The Rise And Fall Of Playmakers

Mark Barbour (@18sktrs,

In my first few articles here at Apples & Ginos I’m looking at how statistics that are relevant to fantasy hockey are distributed among NHL skaters based on age. This type of data can help us set reasonable expectations about skater performance while also helping us identify which skaters could be about to hit their prime. This article looks at the relationship between a skater’s age and his assists.

How Were Assists Distributed By Age In 2021-22?

The assists data from last season are plotted below. Each square in the plot represents a skater, and its location shows the skater’s age as well as his assists for the season. The squares will overlap when skaters who are the same age register the same number of assists, and when that happens the squares get darker. The effect is essentially a “heatmap” where the dark areas represent the highest density of skaters.

Comments on this plot:

  • In my last article I looked at the distribution of goals based on age. The data for assists look a little different than the data for goals – the distribution is “flatter”. The peak for skaters in their mid-20s is less pronounced, and many of the highest assist totals were put up by skaters over the age of 30.
  • The youngest skaters were the lowest producers, though a couple of age-22 skaters produced at least 50 assists (Quinn Hughes (60), and Robert Thomas (57)). Keeping your expectations modest for guys who are just entering the NHL seems prudent, no matter how much hype there might be.

How Were Assists Distributed By Age From 2014-19?

The time period of 2014-19 represents the five most recent full-length seasons prior to COVID-19 affecting the NHL schedule. What does this historical data look like?

Comments on this plot:

  • The larger sample of data tells a similar story, but it’s noteworthy that there were fewer skaters in their mid-30s who collected 50+ assists.
  • The skaters from last season who were 33+ and registered at least 50 assists were Patrick Kane (66), Kris Letang (58), Mats Zuccarello (55), Joe Pavelski (54), and Sidney Crosby (53). Will those skaters repeat that level of production this season?
  • I think there are some skaters in that list who can defy the ageing curve. For what it’s worth, my fantasy point projections for 2022-23 have all but one of those skaters registering at least 50 assists this season. My model is not optimistic about Joe Pavelski doing it again though. He’s projected for 41 assists (which is still pretty good for a skater entering his age-38 season).

Just Show Me Some Numbers!

Maybe scatter plots that look like heatmaps aren’t your thing. Perhaps you want some simple numbers that tell you what’s going on here. OK, here’s a count of the number of skaters who had at least 50 assists in a season, separated by age.


(2014-19 Data)

The End Of The Article

That’s all for now. I’ll be back soon with another article examining historical data.

Published by Apples & Ginos

Apples & Ginos Fantasy Hockey Advice

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