We stand to learn a lot by taking a deeper look at the individual statistics of the NWHL’s skaters. With these numbers, we can set rough benchmarks for production, take steps towards projecting the performances of new skaters in the league and provide context that will give us a deeper appreciation for the league’s elite players.
Before we jump into the numbers there are a few things that are important to keep in mind.
Notes and Perceived Problems
- I used the league’s stat database for this project. The accuracy of these statistics has been called into question before, so assist totals and shot totals, in particular, should be viewed with some degree of skepticism.
- Stats from practice squad players are included.
- I purposefully removed the data from Hayley Moore’s single appearance for Boston and the zero values of former Riveters’ forward Erin Barley-Maloney.
The average NWHL forward that appeared in at least one game in 2015-16 averaged 0.62 points per game. She also registered 2.67 shots per game and scored 0.29 goals per game. So, the average NWHL forward would have scored around 11 points if she appeared in all 18 games last season. But the league average was 8.88 points per game because the average forward played a little over 14 games.
Those numbers make the seasons that Kelley Steadman, Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker look all the more amazing. Steadman, Knight and Decker make up the league’s elite class of points per game forwards. Although Steadman played in just 10 games she scored five power play goals, collected 20 points, and registered 71 shots. Decorated Olympians Kelli Stack, Meghan Duggan, Kelly Babstock are the next rung down on the ladder.
With the addition of Duggan this offseason, the Boston Pride now have four of the ten most productive forwards from last year. They also added Alex Carpenter who averaged over 2.00 points per game as a junior and senior at Boston College. So, it is pretty safe to say that Boston’s top six in 2016-17 will be outstanding.
A Problem with Parity
If the Pride, with their offensive depth and top-six talent, were on one side of a coin, the Riveters would undoubtedly be on the other side. The Riveters had the worst offense in the league last year. Boston (with some help from empty-netters) almost had twice the number of goals that New York had. The Riveters averaged 2.22 goals per game and scored just 27 even strength goals.
The Riveters had three forwards north of the 0.62 points per game benchmark, the fewest in the league. A closer look at the top-five most productive players from each team last season the Riveters’ scoring woes become even more evident.
The chart above includes prolific scoring defenders including Kacey Bellamy, Kaleigh Fratkin, Gigi Marvin, and Megan Bozek. The Riveters’ most productive blueliner was Ashley Johnston who averaged 0.44 points per game. It is because of this that Chad Wiseman pursued Fratkin and other defenders with upside with so much aggression this offseason.
The new crop of talent in the league could help to level the playing field a bit, but Boston’s roster only got better. In many ways, the regular season will likely be the battle for second place in the standings to avoid facing the Pride in the first round of the playoffs.
The league-wide shooting percentage in the NWHL was 9.57 percent, for comparison the shooting percentage for skaters in the NHL last year was 8.8 percent. NWHL forwards shot 10.97 percent and, as expected, defenders shot much lower at 4.85 percent. Fratkin and Marvin, the only two defenders to score five goals, unsurprisingly had shooting percentages that rivaled some of the best forwards in the league.
The league average for defenders was 0.42 points per game. Bellamy, Fratkin, Marvin, Megan Bozek, Emily Pfalzer and Jordan Brickner were in a class of their own in regards to production among defenders. Fratkin led all blueliners in points but Bellamy was the only defender to average more than a point per game.
The Beauts made former Minnesota Whitecap Anne Schleper the highest paid defender in the league this offseason. How her numbers stack up against last season’s elite six will be worth keeping an eye on.
The “Rookie” Class
I categorized all forwards one or two years removed from elite college hockey as rookies. The purpose of this was to glean information about the performance of the league’s youngest forwards and how they compared to players with more experience. Naturally, this group excludes the majority of national team talent. It also excludes forwards like Lyudmila Belyakova and Yekaterina Smolentseva who took very different roads to the NWHL.
North American rookie forwards in the NWHL scored an average of 0.52 points per game. Kelly Babstock, Shiann Darkangelo, and Jordan Smelker were the most productive young players in the league. That trio of forwards were all at least point per game players. Including players from Division III schools (Hannah McGowan and a few practice players) the average drops to .50 points per game. Devon Skeats was head and shoulders above the rest of the skaters from CIS schools. She put up 0.93 points per game for the Beauts.
NWHL defenders that were one or two years removed from North American college hockey averaged 0.33 points per game. With such a promising rookie class of defenders this season, we should expect that number to improve.