Pictorial evidence that Nick Palmieri does indeed go to the net sometimes. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
With the recent injury to Jacob Josefson that will see the young pivot out for 3-4 months, there are some fans concerned about the team's depth at center. Yet, even prior to that, there were concerns over the team's right wingers. Petr Sykora was impressive in training camp and preseason; but hasn't shown much since. Nick Palmieri and David Clarkson each had flashes of good play but have been consistently inconsistent otherwise. It's still early in the season, but it's unclear as to who really should be on the top lines among the three.
Therefore, I figure that it's worth looking into the more advanced statistics of all three right wingers to get a better handle on who's doing well and who's struggling. Please read on after the jump to see how all three have looked so far this season.
The advanced statistics at Behind the Net say quite a bit about each player. First off, is that they're not too far apart from each other in terms of even strength minutes in the team's first six games. Sykora has had more time, but that should be expected since he's been skating alongside Zach Parise and Patrik Elias for the most part. That would also explain his higher quality of competition (both in QUAL COMP and Corsi Rel QoC) than the other two right wingers. I'd expect that to continue as other teams match the Elias line with their best line; and/or as Peter DeBoer uses the Elias line to match power-for-power.
The same linemates probably have a hand in Sykora's positive on-ice Corsi rate. He's at 4.65 as opposed to -2.47 for Clarkson and -3.32 for Palmieri. Sykora's actually better than that when you take zone starts into account. Sykora's offensive zone start percentage is a mere 40%, which would drive that rate higher. Zone start percentages would drive Clarkson's and especially Palmieri's respective rates lower since they enjoy the benefits of starting at the right end of the rink more often. I think that Sykora's better-looking advanced statistics are a result of playing with Parise and Elias, two players who have traditionally done well by these metrics. Still, he stands out much more than Clarkson or Palmieri.
It's not all doom and gloom for Palmieri and Clarkson, though. They each have had more shots on net than Sykora (13 to 11). Clarkson's and especially Palmieri's PDO value are each much lower than Sykora's value, which suggests that both are due for some better fortune in the future. Clarkson can boast even more since he actually scored two goals, whereas Palmieri and Sykora have yet to light the lamp this season.
What about scoring chances? Here's how it breaks down per C.J.'s five scoring chance summaries this season.
Legend: CF = chances for in all situations, CA = chances against in all situations, C SOG = chance shot on goal, C Ast = chance assist
Now, this paints a different picture, even if it's missing the sixth game (and I don't think that one will change too much). Clarkson's got a better chance differential than Sykora and way better than Palmieri. Clarkson does get the benefit of being on the first power play unit, which has generated chances despite the lack of goals. Even with that in mind, Clarkson has taken more of those chances he's been on the ice on himself. That's can be a positive of sorts, if unsurprising since Clarkson does like to shoot when he's got the puck. I'd like to see him distribute a little more.
Sykora hasn't been doing too shabby as he's set up 4 chances along with taking 4 of them himself. Given he's on a line with Elias and Parise, I would have liked to have seen some more action, but being directly involved in 8 out of 22 chances isn't out of place. It's even slightly better than Clarkson's 7 out of 20.
Palmieri didn't look too good by the advanced stats, and he looks even worse when you look at his chances. He actually has seen more chances against the Devils than for them. He's seen more chances against the Devils than either Sykora or Clarkson. Moreover, he hasn't contributed too much to the chances when he was on the ice on the ice, only 4 out of 13. I am a little sympathetic since Sykora has the benefit of playing with Parise and Elias; while Clarkson has the benefit of playing on the top power play and going up against weaker competition.
Regardless, it appears to me that none of the three right wingers really stand out. Even when accounting for all of them, the population size is too small to say anything definitive so far. From what I understand so far, here's how I see it. Sykora looks the best, but he also has been playing regularly with two of the best forwards on the team. Palmieri looks the worst, despite getting a generous proportion of offensive zone starts. Yet, he hasn't received top power play time or the opportunity to play with forwards who drive the play. Clarkson is sort of in the middle, the two goals he has helps and he's been involved on scoring chances; but he's not driving the play either. Despite these categorizations, a hot (or cold) streak from one of the three can change matters quickly since it's still early. Hopefully, as the season goes on, one of these three can really take the next step and stand out. Travis Zajac and Jacob Josefson will eventually come back and shore up the center positoin. For the time being, these three have been and will be the Devils' main right wingers this season.
That's my take on how Sykora, Palmieri, and Clarkson have looked so far. What do you think of each of them so far this season? Do you think one of them truly stands out more than the others? Is it any clearer who you want on each line? What do you want to see from each of them going forward this season? Please leave your answers and other comments about these three players in the comments. Thanks for reading.