The Goose Is Loose – An Analytical Look at Gustav Nyquist’s Scoring Spree

Wait, did I miss another one? Did “Goose” score again? At the rate Detroit forward Gustav Nyquist is going I’ve probably missed three more goals. I’m fairly certain his day-to-day life can be boiled down to “Eat. Sleep. Score Goals.” That’s how good the 24-year old has been this season. Just one week ago, I detailed how I thought Nyquist resembled a young Henrik Zetterberg. Since the publication of that article, Nyquist has scored six more goals which has gotten me to take an in-depth look at how impressive his scoring pace has been. This scoring spree has caused me to rethink my Henrik Zetterberg comparison. The most goals Zetterberg ever scored in a season is 43 goals. Hell, at the rate Nyquist is going, he might hit 40 this year (I’m kidding…I think – then again, Nyquist continues to surprise). So what do we think? Can Nyquist sustain this type of scoring pace throughout his career and potentially become Detroit’s first 50-goal scorer since Sergei Fedorov in 1993-1994?

Gustav Nyquist Red Wings
Gustav Nyquist is a goalie’s worst nightmare during his scoring streak (Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE)

Nyquist made his season debut on November 21st against the Carolina Hurricanes. Less than 20 seconds into the game, Nyquist scored, which should have foreshadowed what was going to come. He finished that game with two goals and proceeded to score four times in his first five games. However, Nyquist cooled off and immediately expectations dropped off. He scored just one goal over his next 18 games, leaving him with five goals in 18 games, a rather unimpressive number. But something clicked for Nyquist after the January 18th victory over the Los Angeles Kings and it has saved the Detroit Red Wings season. Let’s take a look at the numbers (All data is taken from Extra Skater).

How Impressive Is His Streak?

In his past 24 games, Nyquist has tallied 20 goals. If he were able to keep this pace up for an entire season, we are talking about a 69-goal season. He’s scoring 1.90 goals per 60 minutes this season. That rate compares favorably with Steven Stamkos (2.28/60 minutes), Alex Ovechkin (2.02/60 minutes), and Phil Kessel (1.42/60 minutes). However, if we just look at games since January 18th, Nyquist is scoring an incredible 2.87 goals per 60 minutes. At the beginning of the year, Alex Ovechkin went on quite a goal-scoring streak himself, scoring 28 goals in 30 games. However, Nyquist’s 2.87 goals per 60 minutes is even better than Ovechkin’s clip during that streak (2.52 goals/60 minutes). Ovechkin’s Corsi for percentage during that streak was 52.6%. Nyquist’s during his 24-game run? A stellar 54.6%. In fact, when Nyquist is on the ice of late, his team has been flat out dominating. In Nyquist’s last four games, he’s played a total of 59 minutes and 30 seconds and his team has generated 45 shot attempts and given up 31, giving Nyquist a Corsi for% of 59.2%.

Nyquist Red Wings
Gustav Nyquist has been a revelation this year. (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

The other comparison to make to Alex Ovechkin is the shooting percentage. During Ovechkin’s fantastic run, he put 164 shots on goal and scored 28 times, giving him a 17.1% shooting percentage. Nyquist on the other hand has managed to put just 76 shots on goal, but he’s scored 20 times. That is a ridiculous 26.3% shooting percentage, a number that is largely unsustainable but impressive nonetheless. From the Corsi% to his shooting% you can see that what Nyquist is doing in his current run is better than the run put on earlier this season by the best goal scorer of this generation.

Is This Sustainable? 

I’ve already shown you Nyquist’s Corsi% and his shooting percentage during the streak, but I’m going to show his season numbers below along with other pertinent advanced statistics in comparison to some of the top players in the NHL.

Player All Corsi For% 5-on-5 Corsi For% 5-on-5 GF% 5-on-5 PDO 5-on-5 SV% TotTm% D QoC Shots/60 mins Shooting%
Gustav Nyquist 59.7% 53.0% 70.6% 105.8 94.7% 33.5% 10.12 19.2%
Sidney Crosby 59.7% 52.6% 55.5% 100.3 90.6% 34.7% 8.75 14.8%
Alex Ovechkin 50.2% 50.7% 40.4% 97.6 92.0% 34.6% 15.41 13.4%
Claude Giroux 60.0% 53.1% 56.0% 101.5 92.4% 34.2% 7.80 12.6%
Ryan Getzlaf 54.0% 51.4% 66.7% 105.1 92.2% 34.9% 7.77 16.2%
Phil Kessel 51.6% 44.6% 54.3% 102.8 92.7% 34.7% 11.24 12.9%
Tyler Seguin 60.2% 53.0% 61.7% 102.9 92.5% 34.9% 11.03 13.0%

What can we interpret from these numbers? Well Nyquist is playing at an exceptionally high level, that’s for sure. His numbers across the board compare favorably with the superstars of the NHL. There is one point of concern – his shooting percentage. Nyquist is scoring on an incredibly high 19.2% of his shots on goal. That is an unsustainable rate over an entire career. Generally, the league average is between 8-10%, with the best shooters being between 12-14%. Nyquist, unless he is some cyber robot from space, will regress to the mean, whether that’s in the next few games or in the following seasons. However, what I wanted to show with this table is that this regression to the mean will not wreck his stats. His Corsi For% indicates that when he’s on the ice, his line is possessing the puck and directing a higher percentage of shot attempts at the opposition’s goal. Nyquist personally is shooting the puck at a very high rate, attempting 10 shots every 60 minutes, a rate that compares favorably with Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin and is better than that of Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, and Ryan Getzlaf.

Basically what I’m saying is that if we take Nyquist’s current numbers and extrapolate them over an 82-game season, we would see him put 227 shots on goal and score 44 goals. Even if Nyquist regresses to 12% shooting percentage but generates shots at a similar level, we would still see Nyquist score 27 goals, a mark that is still very good for a young player. However, I expect Nyquist’s generation of shots to improve over the next few years. This is based on his current 24-game stretch. Prior to this stretch, Nyquist was generating 9.69 shots per 60 minutes. Over his 24-game scoring spree, Nyquist has been generating 10.91 shots per 60 minutes. When you factor that in with his increasing Corsi For% and his expected growth as a player as he gains more experience, I could conceivably see that number jump to 12.5 shots per 60 minutes. When you look at that rate and extrapolate that over an 82-game season, now we are talking about Nyquist putting 290 shots on goal and if he does regress to a 12% shooting percentage, he’s still scoring 35 goals. If he regresses to 14%, he’s scoring 41 goals. I don’t expect too much of a regression in terms of facing a higher quality of competition as you can already see that he’s matching up against top notch defensemen at a similar rate to the other superstars in the league.

The other number that is off the charts is Nyquist’s goals for% at 5-on-5. At 70.6% it dwarfs the numbers of all the other superstars in the NHL. For those that aren’t familiar with this number, this shows that of all the goals that Nyquist was on the ice for at 5-on-5, 70.6% of them were scored by the Wings. The Wings have scored 36 goals with Nyquist on the ice in 5-on-5 situations and given up just 15. You would have to think that this number would regress…but that remains to be seen. Regardless, it’s unreal the kind of goal-scoring production the Wings are getting from Nyquist.

Moral of the Story

The moral of the story here is that the run Nyquist is on is absolutely ridiculous. He’s scoring goals at an incredibly high rate, dominating puck possession numbers, playing against top notch competition, and he’s only going to get better. I do expect some regression with his shooting percentage as it is currently off the charts. Of the players with 20 goals, only Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos (21.9%) and Valteri Filppula (20.5%) have higher shooting percentages. However, as I discussed above, I don’t expect this regression in shooting percentage to hurt his overall goal scoring totals because I do expect him to generate shots at a higher rate in future seasons. This kid is already a great player and he’s going to get even better. The rest of the league better watch out because the “Goose” is officially loose.

2 thoughts on “The Goose Is Loose – An Analytical Look at Gustav Nyquist’s Scoring Spree”

  1. I really enjoyed your post, I totally agree. With all of these injuries the Wings are dealing with right now, someone really needed to step up. Instead of it being one of the veterans like Helm (who recently just got back from injury), Gustav Nyquist stepped up. He has been warm all season, but he has caught fire these last few weeks. The only thing I am skeptical about is that chart. Don’t you think its a little soon to be preparing him to all these young legends like Crosby and Ovechkin? Sure, Nyquist knows how to find the twine, but he’s on a hot streak for now. We are not quite sure if he is that kind of player yet. Great post man, I really enjoyed it and I agree with most of what you said.

  2. It’s pretty charitable to assume Nyquist will improve his S/60 to 12.5 when I can’t find any player that has been able sustain that high of a number except Ovechkin who was only done it three straight years. Most of the best scorers are around 9-11 with occasional spikes. Nyquist could make it that high but is unlikely to ever sustain it.

    Assuming he will be able to maintain a shooting percentage of 12-14% is also a pretty optimistic projection. I think Nyquist is a great player but I don’t think he’s an elite finisher like Ovechkin or Stamkos.

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