Using the DAWG Rating formula to evaluate the top 15 free agent defencemen

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
By Faber
11 months ago
This one took a hot minute but it had to be done after my last hit with Halford and Brough on Sportsnet 650.
CanucksArmy is the home of the DAWG Rating and we will use it to evaluate the top 15 defencemen available in this summer’s free agency class.
We will measure who has that DAWG in them. The DAWG Rating (Doing All to Win Games) 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 with 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.
We just don’t have time to watch all 82 games of these free agents, so we’ve tracked five random games of each and averaged it out to find the manually-tracked stats that we require to compile a player’s DAWG Rating.
You can learn more about the DAWG Rating in this article.
With all that being said, let’s run these players’ numbers and find out who has that DAWG in them!
Let’s count down from worst to first on who ranks the highest from our DAWG Rating formula.
For reference, here are the Canucks’ DAWG Rating numbers under Rick Tocchet.
Let’s go!
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, LD, 6’2″, 31 years old — DAWG Rating: 9.82
Yeah, it’s just going to be a no from me here.
We’ve seen enough of Oliver Ekman-Larsson in this market and he was one of the two players who had a negative DAWG Rating in a game this year.
Maybe a team can find a role for him.
The AFP projection has him at three years with an average annual value of $3,250,000.
Good luck, OEL.
Shayne Gostisbehere, LD, 5’11”, 30 years old — DAWG Rating: 28.17
After a 65-point season as a 24-year-old, it looked like Shayne Gostisbehere’s career was going to take off but then he was stuck in Arizona for most of the past two seasons and his value has seemed to drop quite a bit.
He can still provide a bit of offence and is coming off a season where he had 13 goals and 28 assists in 75 games between the Carolina Hurricanes and Arizona Coyotes.
AFP projection: Four years at $4,100,000 AAV.
Unfortunately, his 28.17 rating tells us that he, in fact, does not have that DAWG in him.
Matt Dumba, RD, 6’0″, 28 years old — DAWG Rating: 34.77
A pretty low rating for one of the better right-shot defenceman in this year’s free agent crop. Matt Dumba has spent his entire professional career with the Minnesota Wild organization and will be looking for a new home next year.
He had a down year and doesn’t bring a ton in terms of physicality. As a right-shot defenceman, he will still have teams calling.
AFP projection: three years at $4,400,000 AAV.
Erik Gustafsson, LD, 6’0″, 31 years old — DAWG Rating: 37.33
A respectable DAWG Rating for the veteran who can certainly help add depth to an organization. Erik Gustafsson was acquired by the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline but only got into two playoff games.
He moves the puck well in a bottom-pairing role but didn’t throw many hits or block many shots. For those reasons and more, he has a sub-40 DAWG Rating.
AFP projection: Three years at $$3,400,000.
That seems steep.
John Klingberg, RD, 6’1″, 30 years old — DAWG Rating: 38.44
He still transitions the puck well enough but lacked a lot of the defensive stats that the DAWG formula likes.
John Klingberg is more of a playmaker from the backend than a shooter but he still hit double-digit goals this season between the Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild.
Though he still is an asset to an NHL defence corps, his DAWG Rating isn’t very impressive. He doesn’t play a very physical game but his shot blocking ability got him up close to 40.
AFP projection: three years at $4,600,000.
Scott Mayfield, RD, 6’5″, 30 years old — DAWG Rating: 42.94
A big-bodied, right-shot defenceman will always be a sought-after target for NHL teams in free agency.
Scott Mayfield was fine in terms of his physical play but he was more about protecting the crease than throwing hits to gain possessions. He also saw a drop in his rating due to the fact that he misses the net on a big percentage of his shots and loses possession due to those missed shots.
He didn’t handle the puck well in transition through the neutral zone but still came in with a somewhat respectable 42.94 rating.
AFP projection: three years at $3,750,000.
Dmitry Orlov, LD, 5’11”, 31 years old — DAWG Rating: 43.21
Though he is one of the smaller defencemen on this list, Orlov threw the sixth-most hits per 60 on our list and consistently gets himself involved physically. He doesn’t block a lot of shots, and that was noted in his rating.
He was one of the better players on our list in terms of having his shot attempts actually hit the net and many of his missed shots that we tracked did not result in lost possessions. 43.21 is respectable but we like to think that it requires a rating of at least 50 to be considered as having that DAWG in them.
AFP projection: five years at $6,250,000.
Someone is going to pay up for this top-four defenceman.
Erik Johnson, RD, 6’4″, 35 years old — DAWG Rating: 47.92
Though he doesn’t play the most physical game, Erik Johnson was number three on our list in terms of blocking shots and the formula loves that kind of thing.
His physical play was absolutely passable for a player his size but he didn’t wow the formula with his hitting or defence around the crease.
He’s a solid vet and 47.92 is totally respectable. It’s just not impressive.
AFP projection: one year at $975,000.
That’s easily worth adding the Stanley Cup champion.
Ryan Graves, LD, 6’5″, 28 years old — DAWG Rating: 51.29
Our first defenceman in the 50s, Ryan Graves is a monster of a man but he lacked some of the physical play to have him be higher on our list. He was great at blocking shots — he actually came in at number one on our list in terms of shot defence and that helped get him into the 50s.
He was also number on our list when it comes to individual scoring chances. Graves has the potential to have 10-30 games in a season where you look at him and say, “yeah, he’s got that DAWG in him.”
AFP projection: five years at $5,100,000.
You better believe in this player being a lock in your top-four to make an offer like that.
Ian Cole, LD, 6’1″, 34 years old — DAWG Rating: 58.46
The manually tracked stats really like Ian Cole’s game and that gave him a nice boost into the high fifties.
He didn’t waste possessions in the offensive zone, instead, he would look for teammates and continue plays well. He’s not going to shock you with his offence but he certainly still looks like a solid depth piece for an NHL defence corps.
Cole will still drop the gloves from time to time. In fact, he fought Milan Lucis this past season.
AFP projection: two years at $2,750,000.
Carson Soucy, LD, 6’5″, 28 years old — DAWG Rating: 64.41
We are now beginning to see the top DAWGs from the pack.
Carson Soucy is a towering defenceman who scored 10 goals in 64 games with the Seattle Kraken just two seasons ago. He’s played mostly on bottom pairings throughout his NHL career but adds a lot of value to a penalty kill.
PK chart from HockeyViz
Soucy was one of our top physical players but he also sneakily created a good amount of scoring chances from the point. His shots often found the net and he did a pretty good job for a big guy when it came down to his getting into high-danger areas.
The question will be if he can be a consistent top-four defenceman next season and for the remainder of his next contract. If he can do that, he’s a bargain for the AFP projection.
The Canucks are also reportedly interested in Soucy.
AFP projection: three years at $2,500,000.
Justin Holl, RD, 6’3″, 31 years old –DAWG Rating: 64.89
As much as we didn’t see much in his transitional play, Justin Holl did a good job eating hits in his own zone to get the puck to his partner with space.
Holl threw a lot of hits and is willing to drop the gloves after throwing those hits.

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He was also the most accurate with his shots from the point and rarely missed the net when he had even the slightest bit of space. He does a good job in the offensive zone even though he doesn’t have the stats to back it up. His pace may not be high but he is smart with his positioning on the ice.
Holl has averaged over 20 minutes a night in each of the past three seasons and is likely a solid option for a lot of NHL teams’ top-four as a support defenceman who plays with a puck-moving left-shot defenceman.
AFP projection: three years at $3,000,000.
You may have some top-four value here and the 64.89 rating is decently impressive.
Connor Clifton, RD, 5’11”, 28 years old — DAWG Rating: 77.36
Now we’re cooking with peanut oil. A 77.36 DAWG Rating is impressive and Connor Clifton does have that DAWG in him. Even though he is 5’11”, he hits like a truck.
This guy could quickly become a fan favourite for whichever team signs him in free agency. He throws big hits, is solid with the puck in the offensive zone and was second on our list in terms of shot defence in his own zone.
Clifton looks like a solid third-pairing defenceman who added a lot of value to the Bruins in his 100 minutes of penalty kill this past season.
AFP projection: two years at $1,750,000.
This may be the best bang for your buck on our list.
Luke Schenn, RD, 6’2″, 33 years old — DAWG Rating: 82.93
He’s just a good ol’ boy, never meaning no harm. Unless you’re on the opposing team.
Luke Schenn is the hit king and it certainly shocked us when he came in at number two on our list. Schenn absolutely has that DAWG in him and he showcases it on a nightly basis.
No defenceman on our list throws as many hits as Schenn and he is always the first guy to step up for teammates when duty calls. He also blocks a good amount of shots and though his transition play through the neutral zone is not very impressive, he does a good job letting his partner cook in the offensive zone while being able to get back quick enough to cover for his partner.
Schenn is a certified DAWG and will not likely cost very much in free agency.
AFP projection: one year at $1,600,000.
Radko Gudas, RD, 6’0″, 33 years old — DAWG Rating: 83.78
It was a photo finish between Schenn and Radko Gudas but Gudas comes out on top in our DAWG Rating formula.
Gudas scored very well in the manually tracked offensive stats and backed it up with physical stats that ended up being second on our list and by the numbers, he brings 4.3% more physical play than Schenn. It surprised us but the formula doesn’t lie.
On the back of his strong physical play, his defensive numbers were very impressive. He shut down cycles, blocked shots and quickly got pucks to teammates to create breakouts. All in all, we were dam impressed during the manual tracking of Gudas and he didn’t even get bonus points for his wicked beard.
You’re going to get a solid penalty killer with Gudas as well and he dropped the gloves three times last year.

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Gudas will bring that DAWG in him mentality every time he steps on the ice. He plays with confidence and is an 11-year veteran.
The offensive numbers don’t pop off the page but it’s more about the little things that he does in the offensive zone that tracked well in our formula. Gudas doesn’t waste possessions and recognizes when he needs to reset a play with his defence partner.
And I mean…
AFP projection: three years at $3,300,000.
That wraps up a lot of damn work into one article. I hope you enjoyed seeing who the top-DAWGs are in the free agent defence class for this summer.
I’ll get back to draft coverage now.

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