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Useful sites that make writing and thinking about hockey possible

Time to give credit to the people who maintain the information we use every day.

Use Of American Dollars Grows in Venezuela Photo by Matias Delacroix/Getty Images

Almost three years ago, I wrote a post about the sites I find invaluable to not just writing about hockey, but thinking about it too.

It’s surprisingly not all that dated, although there is one major player not mentioned. There was a period where there seemed to be new sites all the time, and then they’d close up as their makers either were hired by teams, as did two of the sites that closed shortly after that post went up. Makers of internet tools can be stymied by the thorny question of paying for a site that suddenly gets successful. A blog no one reads is free to maintain. A tool people want to use is expensive.

Today I’m going to plagiarize that old post a little add a few more sites and bring this up to date.

This is not an exhaustive list of all useful sites, but it is my personal list of places I keep returning to time and again and contains many of the sites I choose to support with subscription money.

Elite Prospects

www.eliteprospects.com

There is so much utility in this site, it’s hard to know where to start with my praise. The thing that won me over forever was their decision to include women in their database, and this wasn’t such a huge jump for them, as they has already built their site on the idea that people all over the world play hockey in all sorts of leagues. It’s rare to find a site of any type that is this non-elitist about the NHL.

Top features for me are fun things like the pronunciation of players names, serious things like the transfer history right on the page for each player with links to original sources maintained over time, and useful things like league wide stats that have filters, particularly age filters, that help to judge one young player against his peers.

The subscription-level premium content is ad-free, contains even more useful search filters for the player stats pages, which I’ve used a lot, and includes access to the EP Rinkside content, which is geared more to prospect-watching.

The EP Transfers twitter account is invaluable for keeping up with what’s going on, and also finding players in the world with your family names. Whoever you are, wherever you are from, check for your name at Elite Prospects. You might be like Nazem Kadri, only one of his name, or you might be surprised and find a few or a multitude with your name.

Hockey Reference

hockey-reference.com

I only started using this site because elseldo said he did all the time. And then he grumbled about newfangled sites and kids on his lawn, so I knew I had to give it a try.

It’s complex, full of twisty paths to get to the data you want, but it also straddles the line between the old world of box scores and the new world of calculated numbers and shot metrics.

Their draft database is very useful, I find their season graphic of wins and losses a useful “tell at a glance how it’s going” tool, and I like that their tables are easily converted to CSV data to take away and use.

I’ve written articles using their season averages page, the player or season finder, and the site made the post asking if the Leafs have ever had a good RHD a joy to do. I got to spend more time reading about players than assembling data.

Natural Stat Trick

naturalstattrick.com

NST is now a classic hockey stats site, one that keeps getting better with age. They have some load time lag at times, but not crushingly bad. I seamlessly switched from War on Ice to NST, and I still use it to answer a lot of questions. Who did he play with the most, how did they do, what’s his career shooting percentage look like. Part habit, part just ease of use, I keep coming back to look things up.

There are two graphical resources that are top notch as well. The in game push-pull shot differential graph and the heat map which have been significantly updated in recent years.

Put the two together and you can see the ebb and flow of the game but also the areas of defensive weakness/offensive superiority. Two teams that looked identical by Corsi for most of the game, didn’t quite shoot the same way.

I love this site for in-game checks of what’s going on, particularly to see the heatmap develop from period to period.

NST is in constant development and new features are added frequently.

Evolving Hockey

https://evolving-hockey.com/

Missing from the post two years ago, I don’t know how I’d live without Evolving Hockey now. Subscription gets you premium features of exceptional value, and the site grows and becomes better all the time with new features and refinements. The more advanced concepts are described in linked articles or in the glossary, and there is a low barrier to entry considering the complexity of the product.

Just added are detailed player summaries that include draft position and a new home page.

The data is easily taken away and messed with via download, the PBP Query tool or just in pretty charts you can use to argue with on Twitter.

There is everything here in historical data from simple box score type information to several models that present information about the game in ways that seem impossible to live without now.

EH is also the source for good free agent contract predictions, fun skater similarity tools and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention their live game data presentation which includes a totally different style of shotplot, so if you hate heat maps, look at theirs instead.

Most famous for their RAPM charts, there’s a lot more to discover at the site I likely use the most.

Evolving Hockey

CapFriendly

www.capfriendly.com

Where the hell would we be without them? Trying to make eleventy billion separate lists of contract details full of errors and lacking in verification? Or just throwing up our hands and repeating along with Gary that fans don’t care about contracts.

Some lesser known features of CF beyond their contract data are the qualifying offer calculator, the arbitration listings, the UFA and RFA lists and the waiver exemption information. They have an armchair GM feature which didn’t used to be my thing until I needed to calculate a million different versions of the Leafs capped-out 2019 roster. Their response time on accurate and useful expansion draft information was phenomenal.

If the idea of searching the actual CBA makes you queasy, their FAQs are a great resource.

Their draft board, and trade information is the source of all sorts of amazing rabbit holes to fall down, or articles to write.

The site is constantly maintained and updated and is truly the best thing on the internet if you’re the sort of person who needs to know you can’t bank space while in LTIR.

NHL.com

A site that isn’t as bad as many think it is, but is lacking in many areas. You can’t easily copy the data to work with, but you can do it clumsily. Data on players is spread over multiple pages, and the filters are counter intuitive and clumsy.

But they are useful for some views of player information, particularly if discussing the sorts of things awards voters seem to care about. I use the site for standings information and schedule information a lot more than stats.

Quant Hockey

quanthockey.com

This site is fun! If you like demographic data, this site does some things a little better than Elite Prospects. How many current NHL players were born in Toronto? And who is top of the list in points? The answer is fun to find out.

It has its limitations. Michael Nylander tops the historical list by points for NHLers born in Stockholm. William Nylander is chasing Gary Unger’s intimidating 804 points for players born in Calgary.

They do all time stats and season stats for teams, rosters and they also have gamelogs.

It has other leagues though, so it’s fun to discover all this sort of thing about other areas of the game. Nick Robertson is 13th all-time in goals for a player on the Peterborough Petes. Semyon Der-Arguchintsev is 22nd in points.

Money Puck

moneypuck.com

Money puck brings you Expected Goals data in live game shot plots and charts and they also tell you the odds without regard for Han Solo’s feelings. There’s pre-game chances of winning — the Leafs were 57.3% likely to win the game that never was against the Predators on March 12. And then there’s in-game odds. I used to look at that and measure the percent chance of winning against how I felt about things, and that was always a fun comparison.

The season data comes in multiple forms including power rankings, which I don’t favour, and some one-stop goalie data charts, which I do use a lot.

If you’re looking for the raw play-by-play data, they have in an easy to download form.

There are customizable team charts which look like a modern take on some of the things War on Ice had back in the old days. I admit I spent a lot of time this season looking at various forms of Maple Leafs line graphs, trying to find Jekyll and Hyde in data form, and I never really did figure it out.

HockeyViz

hockeyviz.com

This is not a data site, but a visualization site — there are no tables of data, but there are some crucial numbers. Not everyone wants to see hockey in graphical form, and some of the charts that combine a lot of information don’t work for me. But there is nothing out there remotely like this unique and powerful tool for NHL hockey watchers and writers.

One visualization I like a lot are the heatmaps of shot locations which have come to form the backbone of the site. This has become my favourite way to view shot data because it relates more directly to what you see when you watch a game. A number like X shots per 60 minutes is a frequency that never really happened in the game. Percentages can mislead, but a heatmap is footprints left on the ice.

This site has grown and evolved so much over just two years, and recently an xG model replaced threat on the heatmaps. Some of the things I used to look at then are not my go-to pages now. I like the player summaries, which show a player’s isolated impact and also a year-by-year breakdown. The team offensive and defensive heatmaps answer a question much more sophisticated than, “Are they good?”

Red is more than league average, blue is less. Note which side the Leafs are pressured successfully on.
HockeyViz

I’ve read a great deal of the articles, model descriptions and previews, and the tools that let you make custom charts are thought-provoking and just fun to play with sometimes. I know who was successful all season on the Maple Leafs and who changed from horrible to necessary as the season progressed, and the shot plots show me more of the why than just the numbers do.

The live in-game visualizations are unique, and I find I look at individual shot locations a lot.

HockeyViz is a site that answers questions, which is what analyzing measurements is all about. Go in with a question, and you’ll come out with something to help you think about the answer. That’s true of all these sites in one way or another, and they all have a role to play, depending on the question.

Honourable Mentions

Pick224 is the only site I know of for prospect-only data, and if I was more into draft and prospect analysis, I’d use it all the time. It has AHL, European league and junior hockey leagues. And heatmaps! Look at Robertson’s power play shooting. Who does that remind you of?

Pick224

Puckpedia is a bit like CapFriendly, but it also has a lot of data on player agents that’s hard to find anywhere else.

The KHL, SHL and Liiga sites have stats that run the gamut from very basic to excellent. And I use them all the time. The KHL site has almost everything on it in English, but sometimes it dumps you into Russian when you click a link. The SHL page used to have an English version of their stats page, but that, and most of the ease of use, vanished in a redesign. The Liiga site recently added English versions of most pages just when I’d memorized a few Finnish words. It’s by far the most useful and user-friendly of the three.

And that’s the non-exclusive list of things I use the most.