The Metric Lab is a deep dive using the FantasyLabs Tools to analyze the predictiveness of different statistics and proprietary data. The series provides analysis by looking at the dynamics of value, ownership, and consistency by using our massive database of historical trends.

“What NHL Metrics Should I Prioritize in my Models and Player Selection?”

With NFL officially over and NBA closing in on the tilt-fest that is post All-Star break, the natural progression for our subscribers is to dip their toe in DFS hockey. The impetus for this entire series comes from Jonathan Bales’ books, so the research process was piggybacked stolen from him.

That said, if you’ve watched any of our NHL Inside the Lab shows, you know it makes sense to target peripheral stats (shots and blocked shots) in comparison to less predictable events like goals and assists.

I certainly could just tell you to target shooters or use hybrid stats like Corsi but it’s possible metrics that offer slight differences from the widely used standards offer an edge. Shot “attempts” definitely qualifies as a small tweak that actually may be more representative than it seems on the surface.

Let’s do this.

Baseline Trend and Shots Attempts % (Month)

The upside with targeting shots on goal over blocked shots is pretty simple: small events (shots) are exactly what lead to less predictable — but often more significant — events like goals and assists.

As you can probably guess,  shot “attempts” include not just those that make it on goal, but also those that are blocked and/or miss the net entirely. Perhaps measuring how often a skater actually lets it rip could be a more positive indicator for fantasy success.

Using our Trends tool, we can compare the Plus/Minus values to both Consistency and Ownership. If you are still missing your FantasyLabs bachelor’s degree:

Plus/Minus: A player’s actual points minus his expected points in the context of their salary-based expectations. Note that DFS scoring is typically lower for NHL than other sports like NFL or NBA, so the NHL Plus/Minus values we see are likely to be relatively small.

Consistency: The percentage of games in which a player has produced within a standard deviation of his expected points based off of historical scoring and pricing. Can be used to identify high-floor players for cash games.

As always, we should probably identify a baseline trend before we get too deep. Perhaps a very basic peripheral stat trend, such as power play skaters in the 50th percentile or better in shots attempts over the past month would be a good starting point:

It would be hard to consider someone in our player pool who doesn’t meet that type of floor.

To keep building off of the past few weeks, the value of this article is probably comparing shot attempts to both shots on goal and Corsi. Here are the latter two charts again highlighting power play skaters using different percentile buckets for shots on goal and Corsi over the past month. More importantly, the impact on Plus/Minus in comparison to both Consistency and Ownership:

Now, shot attempts through the lens of all power play skaters before we break things down by position.

Unsurprisingly, the Plus/Minus is very comparable for shots on goal and shot attempts, but less linear correlation in regards to value and ownership definitely matters. In that regard, shot attempts may not be as underappreciated as Corsi, but let’s dive deeper into how shot attempts affect the value of different positions before we draw any further conclusions.

Positional Breakdown

Each position has unique intricacies as to which stats strongly affect value, but the true edge comes in identifying which of these metrics are not typically priced into their salaries. This chart looks at the same percentile buckets as above, but breaks things down by position and has removed samples (counts) fewer than 25:

It makes a ton of sense that defensemen dominate this metric from a Plus/Minus perspective. Intuitively, shot attempts from further away would have a much better shot of being blocked or missing the net. By targeting defensemen that are attempting more shots it gives a better idea of who the true “shooters” are at the position. The upside is low, but that is likely because there are technically shot attempts that don’t even amount to fantasy points.

Note: Upside figures show the percentage of games in which a player has scored at least one-half standard deviation above his point expectation based on salary. Can be used to identify high-upside players for tournaments.

Paying up for defensemen like Roman Josi (97th percentile in shot attempts over the past month) is a great way to spend salary for cash games. If looking purely for upside, forwards still outperform defensemen overall.

Wingers in the top-five percentile bucket also performed well in shot attempts, but historically, the Corsi and shots on goal metrics provide more value and consistency. Vladimir Tarasenko (99th percentile in shot attempts over the past month) has been a staple of shot attempts, but he is also a player that is featured on the power play. From a real hockey perspective, that makes a lot of sense as his primary role on the power play is to take one-timers on the outside which is a very comparable depth as where most defensemen see their shot attempts from.

Centers who block shots provide a ton of value, but it appears shot attempts is a relatively poor predictive metric for the position in comparison to defensemen and wingers.  

Photo via James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports