Top 10 Gritty Players

by Tom Collins on July 11, 2016


Collins reviews Sportsnet's "grit stat" and brings you his Top 10 gritty NHL players


While looking through a bunch of statistics recently, I found a fairly-new stat that could be useful in pools that count peripheral categories.

Sportsnet developed the grit stat two years ago, a combination of PIM, hits, fights and blocked shots. Most fantasy leagues don't have fights as a category, but it doesn't actually impact the grit category much as there were only four players that had at least 10 fights this past season.

But there are plenty of leagues that have the other three categories and could be a useful tool to look for players who contribute in all three categories instead of having to look at the categories individually. Obviously we don't have a long-term history to look at so there will be plenty of recent bias in this list. And injuries play a big role for why some guys aren't ranked high in a certain year and I tried to take that into account. It is interesting to note that the leader of each season never made it to the top 100 in the other season because of injuries.

All numbers come from Hockey Abstract.

Here are the top 10 grit players.


10. Shea Weber

The nice thing about Weber as compared to most of the guys on this list is that he is a threat to contribute to more than just the peripherals. He shoots the puck a ton, scores a lot of goals and racks up power play points. But he's still a beast on the back end. He was just 32nd this year in the league in grit with 357 and 22nd the previous year and has been very consistent when it comes to hits and blocked shots.


9. Alexei Emelin

Funny how two new teammates are back to back on this list. The biggest concern with Emelin is that he doesn't play enough games. He played 72 games this year, and that was the most of any non-lockout season of his five-year career. But when he does perform in this category when he does get into the lineup. He was seventh in the league this year in grit with a score of 443, and had 380 the year previous when he played just 68 games.


8. Tom Wilson

It will be interesting to see what Wilson does this year. The Caps want him to become the next Joel Ward which might impact his PIM, fights and hits since Ward does none of that. But the Caps went and improved their depth by getting Lars Eller. So Wilson probably stays on the fourth line and has to fight and hit to stay in the lineup. And he's been great at that the last two years. He was fifth in grit this year and 12th in 2014-15.


7. Cody McLeod

McLeod is one of only three players to be in the top 10 in the grit category in each of the last two years. The other two rank higher on this list. The nice thing about McLeod is you can count on him to get in the lineup. He's played in every single game in three of the last four seasons. So you know he's dependable and will be good to play every single night instead of the risk of a healthy scratch.


6. Brooks Orpik

Orpik didn't have a great season in this category this season as he played in 41 games thanks to a cracked femur. But two years ago he ranked number one with a score of 564. Orpik doesn't get enough love in some fantasy leagues because he doesn't put up the points despite always playing on superstar-laden offensive teams. But when it comes to peripherals, he's one of the best.


5. Dustin Byfuglien

Everyone knows what a great fantasy player Byfuglien in. His value increases in leagues where you can slot him in as a forward or a defenseman. Plus he's always great for these peripheral categories. This year Byfuglien was sixth in the league with a 447 grit score, and 20th the previous year when he had 388 (remember that he played just 69 games that year). When healthy, he's a consistent threat to be a top-10 player in this category.


4. Mark Borowiecki

Borowiecki has finished fourth in each of the last two years in the grit category. Which shows his consistency to these type of categories. But there's two important things to note: He's only been a full-time NHLer for two seasons so he's doing this as a newbie, and he's only played 63 games in each of those two seasons. He's a good bet to be a leader in this category if he can get to 82 games.


3. Roman Polak

Any Polak owners that are also Leafs fans should be pretty excited by Polak spending another season in Toronto. In 2014-15, he was 17th in grit with 401, but he played just 56 games. This year he was second with 525 in 79 games split between the Leafs and the Sharks. Now he's back with the Leafs for another go-around and will be expected to block a lot of shots and hit a lot of players once again.


2. Radko Gudas

Gudas only finished in the top 100 once for this list, but that's because he only played in 31 games in 2014-15 thanks to knee surgery. Last year he got into 76 games and he dominated the grit category with a score of 581, the highest total in the category's brief history. The nice thing about Gudas is that he is a threat to get a score of at least a hundred in all three categories of PIM, blocked shots and hits.


1. Matt Martin

Martin had a score of 542 in 2014-15 and 519 in 2015-16, and is the only player to be in the top three in each of the two seasons. Of course we all know he can hit and has been the league leader for many years now. But Martin also contributes to the PIM category, proving he's more than a one-hit wonder.