In recent years there seems to be an attack on “second assists,” as if they are somehow they are less valuable than first assists. I don’t get it, because no two assists are alike, whether they are the first or second. Sometimes the second assist was more important than the first.
Last season Tyson Barrie led NHL D-men in second assists with 27. He was 18th in first assists, but a small percentage of people claimed many of the second assists were meaningless assists and he was padding his stats with second assists. He led D-men with 48 points. Adam Fox was second with 47 points and he had the second most second assists. In 2020 John Carlsson led D-men in points, and he had the most second assists. Roman Josi was second in points and third in second assists. In 2019 Brent Burns led D-men in points and he was third in second assists, while Mark Giordano was second in points and first in second assists. I sense a trend. But I digress.
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While I don’t agree with the general statement “Second assists are less important,” I do recognize that in some cases, especially for D-men, some assists can be rather simple. Make a five to ten foot pass out of your zone, and then watch the forwards score on the rush. It will happen, especially if your forwards are named Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, David Pastrnak, Alex Barkov, Auston Matthews and others.
I wanted to look at a larger sample size to see if certain D-men are more prone to second assists. I looked at the last six NHL seasons. I choose six, because NaturalStatTrick works in a maximum of three-year intervals. It made for quicker calculation, plus six years is a pretty good sample size.
Here are the top-30 scoring D-men in 5×5 points over the past six seasons.
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Players
GP
Goals
Total Asst
1st Asst
2nd Asst
Points
454
59
133
79
54
192
391
37
137
68
69
174
427
38
127
75
52
165
411
45
119
65
54
164
424
48
99
58
41
147
424
39
107
61
46
146
429
54
92
45
47
146
413
24
113
58
55
137
413
39
98
49
49
137
418
32
104
54
50
136
439
36
97
44
53
133
448
35
97
50
47
132
372
35
97
40
57
132
441
27
101
49
52
128
449
22
105
51
54
127
424
30
95
40
55
125
360
32
91
45
46
123
421
28
93
48
45
121
444
22
97
42
55
119
453
17
100
51
49
117
429
20
96
41
55
116
412
38
77
37
40
115
412
37
78
36
42
115
404
37
78
32
46
115
414
19
95
47
48
114
426
16
96
36
60
112
421
32
79
41
38
111
391
31
80
48
32
111
429
29
80
41
39
109
424
15
94
36
58
109
Brent Burns was an offensive machine.
Barrie was sixth in total assists and sixth in points and he was fifth in first assists. Barrie had 57% of his assists as first assists. Brent Burns, Viktor Hedman and Roman Josi had 59%. PK Subban actually had the highest (60%), but he was 26th in total assists. Over six seasons Barrie has not relied heavily on second assists.
Next I wanted to look at total points and see if that altered things.
Players
GP
Goals
Total Assts
1st Asst
2nd Asst
Points
454
103
272
152
120
375
424
75
261
149
112
336
411
70
263
151
112
333
391
59
263
136
127
322
427
79
238
137
101
317
372
68
229
112
117
297
424
61
229
124
105
290
414
43
245
138
107
288
413
54
233
115
118
287
453
35
243
139
104
278
451
59
209
102
107
268
439
77
187
77
110
264
429
84
174
85
89
258
449
41
215
98
117
256
413
72
183
89
94
255
418
49
200
95
105
249
429
73
161
76
85
234
421
51
183
90
93
234
430
36
185
97
88
221
379
60
159
69
90
219
391
53
165
88
77
218
421
61
153
82
71
214
426
30
180
70
110
210
440
35
171
88
83
206
412
63
141
66
75
204
396
44
156
85
71
200
360
55
144
79
65
199
424
44
153
66
87
197
353
78
119
54
65
197
412
70
125
54
71
195
Not much changed. The top players saw their first assist percentage drop a few percentage points, although John Carlson’s did jump from 54% at 5×5 to 57% overall. Six D-men who were in the top-30 in 5×5 points dropped out of the top-30 overall, mainly because they didn’t play much on the powerplay. Dmitri Orlov, Mattias Ekholm, Alex Goligoski, Jaccob Slavin, Darnell Nurse and TJ Brodie dropped out, while Drew Doughty, Rasmus Ristolainen, Shayne Ghostisbehere, Nick Leddy, Kevin Shattenkirk and Shea Weber cracked the top 30.
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Barrie’s first assist percentage dropped from 57% at 5×5 to 54% overall. This was similar to drops of a few percentage points for many D-men, but he was still one of a small group that was 54% or higher.
It is accurate to say Barrie did have more second assists last season, and I could see that continuing this season because of the forwards he plays with. But historically that hasn’t been the case. He’s actually been near the top in first assist% for much of his career.
As Barrie ages, combined with the fact he plays with two of the NHL’s most productive forwards off the rush, it isn’t surprising to me he will have more second assists than first assists. I think last year’s split of 5-13 (first/second assists at 5×5) was a bit of an outlier. I could see that split dropping from 27%-73% (1st-2nd) to likely around 45-55% this season.
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Only four D-men had double digit first assists at 5×5 last year. Thomas Chabot had 14, Justin Schultz had 12, Brett Pesce and Ty Smith each had 10. If Barrie had two or three more first assists he’d have been ranked between 10-25th.
I wouldn’t get too caught up in trying to downplay second assists, or disparaging players because they have them. The tables above show how even the most offensively prolific D-men usually hover around a 50-50 split in first to second assists overall with some of the top D-men ranging between 55-59%.
Barrie did have 13 first assist in 56 games last season. Here are the Oilers’ leading D-men in first assists and points since McDavid arrived.
2016: Andrej Sekera had 13 first assists and 30 points in 81 games.
2017: Oscar Klefbom had 15 first assists and 38 points in 82 games.
2018: Nurse had eight first assists and 26 points in 82 games.
2019: Nurse had 12 first assists and 41 points in 82 games.
2020: Nurse with 12 first assists and 33 points in 71 games.
2021: Barrie had 13 first assist and 48 points in 56 games. Prorates to 19 first assists and 70 points in 82 games.
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Barrie is not elite defensively, but he’s among the NHL’s elite offensive defenceman.
If he produces 60+ points this season then Edmonton likely will have a solid regular season.

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