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Advanced Stats For VGK Dummies: First Assist

Time for episode three of Advanced Stats for Dummies (see Corsi For Percentage and Zone Starts). Today we are diving deeper into the word assist to explain the meaning and importance of the stat “First Assist.”

Quite simply, the First Assist (FirstA) is awarded to the player who last touched the puck before the player who scored. In other sports, like basketball or soccer, this is the only player to record an assist, but in hockey, multiple assists are awarded for every goal. Only one First Assist is awarded per goal.

Example time! The Golden Knights have the puck in their defensive zone, Nate Schmidt zips the puck up the boards to Reilly Smith, Smith takes it and passes it to Vadim Shipachyov, Shipachyov shoots and scores.

Goal (G) – Shipachyov
Assists (A) – Smith, Schmidt
First Assist (FirstA) – Smith

The reason First Assist is measured is because it’s often an indicator of actual impact on the play. Often times in hockey, a player makes a simple pass and ends up getting an assist out of it. Goalies accounted for 35 assists last season, only five of them were First Assists (14.3%). On the flip side, Connor McDavid recorded 70 assists and 44 of them were First Assists (62.9%).

First Assist is a good measure of playmaking impact on the ice, ability to generate offense, and puck focus. Not every time, but in most cases, the final pass before the goal was more important than the pass that led to the pass before the goal. In other words, First Assist is a validation of the total assist number.

Let’s take a look at how the Golden Knights roster fares in the First Assist category.

PlayerFirst Assist (FirstA)Assists (A)First Assist Percentage (FirstA%)
David Perron162759.3%
James Neal151978.9%
Jonathan Marchessault102147.6%
Oscar Lindberg71353.8%
Cody Eakin7977.8%

As you can see, the potential scoring ability of Perron, Neal and Marchessault should serve well for Vegas. The low numbers from Eakin and Lindberg will undoubtedly rise with more responsibility. Of course we do not have Shipachyov’s numbers, but altogether Vegas’ centers come up way short in this playmaking number. 22 assists from a pair of centers will drive Gerard Gallant crazy, and will probably have McPhee headed back to the drawing board to fix a weak spot.

First Assist is a much more important stat for forwards than it is defenseman. Defenseman are expected to have a much lower percentage of First Assists because they are usually the deepest down the ice when the team transitions from defense to offense. But First Assists and specifically First Assist Percentage can tell a lot about the actual impact forwards are making on the ice. Look at the Minnesota Wild for instance, Mikael Granlund led the team with 43 assists, 31 of them were First Assists (72.1%) while Mikko Koivu had the 2nd most assists on the team with 40, but only 14 were First Assists (35%). Not saying Koivu is a bad player, cause he’s not at all, but when looking at stats and how they may carry over to a new team, especially for forwards, First Assist Percentage is an excellent indicator.

All in all, for the Golden Knights, the numbers you see in that table are going to change drastically as players’ roles and responsibilities shift on the new team, but First Assist is a stat to keep an eye on, especially for players Vegas may be looking to ship out.

***

I wrote this paragraph as a another way to explain what a First Assist was and Ken tried to delete it and say VGK fans would be smart enough to figure it out without my real world example. But, there’s no way I’m leaving it out of the article completely, can’t do it, sorry Mumford and Sons boy.

Let me give you an example off the ice. Some of you may have friends that are everyday playmakers. Take my friend Lyle. Say you and a couple of buddies are hitting the town in search of single ladies. One buddy, let’s call him Steven, points out a group of women looking your way. You light up hearing Steven’s news but it’s Lyle that becomes the playmaker. Sending over a round of drinks or simply approaching the ladies, Lyle’s FirstA ability was uncanny. Sure, he was tipped off by Steven but it was Lyle’s effort that got you that hot brunette’s digits. Without Lyle’s FirstA, you and Steven would be going home alone. Now you get it? You scored the number, Lyle was awarded the primary assist and Steven undeservedly received the secondary assist. Lyle was considered a FirstA machine. An everyday McDavid.

See you next time, PDO is up next!

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