Gustav Nyquist: Is he Really This Good?


Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

So we all know that Nyquist is the hottest player in the NHL, the real question is, how sustainable is his production? Can Gustav Nyquist score 30 or 40 goals in a year? How much does he add to this team on a nightly basis? Let’s see if we can’t answer them here with a bit of in depth analysis.

Let’s start with analyzing his shooting percentage. Shooting percentage is a stat that takes all the shots a player takes and divides it by the number of goals he scored. For example a player who takes 10 shots and scores 2 goals has a shooting percentage of 20. As a reference the league average this year is 8.94%(stat taken from, and currently Nyquist is shooting at 19.2%. People who cite this stat will argue(and rightfully so) that players who shoot above the league average tend to revert back to it. Let’s  look at how he is scoring his goals and then decide whether his goals are repeatable.

I want to take time right now to define exactly what I am going to be looking for here. I am looking to isolate on each scoring play whether or not Nyquist’s goals can be attributed to his skill, another players mistake, or a fluky lucky play(like the skate goal against Columbus on the March 25th).

Let’s start with the game on the 18th against the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Let’s look at his first goal, the breakaway where he “beats” Reimer and gives the Wings a 1-0 lead.

Right here we see Nyquist going after a loose puck against Ranger. Two things to notice here, Nyquist is in better position to get this puck because, a) he has his stick on the ice and b) he is already generating speed as opposed to Ranger who is indecisive. He isn’t sure if he should go after the puck or if he should back off and play defense.Ranger decides to go after the puck after some thought, but his choice is too slow and Nyquist is able to grab this puck.  Onto the next picture.

This shot shows Nyquist zooming past Ranger. Look at how far Nyquist has skated in comparison to Ranger. Nyquist’s speed allows him to get past him without any trouble. This now makes it a race between him and Franson. Onto the next one.

Here we see the Franson and Nyquist even at the blue line. Maybe a half stride advantage for Nyquist, but they are essentially even.

A stride later, Nyquist is on a clear breakaway. His speed allows him to get in this position and to create space between him and the defense.

Now is the time when Nyquist should make his first move. Nyquist is hesitant here. He is late to make his move and as a result he doesn’t really get a good read on Reimer. The most important decision that gets made on a breakaway is whether to shoot or deke. Due to the lack of separation Nyquist is unable to concentrate on Reimer and instead makes his read here. 

He chooses to deke, the right choice seeing his proximity. He glides to the top of the crease pulls the puck to his backhand.  The problem with this is that the closer you get to the goal the smaller the net gets. You have less space to shoot and Reimer has better angles to work with. A deke is only effective if you have enough time to fake a goalie out as you move towards him. The deke starts late and Nyquist loses his ability to elevate the puck. Reimer doesn’t have the top corner covered because Nyquist can’t put the puck there, there isn’t enough room for the puck to travel that high.

So what can we learn about Nyquist from this play?  Well first off, he is explosive. This was a great play, even if the finish was lame. He made a great play to out skate both Leafs defensemen and was able to get a breakaway off a transition play.  Nyquist grabs the puck in the defensive zone and is able to control his speed throughout the whole play.

Let’s tie this back in with the shot % argument. The most important thing about using a stat is establishing exactly what it measures. Shot % doesn’t take into account that some shots have a better chance of going in than others do.  For example, Nyquist has a much higher chance of scoring on a breakaway than he does if he is shooting from the top of the circles with no traffic. The 19.2% is extremely high compared to the league average. Nyquist is generally taking very high percentage shots. He doesn’t shoot all that much, and the shots he takes are generally the results of high pressure offense in goal like situations.

Later in that same game Nyquist scores another goal. Let’s take a look at it. The second goal is set up almost identically to the first. Nyquist pokes the puck past a flat footed Ranger, then out skates the other Dman going to the net.

This is where the play starts. Smith makes a hard aggressive play on who I believe to be Lupul, who in return makes a bad outlet pass which Nyquist is able to tip away from Ranger.

The puck is past Ranger here and now there is a race to the puck between him and Nyquist. Ranger is flat footed and forced to transition whereas Nyquist already has momentum towards the puck.

Again, look at how far Gustav Nyquist has moved in relation to Ranger. In three strides he has gotten within a step of him and is moving much faster than Ranger is still.

Nyquist has now passed Ranger and now only has to worry about Morgan Reilly. Reilly’s job here is to force him to the outside and give Reimer the best angle possible and to give Nyquist the lowest percentage shot possible. Reilly is pretty successful in this endeavor. Onto the next picture.

Nyquist releases a shot from the face-off dot. This shot is absolutely perfect. The shot could not be placed anywhere else and still produce a goal. He banks a rocket off the post and it goes in.

This is a generally well defended play, with a perfect shot from Nyquist. But I am not quite sure how repeatable this is. It is called a perfect shot for a reason, the conclusion I will come to is that high skilled players(like Nyquist) get luckier than other players because they put themselves in a position to get lucky due to their increased skill.

Gustav Nyquist is dynamic. He is able to create his own scoring chances and he has the finishing ability to score goals. What is most encouraging about him though is that he can get hot. Some players are really consistent, their performance doesn’t fluctuate much and although dependability is a great thing, there is something so valuable about having a player who is red-hot on your team. When Franzen gets hot he is the single most dangerous player on the Wings, and when he gets hot at the end of the season and into the playoffs, the Wings perform better. This is the kind of stuff the Wings need going forward.

As always, check me out on twitter (@ProspectGuy) and feel free send me Red Wings questions to If I like your question I will feature it in a mailbag article. Questions don’t have to be about Red Wings prospects but I do ask that you keep them hockey related.