Weekly Reader: McDavid among biggest penalty-minute magnets

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Players who take or draw penalties at a higher rate than their NHL peers have always fascinated me. Like everything else in hockey that is quantifiable, they require a significant consideration of context: in terms of their role on the team to the nature of the penalties to something as nebulous as their reputation among officials.

(On that last point: How many dives draw a call or get ignored because that player’s on “the list” with NHL officials?)

I’m particularly fascinated by the penalty numbers for forwards, given that we assume most defensemen are going to take more penalties than they earn. (Please note that Colton Parayko of the St. Louis Blues leads in penalties plus/minus for defensemen, at plus-7 this season.)

So let’s take a gander at the forwards who have drawn the most penalties since the start of the 2016-17 season through Thursday night’s games. All stats are via the great Corsica.

‘Twas a time when one might assume that Connor McDavid‘s penalties-drawn rate would have been a product of reputation — but, honestly, have you seen this guy play? He’s drawing a penalty for every 37.1 minutes of even-strength ice time he plays. Johnny Gaudreau is averaging one penalty drawn for every 40.98 minutes of ice time.

But on average, David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins is drawing more than both of them: One penalty for every 36.23 minutes of ice time in the last two seasons.

In all three cases, it’s their ability to get into scoring position that force opposing players to foul them. And, in some cases, their ability to know when to draw those penalties. Hey, that’s an art form too.

Nikolaj Ehlers is an interesting name on this list. He leads the Winnipeg Jets in penalties drawn, with eight more than Mathieu Perreault, who is the team’s leader in puck possession (53.16) over the past two seasons. Dustin Brown, meanwhile, has been a master at this. For quite some time. Since 2014, Brown has drawn 70 penalties in 276 games, for a penalty plus-minus of plus-37 — by far the best on the Los Angeles Kings during that stretch.

Now, on the opposite side of the ledger, the forwards with the biggest negative penalty plus minus:

Again, some names you expect: Zack Kassian and Patrick Maroon both have 11 major penalties over the last two seasons. Jason Chimera, Matt Stajan and Michael Frolik are all energy-line players.

Mikko Koivu is a bit of a surprise, being that he’s one of the NHL’s best defensive forwards by reputation. But given that he hasn’t scored since Nov. 25, Wild fans probably have other issues with him at the moment.

Then we come to Johansen, who can be a perplexing player statistically at times, and this is no exception. He has a worse penalty plus-minus in the last two seasons than Cody McLeod (minus-15), whose job is literally to take penalties. Ryan Johansen has a larger penalty plus-minus than any defenseman on the team as well.

Hey, things happen. As a center, Johansen has more defensive responsibility than do linemates Filip Forsberg (plus-2) and Viktor Arvidsson (plus-9). But Forsberg has drawn 22 and Arvidsson has drawn 26 in the last two seasons, so the question here is why doesn’t Johansen draw more?

Alabama hockey player honors Sandy Hook

Jon Lovorn is a senior captain for the University of Alabama’s hockey team, an ACHA Div. I program. He considers Newtown, Conn., as his hometown, having moved there as a teenager. He was in high school five years ago on that horrific day when 26 people, including 20 children, lost their lives in a massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Lovorn has always found personal ways to honor the victims, including a piece of tape on his helmet that read “Never Forget: 12-14-12.” But on this five-year anniversary of the tragedy, he decided to do something more significant: He changed his jersey number from 21 to 26, in honor of the victims.

But the tribute didn’t stop there.

Lovorn realized that Alabama had 26 games on its schedule. So he decided to wear a different sticker on his helmet each game that named a different victim, to honor their memories.

“Just a nod to those 26 are always there,” Lovorn told Christopher Walsh of SEC Country, who has the full story here. “There’s not a day that goes by that myself –and I think the town as a whole — doesn’t think about what happened and those lives that were taken. Just being able to represent that in a positive manner I think is pretty awesome.”

That it is.

The Seattle slog

The Seattle NHL expansion bid feels like it’s been strapped to a rocket in a way we haven’t seen before. Like, we could wake up tomorrow and the Seattle Sasquatch Pilots will suddenly be in the Pacific Division standings like they’re a late Royal Rumble entrant or something.

That feeling comes from the fact that the process has been ongoing for a few years. The NHL was obviously doing due diligence on the market during the previous round of expansion, in the hopes that some group would get its act together on the arena construction front. The league was in conversation with the potential team owners — billionaire David Bonderman and filmmaker Jerry Bruckheimer among them — about the $650 million price tag for a franchise, before the Seattle City Council approved the Key Arena refurbishment.

So the whole thing feels close to happening, which is why deputy commissioner Bill Daly has tried to pull back on the Seattle reins a bit recently.

“I certainly know that’s the perception out there. And there’s no doubt we have interest in the Pacific Northwest region because it’s a great hockey region. But we’re still a long way between here and there,” said Daly this week. “Somebody in the media was asking if the application had been submitted yet. I can tell you that not only has it not been submitted, we haven’t even given them an updated application form. It’s not like filling out an application for a driver’s license. We ask for a lot of information, projections, demographic information.”

That includes the NHL’s own continuing research into the market, to see if it’ll work.

“We have a ways to go before we consider bringing something to the Board for final approval,” said Daly.

Meanwhile, Tim Leiweke, the CEO of Oak Group, sat down with Sonics Rising and had some interesting comments about this weird perception that apparently exists in Seattle about picking the NHL over the NBA.

“There is no NBA team available today. None. And I know that for a fact and people can debate and they can sit there and argue with me but I’m telling you flat out today they are not expanding. And there is no team moving and so the reality of the situation is this isn’t what I want. This isn’t what I love. This is about what we can get for Seattle. And the first thing that moves, we’re going to go get it. And so this isn’t about a love of basketball compared to hockey, or love of hockey compared to basketball,” he said. “Let’s just say we get an NHL team first. And let’s say we knock it out of the park with the NHL, sell out every game, maximize revenue, have a great five-year run with the NHL. Why do people not believe, understand, or think that that will ultimately catch the attention of the NBA? It just doesn’t make any sense to me. So everyone’s like we get the NHL, and we’ll never see the NBA. I see exactly the opposite.”

By the end of this process — arena rebuild, franchise acquisition — the Seattle sports gambit will cost well into the billions. Leiweke gets what’s at stake.

“We’re spending $600 million. So I hope I’m not the idiot that spends 600 million and ultimately the NBA or the NHL don’t work in our building and so we have Barclays Center or we have the old Phoenix building,” he said. “Because after 38 years of doing this, if this is the conclusion after 600 million that we suddenly took ourselves out of the market for a third anchor tenant, we absolutely are the stupidest human beings on the face of the Earth ’cause we just spent 600 million and couldn’t reach our potential.”

Jersey Fouls of the week

From the Pittsburgh Penguins, no less:

Given the Penguins fans’ unending admiration of Marc-Andre Fleury — literally cheering him in Vegas as the Golden Knights defeated Pittsburgh on Thursday — this was expected. Is this Frankenjersey a Foul? Of course it is. Everyone knows MAF deserves top billing.

Well, the Penguins didn’t, I guess — which is why he’s in Vegas. But you get the point.

From Isles Road Warrior:

As you can see, this is a really clever attempt at honoring the truly strange collection of banners hanging over New York Islanders home games at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Points for creativity. A total Foul, however, for ignoring the contributions of the franchise’s other bad boy for life who wore No. 72, Ron Hextall.

The Centennial is finally over

The NHL told its Board of Governors last week that its centennial celebration will finally be over after the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators play their outdoor game this weekend.

Did you enjoy it? I think the biggest draws were obviously the Top 100 Players of All Time list that got everyone angry about Jonathan Toews, and the documentary that recently debuted, chronicling the last 100 years of the NHL. Well, save for that part on Gary Bettman, which was basically a “Dearest Leader” segment. But for the most part it was great.

Best of all might have been the traveling road show that the NHL brought to different cites. It had different trophies and jerseys and some really cool interactive exhibits for fans to check out. According to the league, more than 766,000 fans did just that during 34 stops across the globe, so that’s pretty cool.

Anyway, here’s to 100 more years, after which we’ll still be talking about Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid.

New podcast for your earbuds

In case you missed it: ESPN ON ICE debuted this week, featuring yours truly and Emily Kaplan. It’s a podcast that’ll feature player and media interviews each week, with insight into the NHL, the latest news and rumors, and our usual brand of whimsy. (Topics this week including best fast food burger and what meteorologists actually do.)

Find all our podcasts here and subscribe on iTunes. Listen to this week’s episode here.

Puck headlines

If you’re not following General Marcus Johnasson on Twitter, you’re doing it wrong, dearest Abigail. [Twitter]

How a seven-second viral video of him skating to school turned a Minnesota college hockey player into an Internet celebrity. [Twin Cities]

Good piece here on the lasting friendship between Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury. [PHT]

Uh-oh: Ticket sales for the world junior championships in Buffalo aren’t quite great. “We are disappointed about (advance) ticket sales,” said Michael Gilbert, Buffalo Sabres administrative president. “We thought they’d be much further along.” He said, in particular, that Canadian sales have been soft, no doubt because they know the tide has shifted to the Americans for junior hockey dominance. [BizJournal, registration required]

Columnist Eric Francis gets demolished for his water-carrying take on the Calgary arena deal, Vol. 1. [Scotty Wazz]

Columnist Eric Francis gets demolished for his water-carrying take on the Calgary arena deal, Vol. 2. [The Athletic]

They’re not the NHL’s most valuable team, but the Chicago Blackhawks rank the highest for hockey teams on the Forbes SportsMoney index thanks to their brand portfolio. [Forbes]

Hockey participation among girls in California is at a record pace, up 49 percent from last year. [USA Hockey]

There’s been some handwringing over the Toronto Maple Leafs‘ player usage by this season, so PPP tries to fix their lines. [PPP]

Reviewing the goalie masks for the outdoor game in Ottawa. [Hockey By Design]

Hockey tl;dr (too long; didn’t read)

Alex Prewitt takes a deep dive into the love of RISK by players on the road, including Joe Thornton. [SI]

In case you missed this from your friends at ESPN

Why the Lightning’s hot start is as legit as can be … with one caveat.

Seen something worth highlighting here? Hit me at greg.wyshynski@espn.com, or do the same if you have suggestions for the column going forward.



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