The whole league knows who Andrew Mangiapane is now, but his ascent to being a top player on the Calgary Flames has been years in the making. It seems like each and every season, Mangiapane gets better and brings new elements to his game, whether it’s his tenacity on the puck, his top-tier skating ability, or now his lethal goal scoring.
In the 2021–22 season, Mangiapane has scored 17 goals already—five of which have been on the power play and one shorthanded. He’s currently tied for seventh with Connor McDavid (29 GP) and Alex DeBrincat (30 GP) for most goals in the league (Leon Draisaitl leads with 23 goals in 29 GP).
This level of goal scoring hasn’t been seen with the Flames for some time now, and while they’re still looking to add scoring talent, they have a player that absolutely knows how to score in Mangiapane already. While we won’t dive too deeply into the team’s overall play, this is more of an exploration on what has made Mangiapane so effective at scoring this season so far.
Mangiapane’s shooting distances
If you’ve followed The Win Column for a long time, you might be familiar with the shot distance beeswarm plots that have popped up over the years. They are data visualisations that compare shooting and goal distances of a player.
With Mangiapane scoring at a torrid pace, it naturally made sense to look at what’s different from his shooting style this season. Of course, looking at raw shot distances alone doesn’t tell the whole story, as there’s a plethora of other factors such as game state (even strength versus power play), shot type (wrist shot versus slap shot versus others), or teammates and competition. Those are just a few factors that contribute to understanding a player’s results, but there’s even more than that to look into.
To keep things simple, we’re looking just at shot distances to answer the question: Did Andrew Mangiapane change his shooting location preference from the 2020–21 season to 2021–22?
Visualising shot attempt and goal distances
Using data from MoneyPuck.com, we can visualise Mangiapane’s shooting distances over the past two years. In 2020–21, Mangiapane played all 56 games and was responsible for 130 unblocked shot attempts (or Fenwick). So far in 2021–22 over 28 games (exactly half of last season), Mangiapane’s put up 90 unblocked shot attempts already. He’s well on pace to surpass the shot mark he had last year, and is just one goal shy from his career high.
Let’s see how his shot distances have looked between the past two seasons. Every single unblocked shot attempt is shown, and goals are highlighted in red. What can we tell from this plot? First of all, the overall density in 2020–21 is higher by virtue of obviously having more shots, but the distribution between the two seasons isn’t that different from one another.
The difference however, is where his goals are coming from. Last year, Mangiapane was predominantly from in close, but he also had goals coming from afar. This season, he’s specialised almost exclusively at scoring close to the net.
That gives us the first real sense of what exactly about Mangiapane’s play has made him such a lethal goal scorer this season. He’s able to drive to the net and make the most of his opportunities when he’s in high-danger areas (loosely defined here as closer to the net).
To confirm this, Mangiapane’s shot distance data is replotted as boxplots to see how the two years compare. Note that the data from the beeswarm plot above and the boxplots below contain exactly the same data, but are just different visual representations. A good primer on how to read boxplots can be found here. For this post, they provide high-level ways to compare two sets of data.
In the case of Mangiapane, it’s clear that his shot attempts actually don’t vary significantly (shown in black). The two boxplots are almost the same, other than the fact that his median shot distance is a little further away so far this year.
However, the boxplots for his goal distances confirms what was observed above: Mangiapane is scoring from in close much more frequently. This is shown with his 2021–22 goal scoring boxplot being much smaller (i.e. a tighter distribution in distances).
Mangiapane’s finishing ability is next level
What does this all mean? Well for starters, Mangiapane has seemingly unlocked a new attribute to his game: finishing ability. While not much has changed in his shot distances over the past two seasons, he’s getting goals galore this year. He might be hanging onto the puck for higher danger attempts, but he’s also putting himself in better positions to score.
Of course, his shooting percentage is at a career high 23.9% (his second highest was 19.8% which occurred last year). So is Mangiapane going to continue this scoring pace and hit 50 goals this year? Probably not. But it can’t be denied that Mangiapane is finding a new way to score and he’s made the most of his opportunity this season.
In 2021, he has made a splash in international hockey by winning the MVP during the IIHF World Championship en route to a gold medal with Team Canada, he’s locked himself into the Flames’ top-six, and was even longlisted to play for Team Canada at the 2022 Olympics (before the NHL withdrew its participation).
While it’ll remain a big what-could-have-been for Mangiapane if he actually did make the Olympic team, one thing is certain: he’s gone from previously being known as a 2015 sixth-round pick with potential upside to now one of the best hockey players in Canada and on the Flames. He’s already in line for a sizeable raise this offseason and he deserves every dollar.
Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images
You must be logged in to post a comment.