Today I decided to take a deeper look at an advanced statistic, primary assists, to see if I could determine whether there are any/many players out there who consistently generate primary assists or others who have a high percentage of secondary assists. A primary assist is generally what sets up a goal, therefore, the theory is that primary assists are more indicative of true play making skill. Under this assumption, players with more primary assists or a higher percentage of primary assists are more likely to sustain their point production through assists.
First lets take a look at the leaders (top-100) in primary assists.
|11||PAVELSKI, JOE||San Jose||46||16||24||17||71%|
|12||STEPAN, DEREK||NY Rangers||46||12||24||17||71%|
|16||MCDONAGH, RYAN||NY Rangers||45||2||26||16||62%|
|18||FILPPULA, VALTTERI||Tampa Bay||45||7||22||16||73%|
|20||HEDMAN, VICTOR||Tampa Bay||44||7||31||16||52%|
|24||BURNS, BRENT||San Jose||46||19||27||15||56%|
|26||ZUCCARELLO, MATS||NY Rangers||46||8||28||15||54%|
|29||KUCHEROV, NIKITA||Tampa Bay||40||17||25||15||60%|
|32||STEEN, ALEXANDER||St. Louis||40||8||22||14||64%|
|34||BAILEY, JOSH||NY Islanders||43||6||23||14||61%|
|38||TARASENKO, VLADIMIR||St. Louis||46||20||25||14||56%|
|56||HALL, TAYLOR||New Jersey||36||11||18||12||67%|
|58||HAYES, KEVIN||NY Rangers||46||13||22||12||55%|
|60||FABBRI, ROBBY||St. Louis||45||11||17||12||71%|
|66||CARTER, JEFF||Los Angeles||45||23||17||12||71%|
|71||MILLER, J.T.||NY Rangers||46||15||18||12||67%|
|72||STASTNY, PAUL||St. Louis||45||11||15||12||80%|
|74||THORNTON, JOE||San Jose||46||3||25||12||48%|
|86||KOPITAR, ANZE||Los Angeles||39||4||20||11||55%|
|90||PALMIERI, KYLE||New Jersey||44||10||17||11||65%|
|92||ZAJAC, TRAVIS||New Jersey||45||9||19||11||58%|
|94||PARAYKO, COLTON||St. Louis||46||2||19||10||53%|
|96||KREIDER, CHRIS||NY Rangers||40||18||16||10||63%|
|97||CIZIKAS, CASEY||NY Islanders||37||4||13||10||77%|
|98||HENRIQUE, ADAM||New Jersey||46||11||13||10||77%|
|99||COUTURE, LOGAN||San Jose||45||15||13||10||77%|
Some notables and surprises include the following:
#4 Mikael Granlund – Granlund is tied for 16th in total assists but has the 4th highest number of primary assists. He’s only 69% owned despite this stat, 37 points on the season, and a +23 rating. Looks like a very strong and sustainable playmaker based on these stats.
#10 Alex Radulov – Not the biggest surprise in the world given he spends a lot of time on the powerplay in a shooting and passing position, but a surprise nonetheless compared to unknown expectations for the Russian forward before the season had even started. Keep riding the Montreal sniper/playmaker.
#17 Sam Reinhart – Of his 20 assists on the year, 16 are primary helpers. This 80% rate shows the Sabres’ youngster is a reliable playmaker who has been unlucky to only receive 4 secondary assists so far on the year. Buffalo is an up-and-coming team with tons of young talent. Therefore, there should only be room for improvement here this season and in years to come. Keeper league managers be aware, Reinhart is only 32% owned but has the potential to deserve higher ownership when Buffalo matures just a little bit more and becomes a more potent offensive team.
#27 Nino Niederreiter – The Minnesota theme continues. Among NHL players with 10 or more assists so far in 2016-2017, Niederreiter has an 88% primary assist rate, good for 3rd highest in this defined grouping. He has 15 primary helpers on 17 total assists. He only plays about 15 minutes per game but he plays those minutes on the first line with Coyle and Staal and also sees time on the second powerplay unit. He is 36% owned and appears to be more of a playmaker and thus valued fantasy asset than his reputation holds. Did I mention he has 14 goals on the year too, and a +18 rating?
#34 Josh Bailey – Bailey is quietly having a very strong season with 23 assists so far, good for a tie for 33rd in the NHL. He plays alongside two scorers in Anders Lee and John Tavares which is a favourable advantage. Unfortunately he only has 6 goals on 93 shots, but his 18:57 of average time on ice indicates the Isles forward has plenty of opportunity to get on the score sheet on a nightly basis. Surprisingly, he’s only 8% owned and should deserve a little more love for his strong playmaking this year despite a disappointing year for the team. If the Islanders turn things around, things could get even better for Bailey owners.
#51 Elias Lindholm – 13th assists on the year and they are all primary assists? I can’t believe that this isn’t a mistake. The Hurricanes have known for a couple of years that their 5th overall pick in 2013 had a high ceiling of potential. As Carolina continues to mature and improve, Lindholm should see a boost in assist totals as his linemates become more adept scorers. Keep an eye on the 22 year old.
#53 Erik Karlsson and #55 Alex Wennberg – These two rank 5th and 6th across the entire NHL in total assists but are significantly lower on the primary assists list. The quick explanation for this is the fact that these two players are quarterbacks on the powerplay and in general spend way more time with the puck on their stick (especially in the offensive zone) than other players on their team. As a result, assists of all types pile up. We know that Karlsson is always dependable for piling on the points – only time will tell if Wennberg’s production is sustainable at such a high rate (0.64 assists per game).
#107 Mark Scheifele – Winnipeg’s top offensive player didn’t make the top 100 list because he only has 9 primary assists on a total of 23 helpers. This puts him at a first assist percentage of 39% which is the lowest among the top-50 assist leaders in the NHL. He also has 20 goals on just 96 shots for a unsustainably high shooting percentage of 21%. If you believe in mean-reversion, it appears as though Scheifele’s production is not sustainable. Perhaps owners can consider selling high here (he’s still undeniably talented, it’s just a question of whether he can keep producing at the rate he has generated points so far this season)?
#113 Rick Nash – Seriously? The renowned goal scorer, Rick Nash, has 90% primary assists on the year? He has missed around 10 games due to injury but has 10 assists in 34 games played, 9 of which are primary helpers. A healthy second half of the season and a little bit of luck could lead to greater production of assists from the big Ranger.
#343 Kevin Shattenkirk – On the same mindset as Scheifele, I noted that Shattenkirk’s first assist percentage is only 19%. He has 21 assists on the year, but only 4 of them are primary helpers. He is an offensive defenseman and plays good minutes on the powerplay as the Blues’ 1st unit quarterback, and will therefore continue getting assists of all types when Tarasenko buries PPGs, but perhaps he’s getting a little lucky this year. This luck could dry up and leave Shattenkirk owners disappointed as the season ages. In fact, only two players with 10 or more assists on the year have a lower first assist percentage (Paul Martin at 15% with 2 primary assists vs. 13 total and Mark Streit at 18% with 2 primary assists vs. 11 total).