. By that I mean producing with a diverse variety of teammates. That could mean having many different teammates assist on goals, assisting on goals of many others, or just having a wide variety of linemates on the ice.

Boeser’s current situation is an obvious one. The linemates that he began the season with – Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi – are both out with long term injuries. In the meantime, Boeser has continued to produce (and specifically, score goals) at an astounding rate, no matter who coach Travis Green puts him with.

Of Boeser’s 21 goals this season, the highest amount of assists by a single player is Sven Baertschi, with six. Bo Horvat, Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin have each assisted on five of Boeser’s goals, while ten other players have assisted on between one and four goals.

Having the highest single teammate assist percentage being 29% (Baertschi) is an unusually low percentage given the number of goals he’s scored this year. Just how low becomes apparent when compared against some of his contemporaries. As a side note, may we all rejoice that Boeser’s contemporaries are currently the best goal scorers in the NHL. Let’s see how he stacks up.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin are currently tied for the league lead in goals with 24. Both have the advantage of playing on playoff caliber teams with high octane offences, Kucherov in particular. The Lightning lead the league in goals and have the NHL’s top power play. Not only does Kucherov lead the league in points, but teammate Steven Stamkos sits in fourth. Naturally, the two of them have benefited from playing with each other: Stamkos has assisted on 58% of Kucherov’s goals thus far.

Meanwhile, Ovechkin, the best trigger man for the last decade, has made a living off of driving home feeds from the left faceoff circle. This season, he’s been primarily set up by a few players: Evgeni Kuznetsov (42%), Nicklas Backstrom (38%), and John Carlson (29%).

The only two other players that have reached the 20-goal plateau so far this season are John Tavares and Anders Lee, teammates on the New York Islanders, with 22 and 21 goals respectively. Both are benefiting from playing with Josh Bailey, who has tallied a league-leading 37 assists. Unsurprisingly, Bailey has contributed to large portions of Tavares’ and Lee’s goals. Additionally, the two have assisted each other quite frequently – they currently rank second and third in points in the NHL.

The theme here is that the NHL best goal scorers are often consistently paired with some high ranking set up artists. I mention Bailey leading the league in points, but the trend continues: Stamkos is fourth in the league in assists, while Kuznetsov is tenth. The Canucks leader in assists is, unsurprisingly, Henrik Sedin with 24 helpers, but only five of those have been on Boeser goals.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Even if we dip beyond 20-goal scorers, we’ll see more of the same. John Klingberg has assisted on 50% of Tyler Seguin’s 18 goals; Jayden Schwartz has assisted on 47% of Brayden Schenn’s 17 goals; Anze Kopitar’s 17 goals have been helped mostly by Jake Muzzin (47%) and Dustin Brown (42%). The closest diversity to Boeser here is Patrik Laine, whose highest contributions have been from Blake Wheeler and Dustin Byfulgien (both 33%). Nobody goes below 30% though.

Looking at it from a different perspective, this chart shows how many different teammates have provided primary assists on the players’ goals this season.

This feeds into the storylines this season of “Boeser is so good he’s making [player x] look like a playmaker”. Boeser has received primary assists this season from everyone from prominent linemates like Horvat and Baertschi; to frequent power play partners like both Sedin twins; to players getting spot duty like Alex Burmistrov, Alex Biega, and Nikolay Goldobin.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

What this is evidence of is that no players with similar goal totals have been less reliant on one or two teammates than Brock Boeser. No matter who Boeser plays with, he scores a whole lot of goals.

And he’s had to play with a lot of teammates so far this season. Boeser has been a part of seven different forward trios for 10+ minutes at 5-on-5 this season, which is awfully high for a star player not even halfway through the season. His highest overlap in his all situations minutes is Bo Horvat, at 56%, followed by Baertschi at 54%. Compare that to Kucherov (79% with Stamkos and 75% with Namestikov), Lee (91% with Tavares and 71% with Bailey), Tavares (77% with Lee and 63% with Bailey), and Ovechkin (61% with Kuznetsov and 54% with Backstrom). This follows the same trend as the assist percentages, which makes sense.

There are other ways that we can demonstrate how integral a component Boeser is to his team. For instance, he’s a full ten points clear of the next closest player on his team in points (Thomas Vanek), and in three fewer games no less. Meanwhile, Kucherov is five points up on Stamkos, Tavares is tied with Josh Bailey (while Anders Lee is 11 points behind the pair of them), and Ovechkin is a point back of Kuznetsov. The bottom line? None of the league’s other top goal scorers as far out in front of teammates as Boeser, further evidence that he’s doing as much or more with less.

Then there’s team goals percentage. Each of the other 20-goal scorers play on teams in the top-10 in the league in goals. The Canucks, meanwhile, are 21st in that regard. The result is that Boeser trails only Alex Ovechkin in percentage of team goals scored, and it’s very close.

Player Team Goal % Goals Team Goals
Alex Ovechkin 20.9% 24 115
Brock Boeser 20.4% 21 103
Nikita Kucherov 17.9% 24 134
Anders Lee 16.8% 22 131
Tyler Seguin 16.5% 18 109
John Tavares 16.0% 21 131
Patrik Laine 14.5% 18 124

And we haven’t even gotten into adjusted for ice time yet. Boeser has played fewer games and far fewer minutes than the goal scorers around him, with much less power play time, and has still managed to keep up with them. Boeser is fourth in the league in 5-on-5 points per hour (minimum 200 minutes), and cleanly leads the NHL in 5-on-5 goals per hour and all situations goals per hour.

Player Team GP TOI TOI/GP Goals/60
Brock Boeser VAN 35 576.9 16.5 2.18
Anders Lee NYI 37 631.9 17.1 2.09
Nikita Kucherov T.B 36 748.2 20.8 1.92
Michael Grabner NYR 37 531.3 14.4 1.92
Alex Ovechkin WSH 39 759.0 19.5 1.90
James van Riemsdyk TOR 37 532.2 14.4 1.80
Auston Matthews TOR 28 519.0 18.5 1.73
Patrik Laine WPG 38 630.2 16.6 1.71
Mathieu Perreault WPG 26 322.2 12.4 1.68
John Tavares NYI 37 749.2 20.2 1.68

Brock Boeser has had an absolutely phenomenal season. Any way you look at it, Boeser is showing that he not only belongs among the league’s top scorers, but that he’s fought tougher circumstances to get there. Boeser is nearly single-handedly making Canucks games enjoyable these days (with some help from Thomas Vanek of late), and the Canucks are lucky to have him on their roster in a time when most other lights have gone out.

It certainly bodes well for the future, when Boeser is bound to be surrounded by a much more talented roster. We can only imagine what he’ll be capable of then.

  • Burnabybob

    I don’t want to jinx it, but Boeser is on pace to set a franchise record for goals by a rookie, surpassing Bure (34 in ‘91-92) and Linden (30 in ‘88-89).

  • Wise Canuck

    It’s somewhat unfortunate that the individual exploits of Boeser are papering over the cracks of four years of failure to revamp a winning and perennial playoff team that us game going fans were so proud to support and call our own under the elite Gillis/Gilman braintrust.

    Indeed, when we look at the superb roster Pat Quinn built around Bure I feel we need to question why such a lacklustre b-movie cast is being employed around Brock while the likes of the Vegas Knights are playoff bound and at the top of the NHL with no stars in their debut season.

    Bad goaltending, terrible defensive depth and boat anchors/slugs like Eriksson, Sutter, Guddy and Gagner etc need to be questioned and held to account here. As does the fact that Brock Boeser is the only stud drafted from Jim Benning’s first 20 picks, despite having numerous high picks and gret young talent like Tanev, Hutton and Horvat being gifted by GMMG.

    Apologists, pom pom wavers and dreamers, it’s time to stop with the BB smokescreen and question why we have gone from NHL elite to bottomfeeder in just four years… the answer my friends is not written on the wind, it’s written outside a soon to be vacated office at Rogers Arena… JIM BENNING!

    • Fortitude00

      Thats a silly stat there are numerous players who have played triple the number of games in the NHL and put up way more points. BB is playing really well but he also had lots of time to develop in college.

      • crofton

        Fortitude00… Of course if you have played triple the number of games you will put up way more points, that’s such an inane statement. PPG rate is like%, it enables people to compare unequal durations etc. If you produce at a higher PPG rate, it’s not “a silly stat” as you claim. Are you trying to say when Boeser has played triple the number of games more than his current total, he won’t be in the “way more points” category? And there are many players that “lots of time to develop in college” that are not, or have not, put up Boeser’s type of numbers.

        • Fortitude00

          It’s comparing unequal measurements. If player A and B are drafted and player A starts two years in advance you have to count that previous production. In this case Jack Eichel has 63 goals since the draft year compared to Boeser’s 25. If Boeser had started the same time as those other players there probably would have been a bigger learning curve for him. Maybe maybe not.

  • Blind Side

    I don’t disagree with your conclusion. In fact, I’ve wondered why opposing coaches haven’t set a shadow on Boeser. But, I think his teammates contribute a bit more than the numbers suggest.

    Boeser may not be the recipient of repeated setups from a talented playmaking centre. He is, however, on the receiving end of some nice passes. Just look at the Vanek pass against Chicago. Boeser has shown some excellent stickhandling from time to time, but his bread and butter is getting to open ice and receiving a pass for a shot on goal. The reason that has produced so many goals is that the puck is getting through to him on a fairly regular basis.

    Could it be better? Absolutely. One of these days, this franchise is going to realize that centre ice is a somewhat significant position that should not be left to the very end when building a team!

    • Moderated Post

      In addition to natural skill, he seems to think the game far better than any of the other draft picks we’ve seen so far, and he actually seems like he’s learning from the guys like the Sedins and Vanek he plays with.

  • Kanucked

    Interesting analysis. It’s a little surprising that so many wingers make up a large portion of a team’s offense. This goes against conventional thinking that centres are much more valuable. Of course defence matters, but for a player to account for > 15% of a team’s goal is very valuable.

  • TheRealPB

    Interesting discussion and the fact that Boeser has been so effective with so many different line mates is testament to his talent; frankly he looks better than he even did in college and in his first development camps. He appears more creative, tougher on the puck, and able to find space in a way that only pure goalscorers seem to (he’s also been much better in creating offense for his line mates than I would have expected). But that said I think you’re a bit off the mark in this post. It’s true he’s been shuffled around — mostly due to injuries and a PP that started off pretty ineffective. But he’s almost always played with top-six talent — Baertschi and Horvat, the Sedins, now Gagner and Vanek. It is his skill that allows him to flourish no matter who it is, but it’s not like Goldobin or Virtanen who get saddled with the Nic Dowds, Brendan Gaunces or Brandon Sutters of the world.

  • truthseeker

    Cool article. Kid brings a lot of jump to the lineup that’s for sure. He’s finally a shooter with some accuracy. Seems like the canucks haven’t had one for a long time, besides maybe Vrbata.

    I do also think it shows a little bit that the canucks have a lot of guys who can make good plays but maybe struggle to finish. When Brock plays with those guys you do notice the nice passes to him more, because he actually finishes them off.

  • Giant-Nation

    Boeser has the ability the Sedins have to Create the Anson Carter effect. Keep him with the Vets and unload them for picks at the deadline he can actually help us at the draft table. Now how Valuable is that when your in rebuild mode?

  • NeverWas

    As canucks fans, I am custom too… being unlucky. How is this true? How is this 20 year old this good? By every metric he’s already an elite talent. He doesn’t even need to get better… Just stay the same the next 10 years!!! Is that possible? Could he get better? Is he the american ovi? When is it safe to say that? This is craziness right??? Player like this staying consistent like this long term?!?!? But he’s approaching 50 games??? All the analytics say it’s true?!?!? Ahhh!!!! WHEN IS IT SAFE TO BUY A JERSEY!!!!

    • truthseeker

      Someone has to be one of this generations best players. Why not him? Though McDavid, Matthews and others might have something to say about that.

      What’s clear is that the kid has the potential for it, for sure. Lots of things have to go right. Injuries being the main one. Keeping up the mental attitude to want to be that kind of great player is another factor. And I don’t think it’s crazy. That’s what the best players from every era do. They remain consistent.

      Just relax and enjoy the ride. If he falls off a cliff at some point then at least we had this.

      And people bought Hodgeson jerseys….lol…I think you’re pretty safe with Brock.

  • jaybird43

    Solid article Jeremy. I guess we can all imagine how much better he’d be doing with a high end centre. It wouldn’t even be a rookie points “race”.

    Hey Moderated Post, have u seen the later picks (>25th) JB has gotten? Tryamkin, Gaudette, Lind, Gadjovich, J. Dahlen, Demko, DiPietro? And let’s not forget Pettersson who looks like a star centre in waiting and Juolevi who will likely be a 2nd or 3rd defenceman.

    I feel like your commentary is a narrative in fulfillment of a bias. Gagner etc. are only placeholders for this youth movement. JB has an impressive body of work, and his errors are fewer (e.g. price of Erikssons contract) and fewer.

  • detox

    lol, I think when you are a few years into a rebuild, you have to wait for some players to develop before they step in.

    EP will be a great addition to the roster, Gaudette looks like a keeper too. folks always whining, saying we should tank, when we lose they aren’t happy, lol.

    Brock is great, he was playing well enough when Horvat was healthy. how many teams have 2 first line centres so when one goes down another is ready to jump in?

    • Fortitude00

      Just because you find one elite player late in the first round or other rounds doesn’t mean you’ll find another. We really need another top 3 pick to build around what we have already to get back to the top of the league. BB is scoring at an unbelievable rate yet the Canucks are the 8th worse offensively and 6th worse team league wide. Assuming Horvat is our second line centre going forward the Canucks still need to find a top 2 D man, a top tier goalie and a first line centre. They may have them in the prospect pool already but no one knows. This is why its important to draft as many top prospects as possible.

      • crofton

        Saying we really need “another” top 3 pick ain’t gonna make it happen, and you can’t count on getting one, so you do the next best thing, try to develop players well and make the odd trade.

          • truthseeker

            No we won’t. The best we can ever hope for is 18%. 18% is terrible. Awful. And with Buffalo and Arizona that is very unlikely. We simply won’t be that bad this season. So really it’s going to be around 10% or less. So no we won’t get the first pick. We have almost no chance of getting the first pick. The Yotes will have almost no chance of getting the first pick.

            The first pick is nothing that should ever try to be planned for in a lottery system with odds as bad as these. Planning to try and get the first pick is simply cowardice. Giving up. Loser mentality. Probably why it’s so popular among a certain crowd of self loathing canuck fans.

          • Green Bastard

            @truthseeker comment below… you need to take a laxative dood! FYI, last draft, the devils wound up with the #1 pick on an 8.5% chance. The flyers got 2nd overall with a 2.2% chance of #1. So ya, even at a 10% chance, the canucks COULD get the #1 pick. No one is “planning” the #1 pick since that’s impossible, but there’s nothing wrong with hoping for it, just like any other team’s fans who don’t make the playoffs.

          • truthseeker

            Actually they are. Many people think “tanking” is an appropriate strategy.

            And I “could” win the 6/49. So what? And I never said there was anything wrong with hoping for it. Again, this is about those people who view it as a strategy.

            Should we miss the playoffs I will be hoping we get lucky and win it to. But I’m not going to whine and complain and blame the “rigged NHL” or blame stupid nonsense like “hockey gods” or bad “canuck luck” or whatever else superstitious people need to make themselves feel better about not understanding probability, when we don’t get it and end up picking in the 5 to 10 area. It’s simply math.

            And I get plenty of fiber, so you don’t need to worry about my movements. Kind of you to care, although it’s a bit weird.

      • Silverback

        Boeser is an example why you don’t need a top 3 pick to be successful. Good draftibg and solid player develolment needs to be emphasised. Precisely what Benning is doing.

        • Fortitude00

          How is the team doing with Boeser? 5th last in the NHL. Boeser is an example of a rare gem found later in the draft. He is also a winger which are easier to find then first line centres and top d men.

          • crofton

            How is Edmonton doing with McJesus? 5th worst? And ohhhh yeah tied with Vancouver. Buffalo with Eichel? 4th worst? No one here has said Boeser will carry Vancouver on his shoulders. And winger or not 5th place goal scorers are not too easy to find.