Photo by Ivan Makarov
Devin Setoguchi was one of two major forward additions by the Winnipeg Jets this off-season, acquired from the Wild for a 2014 2nd round draft pick. After a season of auditioning a seemingly endless stream of players not named Kyle Wellwood for the second line RW job and settling on another former Wild (Wildling?) Antti Miettinen, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff made filling the 2RW hole a priority. But did he get the right man? Will Devin Setoguchi be a successful running mate for the Jets’ young star Evander Kane?
Chemistry is a made up concept in sports that hides the processes of a workplace to assume each game or event is a spontaneous occurrence. There, I said it (albeit in the most complicated way possible). The reality is that what we see as chemistry is usually either good communication, or players thinking the game in a similar way. That’s why it can be instantaneous – two players reacting to patterns in a similar way – and it can be built by talking and learning.
Still, some players are just harder to play with than others. Joe Thorton gets you the puck about as often as you can find space. Evander Kane? He likes to carry and drive, using his speed, size, and pull-in wrister to create offence in transition. Devin Setoguchi once scored 31 goals and 65 points with the former. Can he anticipate and create offence in transition enough to even keep up with the latter?
A Hope and a Prayer
Not knowing Setoguchi that well, my instinct about his scoring is that a huge majority if his goals came on low to high plays, that he found space in the high slot well just as soon as the defenders were forced to turn their backs to it and face their own end boards. If Kane is attacking vertically, my reasoning went on July 5th, Setoguchi isn’t much help to him while floating in wait for a play off the end-boards. Sure, he’ll score 12 or 15 goals, a few more on the powerplay, but a 40 point winger is hardly a coup for this management group.
I wasn’t wrong about his ability to find quiet space behind defenders. Setoguchi scored 31 goals in Minnesota that weren’t on empty nets or penalty shots.
- 8 came from that exact play – low to high, behind goal-line to slot 1-timer
- Another 2 where the pass came from behind the goal line to the front of the net for a clean goal (not a rebound or scrum)
- Add in lateral passes in which he sneaks into space with the defence looking the other way? 16, roughly half.
But in reviewing each of his goals in Minnesota, I found two very interesting surprises about his game. First, he is a terrific transition scorer. Without the puck he drives the net and keeps passing lanes open for his running mate. He scored 7 goals on transition as the guy without the puck, four as rebounds and three on pass receptions. As the puck carrier in transition, he scored another four. That’s more than a third of his goals in transition.
Second, Seto has another go-to play in set-zone offence, rotating off the right boards, turning his body and firing a slap shot from above the faceoff dot at the top of the right circle, scoring two clean goals that way with Minnesota. Each time, he was not involved in the cycle, but supported it high along the right boards not far below the defenceman. It’s a typical space in which to move to the middle in a three-man cycle, but Setoguchi treats it differently, allowing teams to put two guys in the corner to interrupt the cycle and then using their return to the middle as traffic.
(He scores two more on broken plays turned individual efforts)
Setoguchi may just find a way to support the puck and create offence when Kane carries in transition, which neither Jokinen or Miettinen could do last season.
The third man proposed for the line (and seen tonight in pre-season action) is Mark Scheifele. With the Jets 2-man forecheck, however, it’s likely that we watch Setoguchi play most of his time in the F3 position – that is, the high forward in both forecheck and defending the transition game. That is precisely where Setoguchi thrives in set-zone play, finding space for his quick release while his linemates worry about puck possession. On the Wild, Matt Cullen was an expert at gaining possession along the end-boards and feeding Setoguchi. While Scheifele is yet to show us how he intends to use his filled-out frame this season, he and Kane boast the potential to muscle their way through pins and checks in a low-cycle game that could feed Setoguchi in the slot or even along the boards for him to rotate out.
It may just be the euphoria of a new season beginning, but I think Setoguchi has a good chance of fitting with Kane and supporting his transition offence game. If Scheifele can learn to use his size and puck skills to create low-high opportunities in the offensive end, the Jets’ second line could be offensively dangerous.