Frozen Tools Forensics: First Quarter Surprises

by Grant Campbell on November 15, 2019

Enough teams have played 20 games that we can call the first quarter of the season complete. Most of these players will slow down or improve by the end of the year. Here are some of the biggest surprises to me (both good and bad) at this point:

Dougie Hamilton – Carolina

Hamilton has always seemed to be on the verge of becoming a dominant 60-point defenceman, and while his goal totals have never dipped below ten since 2014-2015, his assist totals have never exceeded 37. His career high is 50 points in 2016-2017 and he is currently on pace for 91 points. Maintaining his current pace won’t likely happen, but he should shatter his previous career high. Surprisingly, this is only the second time in his career that he has been given the keys to the first power-play unit (for an extended time) and he has already exceed his power-play points from the last season.

Andrei Svechnikov – Carolina

I’m not surprised Svechnikov is having the season he is having; I just didn’t expect him to bypass the usual incremental improvement in his play. He had 37 points in his rookie season last year and I would have put him around 50 points this year, certainly not the 91 he is on pace for. The biggest factors in his improved production are his increased playing time of almost two minutes per game (with a minute of that being on the power play) and being on the first unit of the power play. His pace is sustainable, but unlikely.

J.T. Miller – Vancouver

I was surprised at how good Miller has been with the Canucks so far. I knew he was a good player, but I didn’t know the extent of it. He is a possession machine as he rarely loses puck battles on the boards and his puck retrieval is the best on the team. After 20 games, he is on pace for 78 points, which would shatter his career high of 56. I can see him slowing down already, but he is getting a ton of ice time on the power play, so hopefully he can still manage 65-70 points.

Travis Konecny – Philadelphia

I was pretty positive about Konecny after last season and was hoping he could expand his game, which he most certainly has. After two seasons of 47 and 49 points, I thought a good increase would be to 55-60 points, but he is currently on pace for 87 points. What makes his season impressive so far is the fact that he is playing on the second line and the second unit of the power play and is driving play without any big guns helping him. He will more than likely come down to earth, but a 65-70-point season is a good goal.

Cale Makar – Colorado

I knew Makar was going to be good, but I didn’t think he was going to be this good, this quick. I had him ranked as my #2 rookie behind Jack Hughes, but Makar is on pace for a 78-point season as a rookie defenceman and if he keeps it up, he will win the Calder hands down. It’s a long season for any young player coming out of college and we should see him slow down at some point, but a 60-point season might be his for the taking.

Jakob Silfverberg – Anaheim

Silfverberg has been very consistent over the past five seasons, never above 49 points and never below 39 points. He has a very good chance of shattering his career high as he is on pace for 36 goals and 70 points. It is easy to look at his shooting percentage and see that 22.5% is unsustainable, but if you add the last quarter of 2018-2019 to this quarter, he has 17 goals and 19 assists in his last 40 games. A total of 70 points might be a stretch, but 55-60 is in his wheelhouse.

James Neal – Edmonton

Probably the most obvious player on this list, Neal is currently on pace for a 46-goal season after 21 games, but is slowing down considerably after his hot start. I thought he might get back up to 20 goals if he was traded and everything went his way, but I’m still shocked by his production so far. I think he will settle in around 25-29 goals.

Zack Kassian – Edmonton

In his ninth NHL season, Kassian is having a career year and is on pace for 59 points. His career high is 29 points with Vancouver in 2013-2014. He is seizing the opportunity to play with McDavid and Draisaitl and running with it. I’m sure they will all slow down a little, but Kassian should reach 40 points if he stays healthy.

Tony DeAngelo – NY Rangers

I figured that the acquisition of Jacob Trouba would negatively affect DeAngelo more than any other Ranger, but I was completely wrong. Even though DeAngelo is not playing on the first unit of the power play and only averaging about 18 minutes per game, he has 14 points after his first 17 games (with six of those points on the PP2). He won’t sustain this pace, but even a 40-point season for him is unexpected.

Joonas Donskoi – Colorado

With nine goals after 19 games, Donskoi will assuredly break his career high of 14 goals. With a shooting percentage of 27.2%, he will not likely maintain this pace. He is benefitting from the absence of Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, and is certainly making the most of his chance to play with Nathan MacKinnon.

Blake Wheeler – Winnipeg

Wheeler is on this list for the wrong reasons as he has only 10 points after 20 games and is on pace for one his worst seasons in his career. His power-play production has fallen off, with only two points so far this season after 40 and 33 power-play points in his past two seasons. I’m sure he will turn it around, but we might see a 60-point season from Wheeler for the first time in a while. There is always a concern with older players that a fall-off in production can signal a quick descent.

Tyson Barrie – Toronto

I’m not surprised that Barrie is not generating the same 55-60-point production he did in the past two seasons, but I am shocked that he only has five assists after his first 20 games as a Maple Leaf. There are a lot of indicators that he will start producing as his PDO is 94.7 and he does have 53 shots on net. The big hit is the power play as he only has one point after getting 30 and 25 power-play points in his past two seasons. I think Barrie will get back to a 35-40-point season and then the Leafs will have to make a decision moving forward. I don’t think he added what they thought he’d add to the team.

There are a few other players who could be listed, like Phil Kessel, P.K. Subban, John Klingberg or Josh Anderson, and I’m sure each person has their own list of players who have not performed as expected. It’s a long season of ebbs and flows, so every 20 games, different players will show up on lists like this.

Thanks for reading, and please free to ask me anything or follow me on Twitter @gampbler15