by PuckStopsHere on 01/19/14 at 04:42 PM ET
I think it is often interesting to look at the leaders in some of the more complex stats, including +/- ratings, and explain why that player could lead the league. Matt Niskanen of the Pittsburgh Penguins currently leads the NHL in +/- rating with a +26 rating. He is a bit of an odd leader. When we look over his career, he has posted a minus rating as often as he has a plus rating. Aside from his rookie year, he has never posted a +/- rating better than +9. In his rookie year he had a +22 rating, which looked like an anomaly until this year.
His rookie season and this year have one thing in common. Niskanen has played against some weaker competition. This year he is the partner of rookie Olli Maatta and the two of them have been largely protected from facing top opposition. As a rookie, he was similarly protected.
It doesn't hurt that he plays for the East Conference leading Pittsburgh Penguins. That also helps his +/- rating. His team leading PDO is another contributor.
I think Matt Niskanen isn't a player who will finish atop the league in +/- rating, but in his current circumstances he may be in the top few. He is a player who can dominate against lesser NHL competition, but doesn't have the talent to be a successful top line player. If you have sufficient depth that you can allow Niskanen to play a sheltered role, he will put up good numbers for you.
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