Is Viktor Loov A Hall Of Fame Defenseman?

One of the challenges of the new era of statistical knowledge in hockey is that there’s just so much damn information out there.  It’s tough to keep up with all of it, and a lot of the time certain data points get glossed over.

One of these data points is Viktor Loov – predominantly a Marlies defenseman this year, whom most seem to have pegged as a C-level prospect.  But I was looking over some of the advanced stats for Leafs players this season, and his numbers really jumped out at me.

No, I mean really jumped out at me.  As in, “holy s#%$ this guy is way, way, way better than people are giving him credit for”.

Let’s take a look at some of the numbers so you can get a better idea of what I’m talking about.

This first table is the most shocking.  So, the first number I noticed about Loov is that he has an obscenely high Points Per 60.  In fact, I was pretty sure it was so high that it would likely top just about any other defenseman this season.  I took a look, and my suspicions were confirmed:

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So, yeah…a few things stand out here.  First of all, Norris trophy incumbent Drew Doughty doesn’t even crack the list.  Also, Loov has the second best puck possession numbers here aside from Victor Hedman, who edges him only slightly.

Most noticeably though, is the absolutely mind-boggling realization that Loov CRUSHES even the next best defenseman in even strength point production.  That next best player happens to be Erik Karlsson, considered by many to be a generational talent.

Karlsson had 82 points this season.  44 of those came at even strength.  Karlsson played 1735:58 at even strength this year.  If we were to adjust Loov’s ice-time to that, he would have had 86 points.

Let me say that again: if Viktor Loov had played as much as Erik Karlsson at even strength this year, he would have had nearly twice as many points as him at 5v5.  He would have outpaced Erik Karlsson’s all-situations production without having played even a theoretical second on the powerplay.  He would have done that much better than someone who’s won two Norris trophies and counting; someone who’s a lock to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Now, these numbers on their own are pretty staggering.  But I didn’t want to be irresponsible with my data as people sometimes are, so I dug deeper to see what else I could find.

SWEDISH HOCKEY LEAGUE

Okay, great, Loov had an incredibly under-the-radar season in the NHL.  So what?  He’s a rookie.  Who’s to say he can back it up again next year?

Well, I decided to go back and look at Loov’s time in Sweden to see if his production there backs up him being as good as he supposedly is.  I compared his numbers in the Swedish Hockey League with that of the NHL’s other top tier Swedish defensemen: Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman, and John Klingberg.  Here are the production totals for each of these players in their rookie season in the SHL:

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So not only does Loov stack up better than his Swedish counterparts in the NHL, but he did the same in Sweden.  Remind me how nobody thought this kid would be any good?

IN THE AHL

Okay, so I really wanted to back up the numbers I was getting.  So, I decided to look at the totals that each of Loov, Karlsson, Hedman, and Klingberg put up not only in the NHL or SHL, but in the AHL as well.  Here are the career numbers of these guys in the minors:

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For the third straight time, Loov absolutely obliterates the competition.  The dude has 23 more points than John Klingberg ever had in the AHL and 25 more than Karlsson.

Side-note: much like with the SHL numbers of these guys, Victor Hedman comes in last of the pack.  I’m starting to see why Jon Cooper only plays this guy 22 minutes a night.

DRAFT POSITION

I’ve come to learn that the more sources you can use to back up your argument, the more reliable your information becomes, and the more persuasive your argument is.  So I went beyond the boxcar stats across the various leagues and decided to look at where Loov was drafted.

Taken 209th overall, Loov was a 7th-rounder of the Leafs in 2012.  Okay, so what?  What does history tell us about players taken in this range?  Here’s what I found:

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Yet again Loov comes in with some pretty elite company.  He doesn’t blow the competition away like he did before, but let’s take a closer look here.

Basically, Loov comes in no more than four picks behind Henrik Lundqvist (a future Hall of Famer), Joe Pavelski (a first line center), and Ondrej Palat (one of the best defensive forwards in the league).  Loov also bests Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg, one of the best 200-foot players over the last 10 years.  And unsurprisingly, Loov easily bests other good (albeit depth) players like Radim Vrbata, Mark Streit, and Matt Moulson.  This would seem to back up the idea that Loov is an elite player in the league.

CALDER TROPHY IMPLICATIONS

Given Loov’s astounding numbers, you’d think he belongs in the conversation for the Calder Trophy (if not the Norris Trophy, and quite arguably, the Hart).  But just how well do Loov’s numbers stack up against the other top rookies this season?  I took a look:

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Looking at this table, the first thought that comes to mind is people are right to complain about how the NHL Awards usually shake down.  The fact that McDavid, Panarin, and Gostisbehere are considered the frontrunners for the Calder speaks to how poorly informed the voters really are.

I should acknowledge how incredible a season Oliver Bjorkstrand had for the Blue Jackets.  His numbers even best Loov’s, who as we’ve established by now, is likely the best defenseman in the league.

But that’s just it: Bjorkstrand is a forward and Loov is a defenseman.  For my money, this more than makes up for the very slightly lower production rate of Loov.  He’d certainly get my Calder vote.

And hey, it should also probably be mentioned that Connor McDavid, who some people claim is already a top five or ten player in the league (and a forward no less), even falls short of Loov’s other-worldy numbers.  I think it’s fair to say at this point that the Leafs have an absolute superstar on their hands in Viktor Loov.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

I suspected Viktor Loov was a good player even before uncovering these numbers, but this only backs it up and then some: Viktor Loov has the numbers of a generational talent and deserves to be treated like one.  And if history is any indicator, as we’ve seen through these various tables, Loov is arguably already one of the best defensemen in NHL history.  Don’t be surprised if he wins the Norris next year, and the year after that, and the year after, and so on.

It’s also obviously great news for the Leafs.  With all this talk about the Leafs needing to rebuild their blueline and maybe needing to draft a defenseman with their lottery pick this June, I think it’s safe to say that as long as the Leafs’ research and development team hands off some of this information to Mike Babcock, the Leafs blueline is more than ready to lead the Leafs on a number of deep playoff runs.  Really all that needs to change is the degree to which Mike Babcock deploys him.  After that, the rest should take care of itself.

Loov would also help explain a lot of the Marlies success this year.  It’s hard to believe a player like this is available to them for their run at a Calder Cup this spring.  I hope they enjoy him while they can, because next year we can fully expect to see him anchoring the Leafs top pair alongside Matt Hunwick.

  • Benjamin

    Ha ha very funny post! I have to admit at first I thought you were being serious but were just very bad at interpreting numbers.

    Unfortunately the post wasn’t funny enough to justify the time I wasted reading it.

  • Shawn Reis

    I swear this is exactly think of “analysis” that Burtch or some of the PPP folks do when asked to back up their nonsensical assertions.

    This is an excellent primer on how to not do data analysis.

  • Harte of a Lion

    Thank you Shawn for my Saturday smile, as someone who has always be a staunch supporter of Lööv, let’s see how next year unfolds before we name him Viktor “Orr” Lööv. When Zaitsev signs in May, I can see the d pairings next year as follows…

    Rielly/Marincin

    Gardiner/Corrado (Carrick) Carrick can be sent to the minors so Corrado gets the nod to start the season unless Carrick blows everyone else out of the water

    Lööv/Zaitsev

    7th defencemen Holl/ Percy/Hunwick/Brennan

    I start Zatsev on the third pair until he adjusts to the smaller ice surface plus the NHL is a harder/rougher/tougher/faster game. Once he adjusts he could easily end up on the top pairing or with Gardiner giving the Leafs a dominant 3/4. Depending on his chemistry with Lööv, the Leafs could end up with two minute munching 2nd pairings.

    I know everyone dislikes Marincin but I believe that with the confidence Babcock has shown in him, and the growth he displayed during the last 20 games of 2015, he is capable of playing 20+ minutes per night, putting up 20 points while holding down the fort while Rielly breaks 50 points next year. Babcock did not say Marincin “has a lot of potential” and reminded him of a young Anton Stralman just to hear himself talk.

    I hope they give Justin Holl a chance. He was signed to an AHL contract this year and the Leafs would have needed to burn a SPC spot to bring him up. His regular partner was Brennan which allowed TJ the opportunity to dominate offensively however I loved his limited minutes with Valiev this year on the Marlies. Babcock will love him as he is a very “quiet” player who is always making the smart safe play and is very good driving possession. I saw the Marlies first game of the year and after January, thee three players who had improved the most were Holl, Gauthier and Hyman.

    Everyone talks about the lack of defensive depth in the organization; that after Morgan Rielly the cupboard is bare. Defence is a more difficult position to play and defencemen usually don’t mature until their mid 20’s. Those like Ekblad and Doughty are extremely rare. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook weren’t dominant until 24, Chara 26/7, Shea Weber 24/5, Shattenkirk and many others were highly touted prospects didn’t dominate until after they turned 24.

    If you look at the depth of the players with the Marlies or those drafted, signed or acquired through trades in the past 2 years you have —> Lööv, Percy, Valiev, Holl, C. Carrick, Harrington, Nielson, Dermott, Desrocher and Lindgren. On the Leafs —> Rielly, Gardiner, Corrado, Marincin. Add Zaitsev and you have a respectable stable of good young players to get excited about with the oldest being 25 with only 325 NHL games of experience. Talent is a beginning and with the organizations commitment to developing young players and not rushing them into the NHL, I see a recipie for success.

    I have no doubt that had Shanahan and Lamoriello been in charge when Morgan Rielly was drafted, he would have spent 2013/4 playing for the Marlies.

    Brendan Shanahan has been a miracle worker when you consider what he has accomplished in less than 2 years. There are only 5 players remaining from the 2013 playoff meltdown, and now that Kadri has been signed to an incredibly team friendly contract, once Lupul is Robidas’d and Bozak is eventually traded, the stench of Leaf failures past is finally complete.

    • Shawn Reis

      Interesting D pairs but I’d have it:
      Hunwick-Loov
      Holl-Zaitsev
      Gardiner-Rielly
      Brennan

      Obviously, Loov belongs on the top pairing. I have Zaitsev on the second pairing because I think you’re right in saying he needs to be sheltered. I think the way you shelter him is by giving him quality teammates – in this case Holl. Gardiner-Rielly as third pair when the team is trailing/PP duties. Brennan proved late this season he belongs in the NHL so he’d make a good extra. Corrado-Carrick top pair in the AHL would ensure the Marlies are able to remain dominant next year.

    • magesticRAGE

      I have:
      Rielly-Zaitsev
      Gardiner-Marincin
      Lööv-Corrado
      Hunwick

      I wish Hunwick was on a 1 year deal, would make it easier to not play him. I think he could be the weakest NHL ready D-man.
      I think Zaitsev already has experience in being a top D-man in the world’s second best league, he’s ready for trial by fire on a rebuilding team.

  • magesticRAGE

    Your headline was a good clincher, lol, nice read. It’s a good way to say that numbers can say what you want to see.

    Seriously though, besides the 4 game juggernaut season he had, Loöv I think is an upgrade on both Hunwick and Corrado, maybe even Carrick. If it weren’t for the late season injury, it would be easier to judge. I just see a solid, 200ft defenseman in him. I think sometimes it’s easier to be a defenseman in the NHL, where the scrambley nature of the AHL is harder to predict. The NHL is a thinking man’s game, AHL is more reaction in comparison. This is why I think Loöv will have better success in the bigs.
    He’s got size, physicality, mobility, positionally sound, decent shot, hits like a cruise ship, and is an entertaining interview. He may not be another Hedman or Karlson, but heading into a contract year, he deserves a look see.