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Who's Hot? Who's Not?

When discussing the hottest shooters in the NHL, your initial reaction is to check the shooting percentage rankings, and rattle off your favorites near the top of that list. Some favor the hard shooters with 100-mph slappers, or those with wickedly quick wrist shots, but invariably, the shooting percentage stat provides the jumping off point for any such conversation.

What we miss, however, in this kind of review is the difference between a defenseman who typically takes long-distance slapshots, and power forwards who tend to get more tip-ins, and other close-range scoring opportunities. The tool we use to take this into consideration is Shot Quality, which assigns a value to each shot based on its distance and shot type (wrist, slap, tip-in, etc.). Last season, for example, 9.88% of shots scored, but if you looked only at wrist shots from 11-20 feet, those scored at a 18% clip, and slapshots from 41-50 feet scored 5.3% of the time. Therefore, if you had a player who took nothing but close-in shots, you'd naturally expect them to have a higher shooting percentage than a defenseman winding up from the point. By definition, a perfectly average NHL shooter would expect to have a Shooting Percentage equal to their average Shot Quality.

The tables below list the hottest and coldest shooters in the NHL so far this year, by breaking down their actual performance, and comparing that to the average Shot Quality. The result is a "Shooting Factor", which states the relationship between those two values. A Shooting Factor of 2.00, for example, reflects a player whose Shooting Percentage is twice that of their average Shot Quality. A factor of 0.50 shows a player only scoring half as often as Shot Quality would predict. So who's lighting up the lamp, and who's just plunking pucks off the goalie? Let's take a look...

Top 10 Hot-Shooting Forwards
PlayerTeamShotsGoalsSht %Avg SQShooting Factor
Alexander RadulovNSH4011.275.1022.71
Tuomo RuutuCHI4510.222.1002.23
Petr SykoraEDM9515.158.0752.12
Jarret StollEDM7811.141.0672.10
Jeff HamiltonCHI5810.172.0871.99
Matt PettingerWSH5410.185.0981.89
Curtis BrownSJS376.162.0861.88
Kristian HuseliusCGY5712.211.1161.82
Maxim AfinogenovBUF9118.198.1091.81
Jason SpezzaOTT8619.221.1251.77

Nashville's rookie on the rise, Alexander Radulov, is far ahead of the pack here, trailed by two players each from Edmonton and Chicago. Radulov began the season in the AHL and only recently earned a full-time job with the Predators, so expect his shot totals to accumulate quickly in the weeks ahead. Whether he can keep up the torrid scoring pace is another question, however.

Top 10 Hot-Shooting Defensemen
PlayerTeamShotsGoalsSht %Avg SQShooting Factor
Philippe BoucherDAL10612.113.0442.55
Sheldon SourayMTL10912.110.0442.48
Brad StuartBOS446.136.0562.45
Hal GillTOR393.077.0322.37
Lubomir VisnovskyLAK9511.116.0562.07
Brian CampbellBUF435.116.0582.01
Nicklas LidstromDET879.103.0531.95
Sergei ZubovDAL827.085.0451.88
Sami SaloVAN686.088.0481.85
Filip KubaTAM576.105.0581.83

You may ask why, given our wonderful Shot Quality tool, I'd keep the forwards and defensemen in different tables. Basically, the goal scoring is so low among blueliners that a lucky bounce or two at this stage (not quite halfway through the season) can still wildly skew the numbers. For instance, I'd hesitate to call Hal Gill a super-hot shooter when he only has 3 goals. If just one of those was due to such a lucky bounce and not Gill's ability, his Shooting Factor would drop to around 1.6 and he wouldn't be on this list. But in the interim, we do see a number of recognizable snipers like Nick Lidstrom and Sergei Zubov represented, along with Philippe Boucher, who is enjoying a career season here in his 14th year.

Now that we've looked at who's lighting the lamp, how about those shooters who are hitting nothing but goaltenders? Let's dig our way down to the bottom of the barrell...

Bottom 5 Cold-Shooting Forwards
PlayerTeamShotsGoalsSht %Avg SQShooting Factor
Alex BurrowsVAN400.000.1050.00
Mike RichardsPHI691.014.1180.12
Ian LaperriereCOL621.016.1280.13
Josh GreenVAN521.019.1220.16
Dallas DrakeSTL431.023.1130.21

No wonder Vancouver has had such struggles offensively, with 2 forwards on the leader board here.

Bottom 7 Cold-Shooting Defensemen
PlayerTeamShotsGoalsSht %Avg SQShooting Factor
Martin SkoulaMIN400.000.0340.00
Paul MartinNJD360.000.0390.00
Stephane RobidasDAL520.000.0420.00
Duncan KeithCHI540.000.0500.00
Scott HannanSJS410.000.0530.00
Kevin DallmanLAK400.000.0680.00
Joni PitkanenPHI670.000.0740.00

Seven defenseman are included above, as they are tied with perfect shutouts so far this year. That Dallas blue line seems like a real hit-or-miss bunch, with Zubov and Boucher among the leaders, and Robidas shooting blanks. If you had to pick a particularly cold shooter here, it has to be Joni Pitkanen, who not only has the most shots among our goal-less wonders, but has the highest average Shot Quality as well, meaning he's taking, on average, the most dangerous shots amongst them.

Note: The numbers here reflect non-empty net shots, taken from the top 400 NHL players ranked by shots taken.

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