How does Benoit Pouliot compare to his peers around the NHL?

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Benoit Pouliot is not a top-six forward” is a phrase which has some currency in its various forms in Edmonton right now. It’s wrong, but it persists because the average person doesn’t walk around with a 180-name list of top-six NHL forwards (six forwards multiplied by 30 teams).

Let’s take a look at where Pouliot would rank on such a list.

Just the Basics

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Even those people with a deep skepticism towards enhanced statistics generally recognize that points are a pretty valid indicator of offensive ability. So I used hockey-reference.com’s awesome search function and made a list of NHL forwards by points since 2012-13:

  • Points: 112
  • Rank: 140th (inside our 180-name list of first- and second-line players)
  • Notable players with similar totals: Evander Kane (114), Sean Couturier (113), Mikael Granlund (113), Ales Hemsky (111), Chris Stewart (111), Martin Hanzal (109), Justin Abdelkader (109), Chris Kreider (109)

Abdelkader is perhaps the most interesting name on that list to me, because he just signed a seven-year deal at $4.25 million/season in Detroit which kicks in next year.

Okay, but Pouliot has been a veteran player that whole time. What about people who only broke into the league since 2012-13, who have passed him? Let’s try looking at points-per-game (min. 100 games played):

  • Points-per-game: 0.52 (43 points per 82 games played)
  • Rank: 147th (inside our 180-name list of first- and second-line players)
  • Notable players with similar totals: David Perron (0.57), Brayden Schenn (0.55), Joel Ward (0.54), Troy Brouwer (0.53), Artem Anisimov (0.51), Nick Bjugstad (0.51), Reilly Smith (0.51), Drew Stafford (0.50)

Pouliot scores like a second-line player. By either points or points-per-game, he’s comfortably a second-line forward. As he ranks between No. 120 and No. 150, by league standards that makes him a No. 5 forward; he’s basically the definition of the average second-liner. Additionally, if we look at only players listed by Hockey-Reference as left wings, he ranks 48th by points-per-game, making him about average for a second line left-winger.

But there’s an additional wrinkle. For a good chunk of the time period we’re considering, Pouliot played fewer minutes than the average second-line forward. Someone like David Perron had nearly 4,500 minutes to put up his 0.57 points/game, whereas Pouliot had to settle for just over two-thirds as much ice-time. Because his ice-time was lower, points and points-per-game actually dramatically underrepresent Pouliot’s true level of ability.

Digging Deeper

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Because Pouliot hasn’t been given the same opportunities as many of the forwards on this list, a better representation of his skill level is something like points-per-hour. What happens when we do that at five-on-five? We turn to stats.hockeyanalysis.com for the answer (min. 1,000 minutes played):

  • Five-on-five points/hour: 1.92
  • Rank: 63rd (well inside our 180-name list, and even inside the 90-name list of first-line players)
  • Notable players with similar totals: Daniel Sedin (1.95), Jordan Eberle (1.94), Joe Pavelski (1.93), Gabriel Landeskog (1.91), T.J. Oshie (1.90), Marian Hossa (1.89), Jarome Iginla (1.88), James Neal (1.87)

That’s ridiculously good production, and the biggest reason why stats types actually tend to see Pouliot as a bargain at a $4.0 million annual cap hit. Of course even-strength scoring is important, but skilled forwards also typically produce on the power play. Let’s look at five-on-four (min. 100 minutes played):

  • Five-on-five points/hour: 3.47
  • Rank: 139th (inside our 180-name list of first- and second-line players)
  • Notable players with similar totals: Tyler Toffoli (3.49), Alex Tanguay (3.48), Jaromir Jagr (3.47), Brandon Saad (3.44), Andrew Ladd (3.43), Marian Gaborik (3.43)

There will be people upset about comparisons to someone like Eberle or Hossa, but these are simply facts: In an average hour of ice-time at five-on-five, Pouliot is as likely to get a point as those guys, or Daniel Sedin, or Jarome Iginla. He’s not as good on the power play, but he’s still comfortably a second-line player on the man advantage.

His teams have also tended to better when he’s on the ice. Let’s look at how his clubs have done by Fenwick% (like Corsi, but without including blocked shots) and Goals%.

  • Lightning, 2012-13: 50.7% Fenwick, 62.5% Goals (team average: 47.2% and 51.3%, respectively)
  • Rangers, 2013-14: 54.0% Fenwick, 58.7 % Goals (team average: 52.6% and 52.0%, respectively)
  • Oilers, 2014-15: 48.3% Fenwick, 50.7% Goals (team average: 47.6% and 39.9%, respectively)
  • Oilers, 2015-16: 49.5% Fenwick, 42.5% Goals (team average: 48.3% and 43.8%, respectively)

In all four seasons, Pouliot’s team has been noticeably better at out-shooting the opposition when he’s on the ice as opposed to when he’s on the bench. In every season except this one, they’ve also been dramatically better at out-scoring opponents.

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The evidence here could not be more clear. Pouliot is, conservatively, an excellent second-line player. That he’s big, fast and physical on an Oilers team which tends to lack all three of those qualities is just gravy. He’s a bargain at $4.0 million per season, and is somewhere near the bottom on any list of players that Edmonton should consider trading.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

    • Speed Junky

      What is a Fenwick?Is that a kissing cousin to Corgi?

      When statistical records or points…are in any way represented as being a tool on any level which could be used to formulate anticipatory acumen …ON ANY LEVEL…they become TAINTED MIS-REPRESENTATIVE EXCUSATORY REGRESSIVE AND POISON TO ANY PROCESS THEY COME INTO CONTACT WITH .

      Unless you congruently and accurately and functionally tie in an accurate full and complete SYSTEM BOOK on the exact Processes both your team and the opponents use when the stats are created on a game by game basis keeping in mind Coaches on both benches sometimes use multiple Systems during one game you have nothing to offer by reprinting these numbers representative of points….with clouded points of origin…lol.

      The FACT these points exist beside peoples names does not explain causality nor help support repeatability or for that matter provide any level of progressive anticipatoy evidence based value.

      You are telling us they got points and with whom they total similar numbers and with how many men on the ice …..the per minutes and hours stuff is nutty as a Blind Squirrels Outhouse Willis…jeepers man unless you can specify what PROCESS was producing the points against an equally defined opponents System for every SECOND you have zero to offer again except another layer of dupa-icing.Remember NHL Coaches sometimes use multiple Systems in the same game so you would need to be doing an epic volume of legwork to define these individual Systems and their exact times and frequencies of implementation.And IF you can accomplish this hurculean task you would then have to define exact tactical machinations of every single point producing playaction AS PER THE EXACT SYSTEM FOCUS IT WAS GENERATED WITHIN.

      Maybe Perron produces 85% of his points against the collapse defense focuses he faces all season long 44% of those points are goals catalysed by possesion drive right to the net finishing with deke and 65% of those points come from n-zone possesions he manages…..you might wish to know these things if you trade for his 60 points but run into Stand-Up “puck removal”Defense and Stand-Up N-zone support in the first round of the playoffs…lol….and he disappears.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Mmm, Pouliot physical? Now you are blowing smoke Willis.. Guys like Hopkins and Hall are more physical than him. Klink has 47 hits in only 13 games and Pouliot has 32 in 41 games…He has the same problem as Purcell, they are six foot three playing like they are five foot three. Plus his puck battle along the boards is less than desirable (please somebody, prove me wrong on this point). Another knock is that he doesn’t keep his feet moving, I see him standing around out there more often than not. Granted, I’ll concede he has a nose for the net but there is a reason why he is on his sixth team in 8 years… he lacks grit. I would like to see Kassian than Pouliot with McDavid. Even Klink or Hendricks deserves a shot McD as they has been saddled with Pylon Lander or Letestube when they are out on the ice..

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Pouliot seems to have fit with Nuge and Ebs then Yak , McDavid . When looking at our forwards it’s a player like him with his talent and size can fit on any combo . Perfect player especially if 3 scoring lines is what’s wanted . I wonder how he would fit with Leon? We talk about balance on D but balance and size on those top 3 lines would be nice .Ebs,Yak, Pak Hall, Pouliot , Kassian. That’s without Sleppeshev . With our top centres I can see some great potential for 3 attacking lines .