Ranking the Best Penalty Killers Among 2014 NHL Free Agents

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Ranking the Best Penalty Killers Among 2014 NHL Free Agents
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

The unrestricted free-agency period is a great opportunity for teams to quickly fill their holes.

For those looking to repair and/or upgrade their penalty kill, who are the most effective available options?

As usual, I'll be using analytics to answer this question—which is never easy when measuring the defensive side of a player's contributions. Essentially we're looking for players who handled the lion's share of a team's penalty killing duties while reducing the number of scoring opportunities their opponents were allowed.

Because the 300 minutes killing penalties per season that even a top player spends is far too small a sample size on which to base the results, this analysis went back three years.

And because no one single statistic can provide a clear picture, several different analytic perspectives were used, including:

  • The percentage of the team's shorthanded minutes assigned
  • The average level of competition that player faced (i.e. top power-play unit or secondary)
  • The team's goals against average with that player on the ice and without
  • The attempted shots the team allowed with that player on the ice and without 
  • Shorthanded scoring
  • Blocked shots
  • Penalties drawn (and taken)
  • Faceoffs won and lost

In the end, this basket of analytics was used to find the 10 UFAs most likely to improve a team's shorthanded unit next season.

Remember that this is just one perspective and that the analytic lens is not always kind to everyone, so feel free to weigh in on the comments with any players you feel were overlooked. Now let's begin!


All raw data for this study from Behind the Net and Extra Skater unless otherwise noted.

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