What We’re Reading: December 13

The NHL season is already a third of the way complete and has produced many exciting storylines. We dive into a couple here! 

  • Surprise teams finding strong early season success

The New Jersey Devils, with a 16-7-4 record, sit atop the Metropolitan division and make for one of the most surprising storylines this season. Taylor Hall, who, in his second season with NJ, leads the way offensively with 29 points. Consider team shot attempts (known in the hockey analytics community as ‘Corsi’) and high-danger shot attempts when Taylor Hall is on the ice. His numbers this year are 17.66 iCF/60 and 5.59 iHDCF/60, representing a 14% and 47% improvement from last season, respectively (metrics as of 12/11).

  • NHL is pursuing new optical player tracking technology

The NHL is working towards implementing scalable player tracking technology by the 2019-20 season, a move that would create significant new opportunities for hockey analytics. In addition to automating the collection of micro data (e.g., controlled zone entries, shot location, etc.), it would add a dimension to broadcast and digital media (e.g., how fast was Sidney Crosby skating on his goal, how hard was Shea Weber’s slap shot, etc.). Following the footsteps of the NBA and NFL, both of whom collect tracking data, this would be a big coup for the league.

  • NHL games to be part of new ESPN+ digital service

Disney’s big bet on direct-to-consumer streaming services will kick off with the launch of its redesigned ESPN app in the spring of 2018. In a move towards the future of live sports viewing, ESPN will be launching their revamped app. NHL games will be included!

  • A different Olympic snapshot

The NHL announced it wouldn’t allow its players to participate in the Olympics. Russia was recently banned from participating. Rumors are the KHL is considering action. At this point, there are more questions than answers. What are the implications? How will fans react? How will viewership be affected? Will the KHL follow suite and institute a similar ban?

  • McAvoy and Chara are breaking the age curve

As of this week, McAvoy led all NHL defensemen in terms of 5v5 ice time per game. All. NHL. Defensemen. The kid hasn’t yet celebrated his 20th birthday. Chara, meanwhile, continues to prove that age is just a number.

  • A new generation; a new mentality

Lastly, check out this great read on Chris Pronger mentoring Aaron Ekblad on concussions. Pronger’s career was cut short due to multiple concussions. He’s not alone. It’s evident that players are taking note as more information around long-term health implications becomes available and adjusting their game in light of new information.