Individual Metrics for Struggling Players

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A metric I keep coming back to when trying to evaluate players – at least on first blush is IPP – individual points percentage. From the glossary of Natural Stat Trick, IPP is Individual Point Percentage, the percentage of goals for that player's team while that player is on the ice that the player earned a point on. Total Points/Goals For.

A little detour before getting into the specifics.

When the St. Louis Blues signed Brandon Saad to a five-year, $22.5 million extension in the off season, they figured he would play a prominent role as an offensive catalyst as he had in stops in Chicago, Columbus, and Colorado. Playing for a team that didn’t start with the letter ‘C’ was just the beginning.

Entering Tuesday night (data is as of Monday November 15), at 5v5, Saad had scored three goals on 16 shots, and added an assist in 132 minutes over 10 games. On the surface that doesn’t sound very productive, but when you consider while on the ice, the Blues have scored only six goals, and he’s earned a point of four of them, the impact is suddenly more evident.

According to NST – Natural Stat Trick was the data source for this writing – Saad’s IPP (individual Point Percentage of 66.7% is in line with the 65%, 66.67%, 77.14%, 69% in the run up to his contract signing with the Blues. Saad has typically fired fairly proficiently, and the 18.75% this season at even strength (5v5), comes off the heels of a 20.6% rate in Colorado.

Now, Saad is a decent story here, with a small amount of points but has been productive while on the ice, in accordance to available metrics.

Tyler Toffoli has four points as well, one goal and three primary assists, on five goals scored while he was on the ice at 5v5. His 80% IPP is the highest among the group of players being highlighted here.

The rest of this crew is not as fortunate. To identify this group of players, the primary criteria was points at 5v5, or at least, the lack of points production, coupled with a low IPP – individual points percentage. Considering the randomness of goal scoring, generally, players that have a high IPP are producing a high level. Saad and Toffoli have struggled to produce – to a degree individually – but Montreal’s scoring woes are well documented and clear, when Montreal has scored with Toffoli on the ice, he’s generally earned a point.

Let’s look at the group of players on this list. Some of these names will surely raise an eyebrow. For fantasy GM’s, there may be an opportunity here to scoop up underperforming players – and for daily fantasy, players that could be due for a turnaround.

Individual Point Percentage at 5v5
Individual Point Percentage at 5v5

The first group of players are those with an earned point on 40% of on-ice goals scored. The list includes some high profile players like Phil Kessel, Elias Pettersson – who has also dealt with rotten on-ice shooting percentage from the struggling Canucks – Ryan O’Reilly, Carl Hagelin and Joel Eriksson Ek, Anders Lee and Brendan Gallagher just a slight bit higher than 40%. All those players have been on the ice for single digits in goals scored whether they earned a point or not. It’s difficult to find success when the offensive strains aren’t localized.

Some players have had even less individual and team success. Kailer Yamamoto and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have IPP’s of 36.4% and 46.2% respectively. Eeli Tolvanen has scored once and added an assist, while being on the ice for seven goals scored. Even bigger names, Brandon Point has a point on 35.7% of on-ice goals, Matthew Tkachuk and Martin Necas (44.4%), Elias Lindholm and Josh Norris (45.5%), have all had less than stellar starts, earning points on goals scored.

We can go even deeper after discovering some of these players using the initial criteria. The table below shows individual shots, shooting percentage, individual expected goals, scoring chances and high danger scoring chances. While contrasting the individual values with on-ice results. I’ve highlighted some of the more thought provoking metrics to show why a player may have struggled, with a lot of that being in shooting percentage. The combination of low exclusive player metrics, to on-ice results can tell volumes about a player’s ‘luck’ while on the ice. I use luck here in the statistical sense (lack of consistent, sustainable event generation), not in the performative sense (the puck bouncing off a player’s butt and ending up in the net).

Individual Player Metrics at 5v5
Individual Player Metrics at 5v5

Jonathan Dahlen has a point on 54.5% of on-ice goals scored, producing four goals and six points. Noticeable is the amount of rush chances he’s been able to create. The highest value among these players (10), without a lot of rebound attempts, there aren’t a lot of second opportunities in which his teammates can capitalize, which affects the overall production.

Conversely, Florida pivot, Sam Bennett and Brendan Gallagher have created a lot of rebound chances. We shall see shortly just how impactful Gallagher has been – all punches aside, but only having been on the ice for seven goals scored. He’s also generated an expected goals rate of 3.46 (with Tkachuk just behind him at 3.15), but has yet to score himself at 5v5.

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Let’s dive just a bit deeper.

This next table indicates the individual contribution in expected goals, scoring chances and high danger chances as a contribution to the overall on-ice metrics. The coloring indicates the lowest (red) to the highest (blue) contributions. Look at Gallagher and the deep blue in expected goals and scoring chances.

Individual Player Contributions to On Ice Metrics at 5v5
Individual Player Contributions to On Ice Metrics at 5v5

Gallagher likes to hang out in the dirty areas of the ice, which are also prominent spots for high expected goals rates. This in turn impacts scoring chances and HD chances. Another player that features prominently is the aforementioned Saad. His individual metrics contribute to 43% of on-ice expected goals, and category high, 53% of high danger contributions. Both players are creating on-ice impacts, even without the corresponding player points to match.

If you are looking for players to focus on – with value being the main criteria, this group of players should demand some attention. Whether as a fantasy GM, or a daily fantasy aficionado, using IPP to initially spot undervalued players and going a little deeper into the metrics should provide a formidable list of potential targets.