Although the season is only about a week and a half deep, there are already more than a few telling signs that should hold relatively true over the course of the season.
Of course, some teams are playing far above the expectations placed upon them, but for most that won’t last very long as they come back to Earth after a couple of weeks. On the other hand, some teams got off to rough starts, sure to turn things around with over 75 games to go for each squad in the 2015-16.
The same concept goes for individuals. Although it’s only been a few games, hot starts can be a sign of things to come for rookies and breakout players, especially.
One statistics category that is just scratching the surface of its future potential is puck possession. The consistency of possession stats is yet to be set in stone, whether it changes drastically over the course of the season, or remains relatively the same.
So, why not take note of the individual leaders in puck possession during several periods of the season?
The stats are correct up to, and including, the Saturday, Oct. 17 games.
Top Puck-Possession Forwards in the NHL
The top-five forwards in SAT (Shot Attempt Differential), the difference between shot attempts created and shot attempts allowed, are as follows.
1: Brendan Gallagher – 40
2: Max Pacioretty – 39
3: Leo Komarov – 38
4: James van Riemsdyk – 35
T5: Corey Perry – 33
T5: Tomas Plekanec – 33
For me, Komarov and van Riemsdyk are the most impressive players on this list, playing for a below-average team in the Maple Leafs. However, they have actually been one of the better teams in possession so far, sitting in fifth overall. There is a large drop-off after the two Leafs forwards, down to 12 after the duo and Tyler Bozak. Leo Komarov actually leads the NHL in Corsi For percentage, with a 67 percent rate this year.
Corey Perry is a positive for the mightily struggling Ducks, who have only scored one goal in four games so far. Expected to be a Stanley Cup contender, Anaheim may need more puck possession to find themselves more goals.
Of course, the Montreal forwards on the list, Gallagher, Pacioretty and Plekanec, are off to a terrific start along with their teammates, winning all six games thus far. As many theories have proven, strong possession of the puck leads to goals and leads to winning games. So far, that theory has proven to be true for the Canadiens.
As would be expected, all five players are among strong possession teams, with the Los Angeles Kings (first) and St. Louis Blues (third) being the only teams in the top-five not represented.
Top Puck-Possession Defencemen in the NHL
On the other hand, the top-five defencemen in SAT are as follows.
1: Colton Parayko – 37
2: Jake Gardiner – 32
3: Jeff Petry – 31
4: Jake Muzzin – 30
T4: Christian Ehrhoff – 30
In the top defencemen, it’s the same culprits of the top-five teams in possession being represented. The Blues have their first player, in rookie Colton Parayko, who’s off to a fantastic start. He leads all defencemen in Corsi For percentage so far, with 64.4 percent.
The Kings, who have just one win so far this season, have two defencemen in this list in Muzzin and Ehrhoff. Their top four, which includes Drew Doughty and Brayden McNabb as well, holds most of the responsibility on their blue line, one of the strongest in the league.
Yet another Maple Leaf and Canadien make the list, Jake Gardiner and Jeff Petry. Gardiner has excelled under Mike Babcock’s confidence this year, and it’s showing in the stats pages. Perry, who signed a deal to stay in Montreal this offseason, is proving to be a steal, as he continues to impress in both ends of the ice.
As said earlier, the lists are dominated by players who represent teams in the top-six of Corsi For percentage. As for the notion that leading in shot attempt differential and puck possession results in wins, it’s not exactly being proven thus far in 2015-16.
Of the top five teams in possession this year, four of them have just one win or less, as of Saturday, Oct. 17. So, does possession really translate into wins? Well, that may be an experiment that needs some more trials, but it’s not looking too promising so far.
Of course, both the team and individual leaders will likely change all over the place over the course of the season. With that, the correlation between wins and possession may become increasingly strong, as opposed to the initial results.
In any case, as a fan, you should probably still hope your team can maintain a solid puck-possession rate. You wouldn’t want to watch your team be hemmed in their own zone the entire night, so not only does a strong Corsi For percentage mean your team is controlling the play, but they will also be much more exciting to watch.
Do you think puck possession translates into wins? Let us know in the comments below!
Contributor for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Prospects. Scout with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. For questions, concerns, or comments, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @SlawsonTHW.