MacKenzie Weegar was acquired by the Calgary Flames in a deal that sent Matthew Tkachuk to Florida and also brought Jonathan Huberdeau to Calgary. Prior to being traded, Weegar had already become a top two-way defenceman in Florida, and many were expecting him to continue to flourish in Calgary. While his offensive game has been weaker compared to seasons prior, his defensive game hasn’t faltered and has been among the best in the league this year.
A deeper dive in Weegar’s defensive game
Filtering out defencemen who have played under 200 minutes, this how Weegar ranks league wide using data from Natural Stat Trick:
|42.56 (1st)||2.03 (3rd)||22.72 (11th)||9.83 (14th)|
The Flames’ blueliner ranks in the top 15 for every metric, two of them he ranks inside of the top 3. The most impressive thing here is that Weegar ranks first in CA/60 meaning he is on the ice for the fewest shot attempts per 60 minutes of icetime. Being third in xGA/60 is just as impressive considering he is only behind Ben Hutton, who has only played 22 games in a sheltered role, and his usual partner, Chris Tanev.
Taking a look at some analytic models we can see the same story.
Going over to EvolvingHockey.com, their model shows that Weegar has struggled offensively, ranking in the 3rd percentile, so better than three percent of the league. On the other hand, we can see where Weegar’s value comes from as he ranks in the 99th percentile for defence, better than ninety-nine percent of the league.
What this shows us is that while his offensive numbers are very down this season, his defensive game has been truly exceptional. The former is likely a product of the Flames being unable to score goals this season, leading the league in pucks off the bar, as well as him being a well-rounded defenceman who has been tasked with more shutdown assignments by his coaches.
Switching to HockeyViz.com, to start, we’ll be analyzing Weegar’s isolated impact chart. For the even-strength portion of this chart, the more and darker red, the more shot attempts and offence being generated, the more and darker blue, the less shot attempts and offence being generated. So, red and positive percentages are good when looking at offence, and blue and negative percentages are good when looking at defence.
Like EvolvingHockey, Weegar has strong defensive results. There’s no percentile to how he ranks league wide, but a -10% and almost no areas where more shot attempts are being produced than prevented shows elite play and likely grade near the top of the league.
Offensively, this model is not quite as down on Weegar as Evolving Hockey, but still isn’t great. When he’s on the ice, the Flames are still producing chances, but not at levels that jump off the chart. +4% is not bad, but the offensive is coming from the blueline as opposed to the front of the net, which has been emblematic of the Flames all season long.
Where Weegar really shines is when looking at the Flames’ defence with and without him on the chart below. Same as above with blue being better, the Flames defence sits at -24% and xGA/60 of 1.97 when Weegar is on the ice.
What sticks out to me the most is that every area of the zone has very little offence being produce by the opposing team, except for the middle which is very minimal. When Weegar is on the ice, dangerous areas such as the slot and around the net are being defended super well. Without Weegar, the Flames defence drops to a -2% and xGA/60 of 2.53, so a difference of -22% and over half an expected goal. The area around the net is still defended well, but not to the same extent with Weegar on the ice and the slot seems to have a lot more offence being generated.
The Flames still defend at a good level without Weegar, but when he’s out there, it’s simply on another level.
Finishing off, let’s take a look at Weegar’s recently released JFresh microstat card. There’s a lot of microstats on this card, but I want to focus on the entry defence and d-zone retrievals category. In the entry defence category, every microstat ranks in the 87th to 90th percentile showing that Weegar has a high zone entry denial rate as well as stopping the puck from carried into the zone at an elite level. Looking at the d-zone retrieval category, we can see that Weegar is good at retrieving the puck in the defensive zone and fantastic at retrieving and then getting the puck out.
Weegar is quietly elite
Weegar’s strong performance this season hasn’t been that noticeable, which is both bad or good. He has struggled offensively so far, but his elite defensive performance against high level of competition has made up for it. He ranks among the best in the league in quite a few metrics and has strong entry prevention and retrieval rates. His turnovers can be a concern, but if that’s the only complaint about a player’s defensive game, that usually means he’s quietly performing well.