Which shot type is most popular in the NHL?
Part No. 2
NHL Trends in Goals and Shooting Percentage by Shot Type
The Study: In Part One, we found that Wrist Shots dominate the NHL (18.28 Shots per Game or 57.88% of Total Shots in 2021-22), there’s essentially a tie between Snap and Slap Shots for the second spot (4.17/13.20% and 4.15/13.14%, respectively), and much smaller totals in the rest. Furthermore, two primary discoveries were that Wrist Shots are up 25.25% over the past 10 Seasons, while Slap Shots are down 31.05%.
While I offered some guesses as to why certain shot types are more or less popular and are trending up or down, essentially, effectiveness should be dictating these representations and trends. After all, in a game of scoring, players should be utilizing shot types that are most likely to score. Thus, in Part Two below, we’ll examine trends in Goals and Shooting Percentage by each shot type.
The Results: First, let’s look at the makeup of Goals scored per Game.
As expected, Wrist Shots make up the majority of the 3.05 average Total Goals (GF) per Game at 1.60 or 52.56% (in 2021-22). GF are up 15.01% over the past 10 Seasons and Goals from Wrist Shots are up 21.92%; put another way, Goals from Wrist Shots are increasing at a faster rate than GF.
Since it’s hard to see what’s happening with the other shot types in this chart, let’s zoom in to see the rest.
Goals per Game from Snap Shots (0.46 or 15.15% in 2021-22) are also trending upward at a faster rate than average (+21.32%). Conversely—and as expected from Part One’s Shot data—Goals per Game from Slap Shots (0.30 or 9.74%) are trending downward (-17.38%).
Otherwise, the rest of the data by shot type (in 2021-22) are as follows:
Backhand Shots 9.56% (0.29) of Total Goals per Game, up 8.54%;
Tipped Shots 9.23% (0.28) of Total Goals per Game, up 24.82%;
Deflections 3.19% (0.10) of Total Goals per Game, up 14.03%; and
Wrap Arounds 0.52% (0.02) of Total Goals per Game, down 7.93%.
Given all of the above, if you combine the data to determine Shooting Percentage, you get the following results.
The Shooting Percentages can be summarized as follows:
9.66% Overall, up 6.11%;
8.78% for Wrist Shots, down 2.66%;
11.09% for Snap Shots, up 19.63%;
7.16% for Slap Shots, up 19.83%;
11.87% for Backhand Shots, up 6.16%;
17.24% for Tipped Shots, down 6.36%;
15.51% for Deflections, down 27.35%; and
5.91% for Wrap Arounds, up 32.97%.
Why It Matters: While the results are certainly interesting, I doubt that they would surprise any Goaltender. Tipped Shots and Deflections are extremely difficult to react to—let alone stop—so such notably higher success rates makes sense. Similarly, Backhand Shots are hard to read from how the player is positioned and how the puck comes off the blade, so a higher success rate for this shot type also makes sense. And finally, Snap Shots are difficult to stop as well because they have a good combination of being easy to get off quickly, a reasonable velocity, and being somewhat difficult to read. Thus, as expected, the most difficult shots to stop (in our experience) turned out having the highest success rates.
That being said, trends indicate that goalies are becoming more and more skilled at stopping these difficult shots. As you’ve seen, the most difficult shots to stop—Tipped Shots and Deflections—are both becoming less effective. If we had to take a guess as to the specific cause, we would say it’s in large part due to Goaltender positioning, where they move closer to the deflection to decrease the range it can change direction. It’s something we’ve seen from Tuukka Rask and Andrei Vasilevskiy over recent Playoffs.
Since players are only getting better, the downward trends in certain data points must come from better goaltending.
Finally, what guidance can we give based on all of the data gathered?
Given their effectiveness, teams should probably make more attempts at Tipped Shots and Deflections—they’re essentially two times more effective than Wrist Shots, even if their effectiveness is decreasing.
When a player has a limited shot window, a Snap Shot may be a better option than a Wrist Shot given that it takes a similar amount of time to get off and has a higher Shooting Percentage.
A Backhand Shot is a great shot option that is both effective and underutilized.
Slap Shots may be on a comeback as their effectiveness has been steadily increasing over recent years.