Tyler Dellow wrote an interesting article recently for The Athletic in lieu of 5v5 shooting percentage in terms of teams considering contracts for players that may regress. His subject centered around the impasse that Detroit and Andreas Anthanasiou are having, perhaps in part due to a 27-goal season last year fueled in large part by a sky-high 15.6% shooting percentage. Here’s a small blurb-
Accordingly, I've put together a distribution of 5-on-5 shooting percentages for forwards taking at least 500 shots since 2007-08, just to provide a sense of what we're talking about here.
As will be quickly apparent, not many guys shoot north of 12 percent. The ones that do tend to be either stars or guys who shoot as a last resort, when they can't find a pass. Alex Tanguay is responsible for the extreme, the only player to shoot more that 17 percent at 5-on-5 between 2007-17. He hated shooting. So too does Jiri Hudler, whose 15 percent shooting percentage gives him the third highest 5-on-5 shooting percentage in this window.
This concept, along with recent discussion we have had on this website lately about Bryan Rust got me to thinking about what it looks like for the Penguins.
From Natural Stat Trick, here’s a chart of the Pens forwards at 5v5 last year (minimum 200 minutes), with an extra addition of shots/game
The immediate name that jumps out is Jake Guentzel, whose rookie performance was off the charts. One he more than replicated in the playoffs scoring 11 ES goals on 48 ES shots (22.9%). With the skill he displayed - plus as Dellow points out taking a very close average shot, and getting above-average scoring chances (in quality and quantity) from Sidney Crosby - Guentzel is likely to be a high shooting player. There’s no doubt he will regress from shooting above 20% at 5v5 in a full season but his key to performing will be shots per game. Guentzel’s shots were less than Crosby and other linemate Conor Sheary. If Guentzel can shoot a Sheary-esque 2.1 per game, even if he “only” shoots 14% that sets up for 24 5v5 goals in a full season.
Pittsburgh’s next best shooters and 5v5 players, and just players in general are Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. They shoot obscenely high percentages because they have obscene talent, so both are no strangers to consistently scoring in high volume.
Sheary is behind them shooting a high, but reasonable 12.7%, considering that he plays with Crosby and is often scoring goals from in close to the net that are relatively convert-able chances for him. The more impressive number on this chart is really Sheary’s 42 5v5 points last season, one more than Malkin. Sheary missed 21 games last season but still finished t-19th in the league in total even strength points more than healthy stars like Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Alex Ovechkin and Jamie Benn. That really speaks to how great of a season he had last year on Crosby’s line.
Carter Rowney is up here near the top too, which is a very small sample and as we saw with 0 goals in 20 playoff games, this high shooting percentage will crash down to earth big time next season, which isn’t bad, just natural.
Rust checks in with 10.1%, which doesn’t standout much on a high skill team like the Pens but certainly does league-wide in Dellow’s chart as above-average. It is wise that Pittsburgh hasn’t signed Rust yet, this year will be a chance to prove he can stay in the lineup and also replicate top-9 levels of scoring. This could be an indicator that his numbers are bound for regression, so it’s good not to pay him for a hot start and playoff glory, when there are no guarantees to live up to that for the future.
Phil Kessel is next, and heaven knows every detail about him gets analyzed enough. And he’s so mercurial I’m not so certain Kessel can really be accurately explained or a future performance predicted. Kessel was great on the power play last season, and overall shot 10.0%, which was his best percentage in 3 years. Yet he only scored 23 total goals, because his total shots are down. It’s been well-covered that a frequent Mike Sullivan coaching point is encouraging Phil to shoot more. That’s smart and surely will continue.
Further down, Chris Kunitz only scored 8 5v5 goals last season on a low percentage, no surprise to any close observers as his hands have faded quickly from when he was an elite Crosby winger just a few years ago. Father Time remains undefeated. Pens and certainly Pens fans will miss Kunitz for many reasons, but shooting the puck over another season will not be one of them.
Guys like Scott Wilson and Tom Kuhnhackl don’t have a lot of skill and may not raise their totals percentages much, but they are good, hard-working players that will come about production honestly and that’s about all you need from a bottom-6 options on what already is the highest scoring team in the league.
Then there’s Patric Hornqvist and Carl Hagelin - pure volume shooters who throw a lot of junk at the goalie and score little in percentage. These vets have never shot particularly well over the years and seem to live the adage of “pucks on net” from coaching over the year. Shots can create follow-ups and o-zone faceoffs, so it’s not all bad, just is what it is that we’ve come to expect them to be frustrating players in terms of lots of shots but relatively few goals.
Hornqvist, at least, can be counted on to break double-digits at 5v5 and toss in a few more from the front of the net on the power play. Lately it has been a struggle for Hagelin to score, but a new year will present new opportunities.