Canucks: Ranking Elias Pettersson among NHL’s young stars part 2

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 07: Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson (40) skates during the NHL game between the Vancouver Canucks and Tampa Bay Lightning on January 07, 2020 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 07: Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson (40) skates during the NHL game between the Vancouver Canucks and Tampa Bay Lightning on January 07, 2020 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Vancouver Canucks forward Elias Pettersson cuts into Connor McDavid’s points-production lead when the Advanced Statistics “pts/60” metric is considered.

Part 1 of this article began a comparison between the first two seasons of Vancouver Canucks centre Elias Pettersson and those of the NHL’s other young star forwards.

By looking first at “total points”—where Pettersson placed fifth—and then the more refined “points per game” with Petey moving up to second, trailing only Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid. Here, in Part 2, we look to the world of Advanced Statistics for help in refining our analysis still further.

*Stats used in “pts/60” calculations drawn from Hockey Reference & Sportsnet*

Among the myriad of complex metrics offered by Advanced Statistics, there is a relatively simple one that provides a sharper assessment of player performance than that offered by the “points-per-game” metric, and that is “points per 60 minutes” (“pts/60”).

Here, a player’s points are not divided by the number of games he has played, but rather, by the number of “60-minute units” he has accrued. So, if player A is on the ice for twenty minutes per game over a 75-game season, that’s a total of 1,500 minutes, which represents 25 “60-minute units.”

And if player A scores 75 points in that season, those points are divided by the 25 “60-minute units,” yielding a “pts/60” rating of 3.0.

Compare that to player B who is on the ice for only ten minutes per game over 75 games, which amounts to 750 minutes, and thus only 12.5 “60-minute units.” And if he scores 75 points, those 75 points are divided by the 12.5 “60-minute units,” yielding a “pts/60” rating of 6.0, rightfully recognizing his superior scoring prowess in a way not recognized through the use of the less refined points-per-game criterion.

Though “pts/60” ratings are only available at a limited number of online sites, they are easily calculated from data that is widely available. One need only take a player’s total “time on ice” for a season (“TOI”), divide it by 60 to yield his number of “60-minute units,” then take his total points and divide that by the number of “60-minute units,” and one gets his “pts/60” rating.

And following is a chart setting out the results of calculating our 17 players’ “pts/60” ratings over their rookie and second-year seasons (with each player’s ranking in the earlier “ppg” chart in parentheses):

1)   3.438      McDavid (1)
2)   3.100      Pettersson (2)
3)   3.081      Auston Matthews (3)
4)   3.023      Patrik Laine (5)
5)   2.994      Mathew Barzal (4)
6)   2.956      Mitch Marner (7)
7)   2.882      Alex DeBrincat (9)
8)   2.747      Brock Boeser (6)
9)   2.678      William Nylander (11)
10) 2.544      Matthew Tkachuk (15)
11) 2.514      Andrei Svechnikov (17)
12) 2.472      KyleConnor (12)
13) 2.466      Sebastian Aho (13)
14) 2.464      Mikko Rantanen (10)
15) 2.454      Jack Eichel (8)
16) 2.360      Nikolaj Ehlers (16)
17) 2.293      Brayden Point (14)

This further refinement to our analysis again brings some changes in the ordering of the players, but not to Pettersson’s ranking, for he is still in second place. And the four players who were closest to him in the preceding chart—McDavid, Matthews, Barzal and Laine—are again huddled around him, though we see Laine now overtaking Barzal for fourth place.

What may not be obvious from just a glance at the frontrunners in this chart is the fact that the lead McDavid has over Pettersson resulting from this more refined “pts/60” assessment is considerably smaller than his lead in the “ppg” chart. While McDavid had a 22.6% lead when performance was measured in terms of points per game, he has only a 10.9 percent lead in “pts/60.”

To this point, we have refined our comparative analysis a significant degree from the original “total points” comparison between these 17 players, and this allows us to feel more comfortable in our rankings. However, there is still an obvious gap in our assessment of these players, for we have not yet taken into consideration to what degree players are advantaged, or disadvantaged, by the strength of the defensive play they have faced.

The NHL’s unbalanced schedule means that some players have a higher proportion of games against defensively weak teams than other players, thus providing them with an advantage in their efforts to pile up points. And a perusal of team “goals-against averages” (“GAA”) over the past five seasons revealing a low of 2.22 GAA and a high of 3.61 GAA suggests the magnitude of that advantage could be significant.

Next. Canucks 2020 free agent targets: Mikael Granlund. dark

To address this imbalance, I have been working to develop a formula that adjusts downward the “pts/60” ratings of players holding an advantage in terms of defensive competence of opponents, and adjusts upward the “pts/60” ratings of players who are disadvantaged. And I am hoping, in a Part 3 of this article, to demonstrate how this further level of refinement impacts the “pts/60” ratings of our players.