Blues fans know Colton Parayko is good. The 6’6” mountain-of-a-man has firmly established himself as one of the Blues best defensemen, even if his role is overshadowed by Alex Pietrangelo. Still, his strength, impressive agility, and booming slapshot are well known. Yet, there’s a weird feeling that he’s yet to reach his potential. Yes he’s a consistent 30-point scorer and is a fixture of the Blues lineup but fans have always felt he had a hidden second-gear.
But Parayko isn’t just above-average. He’s already a star defenseman... his elite ability just isn’t overtly seen.
Colton Parayko is a Star
The best way to prove Parayko’s elite ability is to dive into his advanced stats. And none stick out more than his defensive tallies.
Parayko’s Defense is Top-Notch
There are plenty of tallies proving this point. Among defensemen to play in at least 1000 combined minutes over the last three seasons, Parayko ranks 13th in xGA/60 (expected-goals-against per-60). But the kicker is that Parayko played in more minutes than anyone ranking above him; nearly 300 more than the second-most-used defenseman above him.
So while other players performed better defensively, Parayko was able to record elite defensive totals more consistently than any other defenseman over the last three seasons. His SA/60 (shots-against per-60) also ranked 13th over the same three-year-span, although again Parayko played considerably more than anyone above him.
Narrowing the scope to defensemen who played 4000-or-more minutes — aka, looking at only defensemen who play in a ‘top-four’ role on their team — Parayko has the best xGA/60, SA/60, and FA/60. He also has the best isolated-defensive tallies, showing his league-best defensive numbers aren’t a product of his situation.
Simply put, he’s the best defensive defenseman in the NHL.
But in case that wasn’t enough, there’s thankfully EVD GAR, or EVD for short, (even-strength-defense goals-above-replacement) which takes into account everything the player does. If there was only one stat used to argue defensive prowess, it’d be EVD. Well, combining the last three seasons, Parayko’s EVD is... really good. It’s the best in the league. In fact, it’s over two points higher than Adam Pelech, who is in second place. For context, this two-number difference is the same difference found between a notoriously awful defenseman like Jack Johnson and a tad-more reliable one like Tyler Myers (although both are awful defensively).
Parayko has a complete stranglehold on this top spot. His EVD over the last three seasons is over double that of players like Zdeno Chara and Ryan Suter. It’s also very nearly 10x higher than Alex Pietrangelo’s EVD... and Parayko managed this incredible total despite playing the 23rd-highest minutes of any defenseman over the last three years.
This staggering statistic is carried up by Parayko’s 2017-18 season and 2018-19 season. Among individual seasons over the last three years, these two years rank as the eighth and second-highest EVD years respectively. While his 2019-20 season was uncharacteristically poor defensively (an EVD of only 2.0, where zero is replacement-level), his worth as the league’s more consistent defensive-defenseman is clear.
His Offense is... Okay
While it’s well established that Parayko’s defense is, quite literally, the best among any defensemen in the league, his offense is far from that. In fact, it’s very narrowly below replacement-level.
His xGF/60 (expected-goals-for per-60) from this season came in at 2.19 this season, relatively far from the league average of 2.4. It ranked 191st among the NHL’s defensemen. Looking at his total from the last three seasons combined doesn’t help his case much either, as he checks in with a below-average 2.32, good for 185th in the league.His EVO (even-strength-offense) comes in at a barely-below-replacement-level -0.7, furthering this sentiment of poor offense.
Simply put, Parayko doesn’t spark anything in the offensive end. While he did have the second-highest shot totals of any Blues defenseman, they were often very low quality statistically-speaking. His talents simply aren’t useful in the offensive-zone.
His Microstats are Spooky
That’s not to say he’s worthless once he leaves his own end, though. His transition stats were incredible. Only three other Blues - Robert Thomas, Vince Dunn, and Alex Pietrangelo - rivaled Parayko’s transition numbers.
Parayko was one of the league’s most prolific when it comes to transition numbers. His value to the team’s movement up the ice was incredible, with Parayko being among the most important Blues players in terms of exiting their own zone and entering the opposing end. The St. Louis movement up the ice ran through Parayko when he was on the ice; adding an extra layer to his already incredible value.
In the End
Simply put, Colton Parayko’s worth is sky-high. He’s among the best defensive defensemen in the league statistically. His transition numbers boost his value even higher and, while not stark, his offensive production keeps him admirable as well. To have such an amazing player in their lineup, for only $5.5 million in cap hit, is a true gift for St. Louis.