Why is Tim Stützle out-scoring Alexis Lafrenière?
We know with prospects that it's not about who arrives on the scene first but who improves the most over the course of their career. We also know that NHL stars mark most often make their mark early. So, when a rookie produces as Tim Stützle has or when a first overall pick like Alexis Lafrenière struggles to do the same -- we take notice.
The sample size is small; both the New York Rangers and the Ottawa Senators have yet to reach the 20-game mark. That's less than a quarter of a normal season, and this season is anything but normal. It nonetheless remains curious though. Why has Lafrenière, a player widely considered superior, scored only two points while Stützle has accumulated 10? Is it a question of the environment? Style of play? Chemistry? Luck?
This difference in production is even more intriguing when looking at advanced stats. Lafrenière's isolated impact on expected goals for percentage on Micah Blake's data is higher than Stützle's.
The first place to look is at each player's ice-time. Outperforming a role in the NHL is hard, even for veterans; players usually score at the rate of their opportunities -- more ice-time, means more opportunities, and more points. Stützle has played about a minute more than Lafrenière on average, but that difference comes mostly from the power play, as their 5-on-5 time is virtually identical: 12:10 to 12:12, respectively.
There is more to opportunity than ice-time, though, as two players who jump off the bench in their respective games rarely end up benefiting from the same chances for a variety of reasons, the main one being the number of puck touches and their quality. A player who gets the puck more, especially in better situations usually scores more.
To get a better picture of what a given Lafrenière or Stützle shift looks like, I tracked all of their 5-on-5 possessions over four games.
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