October 31 2012 11:25AM
It's time for our third and final piece of looking at different statistical ways to project how many points each of the Oilers will score.
If you're just tuning in, we explained our methodology in more detail in our first piece, which covered the top-six forwards. We followed that up with a look at the defensemen and finally we'll take a look at the remaining, secondary forwards.
One of the many young players that the Oilers are using carefully, 22-year-old Teemu Hartikainen has 10 points and 45 shots in 29 NHL games, which works out to 28 points over a full NHL season. His 74 points in 117 AHL games work out to about the same 25 points in a full NHL season – and our statistical engines put him just a touch higher.
GP G A PTS Last Year 17 2 3 5 VUKOTA 35.5 6.5 7.8 14.3 Best 82 28.5 29.5 58.1 Worst 82 0.0 14.1 14.1 Average 82 14.8 15.2 30.0
Of his ten closest matches three scored 20 goals and four were between 30 and 35 points. If he gets some power play time, as he did in his first season, he could fall into that range himself.
Will he get the opportunities to score this year? Having briefly used him as a top-six forward last year (albeit with an offensive zone slant), the Oilers at least appear to be open to the idea.
21-year-old Magnus Paajarvi has 259 shots in 121 NHL games, but just a 6.6% shooting percentage. His 25 points in 34 AHL games last year work out to just under 30 points in a full NHL season, which is exactly where our statistical engines place him this year.
GP G A PTS Last Year 41 2 6 8 VUKOTA 58.8 10.9 13.4 24.4 Best 82 29.0 10.7 39.6 Worst 82 5.9 6.2 12.0 Average 82 12.7 16.3 29.1
Five of the ten closest historical matches were between 30-33 points, including two other young players from the early 80s who began their career in similar fashion – with a strong teenage rookie season followed by a bit of a sophomore slump.
One was a very small but rugged winger who would play 20 NHL seasons, top 40 goals four times and win a Cup with Dallas: Pat Verbeek. The other was an even smaller forward known for his exceptional defensive play, Steve Kasper. He started off as young and strong as Paajarvi, then stumbled with injuries for two seasons before regaining a form that would last six more years.
Paajarvi GP G A PTS 2010-11 80 15 19 34 2011-12 41 2 6 8 Verbeek GP G A PTS 1983-84 79 13 19 32 1984-85 78 10 13 23 Next 76 17 19 36
Kasper GP G A PTS 1981-82 73 13 21 34 1982-83 24 2 4 6 Next 27 2 8 10
Paajarvi has been getting some secondary power play time, but struggled with the fourth lowest offensive zone start percentage among Oiler forwards last year (albeit against depth competition).
Claimed off waivers from Nashville, 28-year-old Ryan Jones has scored 17-18 goals in his two seasons in Edmonton, but his assists have varied from 7 to 16. He's had a consistent even-strength scoring rate of 1.3-1.5 points per 60 minutes over the years, and has been a depth power play option (especially since coming to Edmonton), where he occasionally does quite well.
He's been deployed quite differently since coming to Edmonton. Never used on the penalty kill before, now he's a top option. While he's always thrown hits, he was actually a penalty-drawing machine until he wore the copper and blue. And while his possession numbers have always been negative, previously he was getting balanced ice-time against below-average competition while last year he got the much tougher assignment mostly in the defensive zone and against second-line opponents.
GP G A PTS Last Year 79 17 16 33 VUKOTA 67.4 14.0 13.3 27.3 Best 82 22.9 16.5 39.4 Worst 82 4.4 10.9 15.3 Average 82 12.2 15.3 27.5
Four of his ten closest historical matches were on pace for between 28-32 points. Jones' closest historical matches were at the low end – James Black and current Colorado coach Joe Sacco.
Jones GP G A PTS Career 255 50 37 87 2011-12 79 17 16 33 Black GP G A PTS Career 261 46 40 86 1998-99 75 16 15 31 Next 49 8 9 17
Sacco GP G A PTS Career 185 33 32 65 1994-95 41 9 7 16 Next 76 11 12 23
Acquired by the Capitals, Black was the same type of two-way hole-filling winger as Jones, but whose NHL career would unfortunately include only two more part seasons – the same thing that could happen to Jones with all the young talent pushing for ice-time.
As for Sacco, he was playing for the Mighty Ducks at the time, in the middle of a good five-season stretch here he played the two-way hole-filling Jones role before winding out his career many years later as a defensive-minded fourth liner for the Islanders, Capitals and Flyers.
Top penalty killer and elite faceoff man Eric Belanger, who turns 35 this December, suffered a very unfortunate season, scoring 16 points and -13 after back-to-back 40-point seasons in Minnesota, Washington and Phoenix, preceded by six seasons in the 33-37 range.
You could say that Belanger was the victim of Edmonton's potentially league-worst depth lines, scoring on just 5.9% of their shots, down from 10.1% that Belanger's linemates posted the year before (of course, Belanger himself dropped down to 3.4% from a career average of 10.5%).
Belanger's scoring is unlikely to bounce back – he's been gradually losing his power play time and although he remains usable, he's treated as a depth option only. At even-strength he's used in the defensive zone more often than any other Oiler forward, but fortunately had the Quality of his Competition ease up from first or second lines to mainly below-average competition.
GP G A PTS Last Year 78 4 12 16 VUKOTA 62.5 6.5 11.6 18.1 Best 82 12.8 24.8 37.6 Worst 82 1.9 7.6 9.5 Average 82 10.6 16.8 27.4
While six of his ten closest historical matches managed 30 points, that didn't include his closest historical match, Rob Niedermayer, who was another defensive-minded center, playing for the Anaheim Ducks at this stage of his career, even winning a Stanley Cup. Niedermayer had already made the transition to a low-scoring defensive line pivot, a role he played very well for four more seasons.
Belanger GP G A PTS Career 794 138 217 355 2010-11 82 13 27 40 2011-12 78 4 12 16 Niedermayer G A PTS Career 854 149 242 391 2005-06 76 15 14 39 2006-07 82 5 11 16 Next 78 8 8 16
One of the many causes of Edmonton's weak depth lines, Ben Eager (listed at 240 pounds) throws a lot of hits but takes way too many penalties, about 1.5-2.2 per 60 minutes – two or three times what he draws.
Despite being used against competition so weak that Thrasher, Shark and Oiler goalies have had save percentages of .945 and .944 these past two years when he's been on the ice, Ben Eager has chronically negative possession numbers – even when he was used exclusively in the offensive zone like he was in Chicago.
Offensively he's had a consistently even-strength scoring rate of 1.4-1.5 points per 60 minutes in three of the past four seasons (nothing wrong with that), leading to 13-17 points a season.
GP G A PTS Last Year 63 8 5 13 VUKOTA 55.5 6.7 6.4 13.2 Best 82 14.7 18.0 32.7 Worst 82 2.5 2.5 5.0 Average 82 6.9 9.1 16.0
His closest historical matches both scored a measly four points, both Dallas's former Edmonton-born fourth-line pivot Brian Sutherby, and Swedish 1980s-era depth two-way winger Anders Hakansson of the Los Angeles Kings – neither of whom carried the baggage of excessive penalization with them.
Eager GP G A PTS Career 386 42 40 82 2010-11 68 7 10 17 2011-12 63 8 5 13 Sutherby GP G A PTS Career 409 39 47 86 2008-09 59 8 7 16 2009-10 46 5 4 9 Next 51 2 2 4
Hakansson G A PTS Career 292 32 32 64 1983-84 80 10 12 22 1984-85 73 8 9 17 Next 38 3 1 4
Darcy Hordichuk has scored 2-5 points a season for six straight seasons, in which he has averaged four to six minutes of what can only charitably be called hockey per game.
Hordichuk throws over 20 hits per 60 minutes, which is absolutely insane, and while he obviously takes too many penalties at least he can draw them too. Usually last in Quality of Competition in his team, Hordichuk was used mostly in the defensive zone in Vancouver, but more offensively in Edmonton.
GP G A PTS Last Year 43 1 2 3 VUKOTA 44.3 2.1 2.9 5.0 Best 82 4.3 8.6 12.9 Worst 82 1.7 0.0 1.7 Average 82 4.1 4.5 8.6
Five of his closest historical matches scored 10 points, probably for teams that didn't have a wealth of 20-year-olds that could make far, far better use of that ice-time.
28-year-old Lennart Petrell, another one of Edmonton's horrible depth liners last season, scored 161 points in 350 games in Finland, which works out to about 15-20 points in a full NHL season. While the historical system requires more data, the VUKOTA system predicts a slight scoring boost this year.
GP G A PTS Last Year 60 4 5 9 VUKOTA 55.3 5.1 6.5 11.6
Although he is probably no better than a random AHL call-up, Petrell does have some value - he throws a lot of hits and doesn't take many penalties. He also blocks a lot of shots and can occasionally be helpful on the penalty kill.
At least the final terrible depth liner is young enough to developing into someone useful: 21-year-old center Anton Lander.
Though occasionally useful as a secondary penalty-killing option, unfortunately last year Lander was terrible at faceoffs (43.3%), scored just 6 points (thanks in part to a terrible 5.1% team shooting percentage when he was on the ice), and had atrocious possession numbers despite some of the most sheltered ice-time in the entire league.
GP G A PTS Last Year 56 2 4 6 VUKOTA 54.5 4.7 5.8 10.5
Again, the historical comparison system needs more data to run a projection, but the VUKOTA engine predict a slight uptick.
That's it! We'll check back in at the end of the season (if applicable) to see how everyone did relative to these expectations. Thanks to OilersNation for giving me this guest spot, thanks to all of you for reading, and I hope you found it interesting.