Oilers’ Jack Campbell Isn’t Going Anywhere

EDMONTON, AB – There has been a lot of discussions all season long as to whether goalie Jack Campbell will be back with the Edmonton Oilers next season. He struggled greatly in his first season with the team after being brought in as the starter. Plans didn’t go as expected as he mostly split starts with rookie Stuart Skinner throughout the season despite the Oilers’ best efforts to get Campbell settled in.

Determination Propelled Gruden to a Career Year

Wilkes Barre, PA – Most people want the same things. Money. Happiness. Love. Pizza.

Surely, Jonathan Gruden wants all of these things. But he also wanted one thing in particular this past season.

“I wanted the puck on my stick a lot more this year,” he said. “I think I’ve just gotten a lot more comfortable with the puck. You know, carrying it, making plays.”

This desire to play with the puck led to Gruden driving the action frequently with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and it also led to career-high point totals.

Jacob Trouba nominated for the 2022-23 King Clancy Memorial Trophy

NEW YORK, NY – Awards season continues to roll along in the NHL.

The NHL continued to doll out the group of finalists for its prestigious awards on Tuesday afternoon, nominating one player from each of the league’s 32 teams for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. The award goes annually to the “player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution to his community.”

Lightning re-sign forward Mikey Eyssimont to two-year deal

TAMPA BAY, FL – When the Lightning acquired forward Mikey Eyssimont from the Sharks in a trade-deadline deal this season for underperforming forward Vladislav Namestnikov, they believed they were getting a player who could help them beyond the current season.

Opening an offseason in which the Lightning will retool their roster, their first move Friday was to re-sign Eyssimont, who could have been an unrestricted free agent in July, giving him a two-year deal worth an average annual value of $800,000.

Eyssimont, 26, fulfilled the Lightning’s hopes, proving to be a player with speed who can forecheck and create offensive opportunities, putting him in a position to solidify a bottom-six role in training camp next season.

 

Capitals’ Craig Smith Tricked Jack Hughes Into Passing Him Puck For 200th Career Goal

WASHINGTON, DC – The Washington Capitals got off to a red-hot start against the New Jersey Devils, and it involved some trickery courtesy of Craig Smith.

The 33-year-old told NBC Sports Washington’s Al Koken during his intermission interview that he saw a lot of open ice and Jack Hughes with the puck.

So, he figured in Game No. 82, he might as well roll the dice and try something: call for a pass.

“I called for it, I was wide open in the middle,” Smith smiled. “There was a lot of open ice int he middle there. Figured I’d give him a holler and see if he’d throw it over.”

Smith, the 98th overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, is the 12th player from his draft class to reach the 200-goal mark.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare Named a Finalist for the Masterton Trophy

TORONTO, ONT – The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded annually by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey.

A player from each team is nominated by the local chapter. The list will be narrowed to three finalists and a winner named at the NHL Awards on June 26. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was nominated for this prestigious award by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

JT Compher Ranks in the Top Five Defensive Centers in the NHL

DENVER, CO – Offense reigns supreme in the modern NHL.

Speed and skill are at an all-time high, defensemen are more active offensively, power-play scoring rates have boomed, enhanced stick technology has bolstered the shooting ability of players and referees are calling the rulebook tighter than ever before.

It’s never been harder to defend, which makes high-end shutdown players uniquely valuable. We’ve analyzed some of hockey’s top shutdown defensemen before but who are the league’s best defensive centers?

We can explore this topic by digging into some data. In fact, we need a combination of numbers to filter through the league and find our gems. Why? Well, we can’t solely rely on something like goals against, for example, because it’s too blunt of an instrument — it doesn’t account for the other four players that the center shares the ice with or goaltending quality. But it’s obviously still a really important measuring point, so the goal is to find a variety of metrics like this that can be useful and complement each other.

I started the exercise by using an initial filter for the following criteria since the 2020-21 season.

  • Plays an average of at least 15 minutes per game
  • Five-on-five goals-against rate below the league average for forwards of 2.53 (Preventing goals is the ultimate goal of defense. Goals against can, however, be quite volatile and influenced by luck — some centers prevent shots and scoring chances very well but get punished because their goaltender can’t make a save — so I didn’t want this filter to be too harsh.)
  • Matchups around league-average quality or tougher (If you’re a top defensive center you shouldn’t be playing sheltered minutes. I used HockeyViz and PuckIQ’s quality of competition data to measure this)
  • Must kill penalties, even if it’s just on a part-time basis (If you don’t ever kill penalties, are you really an elite defensive player?)

After running this filter, we get a refined pool of centers over the last three seasons who play top-nine minutes, are trusted enough to defend top forwards on a regular basis, prevent goals against better than league-average and kill penalties. From here, I decided to use Evolving-Hockey’s Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus (RAPM) tool to measure defensive impact and rank our pool of centers.

This RAPM tool can identify the players who have the strongest impact on suppressing quality scoring chances through their expected goals model. Most importantly, this tool can level the playing field by giving us a player’s isolated defensive impact after accounting for variables such as teammate quality (who they share the ice with on shifts), opposition quality, zone starts (some players start in the defensive zone more often than others) and more.

There’s no such thing as a perfect all-in-one tool, and RAPM is no different, but in a world where objectively measuring defensive impact can be challenging, this stands out as a useful data point.

Before presenting the results, I want to quickly share a couple of disclaimers:

  • We’re ignoring offense and only measuring pure defensive impact. That means if Center A is higher on this list than Center B, it doesn’t necessarily mean Center A is the better overall player.
  • We will only be measuring five-on-five impact because it’s nearly impossible to objectively measure penalty-killing ability with publicly available data.
  • This is, of course, only an analytical perspective. The numbers obviously can’t capture everything, especially for defense. Because of that, take this article’s findings as a conversation starter, or a list that’s identifying some of the top defensive centers rather than a definitive ranking. You should look at the initial list and then apply your own eye test, context and knowledge — it’s all about how you interpret the data. There will be plenty of quality shutdown centers that don’t land on this list or just missed the cut for one reason or another like Jean Gabriel Pageau and Elias Lindholm.

Without further ado, let’s dive in. The centers on this list will be presented in the order of their RAPM defensive impact.

3. J.T. Compher will be a surprising name to many but the closer you watch him, the more you appreciate the details of his game. The 27-year-old pending UFA is speedy and offers a nonstop motor which makes him very disruptive both on the forecheck and stealing pucks on the backcheck. Compher has been on the ice for fewer than 2.00 goals against per hour in four consecutive seasons. Typically that’s been in a third-line role, but Nazem Kadri’s departure has forced Compher into a more prominent role. He’s been successful navigating the higher minutes (averaging 20:23 per game) and tougher matchups (playing the most minutes against elite competition of any Avs forward besides Nathan MacKinnonaccording to PuckIQ), authoring a breakout performance where he’s not only maintained his excellent defensive numbers, but also chipped in with a career-high 50 points.

Arvidsson, Suzuki and Gustavsson Named NHL ‘Three Stars’ of the Week

NEW YORK, NY – Los Angeles Kings right wing Viktor Arvidsson, Montreal Canadiens center Nick Suzuki and Minnesota Wild goaltender Filip Gustavssonhave been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending March 26.

FIRST STAR – VIKTOR ARVIDSSON, RW, LOS ANGELES KINGS

Arvidsson scored and registered multiple points in all three of his appearances, leading the NHL with five total goals (5-2—7) as well as 2-2—4 on the power play to propel the Kings(43-20-10, 96 points) to a perfect week as they extended their point streak to a franchise-record 12 games dating to Feb. 28 (10-0-2). He notched 1-1—2, both on the man-advantage, in an 8-2 victory against the Calgary Flames March 20 to reach the 20-goal milestone for the fifth time (and second time in as many seasons with Los Angeles). Arvidsson then scored twice in a 4-1 triumph over the Winnipeg Jets March 25. He capped the week with 2-1—3, his fourth multi-goal and fifth three-point performance of 2022-23, in a 7-6 win versus the St. Louis Blues March 26. The 29-year-old Arvidsson has played in 68 total contests this season, placing among the top Kings players in goals (3rd; 24), assists (t-5th; 29) and points (4th; 53) as well as power-play goals (t-1st; 9), power-play assists (5th; 12) and power-play points (3rd; 21).

 

SECOND STAR – NICK SUZUKI, C, MONTREAL CANADIENS

Suzuki paced the NHL with 2-6—8 in three contests to guide the Canadiens (29-38-6, 64 points) to a pair of victories. He collected two assists in a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning March 21. Suzuki (1-1—2) then factored on both Montreal goals in a 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins March 23. He closed the week with 1-3—4, his first career four-point outing (282 GP), in an 8-2 triumph against the Columbus Blue Jackets March 25 to extend his streak of multi-point performances to four games (2-8—10 dating to March 18) – the longest such run by a Canadiens player since Alex Kovalev achieved the feat nearly 14 years ago (March 28 – April 4, 2009: 4-7—11 in 4 GP). The 23-year-old Suzuki has skated in 73 total contests this season, leading Montreal in assists (38; 13 more than the next-closest player) and points (61; 23 more than the next-closest player) while ranking second in goals (23) behind only Cole Caufield (26).

 

THIRD STAR – FILIP GUSTAVSSON, G, MINNESOTA WILD

Gustavsson stopped 69 of the 71 shots he faced across two starts, going 2-0-0 with a 0.96 goals-against average and .972 save percentage to lift the Wild (42-22-9, 93 points) into first place in the Central Division on the strength of a 2-0-1 week. Gustavsson made a career-high 47 saves, including a combined 25 in the third period and overtime, in a 2-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils March 23. He then turned aside 22 shots in a 3-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks March 25. The 24-year-old Gustavsson has appeared in 34 total games this season, ranking second in the NHL with a 2.01 goals-against average and .932 save percentage to go along with a 19-9-5 record and three shutouts. He has earned points in 12 of his past 13 outings (all starts) dating to Feb. 11, compiling an 8-1-4 record, 1.62 goals-against average, .946 save percentage and two shutouts during that timeframe.