Ramblings: Forsberg Thursday; Panarin Leads Jackets; Evander Kane Debut; Expected Goals – April 13

Michael Clifford


After his hit on Will Carrier in Game 1, it was kind of up in the air as to whether or not Drew Doughty would hear from the Department of Player Safety. Not only did he hear from them, but Doughty was suspended one game, I think to the surprise of many. Not necessarily that it was a suspension-worthy play, that’s another debate for another day. But typically someone has to be murdered in cold blood for a suspension to come down in the playoffs.

This is a huge blow to the Kings. They lose the first game of the series and are looking to still be without Jake Muzzin, who practiced but was in a non-contact jersey. Add in the injury to Derek Forbort, and the Kings will be without three regular defencemen for Game 2, and their two top blue liners. Nervous times for poolies with Kings on the roster.


Josh Anderson was given five and a game in the first game of the Washington/Columbus series for this hit:

The rule is that if it’s boarding and draws an injury – Michael Kempny was bleeding, if I remember correctly – then it’s an automatic ejection. Kempny also didn’t return to the game at all afterwards. The hit wasn’t great but probably wasn’t deserving of an ejection. Alas, rules are rules. I don’t think there’ll be supplementary discipline from DoPS but you never know.


Alexander Wennberg was injured on a hit by Tom Wilson for which Wilson received a penalty, and Wennberg did not return. Good luck getting injury information out of John Tortorella.


Nazem Kadri also got ejected last night for a hit that was much worse than Anderson’s:

If you want to argue Tommy Wingels should have gotten a penalty for getting an elbow up on Mitch Marner, fine. I don’t disagree with that. But jumping into a player who’s already on his knees is one that earned Kadri a call from DoPS. If Doughty got one game for his hit, I can’t imagine Kadri escapes suspension here. It’s just a matter of how many games.


I won’t go much into the Leafs/Bruins game. Toronto had their chances early – Jake Gardiner hit a post and Mitch Marner slid a backhand through the crease – but the Bruins just laid them to waste. Toronto needs to be a lot better in every facet if they want to win this series.

Underrated note from the contest: Rick Nash looked really good in his first game back from a concussion. He was assertive on the forecheck, using his large frame to his advantage. He had a couple nice looks including one that forced a good glove save from Frederik Andersen. I’m interested to see where his landing spot is next year. I still think he has something left in the tank. In the right spot, I think he can push for 30 goals (with a healthy season, which is always the issue).


Yanni Gourde was the man of the game in Tampa’s 5-2 win with a goal and an assist with his PP goal holding up as the game-winner.

I’ve been talking a lot about ADPs lately, but Gourde’s should be fascinating. He’s a good player who’s earned his middle-six role with the Lightning. There’s no doubt about that. But his percentages, both personally and the team’s on-ice, were both pretty high. I’m not buying he maintains a 25-goal, 60-point pace next year. Will he go in the first 10 rounds (120 picks)? We’ll see. I don’t think it’ll be enough of a discount to warrant drafting him.


Joe Thornton took warmup for the Sharks but didn’t skate in rushes. Likely just testing things out. Seems like one of those things where we won’t know he’s in until he’s on an official scoresheet five minutes before a game.


We got an update on Mathieu Perreault and Tobias Enstrom and it’s that they’re both essentially game-time decisions for the Jets. Remember that the Jets lost Perreault in the second period on Wednesday night. I suppose a game-time decision is better than out for the rest of the series or something. Either way, it looks like Winnipeg may be a bit short-handed for Game 2.


On the night the Caps lost in overtime, Filip Forsberg scored the game-winning and insurance goals for the Predators in the third period to lift his team over Colorado. You won’t see many prettier goals than this:

My heart is full.


Columbus won our first overtime playoff game of the season 4-3 after trailing 2-0. A litany of Washington penalties spurred the comeback as the Jackets managed a pair of power play goals. Artemi Panarin (who else) sealed the game with this beautiful goal:

Here’s the thing with Panarin’s 82-point season: nothing was really out of line percentage-wise: His overall shooting percentage in 2017-18 (11.8 percent) was lower than his first two seasons (over 15 percent), his on-ice shooting percentage at five-on-five (his team’s scoring rate) was 7.54 percent and that’s completely normal, and his individual points percentage was a career-high, but it’s not surprising he’s in on more goals when he’s the primary offensive playmaker instead of playing with Patrick Kane. When you consider how much the Columbus PP struggled, maybe he can even improve on the 21 PP points he had and surpass the 82 points? As long as the ice time stays consistent to this year’s, I think a point-per-game player sounds right.


Evander Kane had a fine Sharks (and personal) playoff debut with two goals en route to San Jose taking game one on the road. One was a 5-on-3 power play, one was a nice net-drive on a 3-on-1.

Tomas Hertl and Joe Thornton both need new contracts next year but I’d be surprised if they don’t try to figure out how to keep Kane around and stay under the cap. He’s looked very good since the trade and he and Joe Pavelski seem to have great chemistry. With his stout shot, hit, and PIM totals, and playing with elite players on an elite power-play unit, things would be shaping up for a career year. Hopefully his ADP doesn’t climb too much.


Expected Goals

Yesterday in these Ramblings I looked at Sam Bennett and Jesse Puljujarvi, both players with very solid expected goals numbers this past season. I want to continue that discussion, just with, you know, fewer Alberta wingers.


Christian Dvorak

The headlines in the desert went to Clayton Keller and Antti Raanta. Those two obviously deserved the praise as a 60-plus point rookie on a low-scoring team and a goalie who would probably be in the Vezina conversation had he not been injured. It has left Christian Dvorak a bit overlooked, though.

On the surface, the fantasy hockey numbers aren’t stellar. I mean, 15 goals and 37 points with just under two shots on goal per game and a handful of PP points isn’t much. But he did improve from his rookie season: his shot rate per minute increased by over 37 percent, his on-ice shot share improved greatly, and his expected goals scored per 60 minutes jumped a quarter-goal, an improvement of about 50 percent from his rookie campaign. The improved shot and expected goal marks didn’t lead to more goals but that was more a function of over-performance in his rookie season than under-performance in his sophomore year. I mean, he shot over 18 percent at five-on-five in 2016-17. Despite improving his play, that regression alone meant there wasn’t going to be much (if any) improvement in goals.

Two issues arise for me and they’re related. The fact that there still isn’t much of a supporting cast among the forwards, and the fact that he didn’t have consistent line mates all year. He did play a fair amount with Max Domi – and I’m still not sold on him but that’s for another day – but out of his nearly 1000 minutes of five-on-five time, Dvorak didn’t play 125 minutes in one trio. Without knowing who his line mates will be, it’s hard to project what he can do.

Assuming Derek Stepan and Clayton Keller stick together, and Dylan Strome remains at centre, there may not be much for Dvorak to play with next season. Playing a third-line role for a (likely) low-scoring team doesn’t bode well. For now, his only appeal is in deeper leagues. It’s still nice to see his progression.


Jakub Vrana

You guys didn’t really think we’d get through an expected goals section without mentioning Vrana, did you? My sweet boy. My large adult son.

It hasn’t been a smooth first couple of season. He’s played 91 games bouncing between the second line, third line, fourth line, press box, and AHL. His first full season was 2017-18 and the raw stats don’t look great at 13 goals, 27 points, and fewer than two shots on goal per game. Please keep in mind his ATOI for this season was 12:30.

Before I get into the expected goals, I wanted to look at recent comps for his profile. These were parameters I used from Hockey Reference: at least 70 games played, under 1000 total minutes, at least 13 goals, and shooting under 10 percent. Basically, I wanted to find guys that managed to score at a decent rate without an inflated shooting percentage, and did so in a minimal role. Since 2013-14, these are the players who fit the parameters:


I’m going to throw out Ales Hemsky and Brian Boyle because they are at the later stages of their careers. The list, then, outside of Vrana, is Kyle Palmieri and Nick Ritchie.

That comparison to Kyle Palmieri in 2013-14 is interesting. Here are some of the numbers from Palmieri in that season and Vrana in 2017-18:




Individual expected goals/60



Individual shot attempts/60



Primary points/60




The differences really aren’t huge. It should be noted that in that season, Palmieri was 22 years old against Vrana being 21. That’s a year of development to come.

I wrote back in January about Vrana’s performance and how he might be doing things we don’t notice all the time but can lead to offensive success. All told, it was a good season, and I think with a bit of more examination this summer, we’ll see that he actually had a productive campaign. The issue is whether or not he consistently cracks the top-6 for Washington. He won’t have much fantasy value skating on the third line with Lars Eller, and off the top PP unit. Maybe those top-six minutes come, I’m just not so sure it’ll be 2018-19. 


Jimmy Vesey

The 2017-18 season was a disaster for most Rangers skaters but it was a solid second campaign from Jimmy Vesey.

I get it. He had 28 points. Not exactly great. But he did manage 17 goals, one more than his rookie year, and did so with a shooting percentage drop. If we remove Rick Nash and Michael Grabner, two guys no longer on the roster, he led the forward group in individual expected goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five (0.87). League-wide, that ties him with Jason Zucker, and is slightly ahead of prominent names like Evgeni Malkin and Tyler Seguin. In terms of actual goals scored (0.86), he tied names like Jaden Schwartz and Evander Kane. He was basically right in line with his expected goals and scored at the same rate as two wingers we consider to be first liners. That’s a darn good season.

Like Dvorak, he progressed in a lot of ways from his first to his second season. His goal rate went up, his expected goal rate went up, his shot rate went up, his primary point rate went up, and for good measure, he improved his penalty differential. All told, Vesey had a pretty good year.

I won’t spill too much digital ink here because there could be so much change coming to the Rangers; Alain Vigneault is already out as the coach, Ilya Kovalchuk is reportedly signing with them July 1st, and Mats Zuccarello appears set to be traded. And that’s just what we know with relative certainty. There’s no telling what else they might do. Vesey’s role is yet to be determined for next season and he’s an RFA to boot. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Vesey did have a good year, though. It was nice to see him progress and maybe he can earn some more minutes next season.


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