Tortoises and Hares: Forwards

by Doran Libin on October 26, 2015

Four players off to fast starts (too fast?), four players off to slow starts (too slow?)…

 

 

It is just about time for poolies to start panicking because their star player is off to a slow start and killing their early season buzz. As some GM’s panic others will pay exorbitant prices because a scrub is scoring on half of his shots because that is guaranteed to continue for the rest of the season. So just as last week examined hot and slow starts on a team level, this week will look at some starts from individual forwards around the league.

 

Hares

 

Vladimir Tarasenko

Tarasenko has picked up where he left off last season except he is turning up the volume. He currently has his lowest even strength shooting percentage over the last three years at 10.3%, it has been over 12% each of last two years. That is balanced out by his power play shooting percentage of 20%. The notable difference in Tarasenko’s game this year is that he is shooting more than in previous years. Since entering the league Tarasenko has been on a slow rise from two shots per game to 2.5 shots per game last year. In previous years not being a volume shooter necessitated a higher shooting percentage for Tarasenko but that looks to be changing. He is currently averaging 4.5 shots per game, that is Ovechkin-esque volume which will not last. Should Tarasenko stays above three shots per game he has a legitimate shot at the art ross.

 

Martin Hanzal

There are so many red flags with Martin Hanzal. First he has nine assists with seven of those assists being of the secondary nature. As first assists are more repeatable than second assists this does not bode well for his continued production. The second red flag is that while he has yet to score a goal it is only because is not shooting. He is bound to score but if he continues to only take two per game (he rarely exceeds that) even if he scores on 10% of his shots that is only 15 goals. Third the Coyotes are horrible and getting horribly outshot every game, making it even more unlikely that Hanzal continues at a point per game pace. Finally, Hanzal is a major band-aid boy as he misses a minimum of 20 games almost every year. Sell him now just in case anyone thinks he is for real.

 

Artemi Panarin

Panarin’s in a great situation now that he has proved this column wrong and made the Blackhawks. He is in a pretty plush situation as not only is Artem Anisimov translating for him in game but he can play in the shadows of Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa and alongside Patrick Kane. Even given his situation he is highly unlikely to remain a point per game scorer this season. He does not shoot a lot at just two shots per game at even strength, although the Blackhawks get a ton of shots when he is on the ice. With Panarin taking so few shots of his own he will need to keep his shooting percentage up over 13% to approach 15 goals. More disconcerting is that his success has been based on being involved in 75% of the even strength goals scored when he is on the ice. Last year only Toews and Kane were able to maintain that level of involvement in the Hawks’ even strength goals. After raining on Panarin’s parade get ready for an abrupt 180 degreee turn, if he continues to get more than three minutes of power play time per game 60 points is not out of reach if he even sports a 60% IPP.

 

Johnny Gaudreau

Gaudreau puts Panarin’s level of involvement in even strength goals to shame as Gaudeau has been involved in all the Flames even strength goals scored when he is on the ice. Even after he falls back to last year’s level Gaudreau is still in line for more points than he had last year as he is playing close to two minutes minutes more per game this year. However, even with the increased ice time his shot numbers are horrible but the Flames as a team do not generate a ton of shots. That will change when TJ Brodie returns and one of Kulak or Engelland are ushered out of the lineup. All this adds up to Gaudreau being able to come close to 70 points even as his on-ice shooting percentage falls under 14%.

 

 

Tortoises

 

Antoine Vermette

It is going to be a rough year for Antoine Vermette. Max Domi has already been off his line to play with Duclair and Hanzal. The replacement of Domi with Doan should make Vermette’s season longer and all the more difficult. Domi has already generated twice as many scoring chances as Shane Doan has this year. Aside from his linemates Vermette is playing just over 15 minutes per game, down from 17 minutes last year, with less than 10 of those coming at even strength. When Vermette is on the ice the Coyotes average 25 shots every six games, or they take four shots per game when is on the ice. At that rate Vermette will be lucky to be on the ice for 33 even strength goals. Given his historical on-ice shooting percentage, IPP and the current Coyotoes shot rate Vermette should put up 27 points total. Thank the stars for that Arizona power play.

 

Jakob Silfverberg

This whole tortoise list could conceivably be made up of Anaheim Ducks, it was legitimately tough to limit it to just one. Silfverberg was the sleeper du jour over the off-season so his slow start is likely one of the most surprising. Part of the reason for the slow start is that the Ducks as a team, and Silfverberg specifically, are converting virtually none of their shots. Silfverberg for example has not scored a goal and has an on-ice shooting percentage of 1.7%. Those will both undoubtedly go up, and the Ducks are taking the same number of shots as they took last season. Thus it would be easy enough to look at those two factors and suggest that there are no real problems in Anaheim. There are however a couple glaring factors for Silfverberg specifically though. The amount of scoring chances and high danger chances the Ducks generate when he is on the ice have dropped precipitously. He is on pace to generate 40 fewer scoring chances this season than he did last season, and the Ducks as a team are generating much fewer chances when he is on the ice. The same can be said to a similar extent about high danger chances. If Silfverberg and the Ducks are not getting to scoring areas any more this may not be just a blip on early season radar. It is not time to panic just yet but something to keep an eye on. If the TSN rumours are correct and Randy Carlyle is coming get ready to bail.

 

Anze Kopitar

Early in the season Kopitar is playing as much as he ever has, which is a minute and a half more than he did last season. Not surprisingly he is also generating more shots and scoring chances. He is also scoring on more of his shots as his shooting percentage currently sits at just over 13%. Given that he fluctuates largely between 11 and 13 percent there is no reason to predict a huge fall. Furthermore, The Kings as a team are generating shots and scoring chances at the same rate per 60 minutes that they always have with Kopitar on the ice. The reason Kopitar has not produced much in the way of points is that the Kings are not scoring when he is on the ice as can be seen from his on-ice save percentage.  Similarly he has yet to be involved in an even strength goal scored when he is on the ice. That is after being involved in 75% of the even strength goals he was on the ice for last season. This is basically a long winded way of saying that there should not be any reason to worry unless Kopitar is ridiculously unlucky all season. If this continues much longer this is probably the best time to pry him from a panicking poolie.

 

Dmitrij Jaskin

Until Jaden Schwartz went down with an injury Jaskin was slowly having his ice time stripped away from him. The three games before Schwartz’s injury Jaskin was getting less than 10 minutes of ice time per game. That includes getting virtually no power play time. That all changed with Schwartz out of the lineup, an important factor given that he will miss three months. In the first game without Schwartz Jaskin received 20 minutes of ice time including five minutes on the power play. Unsurprisingly he went on to generate six of his 15 shots on the season in that game. That game also him reunited with his early season linemates David Backes and Troy Brouwer. That is a major upgrade from Scott Gomez and Scott Upshall or Kyle Brodziak and Steve Ott. With limited other top six options Jaskin should be safe in his new role as long as Schwartz is out. He will start to produce in very short order, as the time to buy is now. Right now.