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Six stunning numbers at the NHL All-Star break

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With the NHL on its All-Star break throughout the rest of the weekend it is time to once again do our periodic check in on some stunning numbers around the league.

What is standing out to us lately?

Have a look…

Offense is still up and goaltending is way down

The spike in offense around the NHL is always viewed through the lens of offensive players.

As in, look at how many 40-goal scorers we could have this season, or maybe a bunch of players will actually hit the 100-point mark again!

In the end, it means a lot more pucks are going in the net, and if a lot more pucks are going in the net, and more players are seeing their offensive numbers surge, that also has to mean that goalies are seeing their numbers drop. They are. Big time.

Right now there are only two goalies in the NHL that have appeared in at least 30 games and have a save percentage higher than .920.

On this same date a year ago there were nine, same as there was in 2016-17.

On this date in 2015-16 there were 11.

In 2014-15 there were 10.

The game might be shifting back to offense, at least until the league’s 31 coaches figure out how to shut it down again. They always do.

Southern California Power Outage

While everyone else in the NHL is scoring goals at an increased rate, the two southern California teams are stuck in another era. The Los Angeles Kings (2.26 goals per game) and the Anaheim Ducks (2.29) are the two lowest scoring teams in the league this season, and their marks would be among the 15-worst in the NHL over the past 10 years.

Among the teams they are keeping company with in that group: The 2013-14 and 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres Tank teams. The tanking 2014-15 Arizona Coyotes. Five different New Jersey Devils teams. The 2016-17 Colorado Avalanche team that only won 22 games and only recorded 48 points on the season.

These two teams are not only bad offensively for this season, they would be bad among the bad teams from worse offensive seasons. Not a great sign!

Fifty-Two Percent

The percentage of the Edmonton Oilers goals this season, at the All-Star break, that Connor McDavid has a goal or an assist on.

Fifty.

Two.

Percent.

That is insane. But not quite as insane as the fact that when he is on the ice during 5-on-5 play the Oilers are a positive possession team and outscore their opponents by a 31-22 margin (plus-nine goal differential), and drop down to a 48 percent possession team and get outscored 46-70 when he is not on the ice.

Keep in mind this is a team that also has another top-10 scorer in the league (Leon Draisaitl) on it and another No. 1 overall draft pick that is a pretty darn good player in his own right in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

That is just how bad the rest of the roster is.

The Vegas Golden Knights might be better in year two

Their record is slightly worse (though not by much), but they might actually be playing better than they did in their magical debut season.

Let’s just take a look at some of their underlying 5-on-5 numbers including Corsi Percentage (CF%), Scoring Chance percentage (SC%), High-Danger Scoring Chance percentage (HD SC%), Goals For percentage (GF%), their save percentage, shooting percentage, and PDO (5-on-5 save percentage plus 5-on-5 shooting percentage, a measure of “puck luck”) through the first 52 games of each season.

Their league-wide rank in each category is in parenthesis.

Interesting numbers here.

Their possession and scoring chance numbers are all significantly better and among the top in the league, right where the Stanley Cup contenders usually reside.

The big difference is in the goal differential, and a lot of that drop is probably related to 1) Lesser goaltending, and 2) Some poor shooting puck offensively. The fact they are creating as many shots and chances as they are, and dominating the way they have, is an encouraging sign that goal differential could spike. Vegas had a slow start to the season when some injuries piled up and they were still without Nate Schmidt, but once they got healthy they have really taken off.

And there is something else worth keeping in mind here: Their top line is not as good as it was a year ago. They are carrying the play at a high level while getting less production from their best group.

This team is legit, and it is for real.

Patric Hornqvist has taken only one penalty this season

This is kind of mind-blowing because Patric Hornqvist is one of the most relentless and physical players in the NHL. He is a pest around the front of the net, he is always bumping into goalies and wrestling with defenders around the crease, and he is so fiery and intense that he has been prone to take the occasional unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Throughout his career he typically averages around 35-50 penalty minutes per 82 games played. Now, that does not put him in goon territory but it’s still far more than his current pace which would put him on track for 4.6 penalty minutes over 82 games this season.

No one is better than Aleksander Barkov at this

By now we should all know that Florida Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov is one of the NHL’s best all-around players, mixing top-line skill with shutdown defense. One of his most underrated skills is his ability to put his team on the power play through drawn penalties and his ability to keep his team off of the penalty kill by never taking penalties. At the All-Star break he has already drawn a league-best 28 penalties this season, while only taking … one. That is a penalty-differential of plus-27 on the season, a number that is far and away better than any other player in the league. Just for comparisons sake, the second best mark in the league belongs to Vancouver Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson at plus-18. That is impressive on its own just because of how many games Pettersson has missed, but it is still not on the same level as Barkov.

The worst penalty differential in the league?

Winnipeg Jets defender Dustin Byfuglien and St. Louis Blues defender Joel Edmundson, both at minus-18.

(Data in this post via Natural Stat Trick)

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

It’s New York Rangers Day at PHT

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the New York Rangers.

2018-19
32-36-8, 78 points (7th in the Metropolitan Division, 12th in the Eastern Conference)
Playoffs: Did not qualify

IN:
Artemi Panarin
Jacob Trouba
Kaapo Kakko
Adam Fox
Greg McKegg

OUT: 
Neal Pionk
Kevin Hayes
Mats Zuccarello
Jimmy Vesey
Kevin Shattenkirk
Ryan Spooner
Fredrik Claesson
Connor Brickley

RE-SIGNED:
Pavel Buchnevich

2018-19 Summary

It was understood going into this past season in the Big Apple that by the end of it, the New York Rangers would be on the outside looking in.

A sell-off during the end of the 2017-18 season pointed to a re-build that would likely take a couple of seasons to fully mature.

And thus, the on-ice product for the Rangers was much less about winning games as it was about putting some of their young guns in positions to grow.

Alexandar Georgiev, for instance, was given 30 starts between the pipes as the Rangers let Henrik Lundqvist‘s heir-apparent get well-acquainted with the No. 1 spot he will one day own.

He showed well on a poor team, with the 23-year-old posting a respectable .914 save percentage.

Others, too, were given a chance to develop. The likes of Pavel Buchnevich, 24, Tony DeAngelo, 23, Filip Chytil, 19, and Lias Andersson, 20, saw significant action.

Everything was following the simple stream that is a slow rebuilding process. Well, at least until June.

In June, the Rangers found out they’d be picking second overall in the 2019 NHL Draft after moving up four spots from the six-best odds at the draft lottery. Welcome, Kaapo Kakko.

They’d acquire the rights to Jacob Trouba (and eventually sign the blue line stalwart to a seven-year deal.)

And then July 1 came and Artemi Panarin was handed $81 million over the next seven years.

The rebuild that was rolling along at a typical methodical pace suddenly slammed into sixth gear. The Rangers now added a bona fide superstar forward, a potential superstar forward and a top-pairing defenseman to the mix.

General manager Jeff Gorton wasn’t messing around, announcing his intentions to the rest of the league with his wallet open wide.

So now, the Rangers have smashed the fast-forward button. There’s no talk anymore about another growing season. Instead, the narrative has shifted to a team that could compete for a playoff spot at minimum, especially if Lundqvist can bounce back and retain his crown as ‘King’ in one final hurrah in his storied career.

The Rangers have kept pace with the New Jersey Devils and their own aggressive summer. The Metro is quite the division — perhaps the best in hockey — and the Rangers should be right back in the mix in 2019-20.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

PHT Morning Skate: Aho reveals offer-sheet decision; Ristolainen to Red Wings?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Sebastian Aho reveals why he signed an offer sheet from the Canadiens. (Sportsnet)

• NHL farm system rankings: Best, worst prospect pipelines for 2019-20, from 1 to 31. (The Sporting News)

• Should the Red Wings trade for Rasmus Ristolainen? (The Hockey Writers)

Matthew Tkachuk‘s agent says they gave the Flames a fair offer back in June. (Sportsnet)

• Overlooked teams in fantasy for 2019-20. (NHL.com)

• The All-Decade Team for all 31 NHL teams. (ESPN)

• Breaking down the format for a potential 2021 World Cup of Hockey. (Sportsnet)

T.J. Oshie is healthy and ready to take another run at the Stanley Cup. (NHL.com)

• When adding staffers, NHL Seattle must navigate complex minefield with those currently under contract elsewhere. (Seattle Times)

• Once healthy, Shea Weber’s value to the Canadiens remained high. (Eyes on the Prize)

• Who are the biggest Penguin killers in the NHL today? (Pensburgh)

• NHL “nowhere near a resolution” on allowing players to compete at 2022 Winter Olympics. (Inside the Games)

• NHL teams as dog breeds: The complete list of hockey dogs. (FanSided)

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

NHL Free agent roundup: Islanders re-sign two RFAs; Nichushkin joins Avalanche

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It didn’t involve any of the big names that are still unsigned, but there was some movement on the NHL’s restricted free agent front on Monday afternoon thanks to the New York Islanders, while the Colorado Avalanche took a gamble on an intriguing unrestricted free agent.

Let’s take a look at the signings.

Islanders re-sign Josh Ho-Sang and Michael Dal Colle

The Islanders reached deals with two of their remaining RFAs when they announced new deals for forwards Josh Ho-Sang and Michael Dal Colle.

Dal Colle’s contract is a two-year deal, while Ho-Sang gets a one-year deal that will probably be a make-or-break season for him with the Islanders.

Anthony Beauvillier remains the Islanders’ only unsigned RFA at this point in the offseason.

Ho-Sang is the intriguing one here because he has such enormous potential but has not yet put everything together in the NHL or earned the trust of the organization. If he manages to do all of that he could be a huge X-factor for the Islanders this season.

He has 24 points in 53 career games at the NHL level.

The 23-year-old Dal Colle appeared in 28 games for the Islanders this past season, scoring three goals to go with four assists.

Avalanche get Nichushkin

After spending two years in the KHL, Valeri Nichushkin returned to the NHL for the 2018-19 season and signed a two-year, $5.9 million contract with the Dallas Stars.

It proved to be a disappointing and uneventful deal for both sides. He failed to score a goal in 57 games while recording just 10 total assists. His contract was bought out by the Stars following the season, making him an unrestricted free agent.

On Monday, he signed a one-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche with the hopes that he can bounce back.

Nichushkin’s 2018-19 season was one of the most bizarre seasons in league history as he became the first player to ever play at least 50 games in a season while scoring zero goals and recording zero penalty minutes.

After a promising rookie season back in 2013-14, Nichushkin’s development offensively has completely stalled, resulting in just nine goals and 31 assists in 144 NHL games. He is a fine defensive forward but has not shown any ability to make much of an impact with the puck.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Barzal is Islanders’ game-changer

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the New York Islanders.

The New York Islanders have their share of questions entering the 2019-20 season but there is one thing they can be sure of — they have one of the game’s most exciting young players and a franchise cornerstone in Mathew Barzal.

Even though his point totals may have regressed in year two, the 22-year-old Barzal was the Islanders’ most dynamic and impactful player during the 2018-19 season and is on a trajectory that should take him to stardom in the NHL.

He has an incredible mix of speed, vision, and playmaking ability that makes him perfect for the modern game and a force to be reckoned with when he has the puck on his stick.

[MORE: 2018-19 Summary | Under Pressure | Three Questions]

He has already become one of the best and most productive playmakers in the league and could be on the verge of taking his production to an entirely new level based on what he has already done.

Two comparisons to consider for Barzal entering this season.

1.  Over the past two seasons (his first two in the league) he is one of just 11 forwards (minimum 100 games played) that has averaged at least 0.65 assists per game, 0.89 points per game, and posted a 52 percent Corsi rating. The others on that list are are Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, Brad Marchand, Nikita Kucherov, Steve Stamkos, Claude Giroux, Johnny Gaudreau, Mikko Rantanen, Artemi Panarin, and Mitch Marner.

Excellent company to be in, especially when you consider just how young he is and is just now entering his age 22 season.

2. It’s the latter point (his age) that is the key. Barzal is one of just 11 active forwards to average at least 0.89 points through their age 21 season in the NHL, a list that includes Crosby, Stamkos, Marner, Connor McDavid, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane, Ilya Kovalchuk, Nicklas Backstrom, Auston Matthews, and Alex Ovechkin.

Marner, Matthews, and Barzal are all the same age, but the other eight combined to score at a 100-point pace in their age 22 season.

The biggest difference between Barzal and most of the players on that list is that he is not quite the goal-scorer that some of them are and is more known for his ability to drive play and set up his teammates, so a lot of his point production will be tied to what the players around him are able to do once he gets them the puck. He can definitely help put them in better positions to score, but it is still up to them to finish the play. It is also possible he could develop into more of a goal-scorer if he takes on more of a shoot-first mentality. He has never been a low-percentage shooter, and while passing and playmaking is his greatest strength offensively, he could probably put himself in a position to average more than two shots per game. Especially if he does not have elite talent around him at the given time.

No matter what direction he takes, Barzal is the Islanders’ best player and the one player that can swing a game in their favor.

His rapid development into a top-line player is one of the reasons the Islanders were able to overcome the free agent departure of John Tavares without completely falling apart. They already had a star on the roster ready to fill that No. 1 role, and his best days are still ahead of him.

This is the hardest type of player to acquire in a rebuild, and it usually takes a top draft pick to get one.

The Islanders were fortunate enough to be able to get one in the middle of the first-round and have the piece they need to build around.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.