Rookies are tough to evaluate.
There are so many variables that come in to play when trying to look at data on rookie hockey players. How strong are his teammates? What kind of situations and responsibilities are handed to that player? What does the development timeline look like for the player? All of this is to say, Tyson Jost is really, really tough to analyze.
If you go by the eye test, I’m one of the first to say that Tyson Jost is a strong kid that has a lot of upside. I like the way he shields the puck, finds creative passing lanes, and generates chances when given space in the offensive zone. On the defensive side, Jost is a minus, but I tend to give him a pass mentally knowing that he is a rookie, and defensive responsibilities are tough for young centers. But pressed for an overall analysis from memory, I’d say Tyson Jost had a pretty good rookie year.
This is where the eye test can blind us.
When I am not writing poorly for this website, my job is teaching high school economics (which probably explains my love for advanced statistics), and we talk a lot in class about how data can give us a side of a story we may have never otherwise considered. Moneyball is one of my favorite books, and I re-read it almost every year when baseball season starts up and the Avalanche are (likely) not in the playoff picture. The central premise of Moneyball, and advanced statistics in general, is that there is a clear disconnect between what is observed and the statistical production of a player. Jost is a clear cut example of this disconnect for me this last season.
The short version is this: Tyson Jost, statistically speaking, was pretty forgettable this season. That is until he went to the World Championship, where he showed the kind of potential we had been waiting for.
One Big Number: 45.71 Corsi For%
Again, there are so many factors that must be considered before we dig into the numbers. It is important to note that the Avalanche continued their trend of horrific Corsi numbers on the regular season this year. They finished 27th in even strength Corsi For% (CF%) this season, which is nothing new for Colorado. If you look at aggregate CF% in even strength hockey over the last three seasons, Colorado ranks 30th, and haven’t finished higher than 25th in any season since 2013-2014. So, yeah, the Avs kind of suck at puck possession.
This puts a lot of pressure on centers to play defensive hockey, which is a tough assignment for any rookie to jump into. Tyson Jost’s numbers reflect this: a CF% of 45.71, a relative CF% of -2.56, all while ranking in the bottom third on the team in quality of opponent numbers, meaning he struggles even against the weakest lines opponents roll out against him.
This is where I started looking for an explanation. After all, my gut still told me that Tyson Jost was a productive rookie this year!
Maybe it was zone starts? Nope. More or less even.
Has to be that his linemates are dragging him down. Nope. -2.23 teammate adjusted Corsi relative.
Is it situational stuff? Nope. Corsica offers adjusted statistics, which adjusts numbers based on the score of the game (when you’re ahead, your Corsi is likely to drop as opponents throw pucks on net), venue (factoring in home ice advantage), and the aforementioned zone starts (tough to get shots off 200 feet from your opponent’s net). Adjusted for these factors, Jost’s numbers improve only slightly to a 46.61 CF% and a teammate adjusted Corsi relative of -1.94.
Okay, so his numbers aren’t great. But, again, he’s a rookie center. That’s a tough job. Surely all rookie centers suffer from similar woes in the NHL.
Nope. Looking just at rookies playing center this season (with at least 41 games played), Tyson Jost ranks second to last in CF%. The thing that shocked me most was how little rookie status seemed to matter when looking at these numbers; eight of the 15 rookie centers that played in 41 games this season had a positive (above 50.0) CF%, making these numbers a pretty classic bell curve distribution.
Even Jost’s faceoff numbers are dismal: a 36.68 faceoff win%, including a laughable 1 for 11 on powerplay faceoffs this year. Again, comparing to rookie centers with 41 GP, he ranks 13th of 15.
The biggest saving grace that the numbers don’t tell us about Jost is his age. He’s barely 20 years old, younger than many of the rookies I compared him against. He has plenty of time, and will have plenty of opportunities, to continue developing over the next few years. The Avalanche have committed themselves to the growth of young talent, and I believe in Jost in the long run. I like his “intangibles” (whatever that means) that the numbers don’t always reflect. Again, he sees passing lanes and opportunities really well, and I think his strength on the puck will be a major asset moving forward.
But the numbers don’t lie. Tyson Jost is a cautionary tale against relying solely on observations that lead to confirmation bias. By wanting him to be a first round darling, it can be easy to overlook his overall production levels. At the same time, using statistics for rookies as the sole predictor of future success isn’t always best practice either (see: Nathan MacKinnon’s rookie 46.8 CF% and -1.4 relative Corsi).
Like I said, rookies are tough to evaluate.