Power Forwards In the NHL: Revisiting the Mythical Beast


When last I visited the concept of the Power Forward in the NHL, I tested the traditional fan description of a Power Forward and found:

Over the last three years, there are two players that qualify as power forwards -- Alexander Ovechkin and Shane Doan. The beast, though gravely endangered, exists. .5% of all NHL forwards can truly be considered power forwards in this sense. Perhaps asking these players to perform at this high of a level for three straight years is too much, given the beating that they must take on a game-by-game basis.

With the book closed on the 2009-2010 regular season, I decided revisit the topic to see if there were any newcomers to the position.

As I did in the last look at the noble creature, I set the minimums for the position at .3 goals per game (25 goals over and 82 game season) and 1.5 hits per game.

The following charts detail each player, by season that met the minimums.  All of the charts are sorted by goals per game.

 

06-07 Power Forwards

0607pf_medium

 

07-08 Power Forwards

0708pf_medium

 

08-09 Power Forwards

0809pf_medium

 

09-10 Power Forwards

0910pf_medium

 

Shane Doan drops from the list due to a brutal shooting percentage season.  If Doan spends 09-10 shooting at his previous career average, he pots 25 goals and is again on the list.  So Alex Ovechkin is the only man that has met the conditions of a traditional power forward for the last four years.  There are some interesting items surrounding this year's list though:

  • Ryan Malone has made the list three years in a row.  Injuries have limited him (as is the case with many of the people that appear on this list once), but he still managed to average .304 GPG.  At first glance, his shooting percentage seems high, but Malone has managed to shoot 15% for his career.
  • Mike Richards has also made this list three years running.  It's especially impressive for a center, given the extra work.  Richards is also among the leaders in faceoffs taken each year - he's a workhorse.
  • James Neal is making a case for himself as the second-best power forward in the league as he's on the list for the second time in his career -- a career that is just two seasons old.
  • Guillaume Latendresse will have to generate a much larger volume of shots to get back on this list - his 16.9% shooting percentage is not likely sustainable.
  • Steve Ott is an interesting case - he's taken more shots in each of the last three seasons and his shooting percentage has increased.  The type of minutes that Ott players aren't going to be conducive to him getting more than two shots per game on net (his average this year) and 15.1% is not sustainable.
  • There were a number of players that couldn't duplicate their 08-09 season:  David Backes, Andrei Kostitsyn, Ryane Clowe and Chuck Kobasew all had extremely high shooting percentages last season.

My conclusion about the traditional Power Forward still holds:

A roster fix via the vaunted "power forward" is nearly impossible. The players in this mold are extremely rare and the ones that do actually exist come with a heavy cap number. Their trade cost is just about priceless. Beyond that, the guys that fit this mold aren't necessarily dynamic scorers...

...there were 37 "power forward" seasons by 27 different players in this period. Only 8 of those players broke the 30 goal mark and the other 19 players averaged 24.8 goals per season.

These types of seasons have a very low rate of repeatability.  The players that aren't named Ovechkin, Doan or Richards depend on extremely high shooting percentages to score their goals.  When those percentages regress, those forwards are dropped from the list.

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