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Should William Carrier be on the Sabres top line?

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What do you think?

NHL: Preseason-Buffalo Sabres at Minnesota Wild
William Carrier
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

There has been plenty of debate in recent days regarding rookie William Carrier, who has been getting some high-profile minutes on the Buffalo Sabres top line alongside Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo (who might be replaced by Sam Reinhart going forward).

His basic stats summary - played 17 NHL games so far, with 1G, 1A and a +2 on 25 shots and 6 PIM, averaging 9:04 TOI with no specials teams involvement. Carrier certainly provides a lot of jump on that line, crashing the net and retrieving pucks in the corners.

But with those lackluster numbers, there has been some justified criticism of Dan Bylsma’s continued use of Carrier on that line. Considering the injury situation the Sabres are finding themselves in, Bylsma has gone through a bit of a revolving door with the left winger position, having tried out Matt Moulson, Nicholas Baptiste and Justin Bailey there too.

When you take a look at some of the advanced stats though, he starts looking a little better there. Carrier leads all the Sabres forwards in SAT% (Shots attempted percentage*) with 54.18%, and is also top of the squad in SAT% Close (Shots attempted percentage close**) with 54.85%.

Finally, take a look at the “With or Without You” chart for Carrier. What this shows is how Carrier plays with and without certain linemates (over 20 min played together), and how those linemates do without him.

William Carrier (48) With or Without You
HockeyViz.com

Click here for a larger image

So, armed with all this knowledge, let’s talk - should Carrier be on the top line or not?


*SAT%: Calculation = 100 x (shot attempts for / shot attempts for + shot attempts against) or 100 x (SATF / SATF + SATA). Also called Corsi for%.

**SAT% Close: Calculation = shot attempts % (SAT%) when team is within one goal of their opponent in periods 1 and 2, or tied in period 3. Also called Corsi for% close.

NB: A big thank you to Micah Blake McCurdy for all the work he does in developing advanced stats and visualizations that help educate fans. Follow his Twitter and website for tonnes more info, and also consider supporting him via Patreon as well.