Assists come in many forms, some that make you jump out of your seat in awe and others that make you go huh I guess he was the last guy to touch it before the goal scorer. As the NHL moves more towards speed and skill every year, the ability to positively impact the offense through passing as a defenseman is at an all time high. If you are trying to figure out who the best passing defenseman is simply by looking at plain old assists you are selling yourself short.
The most immediate next step when looking at assists is breaking it down into how many are primary assists. That is, how many of a players assists went from his stick to the goal scorers stick without any other passes in between. Of course sometimes it’s the secondary assist that makes the play or a primary assist is made entirely accidentally. So, we can take it a step further by actually watching and analyzing every assist and assessing the number of actually impactful assists.
The Avs unsigned prospect pool currently sits with five players and the goal should be that all of them can have an impact on offense when it comes to their passing ability. Here we breakdown all five of their assist, primary assist, and impact assist numbers and do a bit of analysis on what we found.
Conor Timmins (Assists: 24, Primary: 12, Impact: 9)
Within the Avs prospect pool Timmins is second in assists to only Ty Lewis. As a defenseman who shines brightest when he is aggressively pressing the play and puck up the ice it is no surprise he cashes in on assists at nearly a 1 per game pace. Playing on a good team at times you see Timmins get some awfully cheap looking assists in plays that he has nothing to do with, but the reality is a 50% primary and 37.5% Impact are actually quite solid numbers. For reference Erik Karlsson currently sits at 56.3% primary. However, the dip between primary and impact does imply that not only are a decent amount of Timmins’ secondary assists freebies but, even in some cases he benefits from playing with high quality forwards on primary assists as well. While I’m not ready to say that he can be a consistent driver of offensive play by himself from the back-end it is pretty clear that Timmins does get involved and has a positive impact on offense.
Nick Leivermann (Assists: 16, Primary: 9, Impact: 4)
While Leivermann’s offense has been a source of hype within the Avs defensive prospects, looking at the actual effective numbers on his assists may dampen that a bit. His 56.3% primary is pretty to look act but the 25% impact pretty much negates it entirely. The perennial BCHL powerhouse Penticton Vees certainly seems to be the right choice for getting Leivermann on the score sheet almost nightly but, how much of that is his line-mates as opposed to him? He certainly has a bag of tricks when it comes to dekes and dangles but when it’s down to getting the puck in the back of the net if it’s not him doing the shooting it usually comes down to someone else to make an individual effort or create a play. Of course his goal scoring shouldn’t be completely ignored as that is where he has found a lot of success this year but that’s a topic for another day. Ultimately, question marks remain about his ability to contribute offensively at the next level and whether or not he can consistently have a positive impact when it comes to passing the puck.
Cale Makar (Assists: 8, Primary: 5, Impact: 4)
With the NCAA schedule being what it is Makar’s numbers will be coming in a significantly smaller sample size than most of the others on this list so they may be a bit harder to gauge. Still, for his 8 assists a 50% impact is pretty good to see. As we already know his incredible skating is his weapon of choice, Whether it’s flying through the neutral zone or pinching deep behind the goal line in the offensive zone his speed opens up space that allows him to create chances not only for himself but his teammates as well. Given the ability level of the team he plays on it’s probably a good bet that all 3 of these numbers would be a good bit higher if you dropped him in with some better forwards. With his tool box the sky is limit when it comes to impactful offensive play.
Josh Anderson (Assists: 4, Primary: 1, Impact: 2)
Anderson’s injury has him seeing a limited amount of games and his skill set does not set himself up to show well when it comes to offensive production analysis. What is interesting is that he is the only one on this list that has a higher number of impact assists than primary. The idea that he can make meaningful passes while not usually being directly involved in the offense is important for a defense first player like him to take the next step into the pro game. While I am still unconvinced that his offensive ceiling is high enough to even reach the bare minimum of NHL caliber, he certainly seems to have taken a step in the right direction so far this year. Here’s hoping it’s not a sample size anomaly and he can keep it up through the rest of the season,
Nate Clurman (Assists: 3, Primary: 0, Impact: 0)
Given the league he is playing in Clurman’s lack of production is pretty concerning. Even if he is to be considered a defensive defenseman having 0 real impact on offense as a 19 year old on one of the better teams in the USHL just isn’t going to fly. At this point a contract down the line should be the furthest thing from his mind. He has significant work to do over the rest of this year to set himself up for success at Notre Dame in the coming years.
As always take any advanced(ish) stats with a grain of salt. Context and application of the stats are important and can’t always be included. Judgement calls have to be made on whether or not a pass is considered impactful and opinions on that can vary widely. These stats are just meant to be a general guideline and anything that seems unusual warrants further investigation.
Certainly the Avs have to be happy with their top picks from 2017 in Makar and Timmins, the rest of the group still provides plenty to be happy about but passing impact could be an area they look to improve in.