Cage Match; Klingberg vs. Hamilton


I’ve been wanting to cover John Klingberg and Dougie Hamilton in a Cage Match for a while, but never felt like there was a well-matched opponent. Now lo and behold – they’re right near each other in production for 2016-17, so let’s dive into this battle!


Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications

Klingberg, 24, was drafted 131st overall in 2010 and played for various clubs overseas for several years. He came stateside in 2014-15 and, after 12 points in only 10 AHL games, earned a ticket to the NHL. To say he never looked back would be a vast understatement, finishing with 40 points in just 65 games. Expectations were sky high for 2015-16 and he met them with 58 points in 76 games, becoming the first defenseman in nearly a decade to play 125+ games and average 0.65+ points per game over his first two NHL seasons. For 2016-17 however, his scoring rate has dropped, disappointing those who figured he was on the fast track to being Erik Karlsson 2.0, especially as the undisputed top option for blueline offense for the high-octane Stars.

Hamilton, 23, was selected ninth overall by Boston in 2011 and an NHL mainstay by 2012-13. Things were going well, as his point per game rate rose each season (0.38 in 2012-13, 0.39 in 2013-14, and 0.58 in 2014-15). But after Hamilton reportedly told Boston he wouldn’t resign after they didn’t trade for his brother, he was dealt to the Flames on draft day 2015. It wasn’t smooth sailing upon arrival, with only five points in his first 24 contests with Calgary. From there, however, he found his footing and ended with great momentum that included a stretch of 14 points in 14 games in March. This season he’s on track for 54 points and has been more consistent, with 6-10 points every month.

Both are signed through 2021-22, with Klingberg counting $4.5M yearly against the cap but Hamilton’s cap hit being almost 30% higher ($5.75M per season).


Ice Time


Total Ice Time per game (rank among team’s defensemen)

PP Ice Time per game (rank among team’s defensemen)

SH Ice Time per game (rank among team’s defensemen


23:28 (J.K.) – 1st

19:34 (D.H.) – 4th

3:21 (J.K.) – 1st

2:16 (D.H.) – 3rd

0:11 (J.K.) – 8th

0:54 (D.H.) – 5th


22:41 (J.K.) – 2nd

19:46 (D.H.) – 5th

3:11 (J.K.) – 1st

2:25 (D.H.) – 3rd

0:05 (J.K.) – 10th

0:28 (D.H.) – 8th


21:50 (J.K.) – 3rd

21:20 (D.H.) – 3rd

2:56 (J.K.) – 1st

2:30 (D.H.) – 2nd

0:09 (J.K.) – 9th

1:09 (D.H.) – 5th


19:06 (D.H.) – 5th

1:55 (D.H.) – 3rd

0:39 (D.H.) – 8th


I’m guessing you’re as surprised as I was at the Ice Time gap between them. Sure – I figured Hamilton’s would be lower, but essentially four minutes 4:00 less!? And virtually half of the Ice Time difference is consequential, in the form of 1:05 more PP Time for Klingberg and 0:43 more SH Time for Hamilton per contest. Immediately this shines a light of suspicion on Hamilton’s scoring pace for 2016-17. Plus, of 134 instances of rearguards who posted 50+ points in any season going back to 2000-01, only one – yes, just one – averaged less than 20:00 of Ice Time, and only two had less than 21:21 per game.


The natural argument to make would seem to be that Hamilton’s solid scoring, despite low Ice Time, underscores his talent, and that as his Ice Time improves so to should his scoring, right? But even if he does add Ice Time, that isn’t always a major positive. After all, two of the three Flames d-men averaging more Ice Time than him (T.J. Brodie and Dennis Wideman) are receiving upwards of double his SH Ice Time, and the third (Mark Giordano) more than triple.


Klingberg, on the other hand, already has a dream deployment, with lots of PP Time and nearly no shorthanded deployment. In fact, among the 24 defensemen averaging more than his 23:28 per game this season, none are getting both more PP Time and less SH Time than him. In fact, only five rearguards receive more PP Ice Time per game, and only one of the 24 (Mike Green) averages less than even 1:31 in SH Ice Time per game. No question Klingberg is in an Ice Time sweet spot, which of course begs the question as to why, despite this, his scoring rate is down considerably for 2016-17. We’ll likely learn more once we see data such as his SOG and PPPt, plus luck metrics.


Secondary Categories




(per game)


(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)


(per game)

PP Points

(per game)


0.46 (J.K.)

0.74 (D.H.)

0.53 (J.K.)

0.91 (D.H.)

1.48 (J.K.)

1.24 (D.H.)

1.62 (J.K.)

2.80 (D.H.)

0.21 (J.K.)

0.20 (D.H.)


0.39 (J.K.)

0.56 (D.H.)

0.58 (J.K.)

0.95 (D.H.)

0.89 (J.K.)

1.29 (D.H.)

2.25 (J.K.)

2.31 (D.H.)

0.30 (J.K.)

0.19 (D.H.)


0.49 (J.K.)

0.57 (D.H.)

0.83 (J.K.)

1.47 (D.H.)

1.18 (J.K.)

0.73 (D.H.)

1.50 (J.K.)

2.61 (D.H.)

0.18 (J.K.)

0.21 (D.H.)


0.62 (D.H.)

1.14 (D.H.)

0.83 (D.H.)

1.78 (D.H.)

0.09 (D.H.)


What jumps off the page is Klingberg’s SOG rate, which is well less than 2.0 per game for the second time in his three seasons. How have other higher scoring d-men in the past fared, who happened not to be high volume shooters? Since 2005-06 there’ve been 109 instances of d-men who posted 50+ points in a season, and 25 did so despite less than 2.0 SOG per game in that campaign. Not terrible – roughly one in five. But if we dig deeper, the situation is more discouraging. In only four of those 25 instances (i.e., 16% – or only 3.6% of the 109) did the defenseman post 60+ points, compared with 29 of the 84 instances (i.e., 34%) where a d-man averaged more than 2.0 SOG per game. Thus, low SOG might act as a realistic points ceiling.


To be fair though – the list of players with two or more 50+ point seasons during which the averaged less than 2.0 SOG per game is respectable: Tomas Kaberle, Andrei Markov, Sergei Zubov, Brian Campbell, Brian Rafalski, Lubomir Visnovsky, Toby Enstrom, and Kimmo Timonen. Yet Toby Enstrom was the only one who, like Kilngberg, did so twice before age 25. Just a coincidence? Past results are not indicators of future performance; however, this is not reassuring for those hoping Klingberg will be a consistent 50+ point performer, let alone a viable option for 55-60+ down the line.


Moreover, Kilingberg’s PP scoring isn’t great given his ample PP Time. In 2014-15, he stood only 46th in points per 60 minutes at 5×4 among 78 d-men who skated 100+ minutes at 5×4, while last season he was 19th among 75, and this season he stands 24th among 64. That’s good, but not great, especially since Hamilton ranks 4th this season, and was 21st in 2015-16 and 16th in 2014-15, despite deployment mostly on Calgary’s PP2.


That data further validates Hamilton is doing more with less. He’s also on track for 225+ SOG in 2016-17 despite playing less than 20:00 per game, and that’s literally never happened among rearguards since started tracking Ice Time in 1997-98. In fact, we have to raise the Ice Time minimum to 22:00+ per game before we finally get two past hits: Dion Phaneuf in 2005-06 (two seasons before he posted 60 points) and Torey Krug last season (when he tallied 44 points).


What does this mean? Hamilton isn’t cut from a Phaneuf-like cloth, but is Krug comparable? Krug shows that as Ice Time is raised it doesn’t necessarily result in much higher scoring. Of course Krug also only managed 39 points when he last received between 19:00 and 20:00 per game in a season, and that was despite 204 SOG. So with Hamilton already easily topping that point total for 2016-17, perhaps his ceiling could well be much higher than Krug’s before all is said and done?


As far as other categories, Hamilton has outproduced Klingberg in PIM and Hits each season. Also, Hamilton had been the better of the two in Blocks; however, Klingberg’s output for this season is up considerably. In all, Hamilton has ranged from 2.5 to 3 PIM+Hits+Blocks per year, while Kilngberg is closer to 2-2.5. Not a huge difference, but enough to favor Hamilton slightly.


Luck-Based Metrics



Team Shooting% (5×5)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)


9.12% (J.K.)

7.97% (D.H.)

46.8% (J.K.)

48.2% (D.H.)

35.0% (J.K.)

60.0% (D.H.)

45.5% (J.K.)

66.7% (D.H.)


8.42% (J.K.)

6.76% (D.H.)

51.6% (J.K.)

49.6% (D.H.)

39.7% (J.K.)

48.9% (D.H.)

52.8% (J.K.)

62.5% (D.H.)


9.23% (J.K.)

7.20% (D.H.)

47.7% (J.K.)

46.8% (D.H.)

42.1% (J.K.)

44.9% (D.H.)

47.6% (J.K.)

73.7% (D.H.)


8.38% (D.H.)

52.1% (D.H.)

39.5% (D.H.)

35.3% (D.H.)


Other than team shooting %, all Klingberg’s metrics for 2016-17 are the lowest of his young career. Normally that would suggest he’s doing unsustainably worse; however, his 5×5 IPP is down for a second straight season, and the decrease has been small enough as to indicate a sustainable drop. Also, his OZ% being down might be the cost of his team’s need for him to be less one-dimensional. And seeing his 5×4 IPP down, especially amid more PP Time, suggests maybe he’s not as dialed into the offense? Couple these with a healthy 9.12% team shooting %, and not only does it appear Klingberg could have a tough time rising much above the 50 point level, but could actually fall below it in coming seasons.


The news for Hamilton is much more encouraging. He’s seeing his best numbers despite only one of his metrics – 5×5 IPP – being the highest of any of these four seasons. As for 5×5 IPP, his situation is the opposite of Klingberg’s in that his has risen with each season. Although a jump to 60.0% might be a bit higher than expected, and thus not entirely sustainable, the unsustainable extent of whatever benefit he’s receiving is likely small. Moreover, that unsustainable benefit could be offset by gains from a higher team shooting percentage in future seasons, as the Calgary offense comes into form around it’s young and talented core. Also, Hamilton’s OZ% is already reflecting two-zone deployment, so even if he gets additional minutes he should be prepared to handle them and it shouldn’t affect his scoring too much, especially if a good chunk of that added time comes on the PP.


Who Wins?


This was a clear win for Hamilton. Klingberg owners expecting a return to the fantasy glory of his first two seasons should be prepared for potential disappointment.


How does this happen to Klingberg after what he showed in his first two seasons? Part of me wonders if maybe his effort level isn’t the same after he signed an extension in April 2015. Beyond that, there’s the fact that Klingberg played 80% of his 5×5 shifts with Alex Goligoski in 2014-15, and 90% last season. Goligoski provided not only a veteran influence, but a steady blueline presence which allowed Klingberg to safely focus on offensive contribution. Fast forward to now, and it’s Klingberg who’s in the mentor role for Esa Lindell. No longer does Klingberg seemingly have as much free reign as he did in his first two higher flying seasons. And considering his Ice Time is about as perfect as it could be, this should deeply concern poolies who own Klingberg.


As for Hamilton, the data suggests his production this season is legitimate. As he adds more minutes, especially on the PP, it should only help his scoring, even if it’s in combination with more SH Ice Time. His ceiling might even be over 60 points, especially since Calgary’s offense could improve as its core talent rounds further into form. Hamilton should be a solid target in keepers and one-year leagues, particularly since he tends to be given someone short shrift in fantasy.