Nils Höglander is now one of the NHL’s top 5v5 goal-scorers (and it’s a real good thing the Canucks didn’t trade him)

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
1 month ago
Nils Höglander put up a one goal, one assist performance against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday en route to a 5-0 victory for the Vancouver Canucks.
The goal was Höglander’s 20th of the season.
For someone who scored just three NHL goals last season and spent 45 games in the AHL, just hitting such a threshold is improbable and impressive enough.
But it’s the way in which Höglander has got his goals that really bears paying attention to, and makes it all the more mind-boggling that his name was ever included in Canucks-related trade rumours around the deadline.
Thus far, every single one of Höglander’s 20 goals have come at even-strength. All of his assists, too. He doesn’t have a single power play point on the 2023/24 campaign, probably a result of his having played just 25:39 total on the man advantage, or just an average of 23 seconds per game.
Not that Höglander has needed an abundance of 5v5 time to notch those 20 goals.
In terms of even-strength ice-time, Höglander is averaging 11:39 a game, which is good for 24th most on the Canucks this season.
And the high production and low minutes have conspired to grant Höglander some statistical rates that are truly mind-boggling.
Let’s stick with the raw total for now. Höglander’s 20 even-strength goals are the second-most of any Canuck, one behind JT Miller’s 21. They’re also tied for 16th most in the entire league. The list of players ahead of Höglander is virtually all star talent: Auston Matthews, Nathan MacKinnon, Zach Hyman, Jonathan Marchessault, David Pastrnak, Artemi Panarin, Filip Forsberg, Nikita Kucherov, Sidney Crosby, Kyle Connor, Brayden Point, William Nylander, Carter Veghaeghe, Brandon Hagel, and Miller.
One of these things is not like the others. Or, maybe it is.
Obviously, Höglander goes shooting up the rankings as soon as any time-based metrics are applied. In terms of just goals-per-60, in all situations, Höglander ranks third in the league with 1.69, trailing only Hyman and Matthews with 1.80 and 1.73, respectively.
And that’s not even even-strength-goals-per-60. On that front, Höglander oddly enough “only” ranks fifth overall in the league.
Why do we bring all this up now?
Well, for one, because he just hit that 20-goal benchmark. For two, because if rumours are to be believed, Höglander’s name was one that was asked for frequently in the leadup to Trade Deadline 2024, including most prominently by the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of their requested return for Jake Guentzel.
And we’d just like to take the opportunity to point out how silly that would have been.
Guentzel, for what it’s worth, has scored 22 goals on the 2023/24 season (albeit in fewer games than Höglander at just 50.) Four of those goals came on the power play, leaving 18 for even-strength.
But consider that Guentzel plays an average of 20:53 per night, nearly double what Höglander does. And consider that Guentzel plays about 90% of his even-strength minutes with Sidney Crosby, one of the greatest playmakers of all-time.
Höglander’s most frequent linemate this year? Sam Lafferty.
In terms of goals-per-60, Höglander has a major edge, to the tune of 1.69 to 1.23.
We’re not going to suggest that Höglander is the superior player. Guentzel is a genuine superstar, and has been doing this for many years running, and contributes to the game in other ways.
We’re just saying that, from the perspective of pure goal-scoring, Höglander is having the better year. Höglander is also six years younger at the age of 23, and signed for another season at $1.1 million, compared to pending UFA Guentzel.
What we’re really saying is that under no circumstances should Höglander have been on the table, even for a premium piece like Guentzel. And, from the sounds of it, he wasn’t, despite the Penguins’ best efforts.
That’s something worth celebrating in the wake of a tradeless TDL.
There is, of course, caution to be had in any breakout campaign of such sudden ferocity. The first thing someone will tell you to check when a player is scoring more than they usually do is the shooting percentage.
And, sure enough, we will find that Höglander is currently shooting at 20.6%, which is well over and above his career average of 12.2%.
Over time and a larger sample size, that percentage is all but certain to come down. But that doesn’t necessarily equate with Höglander scoring fewer goals.
So long as his ice-time and shot volume increase, the goal totals could stay as high as they currently are.
Höglander has only taken 97 shots in 2023/24. Give him an extra five minutes of ice time per game, and he’ll shoot more. As long as he’s shooting more, his shooting percentage can drop back down into the 12% range, and he’ll still be a 20+ goal scorer.
As it stands, Höglander is on pace to finish the season with between 24 and 25 goals. Had someone told you that was going to happen at the outset of the campaign, you would have almost had to assume that the accomplishment came with some plum, year-long assignment in the top-six.
Instead, Höglander has been getting it done all over the lineup, and in extremely limited minutes. That makes him a depth piece with incredible value heading into the postseason.
Had the Canucks picked up someone having a season like Höglander at the deadline, we’d already have been flooded with articles trumpeting the amazing potential he brought to the Canucks.
Instead, we’ll just have to satisfy ourselves with a note of gratitude that they kept him around.

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