The Best Forwards In The NHL - Adding Special Teams

Tough Minutes, Tough player.

Recently, I've been writing about the best of the best - the forwards that are facing the toughest competition in the league, year-in and year-out.  My original criteria, "play the toughest minutes for their team while playing a minimum of 65 games each year," helped to create the original list.  That list showed even strength prowess by way of goals for and goals against.  In all, sixteen forwards have met those criteria over the last three years, nine of them centers.

In order to compare and contrast the players on the list, I've looked in on the degree of difficulty and normalized Corsi* based on Zonestart and found that a couple of defensive demons looked even better by that measure.  While Scott has done some excellent work concerning the power play and the penalty kill, most of the stats crunching I do looks at even strength play. Today, however, I'll delve into the special teams performance of the sixteen tough minutes forwards to compare responsibilities and contributions in all facets of the game.

*For a detailed explanation of hockey's advanced metrics, see this FAQ at Behind The Net Hockey.

The short-handed numbers continue a theme that began in the Zonestart article, namely that Jay McClement is outstanding.  I've sorted the table below by total time on ice over the last three years.

These tables are sortable by column -- simply click on the desired column header cell.

Player PKTOI Total GA Total GA/60
Jay McClement 785.61 66 5.04
Samuel Pahlsson 682.76 74 6.50
Mike Richards 617.02 71 6.90
Shawn Horcoff 539.46 64 7.12
Rick Nash 539.38 62 6.90
Jochen Hecht 518.23 47 5.44
Daniel Alfredsson 499.41 48 5.77
Martin Hanzal 443.8 62 8.38
Martin St. Louis 379.66 45 7.11
Henrik Zetterberg 354.81 39 6.60
Pavel Datsyuk 326.71 34 6.24
Scott Gomez 316.23 25 4.74
Milan Hejduk 289.13 26 5.40
Eric Staal 263.24 33 7.52
Stephen Weiss 218.94 18 4.93
Ilya Kovalchuk 57.37 4 4.18


In our group of sixteen McClement stands out.  He averages 3.20 minutes of penalty kill time per game, second only to Samuel Pahlsson's 3.41, and McClement's goals against / 60 is a microscopic 5.04.  Also notable on this list is Jochen Hecht, a one-time Oiler who became Jeff Deslauriers and Jarret Stoll, and who's now an incredibly unsung tough-minutes rock for the Sabres.  His GA/60 is 5.44, second best on this list among regular penalty killers.  Mike Richards is third on the list for total PKTOI, and also third on a per-game basis.  He averages 2.63 minutes per game short-handed, something that becomes even more amazing when power play time on ice is taken into consideration.

Ilya Kovalchuk's power play time leaps off of the page.  He averages 5.38 minutes per game on the power play, a full minute more than Martin St. Louis, second on the list with 4.25 minutes per game.

Player PPTOI Total GF Total GF/60
Ilya Kovalchuk 1260.1 127 6.05
Martin St. Louis 1046.32 119 6.82
Eric Staal 947.14 102 6.46
Pavel Datsyuk 846.38 113 8.01
Daniel Alfredsson 828.97 101 7.31
Mike Richards 828.69 113 8.18
Henrik Zetterberg 792.11 109 8.26
Scott Gomez 784.87 73 5.58
Rick Nash 761.04 73 5.76
Milan Hejduk 755.67 78 6.19
Stephen Weiss 701.36 67 5.73
Shawn Horcoff 679.18 60 5.30
Martin Hanzal 409.8 32 4.69
Jochen Hecht 297.6 26 5.24
Samuel Pahlsson 101.78 12 7.07
Jay McClement 35.92 1 1.67


McClement, Pahlsson, and Hecht all fall to the bottom of the power play list while Mike Richards stays near the top.  He's averaged 3.54 minutes of PP TOI over the last three seasons - the Flyers rely on him heavily in all three facets of the game.  His goals for / 60 of 8.18 is second to Henrik Zetterberg, showcasing his productivity with a man advantage.

Back to Kovalchuk - although he plays an enormous amount of time on the power play, his GF/60 of 6.05 is ninth on this list.  Rick Nash also lags behind considering his status as an offensive superstar, though it's been widely known that the Blue Jackets have had the worst power play in the league for a couple of years.

Finally, we bring all of the three-year totals together.  The table below shows even strength goal differential per sixty minutes, the aggregate Zonestart, normalized Corsi per sixty, penalty kill goals against per sixty, power play goals for per sixty and their 2010-2011 cap number.


Player ESDIFF/60 ZS Norm Corsi/60 PKGA/60 PPGF/60 Cap # 10/11
Eric Staal 0.436 -103 6.54 7.52 6.46  $   8,250,000
Rick Nash 0.18 -47 3.92 6.90 5.76  $   7,800,000
Scott Gomez 0.228 -293 6.29 4.74 5.58  $   7,357,143
Ilya Kovalchuk 0.036 66 -5.17 4.18 6.05  $7,357,143* 
Pavel Datsyuk 1.6 -105 20.47 6.24 8.01  $   6,700,000
Henrik Zetterberg 0.96 -78 20.33 6.60 8.26  $   6,083,333
Mike Richards 0.356 417 5.82 6.90 8.18  $   5,750,000
Shawn Horcoff -0.268 242 -0.44 7.12 5.30  $   5,500,000
Martin St. Louis -0.08 -423 -5.39 7.11 6.82  $   5,250,000
Daniel Alfredsson 0.256 -179 1.24 5.77 7.31  $   4,875,000
Jochen Hecht 0.06 54 2.09 5.44 5.24  $   3,525,000
Martin Hanzal -0.188 197 2.34 8.38 4.69  $3,525,000* 
Stephen Weiss 0.588 97 1.85 4.93 5.73  $   3,100,000
Milan Hejduk 0.12 6 -3.39 5.40 6.19  $   3,000,000
Samuel Pahlsson -0.56 365 -1.92 6.50 7.07  $   2,650,000
Jay McClement -0.656 411 -3.18 5.04 1.67  $   1,450,000

*Denotes estimated cap hit

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