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Creating scoring chances: Cole Caufield outscored Connor McDavid in 2022-23
Credit: Without the pressure of winning, he was able to let his game speak for itself on the ice.

Before Cole Caufield came to Montreal, it had been a while since the Habs had a truly elite scorer on their roster. Max Pacioretty was very solid during his time in town, but when you watch Caufield play, you notice a certain spark that wasn’t there with Pacioretty.

And that’s not meant as a dig at Pacioretty, who has been a hell of a goal scorer in his career. Caufield is simply a very electrifying player.

Why am I talking about Caufield today? Because earlier today, the JFresh account on Twitter, which specializes in advanced statistics, published a ranking that ranks the guys in the NHL in terms of their creation of scoring chances.

And when you look at the list, Caufield comes in seventh in the league. In fact, it’s ahead of Connor McDavid (10th) and David Pastrnak (16th), to name but two.

What exactly do the ratings and rankings mean? Basically, it ranks the guys according to what’s called the Shooting Score. Without taking into account the guys’ finishing (i.e. ability to convert scoring chances into goals), it ranks them according to their ability to get the most scoring chances at 5-on-5, and does so by getting everyone back on an even playing field by normalizing the numbers over 60 minutes.

Basically, the higher the number, the better the player’s ability to create chances to hit the back of the net. Being above 1 is excellent, and when you’re above 1.25, you’re really among the crème de la crème. And at 1.39, Caufield has had quite a season in this respect.

According to the rankings, then, there are only six guys ahead of Caufield across the NHL at this level: Auston Matthews, Nathan MacKinnon, Brady Tkachuk, Patrice Bergeron (now retired), Sidney Crosby and Brayden Point.

He’s in good company, shall we say.

What we need to understand from all this is that Caufield’s production last year wasn’t just the result of great efficiency: he was also able to go out and get a large volume of scoring chances, and seeing him be able to convert them made him productive to the point of scoring 26 goals in 46 games.

Does that necessarily mean he’ll be as productive next year? No. The figure may fluctuate (especially after his injury) and he could see his efficiency rate (which was 16.5% last year) drop back a bit.

But to me, the fact that he’s able to create scoring chances with such frequency is a very encouraging sign. It means he’s more than just a trigger: if he’s paired with a good playmaker (like Nick Suzuki and Kirby Dach, who are also among the league’s elite at this level), he really does have the potential to continue scoring so regularly.

I really feel like his new eight-year contract at less than $8M per year ($7.85M, to be precise) will quickly become a bargain. And numbers like that only reinforce my perception.

In bursts

– Nice equipment.

– Those who’ve seen the Barbie movie might find it funny.

– This one’s gonna be good.

– He’ll be in the final for the first time in a year.

– The Mets are on a roll.

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