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The DAWG Rating: Explaining the stat and showing every Canucks player’s DAWG Rating this season

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Faber
By Faber
1 month ago
For years, I have been trying to create a formula that measures effort in the sport of hockey.
We have all these analytics about expected goals, possession, and different shooting area danger levels but there is no stat that measures how hard someone plays the game of hockey. An advanced stat that shows the players who affect a game with their effort and willingness to sacrifice their body but also have a positive impact in the offensive zone.
I’ve had different formulas over the years but none of them ever worked tremendously well.
Until this year.

The DAWG Rating

First, let’s describe what “having that DAWG in them” means.
A player having that DAWG in them was a term that began to gain popularity in the 2010s but caught my eye when watching Tristen Nielsen play at the Penticton Young Stars tournament. Nielsen was making a great impact on every shift with his aggressiveness and work on the boards to set up scoring chances for his linemates. Nielsen was a dog on a bone and it pushed me back to wanting to find a formula to measure effort.
In early October of this year, I had a formula that I was confident with trialling and was working through a bunch of different players from the 2021-22 season. A sample size of eight manually tracked games was required to view the final DAWG ratings on the players, so it was a long couple of weeks. I tracked 12 or so Canucks games from the 2021-22 season over a few days and also viewed a handful of players who either showed well or poorly in the non-manually tracked DAWG rating portion of the formula.
Phil Kessel was one of the players we tracked for eight games. He had the lowest DAWG rating (12.08) from the 2021-22 season and that seemed to match with your eye test on how much DAWG a player has in them. Kessel rarely hits, gets hit, blocks shots, and doesn’t do the greatest job of breaking the puck out of his own end.
Our top DAWG from the 2021-22 season was Montreal Canadiens forward Michael Pezzetta (100.07).
Seeing the top-rated player sit at 100.07 made the formula even more exciting because though 100 can be surpassed, it gave somewhat of a grading system where though the rating is not out of 100, it gives a pretty good way of measuring. It would have been weird if we had to measure the DAWG rating from something like 20-80 as baseball scouts do with their prospects.
The DAWG rating ultimately measures a player’s willingness to be physically involved, their ability to set up offensive chances for their linemates, play in the first two-thirds of the ice in regards to moving the puck in the right direction, and also the ability of a player getting to the net for high-danger scoring chances. Statistics are weighed differently and the balance of scoring chances and physicality is both tracked from the six publicly available statistics as well as the manually tracked plays that weigh in on the equation.
As I mentioned, a lot of the formula is manually tracked. It’s actually about half of the rating. There are publicly available stats that make up for about half of the formula but the second half of the formula is likely available to NHL teams in their analytics department but because we don’t have access to that, we’ve got to track these stats ourselves.
Some people think that we are just making up these numbers and I want to make it very clear that this is incorrect.
Here is the formula.
*We made an adjustment from [(1.5(a+b+c+d))-((x-y)1.5)]+(z) to [(1.6(a+b+c+d))-((x-y)1.4)]+(z) after about 12 games.
It’s not perfect and likely will see some tweaks and adjustments in the future but we have been pretty happy with what we’ve seen from it so far this season.
Without sounding like too much of a dork, this has been somewhat of a passion project for me.
I’m certainly not a genius when it comes to math, but honestly, it doesn’t require the most brilliant mind to be able to understand publicly available and manually tracked hockey statistics. The hardest part was finding the right combination to measure a player’s effort level and therefore, find their DAWG rating.

Canucks DAWG ratings up to this point in the season

Before we get into the ratings from Canucks players this season. It should be understood that certain players can still be great but not have a good rating.
There are plenty of games where Quinn Hughes or Brock Boeser don’t show well in their ratings. Hughes creates a lot offensively but he is just not a physical player, and that is represented in his rating. On the other side of the literal equation, players like Kyle Burroughs and Luke Schenn may not create as much offence but their physical play shines in the DAWG rating.
Then, you have a few players who have been able to bring the physicality and have been involved in many goal-creation situations.
That’s where the DAWG comes out.
*Minimum 100 minutes of five-on-five required to register
The Top-DAWG — Curtis Lazar 97.50
Curtis Lazar is arguably the most physically-engaged player on the Canucks. His effort level is never lacking and he’s done a great job at keeping possessions going in the offensive zone but also being strong as a winger when it comes to breaking out the puck from his own end.
Obviously, Lazar’s offence is lacking, he only has one goal and one assist on the season but he plays with that DAWG in him and it shows with him being the team leader up to this point in the season.
Big DAWGs: Kyle Burroughs 90.62, Dakota Joshua 84.43, Luke Schenn 83.88
Kyle Burroughs’ willingness to block shots, skill with defending odd-man rushes combined with his big hits and consistently being the player to stick up for teammates and drop the gloves after a big hit tracks well with him at a 90.62 DAWG rating.
Nobody blocks more shots per minute than Burroughs at five-on-five and he has a pair of five-on-five goals through 17 games this season.
Dakota Joshua is big, quick and gives effort every game. His six goals help his cause and bring his DAWG rating up to 84.43 so far this season. One of the notable pieces of his stats that also help his cause is that he does a great job of getting a lot of his shots off from in tight. Joshua has attempted 7.59 shots per 60 up to this point in the season and has hit the net at a rate of 5.33 shots per 60. That gives him a team-low 2.26 blocked or missed shots per 60 on the season.
He gets to the dirty areas and works for good shooting opportunities. Joshua is also third on the team in hits per 60, he would be higher if he wasn’t in the bottom half of the team when it comes to blocked shots.
If you looked at the DAWG rating after 20 games, Luke Schenn was the top DAWG. He’s a hits machine but has seen his rating drop over the past 13 games or so. Schenn has been good offensively for the role he’s been in this season, notching two goals and seven assists through 33 games. He is expected to be one of the leaders as the season goes on. Schenn is a certified DAWG.
Large DAWGs: Elias Pettersson 71.01, Jack Studnicka 65.59
What Elias Pettersson is doing offensively is just incredible and it’s represented in his strong 71.01 DAWG rating. Pettersson creates his own scoring chances but also does a great job setting up his teammates at five-on-five. He is the only player who is generating at least one primary assist per 60 minutes at five-on-five (1.03).
Though he doesn’t rely on being physical, the physicality is there and Pettersson has just been excellent this season. It’s also another example of how the DAWG rating still needs work because it feels like Pettersson gives an incredible amount of effort every night.
Jack Studnicka has looked fine in a fourth-line role and actually tracks very well when you see how many of his shots come from in tight near the crease. He’s in the upper middle of the pack when it comes to hits and blocks a decent amount of shots for how much ice time he receives.
Just above the middle of the pack:  Bo Horvat 59.04, Ilya Mikheyev 56.52, Nils Aman 54.88, Andrei Kuzmenko 54.03, Ethan Bear 51.92
These players have done a decent job of being involved in the play on a nightly basis when it comes to their effort level but they lack the consistent effort to rise any higher in our ratings.
Obviously, Bo Horvat and Andrei Kuzmenko’s offensive performances have been good this season but they both lack the physical stats to be higher.
We’ve seen some no-show nights from Nils Aman and Ilya Mikheyev so their ratings drop a bit.
Ethan Bear has been a good puck-mover and has had a few very strong games this season but has had a handful of bad games when you view his DAWG rating.
Middle of the pack — Sheldon Dries 47.73 — Vasily Podkolzin 47.09 — J.T. Miller 43.04 — Nils Höglander 40.68
Sheldon Dries actually shows pretty well in the publicly available stats but doesn’t do as well when it comes to the manually tracked half of the formula. He’s doing a good job of getting scoring chances but can’t seem to find the back of the net. He’s working hard most nights but has had some absent nights as well.
We were hoping that Vasily Podkolzin would be having a much better season up to this point but he now finds himself in the AHL. The DAWG rating feels like a stat that Podkolzin should be high-rated in but he has just not had the sophomore season that we all hoped for.
Nils Höglander is in a similar boat as Podkolzin. We have seen some really good nights from Höglander this season but he hasn’t consistently been enough of a DAWG.
J.T. Miller can have some really good nights but has a lot of really bad nights as well. He was horrendous at the beginning of the season when it came to his DAWG ratings but he has bounced back a bit over the past month. Miller was consistently at the bottom of the ratings back in November.
Not as much bark or bite — Conor Garland 37.24 — Brock Boeser 37.13 — Tanner Pearson 36.84 — Quinn Hughes 33.47 — Tyler Myers 31.53
The physicality and scoring chance creation at five-on-five is what has hurt Conor Garland, Brock Boeser and Tanner Pearson this season.
Pearson’s penalties have also been brutal this season and he is bottom on the team when it comes to blocked shots per 60.
Boeser and Garland have had a couple of decent nights for their DAWG rating this season but consistently rank near the bottom of the formula’s results.
Tyler Myers’ inability to make clean breakouts and on-ice expected goals against per 60 of 3.03 doesn’t help. Myers doesn’t seem to ever be the bottom DAWG but he just never scores well when run through the formula.
Unfortunately for Quinn Hughes, the formula just doesn’t like his game, and that’s too bad because he’s a great player.
Bottom-DAWGs: Riley Stillman 27.18, Oliver Ekman-Larsson 24.10
This is where we are confident in the formula.
Riley Stillman and Oliver Ekman-Larsson rank at the bottom of the Canucks’ defence corps when it comes to goals against per 60 at five-on-five and simply do not have that DAWG in them.
Nobody has fewer scoring chances than Stillman this season. His positioning in the defensive zone has also been a big problem this season and it results in some easy goals for the opposition.
As for OEL, he is consistently the bottom DAWG for the Canucks. His game does not track well with the formula and his deteriorating foot speed is beginning to show in the formula as he continues to drop as the season goes on.
Here are all the ratings in one spot:
We will continue to work with the formula but it’s been a lot of fun to see an idea come to fruition and show results that for the most part track well with the eye test when it comes to effort level and seeing how much DAWG a player has in them.
You can like the DAWG rating or you can hate it. Either way, it’s a different way of manipulating analytics and we have been pleasantly surprised with the results of the formula’s output.
Have a happy holiday everyone.

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