No wonder Jeff Skinner drew a penalty; have you seen how evil Tomas Kopecky looks? (Phil Ellsworth, Getty Images)

Early in the season, I wrote a post about Penalty Plus/Minus, which is the difference between the number of penalties drawn and taken by a single player. Midway through the season, I ran an update on the leaders in penalty plus/minus, with Jeff Skinner and Rick Nash leading the way. With just a week and a half remaining in the NHL regular season, it seemed an appropriate time to run an end-of-season update.

Okay, so it’s slightly inappropriate to run it now since it’s not actually the end of the season, but the numbers won’t change too much in the few games remaining. I’ll likely tally the final numbers after the playoffs are over and have some fun with team totals and such then.

For now, here are the top and bottom 20 in penalty plus/minus for forwards and defencemen, along with some observations.

As a refresher, please note that these numbers only include minor penalties taken at even-strength. In addition, only non-coincidental penalties were included, so each of these penalties should have resulted in a powerplay. I went with a minimum of 40 games played.

Top 20 Forwards


Name Pos Team GP Penalties Taken Penalties Drawn Penalties Taken/60 Minutes Penalties Drawn/60 Minutes Penalty +/-
1 Jeff Skinner C CAR 58 11 37 0.8 2.7 26
1 John Tavares C NYI 75 8 34 0.4 1.6 26
3 Rick Nash RW CBJ 75 11 35 0.6 1.9 24
4 Darren Helm C DET 68 6 28 0.4 2.1 22
4 Dustin Brown RW L.A 75 17 39 0.9 2.1 22
6 Evgeni Malkin C PIT 68 20 36 1.1 2 16
6 Zach Parise LW N.J 76 9 25 0.5 1.3 16
8 R.J. Umberger C CBJ 70 6 21 0.4 1.3 15
8 Patric Hornqvist LW NSH 70 6 21 0.4 1.4 15
8 Alex Ovechkin LW WSH 71 10 25 0.5 1.4 15
8 Marian Hossa RW CHI 74 5 20 0.3 1.1 15
8 Joe Thornton C S.J 75 7 22 0.4 1.1 15
13 Claude Giroux RW PHI 71 7 21 0.4 1.2 14
14 Matt Duchene C COL 53 4 17 0.3 1.4 13
14 Patrick Dwyer RW CAR 68 4 17 0.3 1.2 13
14 Martin St. Louis RW T.B 69 6 19 0.3 0.9 13
14 Anze Kopitar C L.A 75 5 18 0.3 1 13
18 Matt Moulson LW NYI 75 1 13 0.1 0.7 12
19 Taylor Hall LW EDM 61 13 24 0.9 1.6 11
19 Adam Henrique C N.J 68 0 11 0 0.7 11
19 Teemu Selanne RW ANA 76 12 23 0.7 1.3 11

Once again, Jeff Skinner leads the way, though John Tavares managed to match him. Each drew 26 more minor penalties than they committed, though it should be noted that Skinner did so in 17 fewer games than Tavares. Also of note for Skinner is his Penalties Drawn/60 Minutes of ice time: at 2.7, he is far and away the leader in that category.

It is undoubtedly Skinner’s skating ability that leads to so many drawn penalties. Young hockey players looking to increase their shiftiness on their skates should look into figure skating lessons. It worked with NFL running back Herschel Walker and ballet.

Leading the league in total penalties drawn is Dustin Brown, whose physical style of play also leads to a fair share of penalties taken, with the majority being interference penalties. Brown is second in the NHL in hits, with 276, so mis-timed hits would explain those minor penalties.

Evgeni Malkin was at plus-8 and was tied for 15th in the league at mid-season and continued climbing his way up the list. He clearly takes a lot of penalties, but draws a bundle with his strong work in the offensive zone. With his size and hands, he’s difficult to contain, but he has a tendency towards lazy hooking penalties on the backcheck. He has 7 hooking penalties this season, which is tied for 7th most in the NHL.

It’s impressive to see Adam Henrique on this list. The Devils rookie hasn’t taken a single non-coincidental minor penalty at even strength this season and has just 7 penalty minutes total while posting 47 points in 68 games.

Bottom 20 Forwards


Name Pos Team GP Penalties Taken Penalties Drawn Penalties Taken/60 Minutes Penalties Drawn/60 Minutes Penalty +/-
1 Jarret Stoll C L.A 71 24 6 1.7 0.4 -18
2 Chris Neil RW OTT 67 26 11 2.1 0.9 -15
3 Todd Bertuzzi LW DET 64 20 7 1.4 0.5 -13
4 Tomas Plekanec C MTL 75 20 8 1.2 0.5 -12
4 Vladimir Sobotka C STL 67 18 6 1.2 0.4 -12
4 Jussi Jokinen LW CAR 73 18 6 1.1 0.4 -12
4 Milan Lucic LW BOS 74 20 8 1.1 0.4 -12
8 T.J. Galiardi LW S.J 63 19 9 1.6 0.8 -10
8 Nathan Horton RW BOS 46 14 4 1.4 0.4 -10
8 Mike Knuble RW WSH 66 14 4 1.1 0.3 -10
8 Radim Vrbata RW PHX 72 11 1 0.7 0.1 -10
12 Nik Antropov LW WPG 64 14 5 1.1 0.4 -9
12 Rene Bourque LW MTL 70 15 6 1 0.4 -9
12 Pascal Dupuis LW PIT 75 14 5 0.8 0.3 -9
12 Curtis Glencross RW CGY 61 14 5 1 0.4 -9
16 Dominic Moore C S.J 72 21 13 1.4 0.8 -8
16 Derek Roy C BUF 74 22 14 1.3 0.8 -8
16 Ryan Kesler C VAN 70 17 9 1 0.6 -8
16 Brenden Morrow LW DAL 50 18 10 1.5 0.9 -8
16 James Neal LW PIT 75 24 16 1.3 0.9 -8
16 Alexander Semin LW WSH 70 20 12 1.2 0.7 -8
16 Petr Sykora RW N.J 76 14 6 0.8 0.3 -8
16 Chris Stewart RW STL 73 12 4 0.7 0.2 -8

Jarret Stoll was the worst of the forwards halfway through the season and held strong through the end. The odd thing is that Stoll doesn’t get a lot of penalty minutes overall. He has just 56 penalty minutes this season, all of them from minor penalties, with all but 4 of those minor penalties being non-coincidental minors at even-strength. Stoll has put the Kings on the penalty kill 18 times this season, more than any other forward. Fortunately, the Kings have one of the best penalty kills in the league.

The same can’t be said for the Ottawa Senators, whose penalty kill is ranked 19th in the league. Chris Neil takes the most minor penalties at even-strength of any forward in the NHL. In their recent three-game losing streak that threatened to take them out of playoff position, the Senators gave up 5 powerplay goals on 15 attempts. Neil was responsible for 3 of those powerplays, with a game misconduct in the third game preventing him from getting into any further mischief.

Alexander Semin is tied for 4th in the league for the most hooking penalties, with 8. He also has 6 tripping minors. Derek Roy is 2nd with 10 hooking minors and also has 9 tripping minors. Those kinds of penalties are generally the result of lazy backchecking. Both draw a decent number of penalties with their offensive prowess, but hurt their team with stick infractions.

Top 20 Defencemen


Name Pos Team GP Penalties Taken Penalties Drawn Penalties Taken/60 Minutes Penalties Drawn/60 Minutes Penalty +/-
1 Brian Campbell D FLA 75 3 12 0.1 0.5 9
2 Alexei Yemelin D MTL 63 12 20 0.7 1.2 8
2 Jared Spurgeon D MIN 70 1 9 0.1 0.5 8
4 Andrew McDonald D NYI 68 6 13 0.3 0.6 7
5 Mike Weaver D FLA 75 5 11 0.2 0.5 6
6 Jamie McBane D CAR 70 1 6 0.1 0.3 5
7 Aaron Johnson D CBJ 49 5 9 0.4 0.8 4
7 Oliver Ekman-Larsson D PHX 77 12 16 0.5 0.7 4
7 Andrej Sekera D BUF 63 5 9 0.3 0.5 4
7 Brad Stuart D DET 74 6 10 0.3 0.5 4
7 Marc-Edouard Vlasic D S.J 75 9 13 0.4 0.5 4
7 Kevin Klein D NSH 60 0 4 0 0.2 4
13 Kristopher Letang D PIT 47 8 11 0.6 0.8 3
13 Jakub Kindl D DET 51 5 8 0.5 0.7 3
13 Dion Phaneuf D TOR 76 13 16 0.5 0.7 3
13 Kris Russell D STL 49 4 7 0.3 0.6 3
13 John-Michael Liles D TOR 60 7 10 0.4 0.6 3
13 Alex Goligoski D DAL 64 6 9 0.3 0.5 3
13 Erik Johnson D COL 68 5 8 0.3 0.4 3
13 Joe Corvo D BOS 70 2 5 0.1 0.3 3

It is very difficult for a defenceman to draw more penalties than he takes as penalties are frequently the result of trying to contain talented offensive players. Brian Campbell’s plus-9 is quite impressive, likely created with his strong skating and willingness to jump into the rush.

The real eye-catching numbers, however, come from Alexei Yemelin and Jared Spurgeon, both plus-8. They attract attention for different reasons, however. Yemelin has drawn the most minor penalties at even-strength, with 20. Some of them are likely reactions from opposition players after one of his devastating – but legal – open-ice checks. I absolutely adore the way this kid hits, but I suspect his opponents don’t share that sentiment.

Spurgeon, on the other hand, is impressive because of how few penalties he’s taken. Kevin Klein is the only defenceman with no minor penalties taken at even-strength, but he has only drawn 4 himself. Spurgeon, on the other hand, has only taken 1 minor penalty at even-strength, but has drawn 9. Spurgeon has just 6 penalty minutes in his sophomore season in the NHL and has been one of the Wild’s most effective defenders.

Bottom 20 Defencemen


Name Pos Team GP Penalties Taken Penalties Drawn Penalties Taken/60 Minutes Penalties Drawn/60 Minutes Penalty +/-
1 Bryan Allen D CAR 76 26 4 1.2 0.2 -22
2 Kyle Quincey D DET 67 28 7 1.5 0.4 -21
3 Andy Sutton D EDM 46 21 3 1.9 0.3 -18
4 Shane O’Brien D COL 72 26 9 1.3 0.5 -17
4 Sheldon Souray D DAL 58 21 4 1.4 0.3 -17
4 Toni Lydman D ANA 70 21 4 1.2 0.2 -17
7 Dustin Byfuglien D WPG 59 21 5 1.1 0.3 -16
8 Steve Staios D NYI 59 21 6 1.4 0.4 -15
8 Stephane Robidas D DAL 69 17 2 0.9 0.1 -15
8 Nick Schultz D EDM 76 17 2 0.8 0.1 -15
11 Shea Weber D NSH 72 18 5 0.8 0.2 -13
11 Sergei Gonchar D OTT 69 15 2 0.8 0.1 -13
11 Matt Niskanen D PIT 72 15 2 0.9 0.1 -13
14 Jonathan Ericsson D DET 63 21 9 1.4 0.6 -12
14 Theo Peckham D EDM 54 18 6 1.4 0.5 -12
14 Pavel Kubina D PHI 62 19 7 1.1 0.4 -12
14 Ryan O’Byrne D COL 69 17 5 0.9 0.3 -12
14 Victor Hedman D T.B 54 16 4 1 0.2 -12
19 Andreas Lilja D PHI 43 15 4 1.7 0.4 -11
19 Raphael Diaz D MTL 59 14 3 1 0.2 -11
19 Nicklas Lidstrom D DET 63 12 1 0.7 0.1 -11
19 Eric Brewer D T.B 74 13 2 0.6 0.1 -11

Bryan Allen isn’t doing Carolina any favours: the Hurricanes have one of the worst penalty kills in the league and Allen has forced them to use it 22 times this season. Kyle Quincey isn’t much better in Detroit and, surprisingly, the Red Wings’ penalty kill isn’t much better than that of the Hurricanes. Keep in mind, of course, that Quincey was traded to the Wings from the Avalanche, who have a slightly better kill.

The big surprise on the list is Nicklas Lidstrom. It’s not that he takes a lot of penalties; he just doesn’t draw any. The majority of his penalties have been hooking minors: he has 7 on the season, so is tied with Malkin and others for 7th in the NHL.

One Final Note

Only four players in the NHL have played at least 40 games this season without drawing a single penalty at even-strength: forward Matthew Lombardi and defencemen Mark Eaton, Tomas Kaberle, and Sean O’Donnell.

It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Lombardi is having the worst season of his career offensively: if you’re not working hard enough or getting to the areas where penalties are drawn, you’re not going to have success. In 2009-10, Lombardi scored 53 points in 78 games; he also drew 12 penalties. If any Maple Leafs fans are noticing any hesitance in Lombardi’s game after his devastating concussion completely erased his previous season, the numbers back it up.

Data courtesy Behindthenet.ca.

Comments (2)

  1. ‘It is undoubtedly Skinner’s skating ability that leads to so many drawn penalties’ That and retaliation on all his hacks and slashes. He is a pest but he seems to get away with it all the time. If he wasn’t a “rising star” I think his penalties taken would be much higher. One day Scrappy Doo is going to bite the wrong ankle.

  2. Doesn’t really matter going into the playoffs since the refs won’t call any penalties anyways.

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