Penguins: Don’t Hate Hornqvist

Hard working. Gritty player. Blue-collar worker. Plays with heart.

These are terms that usually draw the ire of certain portions of the hockey community. More often than not, there are good reason for these to be considered buzzwords. People tend to use them to cover deficiencies of players, such as Bobby Farnham. Yes he does work hard, and you notice him because of it, but when you look closely at his body of work it is definitely lacking.

Today we are talking about Patric Hornqvist, to whom all of the aforementioned words apply. He is one of the most physical and gritty players on the Penguins roster, yet he still plays well in the aggressive, possession-driven system that Pittsburgh plays. He has been criticized for disrupting zone entries by dumping the puck in rather than carrying it through, but whatever he is doing appears to be working.

By the Numbers

Only Conor Sheary and Carl Hagelin had better possession statistics than Hornqvist last year. In fact, he has never had a negative Corsi rating in his career since becoming an NHL regular, save his rookie year with limited playing time.

Patric Hornqvist
Season GP Corsi For % Relative CF%
2008-09 28 49.7 0.9
2009-10 80 55.7 6
2010-11 79 52.3 5.3
2011-12 76 52.1 6.5
2012-13 24 51.7 6
2013-14 76 51.1 4.3
2014-15 64 54.7 1.5
2015-16 82 56.1 4.9

They “Eye Test” and Beyond

More often than not, when looking at a shot location chart, you will notice a clump of shots that were taken from right in front of the opposition net. It almost always has the name Hornqvist written all over it, literally. His style of play is something that the Penguins otherwise lack. His physicality, and skill mesh nicely with Sidney Crosby, with whom Hornqvist has become a regular linemate. No, it is not Crosby carrying Hornqvist. Crosby’s CF% is 57.4 when playing with Hornqvist, but is 50.5 while playing without him.

In many ways Hornqvist is a nice hybrid of the old-school power forward, and the new-age skill players. He may not have Kris Letang’s skating ability, Crosby’s stickhandling, or Phil Kessel’s shot, but Hornqvist is a hockey player in every sense of the word.

Pointless Trade Talk

There are many who would like to trade Hornqvist for one reason or another. Moving him would serve no purpose. It is difficult to find a player that plays well with Crosby, and now that Pascal Dupuis is no longer in the picture, having Horqvist on the top line is more important than ever. Yes, Chris Kunitz could provide the net-front presence, but he will be 37 before the season starts, and played well with Evgeni Malkin last year.

Hornqvist passes the “eye test” with flying colors, and the tools provided by the analytics community prove his value. I’m still not sure where people are coming from with their criticism of the Swedish product, but no matter how you look at it, Hornqvist was a key part of the Penguins’ championship, and will be if they are to win another.

Until next time.

Thanks for reading, guys. Please check back for regular Penguins content. We are also in production for a new THW Penguins podcast set to begin prior to next season. Thanks for following!