It’s one thing to be good, it’s another entirely to be good and young.
I wrote an article in the Winnipeg Free Press last Saturday, saying that underlying metrics say good things about the 2014-15 Winnipeg Jets. The Jets’ strong numbers –such as in score adjusted Corsi percentage (SAC%)– are a positive sign. While points and wins show where a team stands at a single moment, shot metrics are important because they better predict how a team will perform for the remainder of the season.
There are seven teams in the NHL who currently hold a better SAC% than the Winnipeg Jets. The real kicker though is only the Tampa Bay Lightning consist of a younger average roster.
The Jets’ youth has not just been passengers, but have driven a lot of the success as well. In this series we will look at the Jets depth in each position, while specifically focusing on those under 25 and making an impact. Today we turn to wingers, and one especially good one.
While wingers may not have as large of impact as centres overall, they still can have a positive impact. The Jets only have one winger on the roster under the age of 25 and he’s a big one, in size, play-style, and impact.
It’s pretty crazy once you realize that Evander Kane is only 23 years old. Most players continue to improve in both shot metrics and scoring until they hit about 25-26… and Kane is already a major player in both.
The Jets have only been out attempted for one season with Evander Kane on the ice. Contrary to some belief, Kane’s numbers are not inflated by his own shot attempts. Phil Kessel, Keith Yandle, Nathan MacKinnon, and Rick Nash all sit in the top 30 for shot attempts but post a below 50% SAC% this year.
Kane has also scored goals at a first line rate since moving the move to Canada’s geographical centre. He sits at 67th for goals per minute since the 2011-12 season and 41st at even strength when looking at those with 100+ or more minutes.
The Young “Veterans”
The Jets are stuffed to the brim with young wingers. Their big minute wingers have been Andrew Ladd (29), Blake Wheeler (28), and Michael Frolik (26). The three have paced 2.1, 2.1, and 1.9 points per 60 minutes for even strength. The trio have also consistently posted above 50% Corsi percentage despite playing some tough minutes.
Depth wingers Matt Halischuk (26), T.J. Galiardi, and Anthony Peluso (25) all sit below the league average age. However, the first two are UFAs and Peluso is a RFA… and all three haven’t contributed much to the Jets in terms of the win column.
The Jets crowning jewel in their prospects department is elite scorer Nikolaj Ehlers. At 2.06 points per game, Ehlers is arguably the best scoring winger in the CHL, if not the best winger in junior hockey this year. The list of players who have scored higher than Ehlers is small, with his closest draft year comparisons being Tyler Seguin, Alex Tanguay, Nail Yakupov, and Ryan Strome. At Ehler’s current pace, only former teammate Jonathan Drouin has posted better points per game as a 18 year (for those born since 1990).
The cliff in talent drops suddenly after the young Dane however.
Jimmy Lodge scored in his draft year similar to Alexander Burmistrov, Boone Jenner, and Patrice Bergeron, although has not improved much in scoring and (while improving in this area) is not nearly as competent in defensive play as those two scoring comparables (not many are). After his 17 year old season Lodge hasn’t been pacing similar to many NHL players.
Scott Kosmachuk was a solid goal scorer in junior but struggled early on transitioning to pro in his first year. Kosmachuk’s draft year and post-draft point per game pace was not amongst many NHL players in terms of comparables. His 19th year scoring pace adds in a few NHL players with Matt Halischuk, David Krejci, and Boone Jenner, but still a good number of misses as well.
The Jets may have one potential dark horse in C.J. Franklin, a sophomore who has scored comparable to Jets’ other scoring NCAA prospect Andrew Copp, and as well as Adam Lowry.
Only one-ninth of the Jets’ wingers on their top 3 lines sits under 25 years of age, unlike two-thirds for their centres. The Jets also only have one top end prospect wingers who scores comparable to players who tend to play in the NHL. They are both however extraordinarily strong players relative to their age group.
The Jets winger depth may be a bit older than their centres, but they are by no means old with only Chris Thorburn sitting above thirty.
Tomorrow we will look at defenders.