Written by David Yu, Team Lead – Hockey Analytics
The inaugural Columbus Blue Jackets Hockey Analytics Conference (CBJHAC) was a resounding success. Getting to the conference proved to be a challenge as a winter storm carrying 50cm delayed our flight out of Montreal causing us to miss our connecting flight to Columbus. Fortunately, we were able to get on the last flight on Friday night and participate fully as the conference kicked off Saturday morning.
Sportlogiq was involved in three of the presentations on Day 1 of the conference, all of which were well-received by the 300 strong audience in Nationwide Arena. Christopher Boucher, our VP of Hockey Operations, highlighted how Sportlogiq’s optical tracking and 3D pose data will revolutionize hockey analytics in the “The Future of the Game” panel while two members of our hockey analytics team presented research talks.
I presented a comprehensive analysis of passing focused on advanced models for quantifying pass difficulty, value and tendencies. This research was a collaborative effort between myself and three members of the DA team (Paul Piggot, Connor Jung and Sam Forstner). The presentation was capped by a demo of an interactive dashboard prototype that is designed to automate time-consuming video analysis work. This tool allows teams to pre-scout opposing team and player passing tendencies at even strength and on the powerplay. Users are able to filter passes by team, manpower, pass outcome, pass type as well as passer and receiver to dial in their analysis and export the resulting passes to video.
Cole Anderson, our Hockey Analytics Consultant, presented his work on applications of goalie positioning data derived from optical tracking data. They built advanced models to predict goaltender depth and angle based on the location of the shot and pre-shot movement and used this to identify goaltender tendencies. They also showed that goalie positioning data can be used to improve Sportlogiq’s industry-leading expected goals model as well as identify pass vs. shoot tendencies among attacking players. This project was a collaboration between Cole and Nick Czuzoj-Shulman.
Out and About
One of the best parts of having the Blue Jackets host was having access to Nationwide Arena throughout the conference. Along with up-close access to the infamous Columbus cannon during the event, attendees were treated to a great game with the Avalanche in town on Saturday night with the Avs eventually prevailing 2-1 on the back of goals by Kadri and MacKinnon.
Day 2 was reserved for the CBJHAC Data Competition, marking the first time Sportlogiq’s spatio-temporal dataset has been made available in a public capacity. The dataset consisted of half a season of AHL data (538 games) with participants tasked with using our data to generate actionable insights that can be communicated directly to coaches and GMs. One of the goals for the data contest was to promote diversity in hockey analytics. To that end, we received 30 submissions from analysts as far away as Finland, Germany and Hong Kong with 5 of these submissions coming from female participants.
Along with the Blue Jackets, representatives from the NHL, Devils, Avalanche, Rangers, Blues, Golden Knights, and NHL Seattle were present. We selected 8 finalists to give full presentations with all other participants invited to give lightning talks. In the end, we had 14 participants present their work at the CJBHAC data contest including presentations from 4 of the 5 female participants.
Nathan de Lara walked away with the top prize for his excellent work analyzing powerplay passing sequences using clustering techniques. Alex Novet took home the 2nd place for his work on rebound recovery locations while Evan Sprecher snagged 3rd place for his analysis of the pass vs. shoot tradeoff on the powerplay.
The Blue Jackets provided a $1000 prize pool for the top 3 finalists (as well as a trophy for the winner) and all finalists received an autographed jersey from the participating teams and a Sportlogiq gift pack.
Sportlogiq would like to thank Alison Lukan from The Athletic and Josh Flynn and Zac Urback from the Blue Jackets for their efforts organizing the conference and data contest. Their vision for CBJHAC was to assemble a diverse group of people from around the hockey world (management, coaches, scouts, analysts, media, fans) in order to drive the conversation forward surrounding how analytics can be used to generate actionable insights. To that end, we feel they’ve been tremendously successful in their efforts and were happy to take a small part in making CBJHAC a great success.
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