Stevens on Kings Catapulting into Analytics Pool

Analytics has been the uber-hot buzzword in hockey circles over the past few years. It’s practically become an all-encompassing term referring to any numbers and data sharing even a tangential relationship to what happens on the ice.

However, some of the data being captured by teams extends Beyond just what happens during a game. In recent years, the LA Kings have been tinkering with something called the Catapult player tracking system.

Essentially, it is a small sensor that measures player movements worn under their shoulder pads or chest protector. The sensors algorithms detect and measure the players skating strides, shots, speed and distance. By quantifying all of these metrics, the system can calculate the players workload, like mileage on a car.

The Kings use this information in a variety of ways, including to help schedule practice lengths and giving players days off.

Apparently, the team began using the system about three years ago. From what we’ve gathered, then-head coach Darryl Sutter was not a heavy user of the information. However, John Stevens has been a proponent of it from the start and has increased its use since taking over behind the bench.

After camp today, we had a chance to ask him about the system.

On what he can say about the Catapult training system:

“We’re using it (laughs). I just think it’s a tracking tool. For us, without getting into too much detail, it’s been a really good resource to track fatigue. We have the ability now to — we can’t wear them in games, it’s not allowed — but we can take the game load, input it into the system and now we can track what the players are doing on a daily basis. We can tell if a guy’s red lining, where maybe his numbers are getting too high. It can also tell you when there are guys that maybe need a little more work, so we can keep them in an optimum spot there.

“If you take last year, a kid like Iafallo, who’s playing big minutes because he’s a young kid and he feels obligated to go out, even if it’s an optional skate, he’s always out early staying late. And Forbort was that guy the year before. Catapult, the tracking system, is going to give us the red flag, an alert, for Matt Price and us, to say ‘We need to be careful here, fatigue could set in.’ Rather than wait until the player’s fatigued, it kind of gives you a head start saying ‘Let’s do something about it before he gets to that stage.’ It’s been very helpful in a lot of ways, but fatigue is the most. Then you go through a stretch of a season, you see what your workloads were when you played really well, and if your team is shoddy, you go back and look at your workloads and see if you can change something to get a better performance out of your group.”

On if certain players have been more open than others to use the information:

“I think when it was new, some of the guys were a little bit cautious. But, I think with analytics now — and I’d call that analytics — it’s guys starting to understand how it can help them. I think in the beginning, sometimes when you bring in a device like that, players get cautious because they think you’re trying to catch them doing something wrong. When they start to understand it’s something, it’s really another device to try and help them manage fatigue and allow them to be better performers, they really embrace the idea. We have 100% involvement in what we’ve asked them to do, in terms of Catapult. So it’s been great, Pricer’s really good with it. I think we’re just scratching the surface of what it can track and how it can help us. But it’s certainly been a tool that’s been useful to us.”

Later he went on to talk about how this information is helping shape shape the amount of ice time Derek Forbort has had this week, as he prepares to return from injury.

“With Matt Price in our training staff, and [Dr.] John Meyer, we’ve said, ‘This is how far we’ll take him each day.’ As long as there are no setbacks, in terms of the injuries, then we’ll just keep pushing him forward,” said Stevens.

The Kings staff continues to use data captured via this system to monitor certain metrics related to on-ice activities. Once Forbort comes close to exceeding them, they know it’s time to back off a little.

“We have knowledge of when [Derek] did the drills previously and what numbers we should expect,” Stevens added. “Going into yesterday and today, it was more about getting his legs back because he had to shut them down for a while and getting his conditioning back up and his timing. In terms of his rehab with his injury, he felt good and he’s progressing forward, so that’s encouraging. Hopefully we can start to get him more integrated into practice, where he can at some point stay for the whole practice and not leave midway through – and he left practice midway through because it was planned, not because he had to.”

This isn’t your father’s NHL.

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