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Penalty Differential by Position and Man-Advantage

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Here is the average non-coincidental penalty differential (penalties drawn minus penalties taken) per 82 games and 15 minutes of icetime for each position:

 

5v5 5v4 4v5
All -1.106 -0.770 -1.642
D -8.835 4.341 -9.488
C 3.974 0.434 2.392
LW 3.580 -6.160 9.916
RW 4.855 -5.656 11.525
F 4.132 -3.250 6.233

 

I think you can construct some pretty compelling arguments for why centers show so little variation in their numbers across all man-advantages.  But why do right-wingers have much better numbers than left-wingers?  Simple answer: Dustin Brown.  He is far and away the best in the NHL at drawing penalties, and he drives the numbers to a different result:

 

5v5 5v4 4v5
RW 4.855 -5.656 11.525
w/o Brown 4.425 -6.063 10.812
LW 3.580 -6.160 9.916

 

Almost half of the difference between LWs and RWs is Brown's skill.  Lest you think drawing penalties is not a skill for forwards, here's the year-to-year regression to the mean and R^2 for forwards with 500+ minutes at 5-on-5:

 

Regress R^2
Differential 39% 11.70%
Drawing 37% 39.20%

 

Taking penalties has a non-skill component to it - that is, some coaches will send players out to intentionally take penalties.  Opportunities to do so will vary from season-to-season, and by whether Daniel Carcillo is seen as an agitating physical leader or an undisciplined goon.