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What The #FancyStats Say About NHL Trade-Deadline Targets

In hockey’s burgeoning analytics movement, much of the emphasis has been on which teams can control possession of the puck. As a natural offshoot, analysts have looked for players who are associated with increased possession by their teams when they’re on the ice (relative to when they’re on the bench).

With that in mind — and with the NHL trade deadline of March 2 approaching — I wanted to collect some popular trade targets named in articles floating around Twitter and the rest of the Web, and sort each player by the three-year differential between his team’s possession rate1 while he was on the ice and its rate when teammates shared the ice with other players.2

By no means are possession metrics the final word in player evaluation, but they offer an interesting counterpoint to goals, assists and points. The search for players associated with better puck possession could yield underappreciated acquisitions whose impacts are felt in the NHL playoffs.



  1. As measured by close-score (to filter out the influence of score effects) Fenwick percentage — a proxy for time of possession that measures a team’s share of all unblocked shots directed at either net during its games — during 5-on-5 play

  2. A few more technical notes: These numbers are adjusted for zone starts by ignoring the first 10 seconds after a face-off in either team’s zone. I also adjusted for each player’s quality of competition faced.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.