Feb 11, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Montreal Canadiens defenseman PK Subban (76) retrieves the puck against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. The Canadiens beat the Maple Leafs 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

How Does P.K. Subban Compare to His Peers?

Something that I have found that comes up often in online discussions is where Habs defenseman PK Subban matches up to other well regarded young defensemen in the NHL. In one HfBoards thread I saw a list of a group of defensemen that Subban would be in the middle of, behind the top tier defenders like Erik Karlsson, Alex Pietroangelo and Drew Doughty. This group includes what might be considered the best defensemen from drafts including and after 2007.

 
PK Subban
Oliver Ekman-Larson
Ryan McDonagh
John Carlson
Cam Fowler
Travis Hamonic
Zach Bogosian
Kevin Shattenkirk
Tyler Myers
Michael del Zotto
Jake Gardiner
 

To this group I added the perpetually under-rated Victor Hedman whose good work in Tampa Bay has been obscured in popular perception by heavy defensive usage which deflates his offensive stats and plus minus.

For this study the average results from the previous two seasons have been taken to give a larger (and fairer) sample size to judge them by except for the few in the group that did not play as established top 4 defensemen for their team in 2010-11 (OEL, Del Zotto, Gardiner).

A sample of the most relevant advanced statistics from each major game state (5 on 5, 5 on 4 and 4 on 5) to provide a basic snapshot of the performance of these 14 defensemen.

Even Strength

Player

Min/G

QoC

OZone%

GF

GA

Corsi

relCorsi

P/60

Erik Karlsson

18.75

0.574

57.1

135

135

7.3

8.9

1.36

Alex Pietrangelo

17.00

0.697

52.3

118

92

11.1

7.9

1.07

PK Subban

16.64

0.824

47.4

111

105

5.1

7.75

0.85

Drew Doughty

18.19

0.859

51.8

115

98

10.4

5.3

0.97

Victor Hedman

17.29

0.782

43.7

115

108

2.3

5.1

0.97

Travis Hamonic

17.39

0.770

47.9

105

105

-3.9

4.4

0.95

Kevin Shattenkirk

15.90

-0.054

57.3

107

86

8.6

4.1

1.17

Oliver Ekman-Larsson

17.66

0.817

50.2

54

50

6.4

3.7

0.95

Jake Gardiner

17.11

-0.328

56.0

63

64

0.3

2.8

0.94

Tyler Myers

16.63

0.326

52.1

100

88

0.7

2

0.89

Ryan McDonagh

18.19

1.261

46.7

105

74

-1.1

1.8

0.79

John Carlson

17.20

1.069

47.7

124

114

0.3

0.5

1.00

Cam Fowler

17.69

0.500

50.5

87

135

-7.2

0.4

0.60

Michael Del Zotto

16.20

0.211

51.3

56

43

-6.0

-1.1

0.96

Zach Bogosian

17.41

0.5735

48.7

79

112

-3.9

-5.75

0.83

Here are the basic stats for even strength play for the defenders. QoC refers to Behind the Net’s relCorsi Quality of Competition rating, the most commonly used quality of competition metric, higher is considered tougher minutes with shutdown defenders usually above .5. OZone% refers the ratio between offensive and defensive zone faceoffs the player was on ice for, which reflects how much of an advantage/disadvantage a player started with on territory. GF and GA are goals for and against. Corsi is the differential between shots attempted on net per 60 minutes of play. Corsi is used as a very proxy for team on ice puck possession and scoring chances. Its an excellent metric for defensemen because it rates on ice play without consideration for particular shooting skills which defensemen have little influence over and team goaltending, making for a sort of super +/-. relCorsi is Corsi relative to the teams overall Corsi, which helps distinguish between good players on bad possession teams or bad players on good possession teams. P/60 is points scored per 60 minutes of ice time.

Looking at the possession stats and quality of competition, three groups of players become apparent. The shutdown players that beat their circumstances, the shutdown players that tied or lost their circumstances and the lower pairing defenders.

Shutdown, Beat circumstances
Player

Min/G

QoC

OZone %

GF

GA

Corsi

relCorsi

P/60

Alex Pietrangelo

17.00

0.697

52.3

118

92

11.1

7.9

1.07

Drew Doughty

18.19

0.8585

51.8

115

98

10.4

5.3

0.97

Erik Karlsson

18.75

0.574

57.1

135

135

7.3

8.9

1.36

PK Subban

16.64

0.8235

47.4

111

105

5.1

7.8

0.85

Victor Hedman

17.29

0.782

43.7

115

108

2.3

5.1

0.97

Oliver Ekman-Larsson

17.66

0.817

50.2

54

50

6.4

3.7

0.95

Of these players there seems to be two tiers; Doughty, Karlsson and Pietroangelo clearly being the class of the field while Subban, Hedman and OEL are about equivalent as shutdown defenders that slightly out-perform their circumstances. Doughty and Pietroangelo seem to be the best overall while Karlsson is clearly the top offensive performer at even strength. Karlsson’s GF/GA seems to be screwed by poor goaltending and should probably be much higher due to a good Corsi rating. Hedman gets the prize for most difficult circumstances at even strength given his heavy diet of defensive zone draws.

Shutdown, match circumstances
Player Min/G QoC O Zone% GF GA Corsi relCorsi P/60
John Carlson

17.20

1.069

47.7

124

114

0.3

0.5

1.00

Ryan McDonagh

18.19

1.261

46.7

105

74

-1.1

1.8

0.79

Travis Hamonic

17.39

0.770

47.9

105

105

-4.0

4.4

0.95

Cam Fowler

17.69

0.501

50.5

87

135

-7.2

0.4

0.60

Zach Bogosian

17.41

0.574

48.9

79

112

-4.0

-5.75

0.83

Carlson and McDonagh appear to be the class of this group both playing tough minutes about equal on possession. McDonagh has an excellent GF/GA but a large portion of that can be attributed to the excellent goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist, as he has a very high on ice save percentage. Hamonic and Fowler both played on very bad squads which hurt their on ice stats. Fowler’s second year was significantly stronger than his first though,  indicating that he maybe wasn’t NHL ready at 18.

Lower Pairing Offensive Defensemen
Player

Min/G

QoC

O Zone%

GF

GA

Corsi

relCorsi

P/60

Kevin Shattenkirk

15.90

-0.054

57.3

107

86

8.5

4.1

1.17

Tyler Myers

16.63

0.326

52.1

100

88

0.7

2.0

0.89

Michael Del Zotto

16.20

0.211

51.3

56

43

-6.0

-1.1

0.96

Jake Gardiner

17.11

-0.328

56.0

63

64

0.3

2.8

0.94

The last group all were used more like 2nd pairing offensive defensemen at even strength. Shattenkirk did an excellent job at beating those minutes with very high possesion and point scoring numbers, Myers and Del Zotto played 2nd pairing minutes about equal to their competition but had very good goaltending from Miller and Lundqvist to boost their GF/GA totals. Gardiner actually was fairly unremarkable considering how soft his role was.

 

If we’re looking to rank the quality of Subban’s even strength play by the numbers he seems to be in the 4-6 range with OEL and Hedman, coming out a little better than Carlson and McDonagh.

Penalty Kill

Player

GA / 60

Shot AA / 60

Min/G

PK Subban

3.279

81.0

2.46

Ryan McDonagh

4.698

96.6

2.27

Drew Doughty

4.674

85.8

2.12

Alex Pietrangelo

5.043

86.1

2.49

Tyler Myers

5.238

98.1

2.26

Victor Hedman

5.583

91.2

2.38

Travis Hamonic

6.258

97.5

2.14

John Carlson

6.390

86.4

2.28

Zach Bogosian

7.266

100.5

2.41

8 of the 14 defensemen were relied on for significant (2+) minutes per game on the penalty kill and are listed here. GA/60 is the goals against per 60 minutes of penalty kill play. Shot AA/60 is the shot attempts against the team per 60 minutes. Min/G is average penalty kill minutes per game.

Subban appears to be the clear class of the field here, his shots and goals against are far above anyone else’s. In fact, they rank amongst the best in the entire league over these last two seasons.

Pietroangelo and Doughty both look pretty good by both measurements. McDonagh is strong on goals but weak on shots, while Carlson is the opposite, which may be goaltending related. Hamonic and Bogosian both look weak.

Power Play

Player

Min/G

Goals

Points

G/60

P/60

Team GF/60

Team SF /60

Alex Pietrangelo

2.84

10

38

1.19

4.79

6.927

99.6

Erik Karlsson

3.62

7

49

0.76

4.36

6.462

98.1

Kevin Shattenkirk

2.83

8

33

0.95

4.13

7.557

100.5

Cam Fowler

3.60

8

34

0.86

3.53

7.191

103.5

Tyler Myers

2.56

6

21

1.10

3.52

6.756

96.0

PK Subban

3.15

14

32

1.04

3.01

5.241

97.5

Oliver Ekman-Larsson

2.05

2

8

0.71

2.49

5.367

75.3

Michael Del Zotto

3.85

3

21

0.45

2.40

5.145

88.8

Drew Doughty

3.71

8

28

0.86

2.31

5.157

97.8

Jake Gardiner

1.94

1

7

0.41

2.06

4.944

81.9

Zach Bogosian

2.17

1

11

0.19

2.00

5.562

88.2

11 of the 14 averaged 2 or more minutes of power play time per game in qualifiying seasons (technically Gardiner is slightly below that cut off but was included anyway). Players are ranked here according to their point scoring rates. Goals and Points are totals including unusual (5 on 3, 4 on 3) situations. Team GF and SF are the opposite of the stats from the PK

The two with the best team results are Fowler and Shattenkirk, the best personal scoring is by Pietroangelo, Karlsson and Shattenkirk. Based on this Shattenkirk appears to be the class of the group although that’s debatable. Myers as generally good numbers behind these 4 while Subban comes in behind him. Subban does have a pretty good claim of being one of the best or the best goals scorers. His goal scoring rate per minute is one of the highest at 5 on 4 but he also has a number of 5 on 3 goals to make him the top goal scorer with 14, with Pietroangelo being the closest behind him with 10. Subban does not appear to be a strong driver of play or quarterback on the powerplay compared to this group, but does have a claim of being the best point point shot.

 

Analysis

The best all situations defender appears to be Alex Pietroangelo, who posits top level results in each game state. Karlsson dominates the offensive results both on even strength and the powerplay, with Shattenkirk appearing to be the next best but with relatively weaker defensive play. Doughty is top level 5 on 5 and on the penalty kill and decent on the power play.

Subban is only behind Pietroangelo is being strong at all 3 game states. If we use special teams play as a tie breaker between players of a similar tier in 5 on 5 play, he should probably come in 4th in value behind the big three of Pietroangelo, Doughty and Karlsson. Bogosian was interesting in that he played an all situations game but was mediocre in all of them. Del Zotto and Gardiner very much appear to be the two runts of this litter, not so great at even strength or the power play and not playing on the penalty kill.

Carlson, McDonagh and Hedman work out to be the defensive defensemen from the group. Carlson’s scoring rates on the power play were relatively good so he might be considered a good all situations defenseman if he had the opportunity. Hamonic has a similar profile to Carlson but somewhat lesser results. Tyler Myers played decently in all situations but didn’t stand out at any of them.

Based on these stats I put together an informed but subjective ranking of the 14 players, with tiers of value separated by a space. Fowler, Ekman-Larson and Hedman should get extra credit compared to these rankings for being the youngest of the group (being from the 2010 and 2009 drafts).

Alex Pietrangelo
Erik Karlsson
Drew Doughty
PK Subban
Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Victor Hedman
John Carlson
Ryan McDonagh
Cam Fowler
Kevin Shattenkirk
Tyler Myers
Travis Hamonic
Zach Bogosian
Michael Del Zotto
Jake Gardiner

Interesting defensemen of similar age not profiled by draft year

2006: Johnson, Petry, McBane

2007: Alzner, Gunnarson

2009: Kulikov, Leddy

2010: Faulk

2011: Larson

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Tags: Fancy Stats NHL Defensemen Pk Subban

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