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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Brock Boeser scores after the ridiculous pass from Vanek
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) December 29, 2017
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|
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.
|James van Riemsdyk||TOR||37||532.2||14.4||1.80|
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.