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  • Calen Addison's Been Quiet Lately. But Is That A Bad Thing?

    Tony Abbott

    The 2022-23 Calder Trophy race had a lot of great contenders out of the gate. Talented rookie forwards like Matty Beniers, Kent Johnson, and Shane Wright were at the top of the list. On defense, Owen Power was a name everyone had in mind as a possible winner. Someone had to take the league by storm to overcome those name-brand rookies.


    Through four games, Calen Addison was doing exactly that. Quarterbacking a red-hot power play, Addison racked up six assists through four games. He was putting up numbers and looking good doing it, and no, not just because of his fan-favorite mustache.


    Young stars like Cale Makar, Adam Fox, Quinn Hughes, and Moritz Seider recently rode offensive waves to Calder contention, and it looked like Addison might be the next hot young defenseman to do so.


    Thirty games later, though, Addison's fallen out of that conversation. He still leads rookie defensemen in points with 16 in 34 games. And while 10 points in 30 games is solid for a rookie, it's hardly eye-popping. Moreover, only three of the eight assists in that time are of the primary variety. This suggests he's not directly creating as much as he did to start the season when he registered the primary assist on four of his first six points.


    But while points matter greatly to Calder voters, they only make up a small part of a defenseman's overall value. And while he was in line for a healthy scratch until injury struck back in November, Addison's played all 34 games. Coach Dean Evason clearly trusts him, even if that trust can sometimes waver.


    So let's look beyond points and check in on where Addison's at and the next steps for his development.


    The thing you can absolutely say about Addison is that he's delivered on his reputation as a power-play wizard. He's about as good as any defenseman Minnesota's had, well, ever.


    In the Analytics Era (2007-08 to today), the Wild have had 44 seasons where a defenseman has racked up 100 power-play minutes. We're talking guys like strong offensive players like Brent Burns, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba, and Ryan Suter. Heck, even Marek Zidlicky and Marc-Andre Bergeron had strong seasons as power-play specialists.


    Addison exceeds almost all of them. Right now, he's averaging 5.71 points per hour on the power play through 126 minutes. That's second in Wild history, with only 2015-16 Spurgeon (5.81) exceeding him.


    This lines up exactly with the eye test. Addison quarterbacks the power play with quick decision-making and flair, two qualities absent at the point for over a decade for the Wild. That is, if they ever had it.



    Now, that still puts Addison outside the top tier among power-play quarterbacks around the league. There are 58 defensemen to play 50-plus power play minutes this season, and Addison's points per hour rank 19th among them. It's still very solid, ahead of Thomas Chabot (5.69), Roman Josi (5.52), and Fox (4.93). But there's another step he has to take to join the Makars, Hughes', and Erik Karlssons of the world.


    But what about 5-on-5? Bad news there. Addison's been great at scoring on the power play but is one of the worst scorers at even strength. 181 defensemen have played 300 or more minutes at 5-on-5, and Addison is scoring 0.28 points per hour, which ranks 171st among them.


    Put it another way: You think Jonas Brodin (four points in 29 games) is having a tough offensive season? Yeah, Brodin's 0.34 points per hour at 5-on-5 edges out Addison.


    What's up with the gap between Addison the power play menace and Addison the MIA 5-on-5 scorer?


    Luck seems to be a good place to start looking. But when you look into it, the Wild are shooting 7.7% when Addison's on the ice at 5-on-5. Only Spurgeon and Alex Goligoski see more goals per hour at 5-on-5 for Minnesota than Addison. This isn't a case where goalies inexplicably stand on their head whenever Addison's playing.


    But where Addison's been very unlucky is that he's picked up points on just 11.8% of the goals Minnesota's scored with him on the ice, according to Natural Stat Trick. Both of them have been from his own shots. None of his passes have converted into goals.


    Which is weird because of all the Wild defensemen, only Spurgeon passes more than Addison. According to Corey Sznajder's All Three Zones project, Addison is second on the team in shot assists and scoring chance assists. Despite that, no one's finishing his plays.


    Granted, there's an extent to where Addison makes his own luck. Let's look at where shots are coming from when Addison is on the ice at 5-on-5.


    [caption id=attachment_141608" align="alignnone" width="1168]Screen-Shot-2022-12-31-at-4.19.35-PM.png Courtesy of Hockey Viz[/caption]


    The Wild get a few shots from the slot but nothing from the net. The greatest volume of shots is always coming from the perimeter, with a heavy amount on the right at the point, where Addison plays. Maneuvering around the point works on the power play, as he's got more space and better talent to work with. The next step is using his skills to find dangerous shooting lanes for him and his teammates when there are five opponents on the ice.


    Defensively, Addison is pretty interesting. On the one hand, the overall amount of scoring chances he allows is fairly low. Minnesota's defensive system helps with this, for sure. So does Evason sheltering him against big minutes. Still, look at the shots he allows! Nothing gets to the crease.


    [caption id=attachment_141609" align="alignnone" width="1168]Screen-Shot-2022-12-31-at-4.19.50-PM.png Courtesy of Hockey Viz[/caption]


    Again, looking at the 181 defensemen with 300 5-on-5 minutes, Addison ranks ninth among them in allowing expected goals, with 2.09 conceded per hour. This is extremely good until you see that he's allowing 3.23 actual goals per hour, 158th in the NHL.


    Yikes! What's going on there?


    Again, we're looking at another combination of luck and some things Addison can legitimately clean up. Generally, a skater isn't going to have much, if any, control over whether or not their goalie makes a save. So when Addison's goalies are rocking an .888 save percentage at 5-on-5, that's way more on Marc-Andre Fleury and Filip Gustavsson than on Addison.


    Still, there might be things Addison does that doesn't help out his netminders, which might not show up in his expected goals. Sznajder has tracked 43 instances where opponents tried to enter the zone against Addison. Eight of those, or 18.6%, have resulted in scoring chances against. That's above the league average of 16% and the second-highest mark on the Wild, behind Jon Merrill.


    It doesn't completely explain the gap between his expected and actual goals. What it shows is that despite his strong overall numbers, there's still room for growth in his game.


    That's not a bad spot to be for a rookie defenseman, though. Few defenders arrive to the NHL as a finished product, and Addison is no exception. Still, he's already got a niche as a bonafide power-play quarterback, and there are positive signs to his 5-on-5 game, even if the results aren't quite there. All he has to do is keep building on those successes.


    All data via Evolving Hockey unless otherwise noted.

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