Draft lessons of NHL enforcers
Trevor Gillies gets paid to cause trouble -- no surprise, given his profile.
That's not an insult, it's just that players like Gillies -- guys who have no redeeming skill on the ice, other than to stir things up and sit in the penalty box -- come in a similar mold. They have similar roots, similar builds and they reach the NHL in similar fashions. In fact, the way Gillies reached the league is cartoonishly quintessential of enforcers.
The 6-foot-3 Canadian played in the OHL, went undrafted and then bounced around the AHL and ECHL until last season, when the New York Islanders brought him in as an enforcer. He was 31 years old. And, now, for every point he has scored in the NHL, he has sat in the penalty box for more than 100 minutes.
That bio of Gillies illustrates almost every secret to finding an "enforcer," which we'll define as a player whose sole contribution on the stat sheet is PIM. But because these are guys who are generally unskilled -- except with their gloves off -- the results of this study aren't surprising. They confirm what we already knew: Enforcers are often big journeymen who are willing to be overly aggressive on the ice, because they have nothing else to offer an NHL team.
This is unique to hockey -- in most sports, "craziness" is not considered an asset. And, in most sports, unskilled players fizzle out. But in hockey, a late-round pick, or an undrafted free agent, can mingle in the minors for several years until an NHL club brings them on as a hired gun. And teams are okay with them sacrificing their bodies and risking injury because, generally, teams haven't invested much in the enforcer. Because of that, future enforcers are often have similar draft profiles.
ENFORCING IS FOR BIG MEN
Let's get the easy part out of the way: Enforcers are tall and they are heavy. We looked at every draftee who has played 82 NHL games, and it turns out that around 6-3, they start averaging about 7 PIM for every point they score. From there, it only gets worse.
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