How good is Nick Foligno

GAR suggest Nick Foligno is quite good.

Some might even call him “Secret Star” (see above) that the rest of the NHL hasn’t caught on to.

Anyone who shares the ice with Foligno and Saad plays and looks better, and it’s for that reason that GAR loves them. But even though the numbers are big fans of their work, it might still be a while before the rest of the league catches on.

But realistically, how good is Foligno? Let’s have a look.

Over the past 2 seasons (last season and this season through games of April 2nd) there have been 229 forwards who have played at least 1500 minutes of 5v5 ice time. In those 1500 minutes Foligno ranks:

  • 111th with 0.67 goals/60 (0.67 last season, 0.67 this season)
  • 168th with 1.38 points/60 (1.29, 1.46)
  • 168th in IPP at 63.5 (67.7, 60.5)
  • 188th in GF60 Rel at -0.28 (-0.51, -0.07)
  • 93rd in GA60 Rel at -0.02 (-0.16, 0.12)
  • 171st in GF% Rel at -2.75 (-4.2, -2.2)
  • 154th in CF60 Rel at +0.58 (+2.39, -1.17)
  • 5th in CA60 Rel at -6.22 (-8.84, -3.78)
  • 52nd in CF% Rel at +3.11 (+5.2, +1.2)
  • 118th in OppGF60 at 2.23
  • 65th in OppGA60 at 2.19
  • 97th in OppGF% at 50.41
  • 173rd in % of his teams defensive zone face offs he was on ice for
  • 85th in  % of his teams offensive zone face offs he was on ice for

Offensively he is mediocre. Borderline 2nd line level. His defensive statistics are quite good though he isn’t playing against particularly tough competition (easier last season, tougher this season). Generally in his career he has been a slight drag on save percentage (-0.6 Sv% Rel last 4 seasons) so maybe the CA50 Rel is a bit optimistic but overall defensive he has been quite good.

Lets have a look at his power play performance. There are 128 forwards with at least 300 minutes of 5v4 ice time the past 2 seasons. Foligno ranks:

  • 35th in Goals/60
  • 17th in Points/60
  • 40th in IPP
  • 11th in GF60 Rel
  • 60th in CF60 Rel
  • 8th in on-ice Shooting Percentage
  • 67th in % of his teams 5v4 ice time

So, his power play goal and point production look pretty good though his CF60 Rel is average so it could be shooting percentage driven. Nothing in his 5v5 stats suggest this is sustainable or his doing.

How about the penalty kill.  Well, Foligno has only played 80:20 at 4v5 the past 2 seasons so there are 212 players with more 4v5 ice time than Foligno. Difficult to draw any conclusions about his 4v5 performance with such a small sample size though he does rank 7th (right behind Marcus) with a -23.50 CA60 Rel so at least in his limited time he has performed well (likely against second PP units though).

So, Foligno seems to be an average 5v5 player. He has decent power play statistics but it could be shooting percentage driven as he has average power play shot rates. In limited ice time on the PK he has performed well.

How do Foligno’s GAR components look?

  • EVO (even strength offense)  115th (3.2)
  • EVD (even strength defense) 5th (5.5)
  • PPO (power play offense) 19th (2.6)
  • Penalties Drawn/Taken 30th (2.2)
  • Total GAR: 13.4

EVO might not be too far off but probably a bit of an over estimate for someone who has mediocre individual goal and point production and mediocre on-ice GF60 Rel and CF60 Rel.

If you don’t buy into the idea players can influence save percentage, then yeah, maybe this is a reasonable EVD. His Corsi Against statistics are quite good. Now I am a believer that players can influence save percentage and he has generally been a slight drag in his career. He is still good defensively by goal metrics, but I believe if GAR accounted for Sv% it would knock Foligno’s EVD down a bit. Plus if he is really is 5th best EVD the he should probably be getting a ton of PK ice time (he doesn’t) and should be getting Selke trophy consideration (he won’t). I am also a believer that defense is more driven by the center and the defensemen than wingers. Finally, I am skeptical of defensive statistics because generally hockey analytics has been very poor at evaluating the defensive side of the game. Is EVD better and more reliable? Not sure.

If you believe that Foligno’s high powerplay on-ice shooting percentage is sustainable then his GAR ranking in PPO may be realistic. For me, I think he is getting some bounces and I am fairly confident he is not a top 20 PP player. If he is, he should be getting a ton more power play ice time. The small sample size and mediocre 5v5 offense I’d think this PPO component is at best unreliable.

The top 3 players in PPO are Simmonds, Giroux and Schenn – all Philadelphia Flyers – and Jakub Voracek is 7th. Are they all equally good or is PPO just unable to separate their talents from each other? The PPO component may be a big source of unreliability in GAR.

All this said, Foligno is a good player and his strength is he does a lot of things well with no obvious deficiencies in his game. He is one of those players who is good in a very unremarkable way. In this sense Dom Luszczyszyn’s article was on the right track. However he is not a star, nor do I believe he has or comes close to star level value. I don’t even think he is one of the 3 or 4 most important players on his team (Bobrovsky, Saad, Jones and maybe Werenski are in my opinion easily more important). The strength of the Blue Jackets is depth throughout the lineup with few obvious weaknesses and Foligno fits perfectly into that mould.