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.