How Many Points Should A First Line Forward Record?

The answer that my initial instinct suggests on the question above is 82. If a player isn’t putting up a point-per-game, he’s probably not a first line forward. Fortunately, we have better resources at our disposal than my gut instinct.

Here is the total number of players from the four seasons since the lockout to put up 82 points or better:

  • 2008-09: 15
  • 2007-08: 17
  • 2006-07: 24
  • 2005-06: 23

Simple math tells us that there are 90 first-line forwards in the NHL (30 X 3). Let’s consider two numbers from each of the past four seasons – the midpoint of those ninety (the points total of the 45th ranked player) and the cutoff point (the points total of the 90th ranked player):

  • 2008-09: Midpoint – 66, Cutoff – 51
  • 2007-08: Midpoint – 65, Cutoff – 51
  • 2006-07: Midpoint – 69, Cutoff – 55
  • 2005-06: Midpoint – 71, Cutoff – 56

Basically, what we can see, looking at that list, is that a 51-point scorer is a first-line player, and the median first-liner scores about 65-70 points. Still, there’s another point worth making, a point illustrated nicely by this chart:


The line isn’t straight; in other words, the guys at the upper end of that scale (the top twenty, say) are a lot harder to find than the next group down (say 20-40) and the difference in performance is quite a bit. In short: it pays to add a marquee player every once in a while, because he’ll do a lot more with the ice-time than a middle of the pack first-liner. The difference is quite a bit more pronounced than the difference between a middle of the pack guy and an end of the pack guy.

And that’s one of the big reasons I’ve supported the attempts to bring in Dany Heatley: he’s a high-end guy, a “difference maker”. These guys aren’t easy to find, and whatever their warts they’re generally worth having.

  • Hippy

    @ Ogden Brother:
    This is probably why he hasn't been moved yet. Add that he plays half decent defesnively and they he should glimpses of faceoff skills, and I think you could see why he hasn't be moved for a jock strap yet.

  • Hippy

    Good analysis. My "gut" said a ppg should be the standard too. Wow, 65 pts as the mid-point for first liners. Who would have thought that?

    It kind of shuts up the argument of Horcoff not being a first line center.

    It's amazing what a little data will do. 🙂

  • Hippy

    @ Traktor:

    Heatley or Horcoff?

    If Heatley, than yes. I'm a fan of the trade, and although I don't disagree with Tambellini's decision to distance himself from the player, if in September Heatley says "I'll play in Edmonton" I think they take him.

    If Horcoff, not so much. He just happened to be a familiar example of what I'm talking about. If this were a Flames article, I would have used Langkow; if it were a Canucks article Kesler/Burrows, etc.

    I've got my opinion on Horcoff, and I know everyone else does too. I think I'm right, and I think many undervalue him, but this particular argument gets played over and over and I don't especially want to repeat it any time soon.

  • Hippy

    @ BK:
    BK wrote:

    $29,824 Cogliano
    $39,634 Gagner
    $41,250 Pouliot
    $62,161 Hemsky
    $63,636 Sotrtini
    $68,023 O’Sullivan
    $68,965 Nillson
    $76,923 Moreau
    $77,000 Strudwick(D)
    $80,769 Grebeshkov (D)
    $88,888 Gilbert (D)
    $101,886 Souray (D)
    $103,773 Horcoff
    $114,864 Penner
    $166,666 Pisani
    $192,857 Staios (D)
    $180,645 Visnovsky (D)

    Compaing the Oil to the Oil, or the best of a bad lot is a bit narrow. Interesting to see how this comparison would look of those top 90.

  • Hippy

    @ Ogden Brother:

    This is definately an interesting stat, but I don't think it's completely fair. This doesn't take into account several things namely average time on the ice. You'd expect a player who is on 20 min a game to have more points than a player like Pouliot who on a little over 10 min a game.

    Also this doesn't take into account injuries which is why Pisani and Vishnovsky are so far down the list.

    To fix this I present calculating the number of pointer per minute of ice time a player plays multiplied by their cost per minute to see how effective they are when they are on the compared to how much their time costs on the ice. The lower the value the more cost effective the points are.

    I just did a couple players for last season and I have some surprising stats to present.


    Price Per Minute: 7812.5
    Points Per Minute: 0.031235266383781235266383781235266
    Cost Effectiveness Rating: 250117.92452830188679245283019081


    Price Per Minute: 1158.8706278971765697429414243574
    Points Per Minute: 0.027605244996549344375431331953071
    Cost Effectiveness Rating: 41980.08849557522123893805309744

    The surprising thing is Horcoff is not much better than Pouliot at scoring points when he is on the ice as can be seen by his points per min stat above. Another thing to note here is Horcoff had 8 power play goals which actually gives him an advantage in this category. The stat above basically shows it costs the Oilers around 6 times as much money to get a point out of Horcoff as it does to get a point out of Pouliot.

    Another stat on this calculation is to remedy Vishnovskys value because I think he is the best defender we have and he is not cheap. Keep in mind this calculation is gonna be compared against Horcoff a first line center. Defense value is not strictly marked on their point totals so this is not exactly fair.

    Price Per Minute: 4869.5652173913043478260869565217
    Points Per Minute: 0.026956521739130434782608695652174
    Cost Effectiveness Rating: 180645.16129032258064516129032372

    I thought this would be an interesting way to rate players' value and their production totals.


  • Hippy

    @ Jonathan Willis:

    25 goals is a pretty arbitrary number. But to me if they don't break that number, its time to look for a new replacement.

    You bring up names such as Malone, Umberger and Nolan, and they are low end first liners if you play them with Hemsky. But sadly, any one of them would be the best option to be the Oilers first line LW.

  • Hippy

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    I don’t think that points alone are a fair measure, but points is the measure that most people use. They’re certainly the measure used to beat a player like Shawn Horcoff or Daymond Langkow.
    Basically, I was trying to show what the reasonable expectation for a first-line forward is; roughly 65 points, rather than 82.

    Understood. Thanks for the explanation.