Analytics show Garland is Canucks' most productive player at 5-on-5

Mar 15 2022, 8:26 pm

There aren’t many players in the NHL like Conor Garland.

The diminutive 5-foot-8 forward plays like a menace, showing no fear when he mixes it up with the opposition.

He’s also one of the most creative players offensively for the Canucks.

That creativity has really shone through at even strength this season. And, it was certainly on display Sunday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

With Elias Pettersson absent from the line-up, Garland immediately stepped up while playing on a line with JT Miller and Tanner Pearson.

That line out-chanced the Lightning 7-4 on the night. A great hustle by Garland in the third period led to him setting up Miller all alone in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy for the Canucks’ lone goal of the night.

Even though the play maybe should have been blown dead for icing, it demonstrated just how hard Garland works, and just how good he’s been for the Canucks this season at even strength.

Garland is the Canucks best forward at 5-on-5

There have been 424 NHL forwards to play at least 250 minutes at even-strength this season.

If we were to evenly split those forwards into four subsections based on points-per-60, here’s where the cutoffs would be:

  • First line: Above 2.0 points-per-60
  • Second line: 1.6 to 2.0 points-per-60
  • Third line: 1.2 to 1.6 points-per-60
  • Fourth line: Below 1.2 points-per-60

Judging by points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, the Canucks really only have two first-line forwards on the team — Garland and Miller.

First-line rate

1. Conor Garland (2.34)
2. JT Miller (2.12)

Second-line rate

3. Tanner Pearson (1.79)

Third-line rate

4. Bo Horvat (1.46)
5. Vasily Podkozlin (1.37)
6. Tyler Motte (1.36)
7. Juho Lammikko (1.35)
8. Matthew Highmore (1.29)
9. Elias Pettersson (1.21)
10. Nils Hoglander (1.2)

Fourth-line rate

11. Brock Boeser (1.0)
12. Justin Dowling (0.94)
13. Alex Chiasson (0.75)
14. Jason Dickinson (0.55)

Despite the team playing better offensively under Bruce Boudreau, you can tell from above that this team is still underperforming at 5-on-5.

On the season, they rank 27th overall in the NHL with 106 even-strength goals. Part of that is due to their 31st-ranked 5-on-5 shooting percentage, which sits at 7.03%.

Really, the only Canuck who’s been relatively consistent at even-strength has been Garland.

The Massachusetts native started off the season strong with a six-game point streak. Under Travis Green, he was the Canucks only forward to score at a top-six rate during 5-on-5 play.

At the time of Green’s dismissal, Garland had 2.68 points-per-60. The next closest Canucks forward was Tyler Motte, who was a full point-per-60 behind Garland at 1.65.

Another underrated part of Garland’s game is his playmaking ability. He currently leads the Canucks with 1.05 primary assists per-60 at 5-on-5.

The next closest Canuck is Horvat at 0.69.

Of 652 NHLers to play regular season games this season, only 40 of them have registered at least one primary assist per-60. That puts Garland in some elite company in terms of his playmaking ability.

Multiple factors have masked Garland’s impact

There are two main reasons why Garland’s impact has flown somewhat under the radar in Vancouver.

One of them has been his lack of special teams impact.

Garland has spent 101 minutes on the power play for the Canucks this year. In those minutes, he has just a goal and an assist.

With Pettersson missing in action on Sunday against Tampa Bay, there was an opportunity to get Garland onto PP1. Boudreau instead decided to put Oliver Ekman-Larsson in Pettersson’s spot.

A couple of cold streaks this season have also overshadowed Garland’s impact. Although his puck creativity and even-strength production are better than his teammates, Garland has undergone a few stretches this season where he’s been unable to put up points.

Even with an assist against Tampa Bay on Sunday, Garland has just a goal and two assists over the past nine games. He also had a six-game pointless streak earlier this season, prompting him to tell the media “when you suck, it sucks. It’s hard on the mind.”

Despite the inconsistency, he’s currently tied with Miller for the team lead with 29 even-strength points.

Garland began his Canucks career as a fan favourite. That shouldn’t be forgotten, even if he isn’t considered one of the most notable stars on the team.

Trevor BeggsTrevor Beggs

+ Offside
+ Hockey
+ Canucks