One bright spot in a mostly forgettable year for the Hurricanes was the emergence of Jiri Tlusty. The former first round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs had a breakout season leading the team in goals with 23 and was a perfect fit on the first line with Eric Staal and Alexander Semin. Tlusty only turned 25 last March and was a high scorer in the AHL, so it's possible that what we saw last year was a natural part of his development, but there is also a chance that it was a fluke.
Looking at Tlusty's shooting percentage, it's pretty easy to see why most are expecting him to regress this season, because there is little chance that he can shoot at 19.7% in a full year. Add in the fact that he also scored three empty net goals and I think him coming back down to Earth is inevitable. How much will he fall off, though? I don't think anyone with a level head on their shoulders is going to expect Tlusty to score at a 40+ goal pace again this year, but can he still be an effective offensive player? I don't know if he is a first-liner, but there is some evidence suggesting that Tlusty is a good goal-scorer and doesn't need elite linemates to produce.
When I looked at Tlusty's numbers away from Eric Staal & Alexander Semin over the last two years, I found out that he was able to score at a decent rate at even strength with different linemates. His ability to drive the play also wasn't hampered by playing with different linemates either, so perhaps he wasn't just a product of strong linemates. Tlusty did see his scoring rate decline, but he was still producing at a decent rate at even strength away from Staal & Semin, so he definitely wasn't just a passenger.
Whether or not Tlusty was a passenger on the first line shouldn't be an issue for next year, though because he is probably going to be with Staal & Semin for the majority of the season. The real question at hand is how much will Tlusty produce without the aid of an incredibly high shooting percentage. With him entering a contract season, how he performs next year will be critical and will should play a role in how much he makes in free agency. The Hurricanes will have more leverage if last year was just him shooting the lights out, so it will be interesting to see how this situation is handled going forward, especially when there's a good chance that Tlusty's goal total will drop while his game improves in other areas.
How much is Tlusty worth now and what kind of numbers should we expect from him this year? We'll explore that after the jump.no comments