Who Is the NHL’s Human Highlight Reel?

Right around the time I began constructing my scraper, An idea struck me while watching a game on the league’s streaming service (formerly known as) GameCenter Live. The GameCenter video player includes markers indicating the time at which certain events of interest occurred and allows users to jump to these highlights. It had not occurred to me until then that this information must reside somewhere in the NHL.com site that can potentially be accessed. This data would eventually be collected by my scraper and stored in the Corsica database.

Highlights are comprised of goals and shots on goal. All goals are highlights, but only some shots are labelled as such. Unfortunately, I don’t know what criteria are considered in labelling these events. I imagine the process is very subjective and likely influenced in significant fashion by bias. The only thing we can ascertain is that somebody decided these events were worth categorizing as “highlights.” I haven’t yet delved into this information in great detail but I have pondered its potential uses. I’m particularly curious to know whether these data can be employed to introduce a human element to generalized scoring chance definitions. More specifically, can they indicate quality shots that are taken outside of the traditional high-danger areas? That’s a question for another day. In the meantime, we can answer a simpler and substantially more fun question. Who is the NHL’s Human Highlight Reel?

There are a number of ways we can treat these highlights. Individual involvement can be measured by counting highlight events in which a player had the role of shooter or scorer. I supplemented this number with assists, as they indicate1In theory. In practice, many “phantom assists” are awarded. a player’s secondary or tertiary involvement in a scoring (thus, a highlight) play. Here is how regular skaters rank over the last three seasons in all situations:


And 5v5 over the same span:


Alternatively, one can evaluate excitement generated while on the ice. Here, HLF and HLA designate highlights (shots) in favour or against a player’s team, respectively. HL combines both. Here are regular skater rankings in terms of HL60 in all situations since 2013-14:


And 5v5:


It appears viewers can expect exciting, high-event hockey when Bozak and Van Riemsdyk step onto the ice. We can break up HL60 into its components to observe highlights for and against a player’s team independently. In terms of highlights in favour of players’ own teams, skaters rank thusly in all situations:


And 5v5:


So, who is the NHL’s human highlight reel? It depends what you’re looking for. If it’s shooting and scoring, Ovechkin and Tarasenko are hard to match. If you’re looking for a play-maker who creates exciting opportunities for their team, you can’t go wrong with either of Toews, Parise or Malkin. If you simply want fun high-event hockey, tune into a Leafs game, apparently.


References   [ + ]

1. In theory. In practice, many “phantom assists” are awarded.

Author: Emmanuel Perry

Creator and webmaster of corsica.hockey.

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