Analytics of a Trade: Zack Kassian

The latest trade rumour became reality: This morning, the Edmonton Oilers traded goalie, Ben Scrivens, for Montreal Canadiens’ forward, Zack Kassian. Due to a strong training camp by Anders Nilsson, Scrivens had been demoted to the Oilers’ AHL-affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors. Zack Kassian has a checkered history, which includes on-ice antics, such as his slew foot on Eberle (Nov. 1, 2014), and a recent rehabilitation for alcohol abuse.

Quoting Wikipedia: “On October 4th, 2015, Kassian was involved in an accident on a non practice day, suffering a broken nose and fractured left foot. Kassian was not the driver of the car, however he was under the influence, which resulted in him being suspended without pay and sent to the NHL’s substance abuse program.

On December 15, 2015, after successfully completing the substance abuse program, the NHL announced Kassian’s return from suspension. However, only a few hours after the announcement, the Canadiens put him on waivers.”

That’s the downside of Kassian. On the upside, he is in prime at 24 years of age. Although his overall production isn’t spectacular–35 goals & 31 assists in 198 NHL games–more refined analysis of his even-strength performance suggests he has a strong scoring touch. The following two charts show his production, possession, and passing metrics.

Kassian HERO


Kassian 14_15 Passing Metrics

Glossary for Passing Metrics

Glossary Passing Metrics

The HERO chart, which teases apart his production and possession metrics, suggests that on both metrics that he is a solid bottom-6 forward. What stands out, of course, is his goal-scoring rate, which is comparable to top-line forwards. His even-strength career scoring rate (i.e., shooting%) is 13.5%, which is above average even for a top-6 forward.

What about the influence of playing with Henrik and Daniel Sedin while playing in Vancouver? At even-strength, 10 of his 35 goals were scored with the Sedins in which he scored at an unsustainable rate of 22%. Without the Sedins, his career scoring rate is a more plausible 11.7%, which is still high-end for a bottom-6 forward.

However, if we look at his passing metrics (2nd graph), we see that he does not contribute all that much to offense. His Corsi (i.e., shot attempt) Contributions are on the low side, quite low in fact. Even accounting for time-on-ice by using ‘per 60 minute’ breakdowns, he’s not doing a lot to generate offense. But at the same time, if we look to the right of the graph and note his contributions to scoring chances, he looks very good; way above average. He doesn’t do a lot, but when he does, he’s heavy on quality chances.

One way to look at Kassian’s passing and shooting is that he favours quality over quantity. For a bottom-6 forward, I find it hard to complain about that. The more scoring depth for the Oilers, the better. Relative to the Oilers current bottom-6, Kassian is a definite upgrade. Moreover, as to the struggling power-play, I would definitely prefer seeing Kassian than Korpikoski.

Even if this trade doesn’t pan out, I don’t think the Oilers lose in this trade. But if he does become a strong possession and producing depth forward, then he is another valuable piece to the puzzle.

What are your thoughts on Kassian? I was skeptical given his history, but his metrics suggest this could be a good find for Chiarelli.

Walter Foddis Written by: