Alex Ovechkin's struggles headline biggest revelations from NHL Edge data

The NHL has made some advanced statistics available to the public and there are some surprising things to be learned from the new information.

The NHL took a step toward improving the general public's understanding of the game by debuting "NHL Edge," a set of player and puck tracking data.

Included in those statistics was information about players' skating speeds, shot velocity, and total distance covered, as well as a detailed look at scoring chances of different potencies and how goalies handled them.

There is an abundance of new info available — and we'd recommend analytically-inclined fans go poke around for themselves — but below are a few quick takeaways from NHL Edge.

NHL superstar Alex Ovechkin doesn't look as dominant as usual early in 2023-24. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
NHL superstar Alex Ovechkin doesn't look as dominant as usual early in 2023-24. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Ovechkin looks like he's slowing down

Coming into 2023-24, Alex Ovechkin looked like he was well on his way to setting the NHL goals record, but he's off to a rough start after failing to light the lamp in his first four games.

That wouldn't be too much of a concern in and of itself, but the 38-year-old was also held shot-less in two consecutive games for the first time in his career as part of his uninspired start.

NHL Edge's data seems to suggest the legendary scorer might be slipping this year, both in terms of footspeed and shot velocity.

Via NHL Edge
Via NHL Edge

The narrative with Ovechkin has been that his power-play focus and one-timer will keep him scoring at an impressive clip even as he ages, but this data suggests his shot could be getting less dangerous.

Because he has only put nine shots on net, it's possible that max shot speed will come up at some point, but the decline between 2021-22 and 2022-23 is noteworthy and he hasn't shown a world-class clapper yet this year.

The Golden Knights are good at everything

After winning the Stanley Cup in June and beginning the season with six consecutive victories, there isn't much doubt that the Golden Knights are a great team.

What's interesting about how they show up in the new tracking data is that they excel according to all the new metrics. If we look at a comparison between the NHL's two other undefeated teams — the Colorado Avalanche and Boston Bruins — it's clear you can play winning hockey without checking every box:

Via NHL Edge
Via NHL Edge

Meanwhile, a closer look at Vegas shows a team that is fast, shoots hard, lives in the offensive zone, and scores plenty. The Golden Knights are better than the 70th percentile in each of NHL Edge's categories.

Via NHL Edge
Via NHL Edge

No one has been doubting the Golden Knights recently, but this new data provides more evidence that this is a team to be reckoned with.

The NHL's fastest man is a surprise

While the NHL's fastest skater was never guaranteed to be a big-name star, seeing a Winnipeg Jets fourth-liner top the list is a touch surprising.

Rasmus Kupari was the third player traded from the Los Angeles Kings in the Pierre-Luc Dubois deal and he's currently playing 11:56 per night with the Jets with one assist to his name.

While he hasn't been particularly impactful, there's no disputing he can fly.

Kupari's max speed of 23.95 mph leads the NHL by a solid margin. The second man on the list (Martin Nečas) sits at 23.54 mph. The gap between the two is approximately the distance between Nečas and the sixth man on the list, Quinton Byfield.

Kupari won't be worth monitoring too closely until he works his way into a bigger role with the Jets, but if you happen to be watching a Winnipeg game and you see No. 15 on the rush, know that you might just be in for something special.

Rasmus Kupari officially has some wheels. (Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)
Rasmus Kupari officially has some wheels. (Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Leafs centers getting to the dangerous areas like no one else

The Maple Leafs' offense currently ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game, but according to the new shot location data, there's reason for optimism that it can improve.

Toronto ranks second in the NHL in high-danger shots on net (61), just two behind a Nashville Predators team (63) that's played an extra game.

Particularly notable is the job the Leafs' top two centers have done getting dangerous shots on target. Auston Matthews leads the NHL in high-danger shots (17), while John Tavares ranks second (14). No other player in the league has more than 12 and no other pair of teammates has combined for more than 22.

Matthews has converted on his opportunities with six goals in his first five games, but this new data suggests there might be some positive regression coming for Tavares, who has just two goals so far on 23 total shots.

Roope Hintz and Jack Hughes combine skill with work ethic

Looking at the players atop the skating distance leaderboard on a per-minute level, you don't see too many of the NHL's top players.

There are a number of reasons for that, as top stars often play extended minutes and have to conserve energy, and they get a lot of offensive-zone starts that mean they don't have to transition the puck. There are also quite a few big-time producers whose defensive-zone effort and backchecking fall short on occasion.

That's why a lot of the most prolific skaters are guys like Jansen Harkins, Alexander Holtz, Ryan McLeod, and Yegor Sharangovich. These guys have to work hard to be effective.

At the top of the skating distance per 60 leaderboard you'll find two stars, though: Roope Hintz (11.26 miles) and Jack Hughes (10.98 miles).

That duo has combined for 13 points in six games so far, so the combination of top-end skill and willingness to move is serving them well.