Gus Katsaros

Hockey Analytics

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No Staaling This Wild One

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


Eric Staal is two goals shy of matching his personal best 22 goals at 5v5 from 2008-9, scoring his 19th and 20th goals in a thumping of his old team, the Carolina Hurricanes. The former Cane has 36 goals and on the verge of his third career 40-goal season.

 

Staal has also contributed 10 goals at 5v4, the most since the 2010-11 season and the last time he hit double digits on the power play – there’s a systematic explanation for the power play drops with coaching staff implementing an unsuccessful power play formation. He will have to maintain his high shooting percentage in both categories to achieve this result.

 

 

To date, he’s scored 64 goals for the Minnesota Wild, making the most of the $10.5 million, three year contract he signed as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016. Sporting a $3.5 million cap hit, the 33-year-old has bucked the trend of declining skills and production as players age, and forging his own path.

 

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A lot of his success has been shooting percentage induced, starting from his first year as a Wild pivot and extending beyond into 2017-18. For example, he’s fired double digits at 5v5 in Minnesota, having only done that twice in his career – including his first time as a rookie and only once in the middle of his time with the Hurricanes.

 

Staal has always been a productive goal scorer, an element with a tendency to flare up in shooting percentage as they get into scoring areas, or attempt to exploit a good shot, or preparedness for playmaking teammates. Good shooters find ways to score. In this clip below, he uses his size and reach to protect the puck and slip it past the goalie.

 

 

In 2017-18 he’s firing at a healthy 13.14% clip – with a 10.58% on-ice shooting percentage, an indication he’s outperforming his chances – and ranking among the top 10 in Pts/60 among players with 300+ mins played at 5v5. Passing data via the micro data produced by Corey Sznajder and thrown into a data visualization by CJ Turtoro using an interactive tool called Tableau contains only a small sample size of 18 games, but there’s a clear favorite of plays originating from behind the goal line/net.

 

He’s placed in a lower percentile as the rest of his peers in low-to-high plays, but Staal has lived for the play down low since entering the NHL. His cycling and using his strength and long frame have made him dangerous in battles behind the goal line.

 

 

Royal Road plays are passes that cross the imaginary line up the middle of the ice, splitting the zone in half and originating from the edges of the crease. There are links to a higher probability of scoring goals with a shot on goal originating from a pass through this imaginary barrier as a ‘shot assist’ – the pass that set up the shot on goal, similar to a first assist on a goal.

 

Isolating Staal’s performance in the context of his standing among the best in Pts/60, other than Ryan Spooner who trails the pack, every other player has a higher shot attempts per 60 (CF/60).

 

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Among the top players listed here, he trails only Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Toronto’s Auston Matthews in High Danger scoring chance attempts per 60 mins. As a goal scorer, he knows that goals are scored very close to the net and he takes advantage of that – even with plays originating from behind the net.

 

The pivot leads the Wild in high danger goals for per 60, and second on the team in high danger scoring chance shot attempt rate.

 

Hitting 40 goals is quite possible now, with some more magic needed to flirt with the career high 45 goals. However, to the elder Staal’s credit, for his age and perceived decline of skills, hitting 36 was a long shot.

 

For Minnesota, they now have a capable pivot if they lose any to injury – and they have had enough man-games lost for this to be a concern. On a personal level, I hope he hits that milestone.

 

 



Gus Katsaros is the Pro Scouting Coordinator with McKeen’s Hockey, publishers of industry leading scouting and fantasy guide, the McKeen’s Annual Hockey Pool Yearbook. He also contributes to popular blog MapleLeafsHotStove.com ... he can be followed on Twitter @KatsHockey
Email :Gus Katsaros



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