The NHL will be announcing the representative of the Buffalo Sabres at the All-Star game tomorrow, per Chris Johnston of The Athletic. Johnston reports that all 32 teams, in fact, will have a representative announced Thursday. The remaining 12 participants for All-Star Weekend will be left up to a fan vote.
The Sabres have four players on their roster with All-Star Game experience, including Rasmus Dahlin (2), Jeff Skinner (1), Kyle Okposo (1), and Zemgus Girgensons (1). Tage Thompson was named as last season’s All-Star Weekend representative, but he was replaced by Dahlin due to injury.
Who’s the Likely All-Star?
Box score stats are the simplest and most common way that NHL All-Stars are determined. If you lead your team in points, then it’s likely you’ll be a frontrunner for nomination. In Buffalo’s case, the overall points leader is Casey Mittelstadt. His 31 points is two ahead of second place Dahlin, and four ahead of the next forward (Jeff Skinner).
So there it is. Casey at the bat, right?
Well, not so fast. Usually having a defenseman so close to the team point lead will lead to heavy consideration. The fact that Dahlin leads all NHL defensemen in goals and is 9th among all blueliners in points would make him the odds-on favorite for the All-Star nod.
Who’s All-Star Worthy?
For the sake of being a little more informed, let’s dig a bit deeper than box score statistics. After all, on-ice defense is a thing too, isn’t it?
Thanks to the model I developed for PuckLuck.com, we’re able to put a number on a players’ predicted goals-for value (GFV) and goals-against value (GAV) when they’re on the ice. It’s goal-differential that wins games, not points. So by subtracting a player’s GAV from their GFV, we’re able to determine a predictive goal-differential value (GDV).
Let’s take a look at each player’s GDV percentage:
It’s important to note that GDV does not remove factors such as player usage, matchups, and linemates. Instead, it leans into those factors since it is a predictive statistic. Zemgus Girgensons, Peyton Krebs, and Kyle Okposo have a high GAV due to their defensive deployment.
Looking for positive impact players it’s noticeable that Jeff Skinner is considerably ahead of the rest of the group. His 1.32 GDV is not only tops on the Sabres, but 15th in the entire league. In other words, really good things happen when he is on the ice.
Skinner’s isolated metrics, such as Evolving-Hockey’s goals above replacement, point to really poor even-strength defense hindering his overall value. While this may be true in a vacuum when isolating from his teammates, there’s a complimentary element to his role that is really working to drive team offense.
It’s likely Skinner gets overlooked for the All-Star bid despite leading the team in goals both overall and on the powerplay. While it hasn’t quite resulted in the output that Mittelstadt and Dahlin have achieved, his play on the ice theoretically has put the Sabres in the best position to win.
The box score and isolated stats prefer Mittelstadt. The position bias plays to Dahlin’s favor. You can’t really go wrong with any of the three, but Skinner is the dark-horse candidate to consider.