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The Curious Case of Miles Wood

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Miles Wood is among the worst possession players on the team, but he’s also one of the most thrilling to watch. I try to hunt down how good he actually is.

Montreal Canadiens v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Miles Wood is an obviously exciting player to watch. The speed is impossible to miss and he plays a tough game too, leading the team in fights (though only going 2-4 in those fights). Possession numbers and WOWY-type information paint him as an absolute blackhole and a drain on his teammates though. Which description is more apt? I’m doing a long-overdue investigation into the Good, the Bad, and the Meh of Miles Wood.

The Definitely Good

The quickest way to describe his good is “great individual effort”. The one I already knew about coming into this article was ixG60 (individual expected goals per 60). I knew from my 2017 advanced stats summary that he had an expected goal rate of 0.912 per 60 minutes — 2nd only to Taylor Hall who had 0.914. He is essentially tied with Hall for the Devil most likely to be in a scoring situation while on the ice. That’s definitely good news.

Secondly, after thumbing through the internet long and hard, I finally stumbled on Corey Sznajder’s Patreon page of Zone Entry and Exit Data. He also has our friend Ryan Stimson’s passing data. They have different game totals for each team recorded and no box score info in them so I had to scrape the data from Hockey-Reference’s archives and cross reference them to get time-on-ice totals. But after having spent a, frankly, stupid amount of time doing that, I was rewarded with very enlightening information. Wood’s rate of 4 dump recoveries per 60 minutes is highest on the team. Furthermore, of the 564 skaters that registered 150 or more minutes in the zone entry datasets, he is second only to Marion Gaborik (who btw is upper-right-most point on the scatterplot below). He is also 5th in carry-ins per 60 on the team behind only Hall, Palmieri, Bennett, and ... DSP? Let’s ignore that last one for now and revel in how intuitive the other ones are.

The point is, Wood is either carrying the puck in or retrieving a dump more than basically anyone on the team. Below is a graph of the 564 skaters I mentioned — the red dots are Devils.

Wood and Hall obviously stand out in this figure. They are the two most exceptional players in individually establishing opportunities for offensive zone possession. What Wood does with those opportunities however, will be evaluated later on.

The “Meh”

If you look at DTMAboutHeart’s GAR metrics, you’ll see that Wood ranked 9th out of the 23 forwards that skated for us last year. I looked at the breakdown of each component of the metric (ex: BPM and XPM) and each area of his game(ex: PPO, EVD, Penalties, etc.) and there is no area where he stands out. The only exceptional region is penalties drawn where he is 3rd on the team -- but after you account for penalties taken even that one is a wash.

Sean Tierney has great GAR vizualizations and you can see that his stats land him as 9th among forwards. The red is penalties taken — he takes too many, the biggest blue is penalties drawn — he draws a lot too.

The Definitely Bad

Miles Wood is comically bad in possession. According to firstlinestats, despite not having particularly difficult zone start situations, he was bottom 5 in CF% (shot attempt ratio), FF% (unblock shot attempt ratio), and SCF% (scoring chance ratio). It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that he ended up as a stunning -21 in only 60 games. In my summary post (linked above) it showed that even after adjusting for zone starts, his CF% was better than only Ben Thompson and DSP.

Originally I thought it might be that he was being played in situations above his pay-grade. His most common full line according to LeftWingLock was Henrique and Cammalleri who definitely are playing against the other team’s top 6. So that seemed to make sense. However, according to PuckIQ, there is not situation in which Woods possession numbers are positive relative to the team, and very few in which the scoring chance (dangerous fenwick, DF) numbers are positive. So it wasn’t a matter of him being “in over his head.” He was just as bad against poor competition as he was against good.

Furthermore, in the aforementioned dataset from Corey Sznajder, Ryan’s passing data looks terribly on Miles Wood. He had only 8 recorded shot-generating passes. That’s less than John Quenneville, DSP, and Yohann Auvitu, and the same as Sergey Kalinin -- all of whom played less than him in this dataset. For reference, Henrique and Zajac had 71 a piece. And despite the good carry and dump recovery stats, he only recorded 2 passes off of those. Wood routinely puts himself in positions to succeed, but routinely fails to turn that into opportunities for teammates or sustained offensive possession.

Sooooo, What’s the Verdict?

I mean, it’s partially for you guys to decide and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Personally, I think that these statistics paint a rather clear picture. Miles Wood is a guy that doesn’t see the whole ice. He is a terrible passer and his inability to make those around him better shows in the possession numbers. However, he is either best or second only to Taylor Hall on the team in providing plays that demand individual effort (zone carries, recovered dumps, individual scoring chances, etc.) And so I think that the GAR representation of him is probably pretty close. He is a low 3rd or high 4th line guy.

On a good team, Wood is a perfectly acceptable 4th liner. And on this team, the fact that he can energize the team and do things almost no one else on the team can do makes him an obvious choice for the roster this year. Long term? Does he fit the “fast, attacking, supportive” mantra? I think we have definitive answers on all three. Definitely fast. Definitely attacking. Definitely not supportive. Is 23 enough? Only time will tell. Thanks for reading and remember to leave your thoughts in the comments!

Post-Scrpit: I’m in the middle of compiling some of those entry/exit synced stats I referenced. Watch my twitter for publications on that front. I’ll post any Devils-related findings in AAtJ in some form.