NHL Edge Statistics: Through a Dallas Stars lens (Part 1)

Nov 8, 2022; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin (91) warms up before agate against the Winnipeg Jets at Canada Life Centre. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 8, 2022; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin (91) warms up before agate against the Winnipeg Jets at Canada Life Centre. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports /

The National Hockey League (NHL) released a new statistics platform called NHL Edge that offers data on the following categories: Shot Speed, Shot Location,  Skating Speed, Skating Distance, and Zone Time. This data was not previously available to the public and comes in the wake of the NHL investing more into player and puck-tracking initiatives over the past 5-ish years.

From this data, fans can learn about their favorite player’s strengths, team-relevant data, and more, including what I call “football radar” graphs since I first saw them in soccer spaces and FIFA video games. Today, we are going to take a look into the Dallas Stars’ individual player and team metrics that I found most interesting from the 2022-2023 season.

We will look at team trends, three forward profiles, and three defense profiles, and finish with a debrief on the first look at the NHL Edge platform. Once the 2023-2024 season gets farther underway, it would be great to return to a larger sample of data on this year’s team, but this article will focus on last year’s full regular season of data with some mention of 2023-2024 comparisons in an attempt to demonstrate the validity of the NHL Edge program.

NHL Edge: 2022-2023 Team Trends

Each team has an “Overview” snapshot at the top of their particular NHL Edge page. Looking at Dallas’ from last season, there are some key connectors to Dallas’ identity as a hockey team last year that is supported by this data.

First of all, Dallas was a slow team last year. This could coincide with the team being the 3rd-oldest team in the league with an average age of 28.77 last year. Compared to the 3rd-youngest Montreal Canadiens (26.00 average age), the Habs were in the 90th percentile in Top Skating Speed and 93rd percentile in Speed Bursts Over 20 mph respectively.

However, age does not define skating speed, as teams like the Anaheim Ducks, despite being the 5th-youngest team in the NHL at 26.22 average age, were below the 50th percentile in Top Skating Speed similar to Dallas last season. Furthermore, Dallas’ team skating distance was in the 96th percentile at 3807.60, so conditioning was likely not an issue.

On the shooting side last season, Dallas’ top shot speed was 101.13 mph from a Colin Miller shot on March 9th, 2023 in Buffalo in a game that Dallas won 10-4, but this category does not really speak to the team but rather roster players with shot strength (unfortunately, NHL Edge does not link events to video, so fans must imagine Colin Miller executing such a shot).

Dallas as a team, however, was in the 59th percentile for Shots on Goal (SOG) for the season, the 81st percentile for Shooting %, the 81st percentile for Goals, and the 62nd percentile for Offensive Zone Time. A possible conclusion to be taken from these numbers is that Dallas has great-quality shooters who can generally score at a more efficient rate than other teams (fewer shots but lots of goals).

For reference, the Vegas Golden Knights were in the 56th percentile for Shots on Goal last season, the 62nd percentile for Shooting %, the 59th percentile for Goals, and the 71st percentile for Offensive Zone Time (not as lethal in scoring categories, lower-quality shooters, more team-based offense).

Vegas also has quite the NHL Edge profile with a ‘well-rounded’ profile of a fast and good-skating team and won the Stanley Cup despite unimpressive but still decent shooting stats. NHL Edge profiles do not indicate playoff success, that’s for sure.

All in all, the 2022-2023 Dallas Stars performed above league average in some basic offensive production categories like Shots on Goal and Goals, even while not having the fastest-skating team last season.

Today, we will also look at three (3) forwards and three (3) defensemen from the 2022-2023 season using the NHL Edge platform. I have chosen Wyatt Johnston, Joe Pavelski, and Ty Dellandrea as three unique forward playstyles from the Stars roster.

The three defensemen I have chosen are Nils Lundkvist, Miro Heiskanen, and Ryan Suter. Links to all six NHL Edge profiles mentioned today will be available in each of their profile sections below if you want to look further into these athletes’ 2022-2023 profiles.

NHL Edge: 2022-2023 Forwards (3)

Wyatt Johnston

Wyatt Johnston plays a finesse and cerebral style of play where he attacks in spurts and doesn’t put himself out of position, while also having a good shot and good skating. Based on his 2022-2023  NHL Edge profile, he doesn’t profile well as a young superstar apart from his actual offensive production.

In 2022-2023, Johnston had an amazing rookie year with 24 goals and 17 assists for 41 points in 82 games, and this put him in the 89th percentile for Shooting % and 91st percentile for Goals in the entire NHL. Johnston reached such feats while being a “Below 50th” percentile player in Top Skating Speed, Speed Burts over 20 mph, Top Shot Speed, and Offensive Zone Time. This is pretty incredible that Johnston does not possess any ‘5-star’ tools like speed or shooting strength, but can excel as an 18-year-old rookie in the best hockey league in the world.

A profile like Johnston’s does remind fans that a player’s NHL Edge profile does not define the player completely. I am curious if Johnston did any work on his shot strength relative to his usual summer training. Shot accuracy and timing were more valuable for him than shot speed during the 24-goal rookie last season, so we could assume we are getting the same shooter that we had last year (which is great).

Joe Pavelski

Joe Pavelski is not a mobile skater but he paces himself well in high-danger situations using good body positioning and great instincts regarding engaging opposing defenders physically, where he creates space for himself and sneaks into dangerous areas where his patented tipping ability can shine.

Pavelski’s 2022-2023 NHL Edge profile matches his playstyle and production quite well. The 2022-2023 season was Joe Pavelski’s “Age 38” season, so I did not expect much from the skating metrics but was surprised to see him in the 91st percentile for Skating Distance. Pavelski’s effort to be involved in the play despite the lack of Top Skating Speed or Speed Bursts Over 20 mph (Below 50th percentile in both) shows both determination and ingenuity on the ice to be efficient with his energy.

As is evident in the production-related categories, Joe Pavelski was quite efficient, shooting in the 89th percentile for both Shots on Goal and Shooting %, the 93rd percentile for Goals, and the 71st percentile for Offensive Zone Time at Even Strength.

Keep in mind that third-party websites like NaturalStatTrick will tell us more about Offensive Zone Time at Even Strength because NHL Edge counts Offensive Zone Time as “the percentage of the time, viewable by strength, that the puck spends in each zone while the player is on the ice and the game clock is running”, metrics related to Zone Starts (what zone you start your shift in) matter in this case since the Robertson-Hintz-Pavelski line has been deployed quite favorably since its inception, with an extremely high 59.5% Offensive Zone Faceoff % at Even Strength last season (OZ relative to DZ).

Ty Dellandrea

Ty Dellandrea is a hard-nosed “all gas, no breaks” forechecker who makes good reads on the defensive side of the puck to facilitate breakouts and let puck-oriented players like Wyatt Johnston or Tyler Seguin have space to do their thing.

Dellandrea’s motor and work ethic are two of his biggest assets as a hockey player, and his 2022-2023 NHL Edge profile echoes those strengths. His skating ability seems underrated to be in the 76th percentile for Top Skating Speed and 93rd percentile for Speed Bursts Over 20 mph.

Dellandrea is seldom talked about around the NHL as a speedy or productive guy to this point in his career, and considering the low-quality ice time that he was given in Dallas’ ‘bottom six’ last year, he performed decently well in the shot categories, including being in the 59th percentile for Shots on Goal and 64th percentile for Goals.

Dellandrea was also notably in the 67th percentile for Offensive Zone Time at Even Strength, which is a testament to his hard-nosed playstyle to get pucks out quickly and facilitate positive offensive opportunities. Dellandrea’s defensive reputation will only improve upon seeing his NHL Edge profile.

The next steps for him are to get more weight behind his shots as he owns a below-average Top Shot Speed, and to continue working on his individual offensive game. Dellandrea is quite the selfless player, so I’d assume his offensive profile won’t change dramatically and the NHL Edge platform won’t reward him within its strictly offense-related categories.

NHL Edge: 2022-2023 Defense (3)

Nils Lundkvist

Nils Lundkvist in 2023-2024 is a completely different player than we saw in 2022-2023, who is uber-consistent with tape-to-tape flat-puck passes and uses his edges well while boasting the confidence and tranquility under pressure that everyone wanted to see out of the young defender.

The 2022-2023 Nils Lundkvist product we received was nervous for his roster spot, was exposed by his defensive mistakes, and could not counterattack enough on offense to offset the defensive woes, so it will be interesting to track his progress as he matures into the player that management expects he can become.

As for Nils’ 2022-2023 NHL Edge profile, he is one of the quietest and eye-test-unfriendly players to boast such great background stats. Specifically, Lundkvist was in the 75th percentile for Top Skating Speed, 65th in Speed Burts Over 20 mph, 60th for Shots on Goal despite only playing 60 games, 53rd percentile for Goals, and 61st percentile for Offensive Zone Time at Even Strength.

These are all incredible numbers for what was an unflattering season last year for the young defenseman. Keep in mind that each statistic is relative to players of the same position, meaning that Nils Lundkvist is a top ~30% skater and top ~40% shooter in most metrics among all NHL defensemen.

That is quite impressive and speaks to the raw tools that Lundkvist has. Based on what fans have seen of Lundkvist to start the 2023-2024 season, I would not be surprised if he ends the year in higher percentiles and blows everyone away. All the best to Lundkvist this season.

Miro Heiskanen

Miro Heiskanen is one of the most dominant defensemen in the National Hockey League, with his impeccable skating ability, edges, hip movement, stickhandling, and ever-improving shot, so I expected a strong NHL Edge profile out of him.

Heiskanen’s 2022-2023 NHL Edge Profile was terrific, as he was in the 70th percentile for Top Skating Speed, 80th percentile for Speed Bursts Over 20 mph, 84th percentile for Top Shot Speed, 91st percentile for Shots on Goal, 70th percentile for Goals, and 68th percentile for Offensive Zone Time at Even Strength. The praises have been sung for Heiskanen prior to this NHL Edge data being available, so this is not a surprise, but two categories stick out to me. Firstly, Heiskanen got 206 Shots on Goal in the 2022-2023 season, but only scored 11 times.

There were only 11 defensemen with over 200 Shots on Goal in 2022, with goal ranges from Erik Karlsson’s 25 goals on 209 SOG to Gustav Forsling and Noah Dobson with 13 goals on 209 and 206 SOG respectively. Miro Heiskanen worked on his shot over the summer, knowing that it was an area he could improve, and if he works on his timing and accuracy, he could have 15-20 goals along with his natural playmaking ability that will get him 50+ assists.

The NHL Edge profile here shows a specific spot where a great player can improve, so props to the data. The second area that stuck out was the distance traveled. Miro Heiskanen skated 289 miles in 79 games last year (99th percentile), which converts to an average of 3.66 miles skated per game.

That sounds other-worldly that someone could skate 3.66 miles each game on an NHL schedule of 3-4 games per week, without burning out or missing much time. This is a testament to Miro Heiskanen’s heart, both metaphorically and literally for the endurance and willingness to play heavy minutes against the top skaters night after night, which we can now quantify as skating over 3 miles every game using NHL Edge.

Ryan Suter

Ryan Suter has been Dallas Stars fans’ punching bag for a couple of seasons now, as the veteran has faltered in stressful moments such as against the Vegas Golden Knights in the Conference Finals where Dallas was just a few wins away from the 2022-2023 Stanley Cup Finals. However, Suter’s simple-minded playstyle, where he makes quick passes and lets stars like Miro Heiskanen skate all over the ice, is important to the Stars’ team.

Suter willingly waits back and allows great skaters to skate with the puck including defensemen like Miro Heiskanen who activate often. Anytime a hockey team wants to be fluid in transition and involve good-skating defensemen like Miro Heiskanen, there is a threat for odd-man counterattacks unless someone covers.

Ryan Suter is a silent but relatively successful facilitator for the Dallas Stars’ best players and provides average individual performances in the long run, where he out-did most other Dallas defensemen last year on eye-test and most analytical fronts (Esa Lindell, Nils Lundkvist, Jani Hakanpaa). While he may not be the most mobile defenseman in the National Hockey League, Dallas’ D core is worse without him quote-on-quote “eating minutes” and “playing safe”.

As for Suter’s 2022-2023 NHL Edge profile, he has one of the most unlikely NHL Edge profiles in the NHL, being in the 93rd percentile for Skating Distance (249 miles last year!) but “Below 50th” and quite close to 0 based on the graphs in Top Skating Speed and Speed Bursts Over 20 mph. Suter is also “Below 50th” in Shooting % and Goals, but is in the 64th percentile for Offensive Zone Time.

I’d argue that a lot of these metrics are because Suter was glued to Miro Heiskanen’s hip most of last season, for better or for worse. The fact that Suter did not shoot much, did not score much, but spent a good chunk of time in the OZ sounds like that of Miro Heiskanen’s partner, where Miro takes charge offensively and Ryan Suter is a selfless facilitator of play.

I look forward to seeing what Ryan Suter can do at 38 years of age this year playing as a “minute-muncher” for another full season. I wonder if he can do another 250 miles of skating on the top pair of an NHL team alongside Miro Heiskanen. It might not be a sustainable method of deployment for the veteran all season long. Time will tell.

NHL Edge Debrief

The NHL Edge platform is exciting for many who want to learn more about their favorite players and teams as well as experience more advanced public data than ever before. However, the software itself leaves a lot of questions for attentive viewers including the presence of “so what?” throughout my digging. I have four suggestions for the software to provide more meaningful information and opportunities for avid fans to connect with the advanced statistics software:

1. “Per 60” numbers

As you work through the NHL Edge site, you’ll find most players have totals like Shots on Goal, Goals, and more. In reflection, someone like Nils Lundkvist who only played 60 NHL games last year does not seem to have the same NHL Edge value as someone who was able to play all 82 games. “Per 60” numbers are great because they divide any statistic by 60 (the assumed length of a hockey game), to get a consistent number for every athlete no matter how many NHL games they actually played in a year.

This allows for better comparables and percentiles that can accurately show us the best and worst players on NHL Edge. If Nils Lundkvist played 20 more games and was able to shoot and score more, he would move up the defenseman percentiles simply because of opportunity rather than efficiency or quality of player.

Furthermore, any injured players would fall down the rankings but it would not be their fault, so I wonder if there is a way to have all of the statistics toggle between “Per 60” and the raw numbers themselves for both perspectives. Skating distance per 60 is shown, but it is one of the few stats that doesn’t matter for “per 60” figures since no one will play 60 minutes in a game so we can’t conceptualize what a good or bad “miles skated per 60” is (per game would have been better in this case.

2. A customizable graph

In each player’s overview, there are assigned stats that make up each player’s “football radar” graph including Goals, Top Skating Speed, and more.  It would be great if we could customize this graph to be able to decide ourselves which stats are most meaningful in a “radar”. For example, Thomas Harley played 6 games last year for Dallas, which makes his graph unusable without “per 60” or “per game” figures.

Also, Mason Marchment’s season was not accurately depicted by the graph, with total shots on goal being a pillar to that graph and making his radar larger since he took so many shots. Mason Marchment also only had 12 goals and was an underwhelming playmaker and skater, so I am curious if any passing data, skating data like distance per game, or even transition data could be selectable options to enhance the NHL Edge experience and give us fans more relevant insights.

3. Zone Time solutions

Zone Time is a cool indicator for something, and I’m not sure what that something is. If you’re a defenseman who plays a lot of minutes like Miro Heiskanen on a good team like Dallas, it may be the case that your Offensive Zone Time % is higher than defensemen on worse teams, but the percentages are split between Offensive Zone, Neutral Zone, and Defensive Zone and the puck is not entirely in one player’s control the whole game, so you don’t really get conclusive evidence to make any actionable decision or adjustment to help a player or team out (which is usually the purpose of building all these stat tools).

NaturalStatTrick does a fantastic job at providing game, player, line, pairing, and other tools in tables and visual formats while demonstrating information like Zone Starts rather than Zone Time percentage which gives us more context as I described above. I’d suggest to NHL Edge that they remove neutral zone stats as well because whether the neutral zone percentage is high for a player or not is not a critical insight and doesn’t mean anything to me as a fan or analyst.

The neutral zone is 50 feet long and all players, whether on good teams or bad teams, spend the least amount of time in that zone out of all three zones, because teams want to score goals in each other’s zones. Neutral zone stats that do matter to analysts like myself include Zone Entry and Zone Exit data, passing lanes, skating lanes, and other fun tactical ideas, but not how much time was spent near the center ice when my player was on the ice. The stakes are higher in other zones.

4. Difficult-to-Gauge Value

The metrics for “Goals” and “Offensive Zone Time” aren’t terribly interesting to me as an analyst, because we cannot weigh them against other metrics directly in the NHL Edge program. On third-party websites like moneypuck.com or naturalstattrick.com, we can find advanced metrics that symbolize goal-scoring, production, and more. If you look farther down Dallas’ team page, the “Zone Time” section helps us understand a bit more about zone time with darker or lighter shading if the percentile is below or above the league average.

However, each time I look at this NHL Edge page, I want the answer to the “so what?” question. As an analyst, we need a reason to trust and utilize these metrics. From the Zone Time information on NHL Edge, we are unable to easily compare team-to-team zone time percentages, understand Offensive Zone Time compared to Offensive Zone Starts (faceoffs), or analyze zone time relative to stats like entries/transition play.

These are examples of important pieces of context that can help us understand a hockey team’s profile. In general, if the Offensive Zone percentage is higher than the Defensive Zone percentage, we could infer that a team is good, but this is a shallow conclusion, especially when we include Neutral Zone percentages in our calculations, which have little impact on strategy or insights (Dallas was in the 99th percentile of Neutral Zone Time spent at Even Strength, do we care?).

NHL Edge: Conclusion

Overall, if you have a strong NHL Edge profile, this does not mean you’re the best player in the NHL. Boasting a strong NHL-Edge profile implies that you have excellent tools such as top-tier skating and shooting abilities, but the site does not encompass all that goes into great hockey players, whether that be intangibles or crucial statistics not available in that platform (e.g. passing data, transition data, etc.).

Regardless, this tool is a fair research mechanism for sports fans to learn more about the data being used in pro hockey and be able to take home some interesting, but evidently difficult-to-gauge, insights.