No one can take away what Jeff Skinner accomplished in his rookie season where he netted 30 goals and took home the Calder Trophy, but I had my doubts about him repeating that kind of year because he received such good fortune when it came to shooting at even strength. I was expecting another good year from him, but his boxcar numbers were bound to tail off a little since it's hard to maintain a 15.7% even strength shooting percentage and have your teammates shoot at over 10% whenever you're on the ice. Most players tend to see those kind of numbers regress eventually and it took only a year for regression to catch up with Skinner.
Skinner saw his shooting percentage drop from 15.7% to 10.5% at even strength while his powerplay shooting percentage fell from 14.3% to 9.5%. His on-ice shooting percentage also took a significant plunge from 10.97% to 9.28% during five-on-five play, all of which resulted in Skinner finishing with fewer goals and points last season. However, despite suffering some major shooting regression, Skinner's point-per-game total was still very respectable as he scored at a .687 PPG rate and a large part of this was because his game improved in so many other areas.
One sign of a player having potential long-term success is his ability to control possession at even strength and this was something Skinner excelled at last season. He was getting a bit of a push in zone starts, but Skinner still outperformed the rest of the forwards when it came to driving the play as the Canes controlled 50% of the even strength shot attempts when he was on the ice. On a team that was a sinkhole in terms of possession last season, that is no easy accomplishment. Skinner's ability to keep the puck in the offensive zone led to him getting more shots on goal, recording over nine shots for every sixty minutes he played. Eric Staal had 7.5 shots per 60 minutes last season, so that should give you some perspective on how good Skinner was at creating offense.
His sophomore year may have a black mark on because he suffered a concussion and had a bit of an attitude problem, which resulted in him being sidelined for a couple games by Mr. Shanahan. Outside of that, Skinner had a fantastic sophomore campaign. He has shown the ability to carry a line and is close to establishing himself as the team's best offensive threat (although he's got some competition with Alex Semin coming to town). The only other thing that I would like to see is for Skinner to do what he did last season but without the benefit of protection in terms of quality of competition. He only turned 20 in May, so he has time to be that kind of player but he isn't there yet despite his high-end offensive talent.
My expectations for Skinner this year are a bit lofty given the kind of season he had last year. If he can continue to produce a high amount of offense and see his shooting percentage rebound and stay healthy, then he could have a scoring line more similar to his rookie season. His shooting percentage is obviously one of the x-factors but another is what kind of minutes he is assigned. After the jump, we will discuss that and dive deeper into my projection for Jeff Skinner's 2012-13 season.
Skinner played more minutes at even strength per game than he did his rookie season and part of the reason is that he played fewer games but he was trusted with more responsibility than he was in the rookie season. He got to play on Eric Staal's line for a good part of the season and his line with Tuomo Ruutu & Jussi Jokinen also got more minutes than they did two years ago. Despite that, Skinner was still kept away from playing against tough competition at even strength and started a lot of shifts in the offensive zone, which makes me wonder how Kirk Muller plans to use him this year with a new group of centers.
Usually, Eric Staal plays the secondary tough minutes while Brandon Sutter ate up most of the defensive zone starts and played against the other team's top lines. Whether or not Eric Staal will continue to play tough minutes is a good quesiton because Jordan Staal played a similar role to Sutter in Pittsburgh and the team still has a few defensively capable bottom-sixers who can take on the tougher draws if need be. Kirk Muller could protect Eric Staal's line if he wants to and give them more of a territorial advantage than they had in the past?
Why does this matter? Because Staal and Skinner could potentially be linemates this year if Muller decides to keep the two Staals at center. Skinner has experience playing with Staal and has shown the ability to keep up with him, so it wouldn't surprise me if those two and Alex Semin become the team's new top line. I know most people want to see the Ruutu-Jokinen-Skinner line kept intact because of how good they are as a unit, but that probably won't happen unless one of the Staals moves over to the wing.
In the end, Skinner is one of the team's best forwards so he is going to get top minutes at even strength and I see him playing 14-15 minutes a game.
If there is anything positive to take away from this chart it is that Skinner shot the puck more, a lot more. His goal rate declined because his shooting percentage at even strength regressed back to a number that was around the league average. This was something that was bound to happen no matter what because not many players can maintain a shooting percentage of 16% in the long-term. However, I think Skinner is a very good shooter & finisher, so his shooting percentage could bounce back this season. The fact that he is shooting the puck more than any other Carolina player is also a good sign. If Skinner continues to get more shots on goal per game and sees his shooting percentage rebound, then he could have a legit shot at 20 even strength goals. Possibly more. That's also going to depend on how much his line controls play at even strength and if he plays on Eric Staal's line with protection, then I don't think we need to worry about that.
|Year||ESA||ESA/60||ESSF/60||ES on-ice Sh%|
Much like his personal shooting percentage at even strength, Skinner's on-ice shooting percentage also regressed. This was something that was bound to happen based on how high the team was shooting with him on the ice previously, but the good news is that the Canes still shot at a relatively high rate despite the regression. The amount of shots he was on ice for also increased, much like his shots on goal, but it was only by a little amount so I wouldn't expect that mark to take that big of a leap forward next year. Although, getting to play with Alexander Semin might change that since he also shoots the puck at a high rate, but he was on ice for roughly the same amount of shots on goal as Skinner last year, if you remember correctly.
|Year||PP TOI||PP TOI/G|
Right off the bat in his rookie season, Skinner was placed on the first powerplay unit, something that continued last season and is probably going to happen again. Skinner is the type of player who needs to play big minutes on the powerplay because while he has done most of his damage at even strength over his career, he is still one of the team's most dangerous forwards and should be given ample powerplay time. Things might have to be spread around more with Semin and Jordan Staal now on the team but I still think Skinner will get at least three minutes per game on the powerplay. If anyone is getting a reduction in powerplay time it's likely Jussi Jokinen or Tuomo Ruutu but I could also see players like Chad LaRose and Tim Brent bumped off the powerplay all together. Skinner isn't going anywhere.
|Year||PPG||PPG/60||PP SOG/60||PP Sh%|
Noticing a pattern here? Once again, Skinner was able to get more shots off on the powerplay but suffered a regression in shooting percentage which resulted in him scoring fewer goals. An average powerplay shooting percentage is somewhere in the 11-12% range, so if he were to shoot at that rate last season, then he would have at least one more goal at the very least. The fact that Skinner was able to get more shots off on the powerplay makes me very confident about this coming season and I think he could be in for a great year goal-scoring wise if he continues to provide this much offense. I'm not sure how sustainable a shooting rate of nearly 12 powerplay shots per 60 minutes is, but if Skinner can produce at a level anywhere near that, he should be able to improve his powerplay goal total. That is, unless his shooting percentage bottoms out or something.
|Year||PPA||PP SF/60||PP On-ice Sh%|
I think you know where this is going... Skinner was on ice for more of the Hurricanes shots than he was the previous year but they scored on fewer of them, which is something that he has little control over. Next year, this could go either way but it's not unrealistic to think he could see his on-ice shooting percentage improve back to where it was in his rookie season.
Last year was all about regression for Skinner, all players go through it and unfortunately for him, it had to happen the year after he won the Calder Trophy. That being said, Skinner still had a very good season in both boxcar and underlying numbers, so the sky is the limit for him as far as I'm concerned. He's shown the ability to produce a lot of offense by himself both at even strength and on the powerplay, so I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up leading the team in goals. Will it happen? I can't say right now but I think it's very possible.
Skinner is already producing a high amount of shots on goal per game at even strength, so I'm not predicting a big increase for him there next season. My thought is that he will produce around 9.6 shots per game, which would give him a 196 even strength on the season. That seems a bit high but he was able to produce at a similar rate last year on a team that was terrible at controlling possession. The Hurricanes should be better in that area next year, so I think Skinner putting up a similar shot total is very likely. If he does produce at this rate, then he could end up anywhere from 16-31 goals depending on his shooting luck. My projection for Skinner is to shoot at somewhere between 10.5-12% which would put give him 20-23 even strength goals.
The same can be said for his powerplay production but I'm expecting the amount of shots he takes to decrease a little. He's going to have to share some of the opportunities with Eric Staal and Alexander Semin, so I don't think he will shoot the puck over 11 times every 60 minutes. I bumped him down to 10.5 shots per 60 minutes for that reason, which would give him roughly 45 powerplay shots per game. Assuming he shoots at 12% on the powerplay, he would finish the year with five powerplay goals. Going by his career totals, he could finish anywhere from four to eight PPGs but shooting percentage tends to work in mysterious ways, so I decided to be safe and take the league average, which would given Skinner five powerplay goals.
When it comes to the amount of shots Skinner has been on ice for, I'm not expecting much to change at even strength. He's usually on ice for a little over 30 shots per 60 minutes and that's roughly in line with the numbers for his potential linemates, so I don't think a lot will change there. He might be on ice for a shot or two more than he was last season due to his own production but that's about it. The Hurricanes being able to control play more when he is on the ice might also have a positive impact on that. All in all, I'm pegging Skinner to be on ice for 640 even strength shots next season, which would put him on ice for anywhere from 54-70 even strength goals depending on how well the team shoots. An average on-ice shooting percentage would put Skinner on ice for 59-60 goals, which would give him 22-23 assists if he continues to be involved with 34% of the goals his teammates score.
The number of powerplay shots Skinner was on ice for took a big step forward last season but I'm expecting that number to stay constant this year given how many shots Skinner took in those situations. I don't even know what to expect from him on the powerplay if he plays on the same unit as Semin because Semin was on ice for over 55 PP shots per 60 minutes before seeing his numbers take a sharp decline last season. In my projection for Semin, I have him being on ice for more powerplay shots on goal, so it makes sense to do the same thing for Skinner if they spend most of the year together. However, I don't think Skinner will see his numbers get into the 55-60 range yet, so I'm going to say he will be on ice for 51.75 shots per 60 minutes on the powerplay. Over an 82 game season, that would put him on ice for 23-28 powerplay goals depending on the team's shooting percentage and his assist total could be anywhere from 9-15. Throughout his first two years in the NHL, Skinner has recorded an assist on over 50% of the powerplay goals he was on ice for, so that would give him 12 assists if the team shoots at the league average like I am projecting.
82 Game Projection
|Skinner 2012-13||ESG||ESA||PPG||PPA||SHG||SHA||Total Pts||PPG/82|
I'll admit that some of these numbers look very optimistic but remember, I have very high expectations for Skinner for this season given how well he played last year. I doubt that he gets close to the 76-point ceiling I have set for him, but Skinner has had a lot of shooting luck go in his favor very recently, so it's possible that he could blow everyone away this season if it happens again. That being said, something like 55-61 points out of Skinner is probably more realistic and it wouldn't surprise me if Skinner did break 60 points again this year. He could have had a season like that last year if stayed healthy and the dice rolled in his favor a little more. Skinner was able to produce a lot of offense on a bad team last year, so I think having a better supporting cast will help him a lot, which is why I'm expecting a big year from him.
Projections are for an 82 game season
Stats courtesy of Behind The Net & Time on Ice