A Study of Zone Exits (Team Canada WJC 2020 Part 1)

I decided for the World Junior Championships that I would embark on a journey of analytics.  Using a similar formula to what Corey Sznajder has been working with, I tracked Defensive Zone Exit data for Team Canada.  A short version of what this means is:
Whenever Canada made an attempt to move the puck out of their own zone I tracked what happened and how.
This breaks down into 4 event types:
– Exit with possession: The player in question carries the puck out of the zone or completes a pass from the zone to a player outside of it
– Clear: The player pushes the puck out of the zone, but it immediately changes possession.  Icing plays are not counted.
– Failure: The player makes an obvious attempt to get the puck out of the zone and is unsuccessful
– Assist: The player makes a pass to another player in their own zone with the intent of that player moving the puck out and that player successfully executes an “Exit with Possession”

At current time, I have the group stage games completed.
20191226 EER

20191228 EER

20191230 EER

20191231 EER

That’s a lot of data, but what does it all mean?  I further broke down the data into some analytics to help interpret it.
– 5 on 5 Exit Percentage: this is what percentage of the total successful exits at 5 on 5 (even strength) a given player accounted for.  In the example directly above, against the Czech Republic, Ty Smith accounted for 5 of the 48 total 5 on 5 exits with possession.  This calculates out to 10.42%
– Relative Rating: this assumes that each player should be responsible for an equal share of zone exits.  It does not account for situational usage or ice time.  It is based on a baseline mean percentage taken from the number of skaters dressed for a game.  In the NHL this number would be 1/18.  For IIHF games this is 1/20 assuming no injuries.  In games above Canada used 19 and 18 skaters respectively.  Relative rating reflects that.  The number is calculated by taking the “5 on 5 exit percentage” and dividing it by the mean percentage (5.26% for the Canada vs. Czech Republic game shown directly above).  Using Ty Smith again, that means to achieve his relative rating, we would divide is 10.42 exit percentage by 5.26 to get his Relative Rating of 1.98.  By the standard of this metric, that’s a really impressive number.  The short version is: numbers above 1 are good, numbers below 1 not so much.  When we take the Relative Rating and apply it to lineups, we can see what players on each line and defensive pairing are the ones controlling zone exits.
– 5 on 5 EER: EER stands for Exit Efficiency Rating.  This is simply a calculation of a player’s successful zone exits divided by their total number of attempts.  We do not give credit for clearing the puck here, because the  goal is to exit the zone with possession every time.  Using Ty Smith against the Czech Republic again, at 5 on 5, Ty attempted to exit the zone 5 times and was successful every time, giving him a 5on5 EER of 100%.  Looking at Jacob Bernard-Docker in the same game; he attempted to exit the zone a total of 11 times.  He was successful 7 times, he cleared the puck out 3 times and failed completely 1 time.  Therefore his EER is 7/11.  Converting the decimal to percentage and rounding to the nearest hundredth of a percentage point, that number comes to 63.64%

So what’s the point of all this, what does this data tell us?  In part 2 of this installment I will total all the data from the preliminary rounds and try to draw some conclusions from it.

Defensive Upgrades That the Leafs (Or Insert Your Playoff Bound Team) Can Make Now.

Defensive Upgrades That the Leafs (Or Insert Your Playoff Bound Team) Can Make Now.

Do the Maple Leafs need upgrades to their defense heading into the playoffs?  I think I heard that somewhere. I’ve also heard it about a few other teams. While there are some big names with potentially big price-tags attached, I thought I’d focus the lens on some under the radar names that could possibly be upgrades for teams trying to get stronger on the back-end for a cup push.
All statistics are as of date of publication

NHL: MAR 05 Wild at Predators
Brad Hunt: 31 years old
Left Handed Defender: Minnesota Wild
Height: 5’9 (175cm), Weight: 176 lbs (80kg)
Current Contract: Expires 2021 UFA, AAV: $700,000
Stats: 44 games played; 7 goals, 8 assists.  GameScore per 60min; all situations: 1.56
Brad Hunt has been around a while.  The 31 year old has 287 AHL regular season games and 164 NHL regular season games.  What’s relevant to note though is that until the 2017-2018 season Hunt only had a total of 33 games played between 3 teams, across 4 seasons.  In Vegas in 2018, and last season between Vegas and Minnesota, Hunt established himself as a reliable bottom pairing option, playing 45 and 44 games respectively.  Hunt has matched that total this season, playing in 44 contests for Minnesota. His usage is completely in a 3rd pairing role for Minnesota, averaging 15:20 per game, so far this season.  What makes that usage interesting though, is that Hunt averages a fair amount of power play time. In fact, of Hunt’s 15 points, so far this season, 8 have come on the power play and 3 of those were goals.  31 year old Brad Hunt has 1 less point than Matthew Dumba this season, in 6 less games played. What this player gives you is a reliable 3rd pairing/7th defender option who CAN fill in and QB your power play if you need him to.  His salary hit is a measly $700,000 against the cap this season and next. I cannot imagine Minnesota would put too high of a price tag on acquiring him either. Hunt might only be a fringe guy, but he has shown this season that he can play if called upon.

Joakim Ryan: 26 years old
Left Handed Defender: Los Angeles Kings
Height: 5’11(180cm), Weight: 185lbs(84kg)
Current Contract: Expires 2020 UFA, AAV 725,000
Stats: 28 games played; 1 goal, 2 assists.  GameScore per 60min; all situations: 0.94
Joakim Ryan might be my favorite player on this list.  His contract is cheap and it expires this season. He was a 7th round pick of San Jose in 2012.  It took him a while to catch on, and then just when it looked like he did, he fell out of favor with San Jose coach Peter Deboer.  He saw his usage drop, he saw his minutes drop and then at season’s end he was turned loose. LA picked him up and I don’t think even they were 100% sure what they’d get.  Through his first 12 games in LA, Ryan averaged 15:46 of ice time. Then something changed. Starting November 29th and through his next 15 games, he averaged 21:14 per game and saw his role and usage expand greatly.  And then he got hurt. Ryan has recently returned to the lineup and was very solid in his first game back against Tampa Bay. You are not getting a point generating player with Joakim Ryan. What you are getting, instead, is a steady, defensive defender who positions himself well and is cool under pressure.  So often he’ll make a simple poke check, or a quick read that allows him to negate defensive zone issues before they even develop. In my viewings he’s also seldom out of position in a way that leads to a goal against. With Drew Doughty out of the lineup against Tampa, Ryan slotted in, to the play the left side, paired with Alec Martinez.  He didn’t look out of place, playing hard minutes against some of the nastiest firepower in the league. A team that gets Ryan would certainly be thinking rental, but in the case of a team like Toronto(or other team seeking defensive upgrades), who could use some stability on their backend, Ryan could be a guy that is acquired at the deadline, with the intent to extend him if he works out well.  This is not the only player LA will have on this list, but if I were to go after one in particular, this would be the one.

Sean Walker: 25 years old
Right Handed Defender: Los Angeles Kings
Height: 5’11(180cm), Weight: 196lbs(88kg)
Current contract: Expires 2020 RFA, AAV $745,000
Stats: 51 games played; 4 goals, 15 assists.  GameScore per 60min; all situations: 2.00
Sean Walker is a puck moving defender that LA picked up, undrafted out of Bowling Green University.  He’s produced fairly steady point totals, for a defender, at every level he has played. The Kings have Walker averaging 19:06 per game.  He averages almost 2 shots on net per game, 16 of his 19 points are at even strength and his corsi is 56.6%. He’s actually, what I would consider, one of the bright spots for the Kings this season.  I just don’t know how tied in to keeping him around LA is going to be. They have a lot of young defensive talent potentially clamouring for a roster spot as early as training camp, so it’s possible, looking ahead to that, that LA would see the wisdom in moving Walker.  I think if they got the right offer for him, at this point in their season, they’d take it. His Restricted Free Agent status makes him an attractive target for a team looking for a right handed puck mover to add to their backend. He has seen usage in every on-ice situation and has had varying degrees of success.  The ONLY problem with him, that I have seen, is a propensity to turn the puck over, but he has the awareness and compete level to do his best to make up for those errors and try to get the puck back. The ability to sign him to a bridge deal of some kind for a few years at a good salary number could make him very attractive to a team like Toronto.

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Carolina Hurricanes
Mark Borowiecki: 30 years old
Left Handed Defender: Ottawa Senators
Height: 6’2(188cm), Weight: 204lbs(93kg)
Current Contract: Expires 2020 UFA, AAV $1,200,000
Stats: 48 games played; 6 goals, 11 assists.  GameScore per 60min; all situations: 0.63
I am a Mark Borowiecki fan boy.  I’m not even going to try to hide it.  Mark Borowiecki has 14 total goals in his 370 game NHL career and 6 of them are this season.  He’s one of the great warriors in the NHL today. If you look at a picture of Mark Borowiecki’s smile, you can see what his game is about.  In a game against the New Jersey Devils this season, Borowiecki took a spear to the face from Blake Coleman that required him to get stitches.  I think he missed maybe 1 shift before he was back out on the ice with his face stitched up. On that shift, he was boarded by Miles Wood (also didn’t get called) opening the wound on his face up again.  He went for stitches, again, came back out and finished the game. And then he played again the next night. He’s a living embodiment of toughness and integrity and a throwback to days gone by. That makes him EXACTLY the type of player you want in a playoff series.  You bring in Borowiecki to clear out your crease on the PK, and punish guys for entering your zone. He’s everybody on his own team’s favorite guy and everybody on the opposing team’s least favorite. When people scream “OLD TIME HOCKEY” it’s Mark Borowiecki that they’re talking about.  I know I have seen Leafs fans begging for toughness on twitter. You’ve seen Ottawa play. You know what Mark Borowiecki is all about.

Dylan Demelo: 26 years old
Right Handed Defender: Ottawa Senators
Height: 6’0(183cm), Weight: 191lbs(87kg)
Current Contract: Expires 2020 UFA, AAV $900,000
Stats: 40 games played; 0 goals, 8 assists.  GameScore per 60min; all situations: 0.95
Dylan Demelo averages 20:06 of ice time this season for Ottawa.  Because Ottawa has Thomas Chabot and DJ Smith doesn’t seem to like using his third pairing much, that actually puts DeMelo 4th in ice time, among Senators defenders, behind; Chabot, Zaitsev and Hainsey.  He goes through excessive scoring droughts that cannot be explained because he has a decent shot and he hits the net on about 51% of shot attempts. He skates with pace, he’s capable with the puck, and he just does everything you want a middle to bottom pairing defender to do.  If I’m honest, I cannot understand why Ottawa hasn’t gotten an extension done for him. Ottawa has a pile of expiring contracts and looks to be a mover and shaker at the trade deadline. If a team can sneak in there and grab DeMelo for the right price while the GM is moving other assets, it would be an excellent move and I would certainly consider his time after the deadline as an audition for an extension.

Connor Carrick: 25 years old
Right Handed Defender: New Jersey Devils
Height: 5’11(180cm), Weight: 192lbs(87kg)
Current Contract: Expires 2021 UFA, AAV $1,500,000
Stats: 11 games played; 0 goals, 3 assists.  GameScore per 60min; all situations: 0.22
The New Jersey Devils seem like they haven’t quite figured out what to do with Carrick.  He missed a ton of time early in the season after a puck hit his finger in practice and basically imploded the thing.  It was reported (By Corey Masisak on Twitter) that, had he not been an athlete, they would have amputated it. It was bad. So after missing about 2 months of the season he came back and his usage (when the Devils let him play) has been kind of all over the place.  Some games they give him 18 minutes and some it’s as low as 13. His first game back they gave him 5. It’s just been too small of a sample size this season to really draw any conclusions, so you’re left looking at his body of work from the past. His past as a member of the Leafs organization is a big part of why he’s on this list.  He played his way out of favor under Babcock and the Leaf’s traded him in favor of keeping Ozhiganov in the lineup. I’m sure that move had nothing to do with the fact that Igor was 6’2 and Connor is 5’11. I just wonder if Sheldon Keefe would have an interest in acquiring a player who had so much success for him in the 2016 AHL playoffs.  Dallas liked him enough to trade the Leafs a pick for him instead of letting somebody else claim him off waivers. The Devils liked him enough after a 20 game audition last season to give him a 2 year contract.

Matt Roy: 24 years old
Right Handed Defender: Los Angeles Kings
Height: 6’1(185cm), Weight: 200lbs(90kg)
Current Contract: Expires 2021 RFA, AAV $700,000
Stats: 51 games played; 4 goals, 10 assists.  GameScore per 60min; all situations: 1.84
We’re back to the Kings.  I believe that either Matt Roy or Sean Walker is being traded at this trade deadline.  I’ve seen Roy used with Ben Hutton a bit and that seemed like LA’s 2nd pairing as far as their usage.  Matt Roy does not see the power play time that Sean Walker does, but his PK usage is similar. On paper Roy and Walker are VERY similar hockey players.  Roy’s game is a bit more on the physical side and he’s a bit better at protecting the puck, but he’s not as offensively inclined as Walker. Roy has size, an extra year at a lower cap hit, and is 2 years younger.  In theory he’s the more desirable player as far as assets go. But Walker’s additional offense and power play usage might make him the player LA is more interested in keeping. If that’s the case, acquiring Matt Roy is a good move for any GM out there looking to add defensive depth, especially Toronto.  However, he’s not the big ticket item that Alec Martinez is. That means that he might be able to be had for a bargain.

pet nemeth
Patrick Nemeth: 27 years old
Left Handed Defender: Detroit Red Wings
Height: 6’3(191cm), Weight: 228lbs(103kg)
Current Contract: Expires 2021 UFA, AAV $3,000,000
Stats: 45 games played; 1 goal, 7 assists.  GameScore per 60min; all situations: 0.64
You almost have to ignore Nemeth’s stats.  Detroit is such a gongshow that it’s hard for any of his stats or analytics to really matter.  Nemeth had a really difficult time catching on in Dallas before arriving in Colorado in the fall of 2017.  At 25 years old, in Colorado he established that he could be an NHL regular, chipping in occasional offense, but mainly being a big, strong, stable defensive zone presence.  The acquisition of Ian Cole in 2018 made Nemeth a bit redundant, but he was able to maintain himself as a regular 3rd pairing guy who was reliable in his own end. In Detroit he’s having to play well outside his capabilities.  With the long term injury to Danny Dekayser, Nemeth has had to step into playing top pairing minutes on the worst team in the league. He’s averaging nearly 22 minutes of ice time per game, playing alongside 22 year old, Filip Hronek.  I’m not sure that this was the role Nemeth envisioned for himself when Detroit signed him. Nemeth will turn 28 on February 8th and is currently drastically underpaid for the workload he’s performing. A team that could turn Nemeth into a 2nd pairing, or even 3rd pairing player would find that he’s a great fit alongside a more offensively minded defender.  He’s a bit of a late bloomer but he’s a much better hockey player that he seems; playing in Detroit right now. Could the Leaf’s make his $3 million caphit work? I’m not 100% sure, but it could really be worth a try for them. Even teams in sell mode like the New Jersey Devils should be giving Nemeth a look. Just somebody, get this poor guy out of Detroit.

All salary data obtained from: CapFriendly
GameScore data and stats obtained from: Corsica Hockey
(Top Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

In Defense of “Stay-At-Home” Defenders (Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bahl)

In Defense of “Stay-At-Home” Defenders (Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bahl)

To get to my point I have to spend some time on the backstory.  The New Jersey Devils traded Taylor Hall.  I’ve made no secret that I am a Devils fan.  So, this trade hits very close to home for me.  While pundits and fans alike battled over what the return should be, I dug my heals in that the Devils needed to acquire, as a part of the deal, a really strong “shut down” defender.  When they acquired prospect Kevin Bahl, I was quite happy.  I got an alert about the trade while out at the mall, Christmas shopping with my fiance.  My initial reaction was, “They did it.  They got Bahl.  YES, perfect.”  By the time I got home, I had friends messaging me asking my input and they were shocked at my thrill.  A scan of twitter and the hockey “blogosphere” told me why.  A cascade of buzzwords flooded hockey twitter.  Phrases like “NHLe” and “no-offensive upside” dominated the conversation.  My moment of thrill and joy was shattered.  So if I sound like I took this trade a little personally for whatever reason, this is why.

The definition of a stay-at-home defender really depends who you’re talking to.  To many folks, the concept is outdated, and denotes a defender who isn’t top 4 potential.  That’s only partially true.  The truth of the matter is that there’s a gap in the talent caused by a few factors.  The NHL has changed the way it calls hooking, slashing, and interference in ways that favor the offensive player.  It’s all part of the NHL’s long quest to increase scoring.  These defenders who learned to defend under the old rule sets are having their tools taken away from them, and thus their effectiveness wanes.  Working in tandem with the rule changes is the fact that the speed of the game has increased.  With the game being faster, the big, slow defender has been left in the dust.  We see this around the league.  Scoring is up, but we also see numerous fan bases (The Devils included) clamoring for improved defense.  There just doesn’t seem to be enough talented, defensively capable, stay-at-home defenders available to go around.  The rule changes have hindered the effectiveness of some members of the current generation of NHL defenders as well as the prospects who came up playing their junior hockey under the older rules.  They learned and developed to play a style of game that no longer exists.  This is where your Samuel Morins and your Jamie Oleksiaks (and to some degree Erik Gudbranson) come into play.  They are big (6’6 and 6’7 respectively) defenders designed for the NHL of 2013, not 2020.  Therefore, in many eyes, the concept of the stay-at-home defender is also a concept not made for the NHL of 2020.  I don’t agree.  Instead, the talent level, skating ability and hockey IQ of the next generation of stay-at-home NHL defenders has to elevate to be able to accommodate today’s game.  Kevin Bahl is part of that next generation.

The “stay-at-home” or “shut down” defender also is a victim of modern analytics.  I engaged in a twitter exchange recently with Byron Bader, the creator of the NHLe Player Comparison tool.  Bader is someone whose opinion and work I have an immense amount of respect for and he’s a very good twitter follow.
bader exchange cleaned up
I talked to him about this tweet and he was gracious enough to respond.  In our discussion I asked if the lack of offensive upside would cause a big hit to NHLe rating.  He informed me that it definitely does.  With this information in hand, I decided to use his
NHLe Comparison tool to do some research of my own.  I went for comparisons of Bahl to players whom I would consider “successful shut-down defenders”

defensive defender comparions
You’ll notice under the players’ names the words “average producer” and “replacement producer.”  This brings me to my problem with the NHLe model for rating this kind of player.  According to the NHLe model,  Nikita Zadorov is a replacement level defenseman.  Chara and Johnson are “average.”  Chara is mostly here just for the sake of the outlier comparison although I don’t expect Kevin Bahl to be the next Chara.  However it does not seem unreasonable, given his size and skillset, to expect that he might be able to be the next Zadorov or Johnson.  In fact, in watching film he plays a lot like Nikita Zadorov.  That said, based on the NHLe model, Zadorov is “replacement level.”  If you watch the Colorado Avalanche at all, and you get the opportunity to watch how effective Erik Johnson and Nikita Zadorov are, you will understand where I’m going with this.  Colorado is an incredibly successful team right now and they’re very difficult to play against.  Zadorov and Johnson are a big part of that.  Their contributions to their team are beyond what I would consider “average” or “replacement level.”  There aren’t many like them in the league right now.  They’re big, strong, physical defenders who are also able to skate with forwards and take away offensive chances.   I challenge any hockey fan to watch these compilation videos of Zadorov and try to claim that is not a player they would want on their team.

The issue at hand is that the analytics crowd would tell you that Zadorov is a 3rd pairing defender.  However, his usage and minute consumption is clearly that of a top 4 defender.  Among Avalanche defenders, Zadorov averages the 3rd most minutes at 5 on 5 and the 4th most on the penalty kill.  Erik Johnson is 2nd in 5 on 5 and 1st on the penalty kill.  The actual usage, and contributions of these players, far exceeds their projections based on the NHLe analytic model.  This is because the model is based very heavily on the offensive production and contributions of a player.  I haven’t focused in on Johnson as much as Zadorov here, and that’s because Johnson is the pinnacle of what a stay-at-home/shut-down defender can be in the modern NHL.  Through 12 NHL seasons he has averaged over 22 minutes per game and often playing against the toughest competition the NHL has to offer.  All this while offering, give or take,  30 points per season.

My film review of Kevin Bahl tells me that he’s a player that is closer to a Nikita Zadorov than a Samuel Morin.  This type of player is becoming an endangered species in the NHL.  But they are still players that coaches, teammates and fans want to see, and CONVERSELY, opponents DO NOT want to see.  I’m not attempting to conclusively say that Kevin Bahl is the next Nikita Zadorov.  I am saying that my expectations for Bahl are based around the fact that this is the type of player he could become.  Because they are an endangered species, this type of player is incredibly difficult to find.  Trying to draft one, or project one, is always going to be a gamble.  However, the potential payoff, particularly for the New Jersey Devils, of having a big, strong, hard hitting defender to sure up their defensive zone play in the future, is a gamble that was worth taking.

The New Jersey Devils: An Analytics Take

Look, I get it.  Not everyone is ready to embrace analytics in making their lineup decision.  But, when you start the season like the New Jersey Devils have, and you make a coaching change before game 30, you have officially reached the point of “seeing what sticks.”  There’s going to be no shortage of armchair GM opinions and commentators offering up fixes, so here’s my contribution to that noise.

The Hypothesis: The New Jersey Devil’s forward line with Jack Hughes should be:
LW: Blake Coleman
C: Jack Hughes
RW: Nikita Gusev

The New Jersey Devils are an analytical disaster with the exception of about 2 players.  Nikita Gusev and Blake Coleman are not exactly tearing up the league, but they are the only Devils players with a Game Score per 60 above 2.00 at 5 on 5.  For the majority of this discussion I’m going to focus solely on analytics as they pertain to 5 on 5 play.

(Game Score explanation for those uninitiated)

The Game score ranking of Devils centers (at 5 on 5) looks like this:
Nico Hischier: 1.66
Jack Hughes: 1.41
Travis Zajac: 1.00
Pavel Zacha: 0.55 (sheesh)
Kevin Rooney: -0.19 (WOWBAD)

Where am I going with this?
Travis Zajac should not be centering Coleman and Gusev.  It should be Hughes.

“Well yeah but that’s just Game Score and that’s not even a real stat and you’re a hack and you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Lets look at some of the other analytics here.
A short version of the explanation of Corsi is that it’s a metric that divides the scoring chances for a team while a player is on the ice, by the total number of scoring chances that occurred while that player is on the ice.  50% means a player breaks even.  The Devils are a TERRIBLE possession/corsi team.  To that end there are only 2 players on the roster with (5on5) corsi’s above 50%.  They are Kyle Palmieri and Jack Hughes.

You can dig through all the Devils analytics available on Corsica Hockey and you will find a trend.  In more than a few individual metrics, Jack Hughes is as good or better than Travis Zajac.

But we can’t just run off with our analytics in hand shouting from the rooftops that we have the answer.  What about the eye test?

Watching the Devils,  some of their best scoring opportunities are coming when Coleman and Gusev are on the ice.  Travis Zajac is still a good 2 way center and is very valuable to the Devils in a bottom 6 type role and as a penalty killer.  The issue here becomes, Coleman – Zajac – Gusev are deployed in more of a 3rd line role, when the wingers on this line are 2 of the only people who have been able to produce points for the woeful Devils at 5 on 5.  I imagine that production is a reason that the Devils coaching staff has been unwilling to tamper with this line.  Jack Hughes is offensively talented in ways the Travis Zajac is not.  Jack Hughes is a top tier talent in terms of offensive creativity.  The idea of keeping him with the forwards who have been the Devils best point producers for 3 years (Hall and Palmieri) certainly would seem to make a lot of sense.  You’re putting players with a history of production around a young, talented center in the hopes they can get going with each other.  Also, Hischier has been out with illness and Hughes is the best option with him out.   A lot of Hall and Palmieri’s production comes from the power play.  If you isolate all their scoring to just 5 on 5 game state, an interesting picture emerges.  When Hischier comes back, he should go back to centering Hall and Palmieri, while Hughes is moved to line with Gusev and Coleman.

Over the last 3 seasons, only 8 Devils forwards have played more than 1500 minutes of 5on5 ice time.  These are: Nico Hischier, Taylor Hall, Blake Coleman, Miles Wood, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac, Jesper Bratt and Pavel Zacha.  Remembering that this year has Taylor Hall’s MVP season in the mix, his individual expected goals for per 60 minutes, at 5on5, was 1.01.  Blake Coleman, whom does not have an MVP season, is in second place among these 8 forwards and has an individual expected goals for of 0.9.  For context Nico Hischier is at 0.85 in third.  Coleman’s numbers through many 5 on 5 analytics are in the top 3 or top 4 among these 8 forwards.  The data of the last 3 years says that Blake Coleman is one of the top 3 wingers for the Devils, and he might even be the 2nd best wing the Devils have.

Blake Coleman’s production at 5 on 5 would suggest that he could/should be a top 6 wing on his team.  His production this year has continued to be strong with line mate Nikita Gusev.  Travis Zajac, however, is not a top 2 center on Devils, in terms of 5 on 5 production.  The other side of the coin here, is that Hall and Palmieri have seen their best production with Hischier as their center.  The Hall trade could really shake things up for the Devils, but before they move ahead with that, I think they need to give themselves an idea of who else on this team can produce points for them.  They can start this process by putting a more offensively gifted center (Jack Hughes) with Coleman and Gusev.