Forward Style Results: The Different Aspects Of A Forward’s Game

Last time, we looked at the methodology of what I was computing and how it measures player style. If you are interested, click here to read that postNow, it’s time to look at what it all means for forwards. For the equivalent explanation for defencemen, click here.


The six factors found are different for forwards and defensemen as they were seperated in the analysis. It is also important to note that I came up with the names but they can be interpreted differently. They are defined as follows:

1. High Volume Shooter

Every team needs someone to turn the build-up play into a scoring chance. That’s precisely the role this factor describes. The stats highly describing this category are individual shot attempts, shots on goal and expected goals. Carries into the zone help somewhat as well. This means these players drive the puck to the net, focusing on getting a high volume of shots in good locations. They are the trigger players if you will.

As you may have guessed, notorious shooter Alex Ovechkin fits this category perfectly.

2. Cycle Playmakers

This category decribes the players who run play and pull strings in the offensive zone. They are the ones that you would likely notice have the puck all the time in the o-zone. The stats describing this category as shot assists with greater weight on primary ones, cycle plays and passes after an entry. Low to high passes and carry ins also help this category a bit. A player you would notice does all these things is Mathew Barzal.

3. Transitional Puck-Carryers

The skaters. This category describes the skills that made micro-stats famous, zone exits and entries. That means that players scoring highly in this category are able to transition the puck from defence to offence splitting the neutral zone defence.  The stats describing this category are as can be expected, zone exits, zone entries, both with higher weight to possession carries of these events. Nikolaj Ehlers, a player you’ve likely seen fly through the neutral zone with the puck, performs very well in this category.

4. Build-Up Passers

This role is probably the least noticed action or part of the game, but the principal component analysis identified it as one that significantly explains the data. The stats that best describe it are transitional plays, defensive zone shot assists and neutral zone shot assists. Zone exits help a bit too. This means that these players tend to sit back and help the build-up of play. This is a role usually done by defensemen, but the Canadiens use their forwards to accomplish this part of the game. Jean-Gabriel Pageau best represents a player that excels in this part of the game as a base for the attack to build-off of.

5. Forechecking Forwards

I believe that this category describes the typical checking players. They are hard to play against and, importantly, hard to beat. The stats describing it are dump-in recoveries, exit disruptions and offensive zone takeaways. Hitting does slightly help too. Nicolas Aube-Kubel is perhaps the most effective forechecker in the league

6. Deep Shutdown Forward

These players are the most defensively sound and responsible ones. The sit back and help the defence while limiting shots against. The stats describing this category are a limit of chances against, rush defence, and blocks. While he’s starting to decline a little bit, four-time Selke winner Patrice Bergeron has embodied this role over the last decade 

If you’re interested in viewing the results for every player in the league, join with Patreon and access the interactive charts and complete data.

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