Alex Pietrangelo has been a scary-good defenseman this season. Even more-so than usual, Pietrangelo has manned this St. Louis Blues lineup. He leads Blues defensemen in scoring, with 48 points in 63 games; a 62-point pace. This would beat his career-high by eight points, despite being 30-years-old.
Whether it’s the Stanley Cup win, Vladimir Tarasenko’s injury, or a simple drive to repeat; Pietrangelo is showing off a level of play that’s far beyond the already elite level of play that he’s performed at throughout his career. Many Blues fans have spent the season screaming, “Norris!”, as Pietrangelo improves with each game. While these chants may seem like the blind-hope of Blues fans, they are more than merited. In fact, the league doesn’t have a choice but to award Pietrangelo with the Norris Trophy this June.
Comparing Alex Pietrangelo to the League’s Best
To compare, we’ll use Evolving-Hockey’s amazing RAPM charts. These graphs chart GF, xGF, CF, xGA, and CA (all per-60) to give a glimpse into how a player performs offensively (GF, xGF), defensively (xGA), controlling the puck and being on ice for shots-for (CF), and how they perform when their team isn’t in possession and the other team is recording shots (CA). Ultimately, the higher, or darker blue, the bars of each stat are, the better the player is. Evolving-Hockey has a great tool used to compare players, one that we’ll use to look at how Pietrangelo’s even-strength chart looks relative to the league’s other top defensemen.
We’ll let the graphs do most of the talking.
First, we’ll compare Pietrangelo to a name he’s been compared to all year: Roman Josi. Josi, another elite defenseman, was also entering free agency this summer before he inked a $9.059 million-a-year, eight-year contract extension in October. Josi has 57 points through 62 games.
This graph shows that, while Josi has performed terrifically in controlling the puck, Pietrangelo blows him out of the water in offensive-potency and does slightly better on the defensive end.
The Washington Capitals John Carlson has also been the talk-of-the-town. He’s scored an amazing 72 points in 63 games this season, leading all defensemen by 15 points, ahead of Josi who sits in second. Here’s how his advanced stats compare to Pietrangelo:
Carlson has scored at an absurd rate this year and still, Pietrangelo ranks higher in each stat. He’s been through-and-through the better defenseman, at least judging by the advanced numbers.
Just for the sake of consistency, and to have a little fun, let’s compare Pietrangelo to Mark Giordano’s numbers over the last three seasons. Giordano won the Norris last season, when he scored 74 points in 78 games. It’s important to remember that these graphs look at 2017 through 2020, whereas the last two graphs looked only at this year’s numbers.
This is starting to get absurd. Even against the reigning-Norris winner, Pietrangelo’s numbers reign supreme. He provides a much better offensive punch and is only notably topped by Giordano’s defensive ability, which is admittedly elite.
We could go through the entirety of the league but no defenseman tops Pietrangelo’s truly incredible numbers. He beats out Victor Hedman, Cale Makar, Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns... it’s the best graph in the league for the best defenseman in the league. Pietrangelo’s offensive potency is unprecedented, even if he’s tallied 24 points fewer than league-leading-defenseman Carlson.
In the End
These graphs are by no means a tell-all. Instead, they give a great statistical-look into the amazing performance that Pietrangelo has boasted on a nightly basis. Using the graphs in this way, to gauge on-ice-product, shows that Pietrangelo brings, by far, the greatest offer to the table. In a league that’s increasingly filled with back-room statistics by teams and the league alike, there’s no doubt that Pietrangelo’s potency, and truly horrifying threat to opposing teams, is beyond well known. While the point totals may not show it, these graphs and comparisons pose a clear argument: Pietrangelo is undeniably the best defenseman in the league right now. He deserves to be treated as such come awards in June.