Evaluating Brandon Manning and his growth from undrafted free agent to regular on the Flyers defense is something to behold.
Via Own the Puck
As his HERO chart shows, from a puck possession standpoint, his overall impact is that of a top pair defender. When he is on the ice, play is driven forward, and when he’s off the ice, the possession numbers for the Flyers decline.
His early season boxcar numbers are quite impressive. That said, it’s doubtful that Manning ends the season with 55 assists as he’s pacing after six games. This is especially true given his minutes will likely decrease with Radko Gudas returning from suspension and Michael Del Zotto inching closer to return from injury.
Via Hockey Viz
In the above With-or-Without-You (WOWY) chart, we see that most of Manning’s results were clustered in the quadrant close to Dull and Good. This means that Manning drove play forward in a low-event way. The two worst players he was with last season were RJ Umberger and Mark Streit. Streit’s still around. And, seeing Manning failed most with a player who was bought out and another who was recovering from a detached pubic plate injury. His best results came with Sean Couturier, Wayne Simmonds, Sam Gagner and Radko Gudas. And given that three of those four players are still Flyers, the evidence exists that Manning deployed with any of them means good things will happen to the Flyers while Manning is on the ice.
Given the early season struggles of Streit and MacDonald, along with Hakstol’s insistence that Schultz is used to kill penalties, it’s like that Brandon Manning finds himself in the lineup even after Del Zotto and Gudas return. In a lot of ways, evaluating Brandon Manning is like evaluating a reverse-Shayne Gostisbehere. Gostisbehere’s scoring ability is off the charts, while his possession numbers are middle of the pack. While I do entertain the idea that Andrew MacDonald is the biggest reason that Gostisbehere’s possession numbers are weak, the idea of a Manning-Ghost pair is exciting. Manning can handle the possession impact of the pair, while Ghost can handle the scoring. This would leave MDZ-Gudas as the top pair, which saddles Ivan Provorov on pair three with Mark Streit or Nick Schultz.