Cage Match: Micheal Ferland vs. Nick Bjugstad

Rick Roos

2018-10-24


When it comes to multi-cat contributors, ones who can post 50+ points are a precious commodity. With that in mind, this week’s battle is between Micheal Ferland and Nick Bjugstad. Both had productive 2017-18 campaigns and are seemingly poised for similar if not more success in 2018-19. But which is the better own for this season and down the road? Cage Match is on the case!

Career Path and Contract Status

Ferland, 26, was drafted 133rd overall in 2010 and ended up staying in the WHL for all his eligible seasons, making him a borderline NHL prospect. But once he reached the AHL in 2013-14, he posted 18 points in 25 games then followed that with 15 in 32 contests in 2014-15, which lead to his first NHL action (five points in 26 games). Despite not taking the NHL by storm, Ferland was there to stay come 2015-16, but responded with only 18 points in 71 games. He took a step in the right direction with 25 points in 76 contests in 2016-17, but it was last season that he made big strides, with 41 points in 77 games. Then this summer he was dealt to Carolina, where he’s has started strong in 2018-19, with nine points in his first nine games.

Bjugstad, also 26, was selected 19th overall in that same 2010 draft and ended up playing college hockey for three seasons, helping lead his team to two WCHA championships while putting up 98 points in 108 total games. After that Bjugstad made the leap directly to the NHL, posting a respectable 38 points in 76 contests in 2013-14. He saw his totals rise in 2014-15 to 43 points in only 72 games and looked like a multi-cat star in the making. But then he fell out of favor with coach Gerald Gallant and with that, saw his production drop, first to 34 points in 67 games in 2015-16 then all the way to a mere 14 points in 54 games in 2016-17. But under new coach Bob Boughner, Bjugstad was reinstalled in the top six last season and responded with 49 points in 82 games.

Ferland’s cap hit for this season is $1.75M, after which he’s a UFA, while Bjugstad is entering the second half of a six-year deal that runs through 2020-21 and carries an annual cap hit of $4.1M.

Ice Time

Season

Total Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)

PP Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)

SH Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)

2017-18

15:01 (M.F.) – 6th

15:07 (N.B.) – 5th

1:51 (M.F.) – 6th

1:31 (N.B.) – 6th

0:02 (M.F.) – 11th

0:01 (N.B.) – 9th (tied)

2016-17

11:34 (M.F.) – 11th

13:09 (N.B.) – 11th

0:28 (M.F.) – 10th

1:25 (N.B.) – 9th

0:02 (M.F.) – 11th

0:02 (N.B.) – 11th

2015-16

12:37 (M.F.) – 11th

15:31 (N.B.) – 7th

1:02 (M.F.) – 8th

2:35 (N.B.) – 6th

0:09 (M.F.) – 11th

0:09 (N.B.) – 10th

2014-15

16:35 (N.B.) – 5th

2:19 (N.B.) – 3rd

0:31 (N.B.) – 7th


Sometimes season-long ice time tells the full story; in other cases, it doesn’t. For the former, we have Bjugstad, who averaged 15:01 to 15:13 in each of the last three quarters of 2017-18, which is of concern since his 17 points in 23 games in the final quarter becomes more suspect in view of how little ice time he was receiving, plus how similar it was to previous less productive quarters.

With Ferland, the memory is of his 2017-18 campaign being a very successful one; and indeed it was, on the whole. Yet he shed ice time in the second half, averaging closer to 14:00 while scoring 17 points in 37 games versus 24 points in 40 games while receiving 15:00+ of average ice time per game in the first half. That’s raises concern as to whether this season will end up being another case of a hot start that doesn’t last.

Back to Bjugstad, the good news is his scoring output has essentially tracked his ice time, with him being able to post 45+ points if he gets over 15:00 per game. It’s good news because although we’re less than a month into the 2018-19 season, and despite a shaky start (one point in his first five games), Bjugstad’s ice time per game stood at 16:29 though six games which for him would mark a career high by nearly a full minute. Yet like last season his percentage of PP minutes is still low (31%); so even if he continues to play at ES with the likes of Aleksander Barkov and Evgeni Dadonov, his suboptimal PP deployment will likely cap his output at 50-55 points, and almost assuredly below 60.

As for Ferland, thus far he’s not only staked out a top line spot, but also is seeing more PP time. The concern is whether this campaign will end up a repeat of 2017-18, with him displaced from the top line and PP Time evaporating. For what it’s worth Ferland saw time on PP1 in his last game, and scored, so that could be the entry for getting a regular PP1 shift, especially with the team’s early PP struggles. Or even if he doesn’t get onto PP1, he’ll likely still end up with more PP time this season than last.

In all, each player has an ice time advantage (Bjugstad’s apparently steady spot on the Florida top line at even strength; Ferland having a better PP situation) and disadvantage (Ferland not having a track record of being able to stick on a top line at even strength; Bjugstad likely being locked out of PP1). Thus, no one is ahead in this match thus far, so let’s see what else we can dig up.

Secondary Categories

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2017-18

0.31 (M.F.)

0.50 (N.B.)

2.22 (M.F.)

1.16 (N.B.)

0.39 (M.F.)

0.23 (N.B.)

1.87 (M.F.)

2.80 (N.B.)

0.07 (M.F.)

0.08 (N.B.)

2016-17

0.65 (M.F.)

0.40 (N.B.)

1.96 (M.F.)

1.33 (N.B.)

0.34 (M.F.)

0.15 (N.B.)

1.39 (M.F.)

1.68 (N.B.)

0.05 (M.F.)

0.03 (N.B.)

2015-16

0.63 (M.F.)

0.61 (N.B.)

2.91 (M.F.)

1.30 (N.B.)

0.31 (M.F.)

0.41 (N.B.)

1.72 (M.F.)

2.55 (N.B.)

0.03 (M.F.)

0.22 (N.B.)

2014-15

0.52 (N.B.)

2.05 (N.B.)

0.40 (N.B.)

2.87 (N.B.)

0.16 (N.B.)


Bjugstad’s SOG rate has been impressive overall, with him being one of just 56 players who averaged a collective 2.5+ SOG per game over the last four seasons. Yet he was one of just six among the 56 not to also average one goal per four games over the same stretch, with two of the six now retired. Of the 56, however, only nine others – like Bjugstad – collectively averaged 1.5 hits per game, with all but two of those nine, however, averaging three goals per ten games. Kind of a mixed message.

Ferland’s collective 1.62 SOG per game rate over the past three seasons is not a good sign, particularly when it comes to his likelihood of being a hitter and goal scorer. That’s because in looking at the 28 other players who, like Ferland, from 2015-16 to 2017-18 averaged at least a collective two hits per game and played 200+ games, only five averaged fewer SOG per game than Ferland, with one now retired and none of the others even averaging one goal per every five games. In fact, the highest goals per game rate of any of the 28 who collectively averaged less than two SOG per game, and isn’t now retired, was 0.22 goals per game, which does not bode well for Ferland.

For 2018-19 so far Ferland’s SOG rate is way up (four per game!), although last season he stood at 47 SOG after 18 games, so we can’t look at what he’s doing now and assuredly conclude he’s a “new man” in terms of SOG. If anything, this underscores that Ferland – and the poolies who own him – could still ultimately relive 2017-18, when his SOG, points, and ice time all dried up after a fast start.

Luck-Based Metrics

Season

Personal Shooting %

Team Shooting % (5×5)

Individual Points % (IPP)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

Average Shot Distance

Secondary Assists %

2017-18

14.6% (M.F.)

8.3% (N.B.)

9.33% (M.F.)

8.98% (N.B.)

58.6% (M.F.)

67.6% (N.B.)

56.5% (M.F.)

46.5% (N.B.)

24.2 (M.F.)

25.2 (N.B.)

20% (M.F.)

30% (N.B.)

2016-17

14.2% (M.F.)

7.7% (N.B.)

8.07% (M.F.)

4.90% (N.B.)

67.6% (M.F.)

56.5% (N.B.)

50.1% (M.F.)

54.6% (N.B.)

27.2 (M.F.)

26.3 (N.B.)

40% (M.F.)

57% (N.B.)

2015-16

3.3% (M.F.)

8.8% (N.B.)

6.96% (M.F.)

7.23% (N.B.)

48.6% (M.F.)

60.7% (N.B.)

43.4% (M.F.)

44.6% (N.B.)

24.6 (M.F.)

27.4 (N.B.)

50% (M.F.)

26% (N.B.)

2014-15

11.6% (N.B.)

7.11% (N.B.)

75.4% (N.B.)

52.7% (N.B.)

29.5 (N.B.)

58% (N.B.)


What we see with Ferland is an increasing team shooting percentage, suggesting he’s improving as a player. Where concern arises, however, is when he was placed among skilled players last season his IPP dropped below 60%, suggesting he’s probably not a likely candidate for more than 60 points even if he was to stay on a top line at ES plus see regular PP time. Also, although at first his 20% secondary assists percentage seems like a good thing, it’s not a huge plus since it suggests he either scores goals himself or leads directly to them but isn’t a playmaker. It’s also likely tied to his lower shot rate; so if that continues to stay high for this season, he could end up with a better scoring output, perhaps even 60+ points. So basically it’s a good news bad news situation for Ferland in terms of this data.

Turing to Bjugstad, we see his IPP has remained solid, even as last season he played alongside far more talented players than in his career thus far. Moreover, his team shooting percentage last season was right at the 9.0% number considered average for top six players, i.e., not elevated. Also, despite his SOG total staying high, his average shot distance has dropped each season, suggesting he’s taking better quality shots and, in turn, that he has room for scoring gains. Yet he too had a low enough secondary assists percentage as to suggest he’s getting points either from his shots or rebounds from his shots. In other words, he’s not a playmaker either. Without that skill and/or an improved PP outlook, it might be difficult for him to exceed 60 points.

Who Wins?

Picking a winner is no easy task. Were his start to 2018-19 not so eerily similar to 2017-18, the easy choice would strike me as Ferland. But on the other hand, before tilting the scales to Bjugstad I have to consider that unlike last season Ferland is getting a regular PP shift; and with the Canes struggling on the PP, he could even stick on PP1. But is that enough to put him ahead of Bjugstad, who has a great gig at even strength, is a proven high volume shooter, but is on a PP2 unit that figures to be among the worst in the NHL? After all, thus far Florida’s top PP unit has mainly consisted of five other forwards, leaving Bjugstad with the likes of Denis Malgin and Frank Vatrano, plus two d-men.

In the end I’ll give you two winners. The safer choice is Bjugstad, simply because the ES gig he has looks to be pretty much locked in and that plus higher ice time this season likely elevates him to a 50-point player just by merely showing up. There’s also the fact that Bjugstad has a great SOG track record, whereas Ferland not only hasn’t had a single season of decent SOG, he actually started last season with a decent SOG rate before hitting a wall and seeing it fall of a cliff. This all having been said, Ferland is the risk/reward choice for the winner because although his start is reminiscent of last season, it’s taking place on a new team so it might be sustainable this time, in which case he’d be the clear winner.

UPCOMING GAMES

No data found.

STARTING GOALIES

  • No data at this moment.

HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
EVGENI MALKIN PIT 5 4 7 11
ADAM FOX NYR 4 1 6 7
JAKUB VORACEK PHI 6 0 10 10
NATHAN MACKINNON COL 5 2 6 8
MIKA ZIBANEJAD NYR 29 25 19 44
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 24 16 20 36
KEVIN FIALA MIN 11 9 7 16
EVANDER KANE S.J 7 5 5 10
KYLE CONNOR WPG 7 8 2 10
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS EDM 17 8 16 24

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency VAN Players
29.3% LOUI ERIKSSON BO HORVAT TANNER PEARSON
19.9% BROCK BOESER J.T. MILLER ELIAS PETTERSSON
7.7% JAY BEAGLE LOUI ERIKSSON TYLER MOTTE

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