Forensics: The Third Year Breakout?

by Cam Robinson on December 16, 2016

Pastrnak and these emerging stars suggest that the third year can be a big breakout season for NHLers.

Building off last week’s edition of Frozen Pool Forensics, where we checked in on some fourth year NHL’ers and how their expected breakout campaigns were trending, this week we’re throwing caution to the wind and asking the question:

 

 “Is the third full season now the year to launch into stardom?”

 

The way that young players are training, preparing and executing on and off the ice is truly a testament to our developmental systems. Never have we seen such poise, dynamic skill sets and early production from such a wide array of teenagers and early-twenty-somethings.

 

Has this increase in preparation and youth development caused breakouts to occur earlier than we’re used to? We’ll also take a moment to outline some potential risers from next season’s third year crop.

 

 

David Pastrnak

 

Expected to take a nice step forward in this, his third ‘full’ season in the league, Pastrnak has accelerated expectations and decided it was time to jump into the conversation for the Rocket Richard Trophy.

 

Spending the majority of his even strength ice next to Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, the Czech winger has blistered his way to the second most goals scored with 19 and is in the top 20 for total points with 26 in as many games played.

 

Even Strength Line Combinations

Freq

Line Combination

73.9%

BERGERON,PATRICE – MARCHAND,BRAD – PASTRNAK,DAVID

11.6%

BACKES,DAVID – MARCHAND,BRAD – PASTRNAK,DAVID

8.7%

KREJCI,DAVID – PASTRNAK,DAVID – SCHALLER,TIM

3.4%

KREJCI,DAVID – PASTRNAK,DAVID – SPOONER,RYAN

2.4%

BELESKEY,MATT – KREJCI,DAVID – PASTRNAK,DAVID

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, before you go all crazy, Pastrnak is not going to score the 60 goals he’s on pace for. Nor is he likely to produce at a point-per-game clip the rest of the way. His current 21.6 conversion rate isn’t just likely to regress; it is destined to. Even the very best snipers in the game hold steady in the 15-17 percent range.

 

That said, the dynamic forward is putting 3.38 shots on net per contest – way up from the roughly two shots a game he’d averaged in his first two campaigns. Let’s assume he can continue to put up that amount of shots per night, while seeing his conversion rate regress into that 15-17 percent range. That means he’ll end up with between 39 and 45 goals. He totaled 26 career goals in 97

career gams heading into 2016-17.

 

How do you like that for a third season bang?

 

Using Dobber’s Report Generator, we can see that the 21-year-old sits 23rd in the league for total shots on goal with 88, however his 74 even-strength shots – 25 percent of those coming from within 15 feet from the goal – represent the 12th most in the league, all the while playing fewer games than all the players in front of him.

 

With a recent promotion to the top power play unit, all the ingredients are now there for a new star to be born.  

 

 

Bo Horvat

 

It seems like the hockey community is finally getting over waiting for the, “and…” that Gary Bettman should’ve added when he announced that Cory Schneider was traded to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for the ninth overall selection in the 2013 entry draft. Horvat has done everything in his power to make sure the Canucks made the right decision that fateful day, and in this, his third season, he’s taking his offensive game up a notch.

 

Playing on one of the most enigmatic offensive teams in the NHL, Horvat has been a consistent threat. His skating has gone from a slight negative to a serious positive in the span of three years and he now terrorizes opposing defenders by blazing wide and creating offense off the rush. Something that has been missing in Vancouver since Ryan Kesler’s heydays.

 

The former London Knight has improved his point-per-game output in each season of his young career, and while the results have been mostly modest, his chances are coming with far more regularity and much more ferocity.   

 

NHL Stats – Last 5 Years

SEASON

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

+/-

PIM

Shots

SH%

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

FOW

FO%

PPTOI

%PP

%SH

TOI/G

%TOI

2016-2017

30

8

9

17

0.57

-4

14

50

16.0

32

0

1

2

10

267

52.7

01:51

35.8

37.3

17:17

28.3

2015-2016

82

16

24

40

0.49

-30

18

155

10.3

69

4

12

0

53

760

50.9

01:48

34.6

44.7

17:08

28.1

2014-2015

68

13

12

25

0.37

-8

16

93

14.0

70

0

1

1

47

436

51.4

00:16

5.5

13.6

12:16

20.2

Average

82

17

21

37

0.46

-19

22

136

12.4

78

2

6

1

50

666

51.4

01:14

24.5

31.4

15:19

25.1

 

 

So far in 2016-17, the wildly mature centre man has scored eight goals and 17 points in 30 games. He’s converted on 16 percent of his shots all the while spending most of his even-strength time next to Alex Burrows, Sven Baertschi and Jack Skille – not exactly a who’s who of NHL stars.

 

Even Strength Line Combination

Freq

Line Combination

56.9%

BAERTSCHI,SVEN – BURROWS,ALEXANDRE – HORVAT,BO

15.6%

BAERTSCHI,SVEN – HORVAT,BO – VIRTANEN,JAKE

11.7%

BAERTSCHI,SVEN – HORVAT,BO – SKILLE,JACK

7.9%

BURROWS,ALEXANDRE – HORVAT,BO – MEGNA,JAYSON

7.9%

BAERTSCHI,SVEN – DORSETT,DEREK – HORVAT,BO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horvat has yet to wedge his way onto the top power play unit, despite producing 12 of his 40 points a year ago with the man-advantage. So far, on the 27th ranked Canucks’ power play, he has but one lone assist while up a man.

 

For those in leagues that count face offs, the Ontario-native is a burgeoning stud. As a sophomore, he won 50.9 percent of his draws – 760 total, and so far, this year he’s taken down 267 draws (52.7 percent) – good for 21st most in the league.

 

While the expectations will remain slightly muted for any Canuck players this season (and likely a couple more after that) Horvat has all the tools to become an elite second line centre and possibly even more. On most evenings, he’s been the team’s best and most consistent player.

 

 

Alexander Wennberg

 

There are few stories as good as the Columbus Blue Jackets this season. They’ve gone from a bottom-four team and a minus-33 goal differential in 2015-16 to sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference with a plus-33 goal differential so far this season.

 

One of the main components of that turnaround is a former-first around selection and third-year pro, Alexander Wennberg.

 

The Swedish centre has been dynamite through the first third of the season, scoring at nearly a point-per-game pace, leading the charge on the league’s most deadly power play with 13 points at five-on-four, and filling what appeared to be a gaping hole as the team’s top line pivot.

 

The steady improvement from year to year has been evident, but are we looking at the makings of the next great point-producing centre?

 

While Wennberg has already scored six goals on the season – two shy of his career-high set a year ago – he’s accomplishing that by converting on 18.8 percent of his shots on goal. That’s an unsustainable rate, and especially so when considering he takes a mere 1.18 shots per game. His previous high-water mark was an 8.2 percent conversion rate in which he set a season ago.

 

NHL Stats – Last 5 Years

SEASON

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

+/-

PIM

Shots

SH%

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

FOW

FO%

PPTOI

%PP

%SH

TOI/G

%TOI

2016-2017

27

6

18

24

0.89

7

4

32

18.8

26

1

13

0

20

190

44.5

02:43

59.7

5.1

18:03

29.7

2015-2016

69

8

32

40

0.58

-1

2

97

8.2

32

1

12

0

46

400

43.4

02:10

43.9

12.4

15:52

26.0

2014-2015

68

4

16

20

0.29

-19

22

85

4.7

58

1

4

0

45

288

42.7

01:27

28.0

29.8

15:37

25.7

Average

82

9

33

42

0.51

-6

14

107

8.4

58

1

14

0

55

439

43.4

01:58

39.4

19.1

16:07

26.5

 

Despite a tenuous salary cap situation, the future looks bright for the Blue Jackets. They have plenty of appealing prospects in the system and their big-league team features a core of U23’s that should only continue to develop into competent point-producers.

 

With Wennberg leading the charge, the team appears to be a very strong bet to make the playoffs for just the third time in franchise history.

 

 

***

 

Quick Hits

 

Victor Rask

  • There are plenty of nice pieces in Carolina and Rask just might be the best of the bunch. His 24 points in 29 games ranks him second on the club and his shot and goal metrics all appear sustainable. The 23-year-old looks to be the real deal.

 

Rickard Rakell

  • A mysterious illness and surgery to remove scar tissue from an appendectomy hasn’t been able to slow down the Ducks’ forward. Through 19 games, the former first-round selection has 17 points. He’s seeing most of his even-strength time next to Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry but has yet to crack the team’s top power play unit.

 

Andre Burakovsky

  • One of the few third-year players to be picked to have a breakout campaign, the slick-Swedish forward has left his fantasy owners wanting more. Fluctuating between the top and bottom six (even the press box for a minute), Burakovsky has produced just 10 points in 27 games – 0.37 ppg – down from the 0.48 rate he posted a season ago. Perhaps he’s a more classic fourth year player…

 

 

***

What’s to Come Next Season

 

If we are indeed looking at the breakout campaign to occur in year three, here are a few players to keep an eye on heading into 2016-17:

 

Conor Sheary – Continually increasing production and a top-six role next to Sidney Crosby? You can’t ask for a better spot than that.

 

Robby Fabbri – Pedigree and showing chemistry beside Vladimir Tarasenko; this breakout could come any moment.

 

Nikolaj EhlersLooking more and more like the third or fourth best offensive option on the Jets, but you can’t teach the speed and offensive creativity he possesses. Big things are coming.

 

Joonas DonskoiPlenty of pro experience in Finland and showed glimpses of what he’s capable of last spring. Could snag that top ling role next to the Joes for real next season.

 

Max DomiWe’re all just waiting for the day that Arizona starts pumping out goals with the youthful core they’re building. Domi should lead the charge as the top wing option in the organization.

 

Sam ReinhartHe and Eichel show glimpses of Sedinary on occasion. That should bode well for future production.

 

Dylan LarkinDetroit is going in the wrong direction, but Larkin has all the tools to be a premier all-around centre.

 

Viktor Arvidsson Young players who shoot the puck as much as he does are very rare; and with shots inevitably comes points.

 

***

 

Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3 where I often give unsolicited fantasy advice that I’m sure at least someone is listening to.