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NHL EDGE makes new puck and player data available

Nov 10, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski (8) skates with the puck against the Philadelphia Flyers in the first period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gaelen Morse-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, the NHL announced a new feature on their website now available to all fans: NHL EDGE. There are videos on the home page explaining the system and describing the data collected. The gist is that, beginning in the 2021-22 season, all arenas were equipped with a series of cameras that could track sensors embedded in the puck and in tags on the players’ jerseys. This has provided teams with a treasure trove of data about how players move and what they do with the puck, with pinpoint accuracy.

There is way more data that is still provided exclusively to the teams, but it’s great that this much information is available to fans now, for free. My quibble is that I wish the data was more easily searchable, sortable, and filterable, as the traditional stats and shot attempt stats are on the NHL’s stats page.

Based on what they have, let’s look at a few tools and what it can tell us about the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Goalie Comparison

It feels like Elvis Merzlikins has been better this season, but what has changed? We can use the Goalie Comparison page to look at Elvis from this season and last. Even though this doesn’t include data from Thursday’s game in Montreal — arguably Elvis’s best of the year — we can see that Elvis’s improvement has come…well, it’s better in every way. The biggest leap is his high danger save percentage. It was among the worst in the league last season, but now in a handful of starts, Elvis is almost in the top quartile. He’s at least average in every other category except for mid-range save percentage.

He even looks happier in this season’s picture!

The page also shows information about shots faced and saves made from different areas of the attacking zone. This provides a clear picture of how the defensive play in front of Elvis has changed. Last year was actually pretty average in terms of shots allowed from each zone. This year so far, some areas are seeing more shots than average but those are lower danger areas. Last year saw mid to long range on Elvis’s stick side as the area seeing more shots on goal. That’s also the side of the ice where Andrew Peeke and Erik Gudbranson played. Coincidence?

Skater Comparison

While I used the goalie tool to compare a player to himself, you can also compare two different players. I used the skater comparison to compare different Blue Jackets from different seasons. In summer 2022, the team signed Johnny Gaudreau and traded away Oliver Bjorkstrand. What impact did this have on the ice? I looked at 2021-22 Bjorkstrand vs. 2022-23 Gaudreau. They both played 80 games, with Bjorkstrand scoring more goals and Gaudreau having more assists. The chart is way more similar than I expected, but the one major difference isn’t a surprise: Gaudreau’s top skating speed is elite, whereas Bjorkstrand’s was merely average.

You can see which one is the lefty and which is the righty, but you can also see that Gaudreau got around the ice more (his distance skated stats reflect this as well), and produced more from around and behind the net.

Team Stats

We can compare this season’s Blue Jackets to last season’s. It’s no surprise, given the better start, that the percentiles for this season are better. Three things stand out, however:

  1. We’re just as bad as last year at offensive zone time.
  2. The top shot speed is down. We miss Patrik Laine and Yegor Chinakhov, clearly.
  3. The top skating speed is in the 93rd percentile. It feels like the team is playing much faster this season, and this data seems to back that up. Zach Werenski has the third fastest top skating speed this season, at 23.5 MPH.

We’re frustrated this week with the inability to finish on scoring chances, but this shows that it could be WAY worse. The Jackets of last season were well below average in shooting percentage in the highest danger areas.

There’s a lot more to explore here. Play around with it, and let us know if you find anything interesting!