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NHL Waiver Wire: Early Season Advanced Stats

Dan Waldner

Dan Waldner covers hockey for RotoWire, and has been involved in fantasy hockey pools for 15 years. He's a lifetime Toronto Maple Leafs fan, a passion his wife puts up with and his daughter is starting to emulate.

Part of the trick to being successful at fantasy sports is constantly analyzing statistics to examine trends. Few teams run hot the entire season; it's through the examination of the various advanced numbers available in today's NHL that will lead you to catch hot and cold trends, and act accordingly.

Now that we're through the first month, some of the statistics available lead to some interesting insights that may lead to finding that gem in the rough on the waiver wire.

PDO (aka the luck quotient)

One of the most interesting statistics available in predicting overperform/underperform analyses on teams is the PDO statistic. The acronym doesn't stand for anything; it's actually the username of the inventor of the stat, hockey analyst Brian King (who goes by the handle "PDO"). The statistic is the amalgam of team shooting percentage and team save percentage; on average, a team will have a PDO rating of 100. Teams that have a greater than 100 rating are essentially getting the lucky bounces, while teams that are under are getting the bad ones. I've listed below top and bottom three below:

30. Calgary (92.9)
29. Buffalo (93.6)
28. Columbus (94.2)

1. Florida (105.3)
2. NY Rangers (104.8)
3. Montreal (103.5)

Judging by these numbers, we can see that Calgary, Buffalo, and Columbus are ripe for a turnaround; the Flames have one of the worst figures I've ever seen -- a 7 percent bad bounce rate is phenomenally bad. Buffalo is equally interesting because its goals against haven't been atrocious -- leading this statistic to indicate a low shooting percentage. Conversely, Florida has an incredible rating of just more than 5 percent good bounces; the Panthers' mid-pack status within the Atlantic division makes them look rather poor. Once that starts to even out over the year, they can expect to fall through the standings.

Corsi

As hockey sabermetrics has come to the forefront, the Corsi statistic (in both for and against flavors) has been front and center in predicting success. The statistic is merely the number of offensive attempts (shots, blocked shots and shots that miss the net) -- the "for" flavor for the team, and the "against" by the opponent. The differential between the Corsi For and Corsi Against is the true Corsi "number." It makes a lot of sense then that teams with positive Corsi numbers do well; it's statistically improbable that teams that allow more chances than they take will enjoy success.

Here are the teams with the highest Corsi For:

1. Dallas (504)
2. Tampa Bay (481)
3. Montreal & St. Louis (473)

Here are the teams with the highest Corsi Against:

1. Edmonton (488)
2. NY Islanders (484)
3. Montreal (481)

Finally, here's the biggest Corsi numbers in the league:

1. St. Louis (+109)
2. Los Angeles (+99)
3. Carolina (+63)
4. Buffalo (+54)
5. Toronto (+52)

Wait, what? So, for the Corsi For numbers, there's very little surprise there -- Dallas is a very good offensive team, as is Tampa Bay. Montreal just finished a huge streak to start the year, and St. Louis has always been a team that focuses on offensive zone time. Nothing really shocking. When you get to the Corsi Against, there's some eye-opening stats: Edmonton's success this season has been on the backs of the Connor McDavid-led offense. They've allowed a league-high 488 attempts on net; any hope they have this season of continuing their turnaround has to focus on reducing that. Equally eye opening has been Montreal's inclusion on this list. We all know how vital Carey Price is to the success they enjoy, but seeing that astronomically high number for them indicates that there's a good chance their success will fade over time.

Finally, the differential Corsi number shows three fascinating teams set for a change in fortunes. Carolina, Buffalo and Toronto sit in the Eastern Conference basement, and yet, all show impressive Corsi numbers. What does that mean? If they can continue their trend of out-chancing their opponents, the tide will turn.

Now, marry that statistic with the PDO statistic: now you've got tinder for a fire. Buffalo has been playing Corsi-positive hockey with incredibly bad luck. That will turn, and when it does, the shrewd investor can buy in now, when everything is cheap.

Recommended Pickups

Sam Reinhart W, BUF -
If our analytics hold water, Reinhart will be in the right place at the right time to take advantage of it. His key position on the wing of the Jack Eichel line, and his inclusion on the second unit of the power play (again with Eichel) gives him a unique place in which to benefit from an upswing. Eichel looks poised to be a top-five forward in the league in short order, and Reinhart takes a lot of shots that originated from an Eichel pass. His ownership rates are a rock-bottom 3 percent, indicating he's more than likely free in your waiver-wire pool. He's also a plus-minus 0 -- indicating that even at this unlucky stage of the season for the Sabres, he can play responsible minutes. Given the opportunity he has available to him, and the advanced stats showing his luck will change, grab him now and see if the winds turn as predicted.

Tyler Bozak C, TOR -
It's always darkest before the dawn; the Leafs have played spirited hockey to start the season and have yet to be rewarded with a string of wins. During this stretch, Bozak has been good in the games he's played, recording a goal and an assist in five games. His ownership is less than 10 percent, so he's free in many leagues, and when the Leafs finally get results, he'll be first among many to reap the rewards. He's been over a half-point per game player for his career (granted, playing with Phil Kessel for most of them), but he's a solid producer in his own right. His stock is at an all-time low; bargain hunters would be wise to invest.

Nathan Gerbe C/W, CAR -
A hidden gem who should be widely available in the deepest leagues, Gerbe has a number of the attributes that fantasy GMs covet. He's on the second line, but gets first-unit power play time; he's also a nice source of PIM and tends to be more responsible defensively than his teammates. His three points in 11 games is nothing to write home about, but much like Reinhart and Bozak above, he's poised to take advantage of a swing in fortunes for his team. The Hurricanes have had a rough start to the year, facing only two sub-500 teams in that time. In those games, they've outchanced their opponents by a convincing margin. When things change for Carolina, Gerbe will benefit greatly.

Matt Moulson W, BUF -
A talented sniper and point-producer, Moulson will be involved in the same quality scoring chances that Reinhart will get. His ability to finish should be better, as will the amount of opportunities he gets -- by virtue of his top-line and top power play unit status. His five points in 11 games is an underperforming situation for him, as his historic average would put him at around seven at this point. His statistics indicate that he should be shooting a .150 S%; he's at a .124 -- off by about the same amount. He's owned in 15 percent of pools so even a mid-depth pool would have him lively available, which should come in handy. If and when Buffalo turns this around, Moulson will be front and center.

Ales Hemsky W, DAL -
It's little surprise that the premier names on the Stars all have astronomically high ownership rates -- Patrick Sharp, Jason Spezza, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are owned in 90-plus percent of leagues. What is a surprise is that Ales Hemsky has been left out of the love. While he doesn't enjoy the same top-six placement he used to last season, he's found a way to be highly productive in the bottom six. With 10 games played, he has seven points and a place on the second-line power-play unit, where he tallied three of those points. He's also the next in line on the team to fill in for any hole in the "fab four" on the top power-play unit -- which would reap untold fortunes to his stat lines. While Dallas still holds the coveted spot atop the Corsi For, Hemsky might be a good addition to piggyback the big boys in the top six that might otherwise be unattainable.