Red Wings’ Walman Becoming One of the NHL’s Best Shooters

The Hockey Writers

The Detroit Red Wings are off to their best start in many years, largely thanks to the talented players at the top of their lineup who have stepped their games up to lead Detroit. While guys like Moritz Seider, Dylan Larkin and Alex DeBrincat are all getting plenty of attention league-wide, there’s someone else who has been a huge piece of the team’s success that hasn’t received the same level of acclaim quite yet. That player would be Jake Walman.

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Jake Walman, Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Walman made the leap from depth defender to legit top-pairing caliber defenseman during the 2022-23 season so many were intrigued to see if he’d be able to replicate that success. Through the first 12 games of the season, the answer to the question “is Walman the real deal?” has been an emphatic YES!.

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He currently leads all Red Wings defenders in Corsi For Percentage, Shot For Percentage, Expected Goals Percentage, and many other advanced statistical categories (advanced stats via. NaturalStatTrick). However, there’s one part of Walman’s game that I want to do a bit of a deep dive into today and that is his massive slapshot. Walman is one of the best and most prolific shooters from long range in the NHL, and has become a massive threat for the team, even earning time on the second power play as the second defenseman. 

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Let’s take a closer look at Walman’s shot, with help from the NHL Edge data tracking.

NHL’s Hardest Shot

As of November 6, Tage Thompson and Travis Sanheim are tied for the NHL lead with 13 total shots that reached 90 miles per hour (mph) or faster. Nobody has 12 or 11 while Jake Walman is tied for third in the league with Steven Stamkos, both of them having taken 10 shots so far this year that have reached at least 90 mph.

Tage Thompson Buffalo Sabres
Tage Thompson, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Walman’s hardest shot early on this year was a blistering 99.71 mph slap shot which puts him in the 98th percentile across the NHL when it comes to hardest shots. He is also near the top of the league when it comes to shots in the 80-90 mph range, with 12 such shots. The league average is 4 which puts him in the 95th percentile and his 21 shots in the 70-80 mpg range is in the NHL’s 97th percentile.

Walman’s Long Range Success

Long range shots have become less common in the NHL because they are typically the least efficient shooting percentage-wise. Most goals that come from point shots are scored in the slot area off of tips or rebounds and not from the initial shot itself. However, Walman is a bit of a throwback defender in that way, launching point shots not with the intention of it being tipped but rather in a concerted effort to score.

Walman’s 11 point shots through 12 games puts him in the league’s 95th percentile, well above the average of five such shots for defensemen. He has a shooting percentage of 9.1% from long range, well above the league average of 2.6% which shows just how special his shot can be.

In fact, Walman’s shot is such a dynamic weapon that he has found his way onto the team’s second power play unit as the second defenseman. The vast majority of NHL teams use four forwards and one defensemen on both power play units in an effort to push for offense with everything they’ve got, but Walman’s slap shot is such a force that he has changed the dynamic of Detroit’s second unit. This goal that he against Boston is an example of the damage he can do with time and space to wind up, launching an absolute rocket from the right circle rather than from the point. 

Walman’s Shot Can Be a Difference Maker

If Walman can continue to hit shots with the kind of force he has so far this year while developing a better sense for where and when to shoot to maximize goal scoring potential, his slap shot could become a very unique weapon for Detroit. The slap shot is dying in the NHL with fewer players relying on it each year, but Walman’s shot is phenomenal and it’s good to see him using it successfully early on this year.

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