Each NHL season brings new stories and new performers. This is because, even though many players can boast a long history of producing stellar results, their productions are often much higher than their career averages. These players are prime candidates to see a decline in their statistical production due to the small sample size, which is less than half the season.
Regression is a term that has negative connotations, but all it means is that an output or result needs to move back to its original position. Average or normal value over time. This can be either an upward (think about a snake-bitten forward finally converting his opportunities) or a downward (a player stops scoring after three shots). It doesn’t mean that I am calling these players bad or undeserving of their success, only that their numbers should come back to Earth over the rest of the season. With that context in mind, I present five of the NHL’s top regression candidates for the second half of the 2021-22 campaign.
Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
MoneyPuck reports that Filip Forsberg is currently the second-ranked NHL player in goals scored beyond expected (GAx), which means that he is our primary candidate for offensive decline in 2022. Forsberg tied for seventh in goals scored at all strengths (18), and his 13 5v5 totals are good for second. His current goal pace of 0.69 markers per game translates to a 56-goal rate over an 82-game season, which easily blows past Forbserg’s career-high of 33 goals scored during the 2015-16 campaign.
Further, his current shooting percentage (23.7 SH%) is nearly double his career average of 12.6%, a sure sign that Forbserg’s output over the second half of the season could see a notable shave in production.
Forsberg can keep his 2.92 goal rate, but converts at his career average. He adds 17 goals to his season total to reach a hypothetical 35, which is still a career high for the forward from Sweden. He’s already surpassed his even-strength goal totals from each of the past two seasons with 15 this season, after potting 14 and nine in the past two respectively.
Is Nashville Predators’ winger doing enough in reducing the negative effect of regression? It’s difficult to say as his all-situation shot rates (10.85 to9.72 SH/60), have seen a decline from last season. However, his individual scoring opportunity generation has seen an increase from 9.34 to 998 iSCF/60.
Considering Forsberg’s history of scoring in this league (five seasons with at least 26 goals) and steady rate of shot attempts, he shouldn’t see his totals tank too much. He definitely isn’t going to keep scoring 2.3 goals per-60 for the rest of the campaign, though.
Adam Boqvist, Columbus Blue Jackets
Next up is the young starlet of the Columbus Blue Jackets‘ blueline, and Adam Boqvist, who is third in GAx among defensemen this season as a result of scoring seven goals against his expected tally (ixG) of 2.3. He ranks second among defensemen with at least 100 minutes of play in all situations in goals per-60-minutes (1.09), after Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche.
He’s shooting more frequently than in his tenure with the Chicago Blackhawks (he was part of the Seth Jones mega-deal), but his astronomical SH% tells the true story. He’s found the net on over a quarter of his shots to date (25.9%), after posting 8 and 5.1 percent conversion rates in his two seasons with the Blackhawks. Also, Boqvist’s 5v5 SH% (28.57%) easily leads NHL rearguards, nearly a full 12% higher than Makar in second. He touches everything and it turns into gold.
Boqvist, 5v5, has unassuming per-60 shots rates (150th among defensemen with 100 minutes played), but ranks well in scoring opportunities (42nd), high risk opportunities (37th), ixG/60 (14) He doesn’t get very many attempts on goal, but the ones he’s managed to release are taken from quality areas.
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His potential is excellent, but his low conversion rate throws things off balance. Boqvist, on the other hand, has a distinguished draft pedigree. This could explain why he is finally reaching his potential as a young defender. Keep an eye on him in the season’s second half, especially with Patrik Laine returning to the fold.
Nazem Kadri, Colorado Avalanche
Most of the candidates are named for their high goal-scoring abilities, but Nazem Kadri is chosen because of his incredible point totals.
His career-high 44 points per game (P/G), in 28 games, is remarkable. With 51 games remaining on the schedule, the Avalanche centre is just 17 points from his highest scoring season in the NHL (61 in 2016-17), Even if he reverts back to his career average of 0.67 P/G, he’d finish the season with 78 points. He is also the NHL’s leader in points per-60 (5.12) as well as second in assists (3.72/-60). He sits fifth overall in total points.
So, what’s stopping Kadri from maintaining his impressive surge in production? Apart from this season deviating wildly from his typical output, he’s benefitted from more clinical finishing from his linemates. Kadri’s 5v5 OiSH% (13.54%) is His second-highest career achievementThis is the most prolific mark since 2012-13, when the season was cut to just 13 games.
Three of Kadri’s most frequent linemates at 5v5 are Andre Burakovsky (21.8 SH%), Valeri Nichushkin (21.3), and Cale Makar (19.5), a trio of players all shooting well above their career norms. On the power play, Kadri has featured extensively on the top unit, most often sharing the ice with Makar and Colorado’s vaunted first-line. Kadri’s traits complement the Avalanche stars, but his numbers aren’t sustainable to this degree.
Colorado’s carousel of injuries to start the year meant that Kadri often found himself elevated into primary scoring roles at even-strength and on the power play. With a more stable lineup, he won’t be afforded the same opportunities to lead the attack, even if he stays in the top-six forward group.
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Kadri’s rise in production has been a blessing for a frequently wounded Avalanche side, and the fact that it’s happening in a contract year for the pending unrestricted free agent surely brings a smile to his agent’s face. It is risky to assume it will continue at the same level. Prospective suitors should not offer him a large-ticket contract in the offseason. Even though he is still a good investment at a low price,
Chandler Stephenson, Vegas Golden Knights
Kadri is not the only player who raises eyebrows more often than Chandler Stephenson. The Vegas Golden Knights‘ utility forward leads the team in scoring with 35 points in 37 games, matching his total from last season in 14 fewer appearances.
The injuries to Max Pacioretty (22 games missed) and Mark Stone (17) pumped up Stephenson’s usage to 19:27 minutes a night, almost a minute and a half higher than his previous career-high. Since the pair have returned, they’ve been two of Stephenson’s three most frequent forward linemates at 5v5, giving him two strong running mates to shield him from increased defensive attention.
Although he’s not being boosted by an abnormally elevated SH%, his Individual Point Percentage (IPP) ratio – the percentage of goals on which a player earned a point – is a cause for concern. Travis Yost says that he is not being boosted by an abnormally high SH%. However, his Individual Point Percentage (IPP) ratio – the percentage of goals on which a player earned a point – is concerning. The average IPP value Forwards were hovering around 68% in 2015 It’s a few years out of date, but I’d assume that the number hasn’t changed much over the years. Although Stephenson’s IPP is slightly above-average, that’s not the underlying issue.
Stephenson’s 72.7% IPP in 2021-22 is the highest of his NHL career and is around 20% greater than in his two other seasons in Vegas. Either Stephenson suddenly transformed into a dynamic offensive star, or he’s riding a wave of favorable puck luck. His previous results suggest it’s more of the latter, meaning he’s one to watch.
Additionally, Stephenson’s point totals are buoyed by a high number of secondary assists. He’s currently the NHL leader in secondary helpers in all situations (16) and at 5v5 (11), suggesting he’s not as involved in the offense as his numbers might indicate. Research shows secondary assists aren’t as repeatable than primary assists. Stephenson might have trouble replicating his form from 2022.
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There’s also the return of Jack Eichel to the Golden Knights lineup to consider. Vegas could have a first-line that is centered around Eichel if he’s healthy. This would eliminate Stephenson from his gig riding shotgun alongside Stone and Pacioretty. Pacioretty’s recent injury setback buys Stephenson more time to stake his claim to extended top-line minutes, but his spot is in greater jeopardy whenever the roster returns to full strength.
Troy Terry, Anaheim Ducks
NHL record for The highest SH% in one season among active players (minimum 20 goals scored) is the 23.4% posted by William Karlsson in the Vegas Golden Knights’ inaugural season. His 43 goals led the team to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Washington Capitals in just five games.
Troy Terry, Anaheim Ducks’ goalie, is on track to surpass that historic mark through nearly half of the 2021-22 seasons. Terry boasts a 25.3 SH% after scoring 21 goals on 83 shots this season, just under one percent greater than that of the Golden Knights’ two-way center.
He currently ranks fourth in overall scoring and fifth in 5v5 (11) scoring. This is a stunning breakout season for the American winger. Terry was actually a darkhorse Olympic selection for Team USA prior to the NHL pulling out of Beijing. This demonstrates his meteoric rise within league circles.
Terry might not be what he seems. Terry currently ranks third in NHL GAx (9.1), with a SH% of over 11%. This is well above his career average. Even more extraordinary is Terry’s conversion on the power play. This season, the Ducks forward has only taken 12 shots with man advantage and scored on exactly half of them.
Refer to the following: Only 27 players have kept a sanity score since 2007-08. Power-play SH% at 40 percentOver the entire season (minimum 100 minutes of PP played). Terry finished the season with more shots on goal this season than Terry. Nine of the 27 teams had fewer shots on goal. If he continues to function as a focal point in the Ducks’ power-play structure, it’s difficult to envision his conversion standing up over the entire year as he takes more shots.
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To be fair to Terry, even though he’s among the league leaders in GAx, he’s not relying entirely on unsustainable shooting to increase his totals. He’s accrued the 33rd most ixG according to MoneyPuck, and his SH/60 rate jumped almost by almost two per game since last season. Still, the historically incendiary SH% argues that his finishing streak won’t continue, and a dip in production could follow once the magic wears off.
2022 promises another year of surprises in the NHL
Although each player on this list is frightened by the possibility of regression, they could still make it through the 2021-22 season unscathed. While regression states that statistical results always revert back to their career norms over time, it’s impossible to predict just how long that hot (or cold) streak could last. The public must accept that a player can be talented enough to consistently outperform their expectations after a certain period of time. Is there someone missing from this list. Please let me know what you think in the comments.
Honorable Mentions: Ryan Hartman, Minnesota Wild; Andre Burakovsky, Colorado Avalanche; Erik KarlssonSan Jose Sharks Jared McCann, Seattle Kraken; Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
Marko is an aspirant sportswriter who loves to create stories using both the eye-test (shudder!) analytics and the eye-test. This is complemented by a background in political science and criminology.
If you are not covering the Colorado Avalanche or Pittsburgh Penguins, The Hockey WritersHe can also be found spending hours playing various video game franchises, reading science fiction novels, or running long distances around his neighborhood.