Jiri Tlusty might be the most difficult forwards on the team to project. He had a breakout season last year and some may think that the sky is the limit for him, but there are a lot of factors that make the upcoming season very hard to predict for him. Tlusty's break-out season was the result of him receiving top-six minutes, most of which were spent playing on a line with Eric Staal, and some generous shooting luck to go along with it. This isn't suggesting that his breakout season was a fluke, but it does make you wonder how Tlusty will perform next season if he is bumped out of the top-six, which could happen this year.
On top of that, there isn't much that is known about Tlusty and what his "true talent" is. He has been in the league for five seasons, but last year was the only season where he played over 60 games. This was also the first season where he began to play significant ice-time instead of being used as a bottom-six plug as he often was in the past. Tlusty also played about 42% of his total career ice time in last season alone, so it's hard to get the full scope of what his true talent is going by what he has done so far because there is such little data to base this upon.
Tlusty's strong scoring numbers in the AHL (120 points in 130 games) have to give you some confidence as far as his top-six ability is concerned, but whether or not he will get the minutes to produce at a top-six level next year is a good question. This is why I could see Tlusty's numbers go either way next season. On one hand, he may bulid off last season and have close to a 40 point campaign if he stays in the top-six but he could also see no improvement in his boxcar numbers if he gets relegated to a third-line role for most of the year and plays fewer minutes. Tlusty hasn't done anything to "lose" his top-six spot but it's really hard to slot him in there over Jokinen at the moment and he may have to end up earning his minutes like he did last season.
There are no guarantees with this year's Canes squad and Tlusty's spot in the lineup is one of the many things that seems to be up in the air. Personally, I see no issue with him being on the third line with Jeremy Welsh & Chad LaRose, but things could end up being very different if the team wishes to keep Jussi Jokinen at center, effectively slotting Tlusty in the top-six with some of the best linemates he has ever played with. His numbers this year could go in either direction depending on how Kirk Muller wants to use him, so that's going to make this a very tough projection to nail down.
Despite that, we are going to do our best to predict the upcoming season for Tlusty after the jump.no comments