NHL Point Projections a Quarter of the Way in the Season
Now that every NHL team has played at least 20 games and we have made it past the important American Thanksgiving benchmark, I believe it is a good time to reevaluate our season point projections and see how teams are performing relative to my expectations. These projections are done using just about the same process as I did at season’s beginning. This time, the current season performance was weighed 50%, last season 30%, and the 2016 season 20%. The projected points after simulation were prorated for the remaining games and added to whatever the team has already accumulated. Buffalo is the biggest beneficiary of this process as my model projects them around an 89-point pace for the rest of the season. However, their “banked” points are what puts them in the playoffs in this model. Without further ado, here are the point projections. I have also included what I had originally projected and shown the point difference. After the point projections, I will provide a little commentary on some of the teams to stick out in these projections.
Teams I Think the Model is High On
There are always going to be instances where a team does things a model likes extremely well, and their shortcomings might not be properly captured. Here that team is the Carolina Hurricanes. I think the Hurricanes will make the playoffs. I do not think they will win their division and tie Tampa Bay for the President’s Trophy. Why does my model like them so much? It’s because they control the shot share during 5 on 5 play. The Hurricanes’ two biggest deficiencies this problem have been their shooting % and their goaltending, are not accounted for in my model. The model works off the assumption that all teams will have similar “luck.” If Carolina continues their 5v5 play and start to score at a more normal rate and get average goaltending, they could live up to what my model output is. However, it is unlikely and if I was taking bets as these projections as my current lines, I would encourage everyone to bet the under.
The other team my model is still surprisingly high on is the Chicago Blackhawks. In addition to what I have detailed above, the model also does not take into account the regression of players as they age. The model still thinks players like Duncan Keith can perform at the same level as they did a few seasons ago when the Blackhawks won their division. Like the Hurricanes, I would take the under for the Blackhawks but wouldn’t be quite as confident.
Team I Think the Model is Low On
The team my model dislikes the most who I think will finish better than shown are the Anaheim Ducks. Much like Carolina isn’t being penalized for their goaltending, the model isn’t giving Anaheim enough credit for having two of the best goalies in the league right now. Anaheim has also started playing a little better as of late. I think they will be in the playoff race until the end. I’m not confident saying they will make the playoffs but they will be in the hunt. I see them likely finishing around 88 points. They certainly won’t finish last in the Western Conference.
Teams that Fans Will Think the Model is too Low On
If a lot of Maple Leaf fans and Capital fans read this, my mentions could be lit on fire. However, I am ok with what the model has output. The Maple Leafs have been tremendous early on this season. However, they haven’t played Tampa Bay or Buffalo yet and their only game against Boston (as of this writing) was a 5-1 loss. Could Toronto meet or exceed my model’s expectations? Absolutely. I wouldn’t be shocked to see it but they haven’t played many of the league’s top teams yet and have been carried to a few wins on the back of Freddie Andersen, who is unlikely to maintain his level of play for the entirety of the season. As for the Capitals, they could benefit from playing in a weak division. The model wasn’t overly high on the team going into the season and still isn’t. Their goaltending has been average at best and injuries have plagued them early in the season. Boston and Dallas could fall into the same category as Washington.
Team that Fans Will Think the Model is too High On
If Maple Leaf fans don’t light up my mentions based on their team, I think it will because of how high I have Montreal. Montreal has been one of the teams that has impressed me this season. I was not high on them this season and thought they would especially struggle without Shea Weber but could overcome that with some elite goaltending from Carey Price. The exact opposite has happened, and they still have maintained a pretty good point pace to through the first quarter of the season. If Shea Weber can provide the level of play expected from him and Price can consistently play well, the Canadiens will certainly be in the playoff conversation until the end. On the flip side, it might be a lot to ask the team’s younger players to maintain their high level of play for the entirety of the season. Weber might take a while to reach a high level of play (if he does so at all). Price hasn’t shown he is worth $10.5M per year and maybe he never will.
All stats were courtesy of naturalstattrick.com.
KYLE STICH is the Director of AFP Analytics. In addition, Mr. Stich is a tax specialist and Director of Operations at AFP Consulting LLC, whose clientele include professional athletes performing services on three separate continents. Mr. Stich earned his Master of Science in Sport Management with a Concentration in Sport Analytics from Columbia University in 2017. He earned his undergraduate degrees in Accounting and Sport Management from St. John Fisher College in 2015, where he has served as an adjunct professor teaching Sport Finance and Baseball Analytics.