Nikita Kucherov is visibly one of the most gifted passers in the game. His vision and deception are a treat to watch for any hockey fan. Additionally, the data supports Kucherov as a top puck-mover. Using data to support a claim is essential. Let’s see where Kucherov thrives on the stat sheet.
The Superb Data Behind Kucherov’s Passing
Assists are the most popular passing statistic. Kucherov is near the top of the league in assists every season. Forward Nikita Kucherov notched 83 assists last season, placing second best. He finished five assists behind Connor McDavid. Additionally, studies show players who record primary assists more often have a better probability of replicating their point totals. On the other hand, secondary assists aren’t as replicable. Since joining the Lightning in 2013, Kucherov’s primary assists outscore his secondary assists each season.
Moreover, Kucherov recorded 48 primary assists in 2023, third-best behind McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Kucherov is a competent passer in all strengths of the game. Also, Kucherov recorded 20 primary 5v5 assists, which was tenth best last season. The most deadly part of Kucherov is his ability to manipulate a penalty kill. He is one of the most gifted power-play specialists. His primary assist totals back up this claim. Kucherov added 23 primary power-play assists in 2023, second to McDavid’s total of 30.
Kucherov’s primary assist totals indicate he is heavily involved with shot assists, specifically the ones that go in the back of the net. However, only 10.06% of all registered shots resulted in goals throughout the 2022-23 season. Kucherov plays a vital role in creating the shots his linemates don’t capitalize on.
Why Use Shot Assists
This is a unique statistic that applies to forward Nikita Kucherov. A shot assist is a pass that results in a direct shot on goal. The average hour of hockey saw 2.59 goals scored per game in 2022-23. Meanwhile, there were 30.15 shots per hour. Expanding beyond a single event provides more perspective in analysis.
Kucherov is heavily influential in Tampa Bay Lightning’s shot generation. Corey Sjanzder grades Kucherov in the upper echelon of shot assists (All Three Zones micro-stats tracking project). Kucherov was in the 100th percentile of shot assists in 2023. Yet, not every shot is considered a scoring chance. It’s a matter of the quality of shots a the player helps produce. Not only is Kucherov assisting his linemates in the shot generation, but he’s also assisting them in chance generation.
Chance Generation and High-Danger Passes
Producing a large number of shots is ineffective without quality scoring chances. For example, five shots from the slot are much harder to replicate than ten shots from the perimeter. Plus, chances from the slot have a better probability of going in. The data backs it up. Again, Corey Sjanzder provides a fantastic layer of analysis when talking about high-danger passes.
Connecting Data with Heat Maps
Shot Maps created by Micah Blake McCurdy from HockeyViz is a great tool to understand how efficiently teams generate shots. The blue regions identify a team that generates less than the league average rate of shots, and the red regions for more than the league average.
When comparing Kucherov’s stats across models, the red zone indicates Kucherov is a centre-lane play driver. We can connect the shot map with the A3Z data to understand Kucherov’s passing archetype. He prefers quality over quantity, moves the puck from the middle of the ice, and feeds his teammates top-tier scoring chances. Kucherov uses the art of deception to boost his linemates’ shooting talent. He also does this on Tampa Bay’s lethal power play.
Power Play Deception
Tampa Bay structures its power-play with Kucherov on his off-wing. Brayden Point plays the bumper role in the slot. Kucherov’s a big reason Point ranked fourth in power-play goals. In addition, Point ended up reaching 51 goals last season. Kucherov’s skates always point facing the net. Or, he fakes the wind-up of a slapshot. Yet, he keeps his hands separated from his body and slides a pass to a wide-open Point in the slot. The two have executed this play numerous times.