Over the last month or so, I have been posting my goal and point total projections for the Carolina Hurricanes players in the upcoming season and while these numbers may not mean much now with the lockout cutting into the year, I still believe that we will have a shortened NHL season and there is never any harm in making predictions. If you haven't been following the series, here is a refresher on how I have been making my projections;
A player's shot rate, shooting percentage and ice-time will have a direct impact on the number of goals he scores, while his teammate's shooting percentage, the number of shots they produce along with his ice-time will affect how many assists he has. Knowing that, I looked at each player's shot rate, shooting percentage, ice-time at even strength & special teams along with his teammate's shot rates and shooting percentage when "x player" was on the ice. I also looked at how many assists a player records at even strength & special teams relative to how many goals he was on-ice for at even strength & special teams to get an idea of how active offensively he typically is. I repeated this process for every player on the Hurricanes* and examined their numbers over the last five years to see if there were any patterns that I could point out concerning their shot rate, shooting percentage or anything else.
This process help me get an idea of what to expect from each player in a given year and make my projections as realistic as possible. There were some areas where I had to make an educated guess (the toughest was figuring out how many shots a player would be on-ice for and how well his teammates would shoot), but you have to do that in some areas since shooting percentage is unpredictable in general. Like I said earlier, the 82-game projections probably do not mean much at the moment, but you can always break it down by scoring rate to get a better idea of what to expect in a shortened season.
After the jump, I will give an overview of my projections along with an explanation for some of my predictions.
*Projections were not made for fringe layers such as Zac Dalpe, Zach Boychuk, Drayson Bowman, etc. due to lack of NHL experience.
82 Game Projections
- I have Eric Staal leading the team in points and in overall scoring in most areas. This might come as a surprise to those who were expecting Skinner, Semin or his younger brother to eclipse him but at the end of the day, Eric Staal is this team's best player. He is going to get more ice time than anyone else, play in slightly more offensive situations thanks to the addition of Jordan Staal and his playmaking skills help push him over the top. A little while ago, I showed that Staal is good enough to boost the shooting percentage of his teammates and is a top-level playmaking center. Therefore, I'm expecting his assist total to remain high throughout the year. I'm also expecting him to see a rebound in terms of even strength shooting because he had very bad luck there last season.
- Jordan Staal's point total might come off as a bit underwhelming, but that's mostly because I don't have him contributing that much on the powerplay. Why? Because J. Staal has never been a big producer in that area and I don't expect that to change this year. As for his even strength production, he could potentially put up more points than what I'm projecting, given how good he is at driving the play and creating offense but I decided to play it safe here. Staal had a very high personal shooting percentage last year, so I'm a bit wary of that continuing and I don't him playing first line minutes either, at least not yet. J. Staal may shatter this projection depending how the coaches use him, but I decided to go with something that's more in-line with his career numbers. I also did not include any shorthanded numbers because those are impossible to predict.
- I have Skinner and Semin tied for the team lead in goals, mostly because these two shoot the puck more than anyone else on the team and have proven to be terrific finishers in the past. Skinner had only 20 goals last year, but he also saw both his even strength & powerplay shooting percentages drop to below league-average rates after getting very fortunate in his rookie year. Skinner should be due for some better luck this time around, but I would expect his shooting percentage to be somewhere in between the two extremes. As for Semin, he also saw some terrible shooting luck last season compared to his career numbers, so I have that improving. Why didn't I predict either to score 30 goals? Because I like to be conservative when making projections and it usually takes a very high shooting percentage for any player to reach 30 goals in a year.
- I'm not predicting Jiri Tlusty to have the breakout season that some people are hoping for, but this mostly relates to his ice-time and the fact that I dont have him in the top-six for now. Between the Staals, Jokinen, Ruutu, Semin and Skinner, there isn't much room for Tlusty unless an injury occurs or Jokinen or Ruutu under-performs. Speaking of which, I'm projecting Jokinen to have somewhat of a bounce-back season in terms of goal-scoring. He was also on the receiving end of some poor luck last year but his low goal total also related to him having a very low shot rate. Jokinen moving back to win should help that cause a little.
- I don't think Ruutu's production will improve that much at even strength. He didn't drive the play much with somewhat sheltered minutes and didn't appear to be the catalyst on any of his lines. It's disappointing because he was able to do this in the past and I would like to think he is capable enough to be used in a tough-minute role with Jordan Staal, but he will need to play a lot better than he did last season. That being said, I have him making up for his lack of production at even strength on the powerplay, where he is still very effective.
- I think Nodl will have a better season in terms of goal-scoring, which isn't saying much since his ceiling is very low but it's still a vast improvement over his scoring line from last year, which was mostly influenced by bad luck and bad hands to an extent. Dwyer is another player who I think will have a better season point-wise but I'm not sure how the team will plan to use him with Brandon Sutter now in Steel Town.
- I don't think Tim Brent will score once every 5.92 times he shoots the puck again, thus I have his production declining.
- I have Justin Faulk modestly improving his point total from last year, which is mostly because I think he will contribute more at even strength. Yes, he played a lot of minutes last year but he was stuck defending most of the time during 5v5 play and did most of his scoring with the man advantage. Faulk is a very offensively gifted player, so I think his point-production will improve at even strength. He is a year older now and I'm expecting him to be better at driving the play forward than he was last season. He was able to keep his head above water last year while playing against opposing team's top-six forwards, so I think he has the ability to be a defenseman capable of moving the puck forward and keeping it in the other team's zone. That will result in more offensive opportunities and more points.
- Since I have Faulk's point-production improving, it may surprise some people that I'm projecting Jay Harrison to have only 18 points. This is mainly because I don't think Harrison will be used on the powerplay that much, which is where he accumulated a good chunk of his points last year. There just isn't a way I can see the team fitting him in on the powerplay at all unless a barrage of injuries happens and even then, he might be behind Gragnani and Sanguinetti for powerplay time if they get called up. Still, I have Harrison producing 15 points at even strength, which isn't a terrible drop-off from what he had last year.
- If Pitkanen is in the lineup for the entire year, he could have another 40-point season (if they were playing 82 games that is...). He was on-ice for over 33 shots per 60 minutes at even strength last year, and is capable of driving possession, so he could have another good offensive season left in him if he stays healthy. He was actually on-pace for a very good year point-wise last season before he got hurt.
- McBain's year could go either way because I'm not sure what kind of minutes he will get. He might get bumped up to the top-four or demoted to the third pairing in a more sheltered role. As of now, I think McBain is a borderline top-four guy at best and a third-pairing role is best for him, so I don't think he will score over 30 points in that setting. There just isn't enough ice-time to go around for him. That being said, Muller will probably give him a shot in the top-four since there is so much uncertainty in the Canes defense corps right now.
- If there is one thing Joe Corvo is good at, it's producing on the powerplay and I have him donig just that for Carolina this year. He was shooting at only 2.4% on the powerplay with Boston last year, and I'm inclined to believe that will improve this year. He is good enough at getting shots through during 5v4 play and the improve Canes powerplay will definitely help his cause, too. His production at even strength, however, I have declining. I don't think Corvo will, or should, play top-four minutes on this defense corps but it may come down to that at some point in the season....and when it does, he will probably last there for no more than a few games before being demoted to the more offensively utilized pairing.
Overall, I have the Canes projected to score 218 total goals next year, which is an improvement over the 215 they had last year. This is probably disappointing to most people since the team paid a lot to get Semin and J. Staal, but you also have to remember that I'm being somewhat conservative with these projections. I usually don't predict a player to have a high or even an above-average shooting percentage in a year since the odds of it happening are pretty slim. That does not mean it can't happen, though. If you remember, I also posted the "high and low" points for the Canes players this year, too which basically shows the range of goals/points I expect a player to have within a year. Those are a bit more vague, but they do give fans a good idea of what to expect coming into the season. That being said, I'm not expecting many players to drift off to far of what I have projected for them this year, aside from a few.
Although, the lockout canceling at least 20 games probably changes everything because strange things do happen in smaller sample sizes and 50-65 games is a pretty small sample size in the grand scheme of things. This could lead to things being incredibly interesting this season, whenever it starts that is.