Projection Based On Startling Statistics

By Bob Trask – As fans await the start of a new NHL season and glance at the lineups of our favourite teams with all the additions to and subtractions from the roster over the course of the year, we often like to project the players on our team will do. But there is only so much ice time to go around and how much will be available to each player will impact their offensive performance.

Ice time and games played

A look at the statistics on NHL.com provides some insight on how on many games played and how much ice time the average positional player received during the year. These won’t be 100% accurate but it serves to illustrate how the ice-time pie was divided up – on average.

The reason for listing 14 forwards and 7 defensemen is because that is how a typical NHL roster is constructed.

POSITIONGAMES
PLAYED
TOTAL
MINUTES
MINUTES
PER GAME
1F82155320:30
2F81144319:10
3F79136018:20
4F78129017:50
5F76122817:00
6F74114316:20
7F71108215:40
8F69100515:00
9F6692014:20
10F6283113:50
11F5773513:20
12F5065912:50
13F4150512:20
14F3236811:50
1D81188524:40
2D78169022:15
3D75150421:00
4D70131719:35
5D63117318:20
6D5286517:10
7D3856416:10
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Canadiens Projections

When we look at the Canadiens roster as it stands today it remains very unclear how the ice time will be divided. For the sake of this article the following ice times are assumed and points are projected from that.

PLAYERTOTAL
MINUTES
MINUTES
PER GAME
GOALSASSISTSPOINTS
FORWARDS
Nick Suzuki155020:30203858
Cole Caufield144019:00312455
Christian Dvorak136018:30182341
Evegeni Dadonov129018:00252954
Jonathan Drouin123017:00133144
Kirby Dach114016:3091827
Josh Anderson108016:00181230
Juraj Slafkovsky100015:00n/an/an/a
Jake Evans92014:3091423
Brendan Gallagher83014:00161531
Rem Pitlick74013:30101626
Joel Armia66013:006612
Michael Pezzetta50012:306814
Jesse Ylonen37012:00400
DEFENSE
Joel Edmundson189024:3061622
Mike Matheson169022:30101828
David Savard150021:0051520
Chris Wideman133019:3082028
Jordan Harris117018:30707
Justin Barron87017:007714
Otto Leskinen57016:00000
TOTALS*191310501

*Any production from Slafkovsky is not included in the totals

These projections are based on career scoring totals per minutes played. The number of minutes played will likely be radically different from the assumptions made here so keep in mind these are only the very broadest of guidelines.

Take these numbers with a huge grain of salt!! And here’s why.

Players like Caufield, Dach, Pitlick, Harris, Barron and others have limited NHL experience and projecting from such a small base of games will be wildly inaccurate. Slafkovsky hasn’t played at all. The younger players from Suzuki on down all have the potential to improve.

As players accumulate more minutes the projections on scoring per minute of play should be more accurate. Gallagher would be a good example. Older players are more likely to regress or hold their own. The factor that might lead to the biggest discrepancy from these projections for this group is that amount of ice time they could receive in the year.

Improve, Decline and Unknown

Players who might be expected to improve from their lifetime averages include Suzuki, Caufield and Dach. Jonathan Drouin is also a special case who I believe has a chance to improve on his career numbers.

Brendan Gallagher

Dvorak, Dadonov, Anderson, Matheson, Edmundson, Savard and Wideman have all played enough games that we know more or less what to expect.

The bulk of this roster is filled with unknowns. It starts with Slafkovsky and includes Evans, Pitlick, Pezzetta and Ylönen at the forward position. On defense the unknowns among this group are Barron, Harris and Leskinen. Estimating their production is a shot in the dark and will probably no where close to hitting the mark.

The big potential for decline is Brendan Gallagher. It remains to be seen how he will be utilized and how he will adapt to a system that doesn’t play to his strengths. Armia also falls into the potential for decline category and if I had included Mike Hoffman on this hypothetical roster he would be in that group as well.

Looking Forward

Another factor that could impact the offensive output of the Canadiens is the style of game the team adopts under Martin St. Louis. For years the Canadiens have focused on shutdown defense and played with little imagination. Dominique Ducharme, Claude Julien, Michel Therrien, Jacques Martin, Bob Gainey and Guy Carbonneau brought 20 years of the dead puck era to Montreal.

Compared to that group, St-Louis is a breath of fresh air and could unlock the talent and creativity of the team. Based on that and the fact that a large number of players should be approaching their prime, the Canadiens could have a highly more productive offense than last year.

A question that always arises is whether young players like Harris and Barron are best served playing limited minutes in the NHL or substantial minutes in the AHL. In both their cases it could be a combination of both if they are shuttled back and forth between Montreal and Laval.

Of course additional player changes are expected before the season begins and that will change a lot of these projections. Mike Hoffman, as mentioned many times, seems to be a prime candidate to be moved while Joel Armia’s projected ice time and production doesn’t merit his contract.

On a positive note, virtually every player on this list has the potential to exceed the totals posted here – some by a wide margin.

Stay tuned.

More reading…

Lehkonen Utilization – Truth or Fiction?

By JD Lagrange – Many fans feel like Lehkonen was not utilized properly while with the Canadiens. Some claim that he was boxed into a limited role in Montreal and now that he’s in Colorado, he’s finally under better coaching, or better utilization anyway. Now is it truth or fiction?

From the get go, my colleague Bob Trask brought up a very good point which perhaps, can be taken into consideration.

Utilization sample

Based on data from Dobbersports.com, let’s look at Lehkonen’s utilization in the past five plus years. The following ice time percentage is only at even strengths. I have also set a 2% lower limit for ice time as anything less is rather irrelevant when determining the majority of the time.

SEASONFREQUENCYLINEMATES
2016-1715.20%Byron – Plekanec
11.07%Radulov – Plekanec
11.02%Danault – Shaw
10.29%Galchenyuk – Shaw
10.19%Flynn – Plekanec
4.62%Galchenyuk – Gallagher
4.30%Plekanec – Shaw
3.84%Byron – Galchenyuk
3.62%Andrighetto – Plekanec
3.37%Galchenyuk – Radulov
3.35%Desharnais – Shaw
2.96%Galchenyuk – King
2.08%Gallagher – Plekanec

In 2016-17, Lehkonen averaged 16:52 minutes of ice time per game. That was his rookie season, when he scored 18 goals. Tomas Plekanec was the team’s number one center, playing 16:49 minutes. Lehkonen played mostly with Plekanec, but also spent some time with Phillip Danault and Alex Galchenyuk.

SEASONFREQUENCY %LINEMATES
2017-1819.34%Gallagher – Plekanec
16.84%De la Rose – Galchenyuk
12.98%Drouin – Galchenyuk
10.17%Drouin – Pacioretty
5.73%Drouin – Byron
4.46%Hudon – Plekanec
2.48%Hudon – Pacioretty
2.38%Danault – Pacioretty

In 2017-18, Lehkonen was fourth in ice time amongst forwards on the team with 16:29 minutes per game. That’s the year they tried Jonathan Drouin at center, and he played 17:36 minutes, most of any. Phillip Danault (16:35), Plekanec (16:18) and Galchenyuk (16:14) were used very evenly. Lehkonen spent most of his time with Galchenyuk, but spent considerable time with both Plekanec and Drouin.

SEASONFREQUENCY %LINEMATES
2018-1915.32%Armia – Kotkaniemi
13.10%Domi – Shaw
9.38%Byron – Kotkaniemi
9.30%Domi – Drouin
6.02%Agostino – Kotkaniemi
3.88%Byron – Domi
3.88%Thompson – Weise
3.52%Kotkaniemi – Shaw
3.22%Armia – Domi
2.90%Domi – Tatar
2.06%Hudon – Kotkaniemi

In 2018-19, Lehkonen dropped by almost a minute, averaging 15:33 minutes per game. Danault (17:47), Max Domi (17:23) and Jesperi Kotkaniemi (13:44) were the team’s top-3 centers. In spite of his drop in ice time, Lehkonen split his time with Kotkaniemi and Domi mostly.

SEASONFREQUENCY %LINEMATES
2019-2018.36%Domi – Suzuki
11.61%Armia – Domi
5.65%Armia – Suzuki
5.57%Domi – Weal
4.08%Danault – Gallagher
3.71%Armia – Kotkaniemi
3.63%Kotkaniemi – Weal
2.82%Cousins – Domi
2.73%Kotkaniemi – Poehling
2.68%Suzuki – Tatar
2.68%Byron – Kotkaniemi
2.63%Cousins – Thompson
2.46%Domi – Drouin

In 2019-20, Lehkonen’s ice time was similar to the previous season, averaging 15:29 minutes per game. Max Domi was his center for the most part, but he spent considerable time with rookie Nick Suzuki as well. That year, he certainly bounced around the line-up more than in previous years. I feel like this wasn’t a knock against Lehky, quite the opposite. It spoke of his versatility as the coach trusted in him.

SEASONFREQUENCY %LINEMATES
2020-2130.1%Byron – Evans
11.1%Armia – Kotkaniemi
9.0%Byron – Kotkaniemi
6.3%Perry – Staal
3.8%Byron – Danault
3.8%Evans – Caufield
2.9%Danault – Anderson
2.8%Staal – Evans
2.4%Kotkaniemi – Evans
2.0%Anderson – Kotkaniemi

2020-21 seems to be when the coaching staff started giving Lehkonen more of a defensive role and his ice time suffered, going down to 13:25 minutes per game. twelve forwards averaged more ice time than him that season. He spent a lot of time with Jake Evans at center, although he did play with Kotkaniemi quite a bit and with Eric Staal when the Canadiens acquired him. On a side note, Lehkonen averaged 15:07 of ice time in the playoffs, so the coaches played him more.

2021-22 season

Now to this season. As the Canadiens went through a coaching change, I figured that I would split the ice time based on who was the coach. I was also curious to know what three coaches thought of Lehkonen in different situations so I’ve added the short-handed and power play time.

TEAMCOACHTOI/GPSH TOI/GPPP TOI/GP
MONTREALDucharme14:312:140:16
St-Louis15:161:591:46
COLORADOBednar16:260:542:16

Now for the linemates… It would have been a very difficult task to break down the percentages between the Habs and the Avs, so this is how they present them. So the actual percentage numbers are not relevant as it relates to ice time between the two teams so we have to look at them team by team. This is why I put the Habs in red.

With the Canadiens, he was playing mostly on Evans’ line, and spent a bit of time with Suzuki.

With the Avalanche, he is mostly playing on the third line with J.T. Compher as his regular center. He did have the spot shift with Nathan MacKinnon.

SEASONFREQUENCY %LINEMATES
2021-2211.2%Armia – Evans
10.0%Toffoli – Suzuki
5.6%Gallagher – Evans
4.8%Nichushkin – Compher
4.7%Pitlick – Evans
3.7%Nichushkin – MacKinnon
3.5%Armia – Paquette
3.5%Burakovsky – Compher
3.2%Poehling – Caufield
3.2%Armia – Dvorak
3.1%Armia – Poehling
2.7%Poehling – Pezzetta
2.5%Hoffman – Suzuki
2.2%Suzuki – Caufield
2.1%Compher – Newhook
2.0%Poehling – Evans

Conclusion

For the first few years of his career, I argue that Lehkonen wasn’t given a strictly defensive role. But the for the past two seasons, particularly under Claude Julien and Dominique Ducharme, he wasn’t used enough offensively. And when given a chance to produce, he’s a very capable winger not only defensively, but offensively too.

So yes, you can keep saying that the Canadiens’ coaching staff, at least the past two years, weren’t using Lehky to his full potential. He is right where he should be in his role with the Avalanche. Still, the Canadiens did very well in the return they got for him at trade deadline. It will be very interesting to see what type of contract he will be getting at the end of the season.

More reading…