Frozen Tools Forensics: 2020-21 Season Breakouts, Playoff Edition



Back in April we did a feature on 4th year breakouts, and then took a look at some players in their third year who had some solid potential to be 2020-21's fourth-year breakout. This week I wanted to follow up on that article and see if more playoff games have given us any more information on what we might look for these players going forward, or if there are any new players to highlight.

To start let's do a quick summary of where we landed last time.

One of the look-fors here has to be a player who is ranking well in points-per-60, but is either lacking in total time on ice, or in power-play time. That gives them the option to improve somewhere and increase the point output.  In that vein I wanted to take a look at Kailer Yamamoto, Martin Necas, and Zach Sanford.

On the other side of the scale, we have players who are already ranked pretty highly in time on ice and power-play percentage. These are guys like Pierre-Luc Dubois, Anthony Cirelli, and Nico Hischier. These are guys who may already be getting solid deployment so might not be in line for a jump in production.

So there are six players there who we might want to touch on. First though, on to Frozen Tools! If we set the time frame to the 2019-20 playoffs and run the Next Yr Breakout report we get a table of stats for our third-year players. Once we export that (and add a PTS/G column) here is what we get sorted by Points-Per-Game.

PIERRE-LUC DUBOISL22CBJ32341046101.00263.822:5727
DENIS GURIANOVR23DAL3862198170.8173914:0547
SAMUEL GIRARDD22COL32251519100.67229.121:4220
ALEX DEBRINCATR22CHI323392460.67129.316:3527
ALEXANDER KERFOOTC26TOR322250330.60025.415:235
ANDREW MANGIAPANEL24CGY3122102350.5013516:1312
MARTIN NECASC21CAR37281340.50038.413:378
SAMMY BLAISL24STL38381340.50011.711:219
NEAL PIONKD25WPG317240220.50271.423:0410
LUKE KUNINC22MIN313142020.50139.514:306

Obviously, a direct comparison to the last article won't be completely possible. Not all of the teams play in the playoffs, and even some that did only played for a few games. We do have several players though that were featured in the April article, and that played a relatively high number of playoff games, so let's start there.

Pierre-Luc Dubois

In April we identified that Dubois was having some success already (to the tune of a 60ish point pace), but that he was already getting a fairly significant amount of time on ice (18 min total, and 2.5 min on the power play) compared to other third-year players so a breakout because of a change in deployment was a little less likely.

Fast forward to the playoffs and he had ten points in ten games, and was averaging 23 minutes a night. That is a big shift (an average of five minutes a night!), though to be fair a number of Columbus' games went to overtime so it is hard to compare those total times. One thing we do know though is he increased his percent of the team's power play. During the season he got a little over 57 percent, while during the playoffs he saw about 64 percent.

Another change in the playoffs was swapping out Nick Foligno for Alexandre Texier at even strength. Foligno isn't exactly an offensive juggernaut so this could also bode well for Dubois.

At the end of the day Dubois is already pretty well known at this point, and has seen some success on the score sheet. His potential breakout might not be as dramatic as some other players, given he is already getting good time, but these playoff games do show how he could achieve it.

Anthony Cirelli

Cirelli also made the original list as a player who was getting about as much deployment as we could likely expect from him. He was getting some opportunity already on ice in 2019-20, and there just didn't seem to be a lot of additional time to go around.

In the playoffs he has seen more time on ice (about 2.5 minutes), but as with all players getting overtime minutes it is not the best comparison. Unlike with Dubois though, his point pace has not been good. He has put up only five points in his 17 games (as of Thursday prior to Game 6). He has also lost out on some power-play opportunity. During the season he was seeing about 19 percent of the team's time, but in the playoffs, it has dropped to 17. His linemates have shifted too. He ended the season spending most of his time with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, but spent the playoffs with Johnson and Alex Killorn.

Unlike with Dubois, these extra games have not provided any optimism that Cirelli is going to be in a position to break out. He has a lot of competition, has gotten reasonable time already, and isn't getting additional looks during these playoffs.

Martin Necas

Necas came out of our April article looking pretty good, but did need a few things to break his way in deployment. Playing with guys like Andrei Svechnikov or Teuvo Teravainen would be ideal, but seemed less likely.

Unfortunately the playoffs haven't really provided more opportunity. Unlike with our last two players, Necas actually played less during the playoffs. During the season he averaged just over 14 minutes a game, but in the playoffs he got just over 13.5 minutes a night. He also had about the same percent of his team's power play (about 37 percent). The one change that is potentially for the better is that during the playoffs we swapped out Erik Haula and Ryan Dzingel for Nino Niederreiter and Vincent Trocheck.

No change isn't a great look for Necas, as he will need a boost in deployment or linemates to really break out. With this additional data we are left more or less where we were in April.

Zach Sanford

Sanford made the April list because he was tied for the fourth-highest per-60 rate. He had very low time on ice and power-play percentage, but had some points to show for it. He got some luck riding shotgun with the red-hot David Perron but couldn't keep the spot all season. In the plus column though, there were some potential spots available on the power play.

In the playoffs Sanford put up four points in nine games, got just over 15 minutes of ice time, and 16 percent of the power play time. That represents a slight uptick in both total time, and in power-play percentage, but we certainly aren't talking numbers to get really excited about. The big positive in the playoffs though was that he was back with Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron. Unfortunately in this case, they were only human and Sanford did not get to cash in on many points.

Keeping that deployment is definitely a good thing, but he will likely need to add some time on ice to really put up breakout numbers.


In addition to the players above, I wanted to take a moment to highlight Denis Gurianov from the playoff list. In the April article we did not touch on him as his point pace and time on ice numbers were relatively unremarkable. He was still doing reasonably well though with 2.1 points per 60 over about 13 minutes of time on ice. One positive at the time is that he was up around 42% of Dallas' total power-play time.

In the playoffs he has been doing quite well. He has 17 points in Dallas' 21 games, but hasn't seen his opportunity shift all that much. He is up to about 14 minutes of total ice time, but has lost a few percentage points of power-play time. His linemates haven't improved either. He swapped out Jamie Benn and Jason Dickinson for Joe Pavelski and Mattias Janmark at even strength.

The big difference between the regular season and the playoffs though is the success of the second power-play. A quick excerpt from the Top PP report shows us that the second unit in Dallas has 18 goals and is the second most productive unit in the playoffs (Dallas actually has two units in the top five).


It looks like this breakout for Gurianov is a bit too good to be true and he won't be able to count on his power-play unit being that effective come next season. For him, we will definitely need to see an increase in time and some better even-strength linemates.

That is all for this week. Thanks for reading.

Stay safe out there.

Want more tool talk? Check out these recent Frozen Tool Forensics Posts.

Frozen Tools Forensics: Playoff scoring leaders and superstar defencemen

Frozen Tools Forensics: Playoff goaltending

Frozen Tool Forensics: Winners of the losers


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