Aug 132010
 

Who is the best Shooter in the NHL?

If you were asked, who is the best shooter in the NHL you might answer Alexander Ovechkin since he has been the most prolific goal scorer since the lockout.  What Ovechkin also always does though is take far more shots than anyone else resulting in a shooting percentage that is for more ordinary.  This past season he was 50th in overall shooting percentage and in 2007-08 he was 46th and those are the only two times he cracked the top 50.  So is Ovechkin a great shooter, or simply great at finding opportunities to shoot?  And if Ovechkin isn’t the best shooter, who is?

Shooting percentage is a very common statistic which essentially is just goals scored divided by shots taken.  We all know and understand that.  Corsi numbers were initially conceived by former NHL goalie and current Buffalo Sabre goalie coach Jim Corsi as a method of evaluating goalie fatigue and has since become a frequently discussed statistic among hockey stat nuts, particularly those at Behind the Net.  Essentially what Corsi takes into account is shots directed at the net, not just shots on the net.  So, Corsi also takes into account missed shots (i.e. shots that go wide) and blocked shots (i.e. shots blocked by a defender).  Corsi numbers are often considered a good indicator of which team controls the play more (if you control the play you will get more shots and shot attempts than your opponent).  Corsi numbers were then revised by Matt Fenwick from the Battle of Alberta blog to not include blocked shots as it was found that including blocked shots in Corsi numbers correlation with winning percentage.  So it came to be that shots plus missed shots are generally referred to as Fenwick numbers and shots plus missed shots plus blocked shots are generally referred to as Corsi numbers.  That is the terminology I will use here.

So the question is, if we are attempting to evaluate a players shooting ability (or accuracy), would it not makes sense to at least include shot attempts where the shooter didn’t even hit the net?  It probably does.  So, in addition to shooting percentage we should probably consider fenwick percentage (goals / shots+missed shots) and corsi percentage (goals/shots+missed shots+blocked shots).  Below is a table which included the top 20 forwards from 2009-10 in each category at even strength 5 on 5 ice time (and when neither goalie is pulled).  Only forwards with 100 or more shots were considered (there were 189 such players) and I have also included Alexander Ovechkin in the table for interest sake.

Player Name shot% Player Name fenwick% Player Name corsi%
MIKE KNUBLE 17.89 MIKE KNUBLE 13.92 MIKE KNUBLE 11.11
SIDNEY CROSBY 16.75 HENRIK SEDIN 12.93 HENRIK SEDIN 10.27
JUSSI JOKINEN 16.67 SIDNEY CROSBY 12.84 SIDNEY CROSBY 10.86
DUSTIN PENNER 16.06 ILYA KOVALCHUK 11.91 ILYA KOVALCHUK 8.7
HENRIK SEDIN 15.97 JUSSI JOKINEN 11.89 JUSSI JOKINEN 8.63
ILYA KOVALCHUK 15.73 DUSTIN PENNER 11.46 DUSTIN PENNER 9.21
JAMES NEAL 15.38 JAMES NEAL 11.46 JAMES NEAL 9.13
ALEXANDER SEMIN 14.93 MATT MOULSON 11.23 MATT MOULSON 8.43
MARIAN GABORIK 14.86 GILBERT BRULE 11.11 GILBERT BRULE 8.98
GILBERT BRULE 14.71 ALEXANDRE BURROWS 11.11 ALEXANDRE BURROWS 9.29
GUILLAUME LATENDRESSE 14.17 MARIAN GABORIK 11.02 MARIAN GABORIK 8.64
JAMIE BENN 14.08 CHRIS STEWART 10.86 CHRIS STEWART 9.38
THOMAS VANEK 14.04 ALEXANDER SEMIN 10.83 ALEXANDER SEMIN 7.83
PATRICK MARLEAU 13.95 BLAKE COMEAU 10.45 BLAKE COMEAU 7.87
CHRIS STEWART 13.95 JAMIE BENN 10.31 JAMIE BENN 8.16
MATT MOULSON 13.91 PATRICK MARLEAU 10.26 PATRICK MARLEAU 8.39
ALEXANDRE BURROWS 13.71 ERIC FEHR 10.06 ERIC FEHR 7.69
ERIC FEHR 13.56 MIKAEL SAMUELSSON 9.95 MIKAEL SAMUELSSON 7.55
DANIEL SEDIN 13.19 KRISTIAN HUSELIUS 9.86 KRISTIAN HUSELIUS 7.25
MIKAEL SAMUELSSON 13.04 JOE PAVELSKI 9.77 JOE PAVELSKI 7.98
ALEX OVECHKIN 10.84 ALEX OVECHKIN 7.77 ALEX OVECHKIN 5.02

As you can see, there really isn’t much variation in those lists as a significant number of the players are included on all three lists.  It seems that, generally speaking, shooters hit or miss the net are more or less equivalent rates.  Of the top 20 in shot% only Vanek, Latendresse, and D. Sedin are not on the Fenwick% and Corsi% top 20 and they were replaced by Comeau, Huselius, and Pavelski.

If we look at the ratio of shots to fenwick shots (shots + missed shots) we can get an indication of which players are good at getting their shots on goal.  The top 3 in the NHL for on net accuracy are Bergfors (86.3% on net), Versteeg (82.4%) and Paille (81.8%) while Comeau(81.3%) ranked fifth, Pavelski (77.2%) 40th and Huselius (76.8%) 46th.  This would explain why Comeau, Pavelski and Huselius moved up the fenwick% and corsi% lists.  Conversely, Vanek (66.3%) had the worst on net shooting rate and Latendresse (68.8%) and D. Sedin (68.9%) weren’t much better sitting 179th overall and 175th overall respectively.  This would explain their drop off the top 20 fenwick% and corsi% lists.  For perspective, the average of the 189 forwards was 74.4% with a standard deviation of 3.67% and Ovechkin was 147th overall at 71.7%.

Should we all be convinced that Mike Knuble was the best shooter in the NHL last season?  Ummm, probably not.  The problem is, a sizable number of Knuble’s shots come from within 10 feet of the net and on rebounds because Knuble is great at driving the net and his teammates are great at taking shots.  That is how he ended up with 29 goals (in just 69 games) last year.  Knuble is good at being a big body in front of the net, but I am not convinced he is a great shooter.  Somehow we need to factor in shot opportunity into the equation so players like Knuble who get a lot of quality close in shot opportunities don’t get inflated numbers.

A number of people, including myself, have looked at shot quality in the past and have used shot type, shot distance, and whether the shot was on a rebound or not as a proxy for shot quality.  Generally speaking these do a decent, though not perfect, job at accounting for shot quality.  I won’t go into the details here (I’ll maybe get into that that for another day), but I have developed a shot quality rating system and from that I can determine how many goals a player is expected to score based on the shot location and type of shots he took using league wide averages.   The next step was to take the players actual goals scored and divide it by the expected number of goals an average shooter would score.  I did this with both shooting percentage and fenwick shooting percentage (NHL doesn’t provide shot type and distance data on blocked shots so I cannot do it for Corsi shooting percentage).  Here are the top 20 players for shooter shot rating and shooter fenwick rating.  I have also included their 2008-09 numbers for interest sake.

Player Name Shot Rating 0809 Player Name Fenwick Rating 0809
SIDNEY CROSBY 2.07 1.48 SIDNEY CROSBY 1.99 1.48
ILYA KOVALCHUK 2.03 2.17 ILYA KOVALCHUK 1.99 2.06
MIKE KNUBLE 1.97 1.38 MIKE KNUBLE 1.97 1.38
ALEXANDER SEMIN 1.97 1.56 ALEXANDER SEMIN 1.93 1.52
ERIC FEHR 1.79 1.06 ERIC FEHR 1.79 1.06
MIKAEL SAMUELSSON 1.77 0.9 ALEXANDRE BURROWS 1.69 1.68
THOMAS VANEK 1.75 1.77 MIKAEL SAMUELSSON 1.63 0.87
ALEXANDRE BURROWS 1.69 1.74 GUILLAUME LATENDRESSE 1.63 1.51
GUILLAUME LATENDRESSE 1.68 1.58 MATT MOULSON 1.62 -
JAMES NEAL 1.67 1.3 MARIAN GABORIK 1.6 -
MATT MOULSON 1.66 - JAMIE BENN 1.6 -
CHRIS STEWART 1.66 - CHRIS STEWART 1.59 -
DUSTIN PENNER 1.65 1.25 DANIEL SEDIN 1.58 1.41
MARIAN GABORIK 1.64 - DUSTIN PENNER 1.57 1.17
GILBERT BRULE 1.63 - GILBERT BRULE 1.57 -
JAMIE BENN 1.62 - NICKLAS BACKSTROM 1.57 0.58
MAXIM AFINOGENOV 1.6 - PAVEL DATSYUK 1.56 1.42
DANIEL SEDIN 1.58 1.44 JUSSI JOKINEN 1.55 -
MICHAEL CAMMALLERI 1.58 1.27 THOMAS VANEK 1.53 1.62
NICKLAS BACKSTROM 1.57 0.62 JAMES NEAL 1.53 1.26

(- indicated player did not have 100 shots last year)

Some observations:

  1. Crosby had a great season last year scoring 51 goals likely in large part because he shot better last year than he probably has in the past.  This isn’t something we should necessarily expect to continue.
  2. I know we are all pretty tired of hearing Kovalchuk’s name in the news, but Kovalchuk probably is the best shooter in the league posting really high shot and fenwick ratings in each of the past 2 seasons.  I am sure when I look back at previous years I’ll find the same sort of thing.
  3. Knuble appears to be a good shooter who had an exceptional year.
  4. Mikael Samuelsson had 2009-10 season with shot and fenwick ratings nearly double that of his 2008-09 season.  Me thinks his 30 goal campaign is probably not repeatable.  The same can probably be said for Eric Fehr.  He won’t likely repeat last seasons success.
  5. Apparently the Minnesota Wild knew what they were doing when they traded for Latendresse.  His shooter ratings in both 2009-10 and 2008-09 are outstanding.  Montreal might have lost something good here.
  6. Alexandre Burrows might be the biggest bargain in the NHL at just $2M he plays physical, has a great shot and scores goals.
  7. For interest sake, Ovechkin was 35th in Fenwick shooter rating in 2009-10 (1.38 rating) and 88th in 2008-09 (1.13).

For interest sake, here are the 10 worst Fenwick shot rating players for 2008-09.  Hartnell, Legwand and Jokinen were all much better in 2008-09.  The others either didn’t have 100 shots or were still below average.  Gomez has been the 4th worst shooter in the NHL 2 years in a row now.  He should stick to passing.

Player Name Shot Rating Fenwick Rating
SHAWN THORNTON 0.11 0.11
MATT ELLIS 0.31 0.31
SCOTT HARTNELL 0.49 0.43
SCOTT GOMEZ 0.48 0.46
DAVID LEGWAND 0.57 0.54
JONATHAN CHEECHOO 0.56 0.54
RYAN O’REILLY 0.56 0.56
DREW STAFFORD 0.57 0.57
DAVID MOSS 0.58 0.58
OLLI JOKINEN 0.61 0.59

  2 Responses to “Who is the best Shooter in the NHL?”

  1.  

    Almost a month since your last article. I hope with everybodies camp starting soon you start posting more frequently. By the way, I hope you had a great summer.

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