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.
Tlusty played more minutes than he ever had before last season, which isn't too surprising when you consider that he was a bottom-sixer and fringe NHL player for most of his career and earned a top-six role in the middle of last season. He played an average of a little over 13 minutes per game at even strength last season, so even in a top-six spot he wasn't getting as many minutes as most of the other forwards. If Tlusty were to get dropped to the third line for most of the year, then his ice-time wouldn't change that much from what it was last season. Therefore, the impact on his overall point total may not be as extreme as some may think.
There is another factor in all of this, though and that is who Tlusty's linemates will be. He got to play most of last season with Eric Staal, and that obviously elevated his play quite a bit as the two were very good at controlling scoring chances when playing together. To drive this point home even further, I should mention that Tlusty & Staal were linemates for 30 of the 42 five-on-five goals Tlusty was on-ice for. It's very likely that Tlusty will be separated from Staal next season and when that happens, will the magic wear off? Possibly, but it's worth mentioning that Tlusty was being used in a shutdown role on Brandon Sutter's line whenever he wasn't playing with Staal, so that probably impacted his ability to create offense to an extent.
I"m not sure if Tlusty is a good enough player to carry a line on his own but he can at least take advantage of playing with strong linemates, so that could earn him some time in the top-six this season. I'm not sure if he will remain a regular player there, but I could see him getting slotted on the second line for a few games and who knows? Maybe he'll be to stick there if he plays well enough. As of right now, though, I think Tlusty getting about 13 minutes of even strength ice time per game is a safe bet for next season.
Since Tlusty has played in such few games, his shot rate has bounced all over the place. He managed to record over one shot on goal per 60 minutes more last year than he did the previous season, and I'm willing to bet that was the result of him getting more ice-time and offensive opportunities. For the majority of his time with the Canes, Tlusty was either used as a fourth-liner or defensive specialist and obviously didn't create much offense in those situations. After bieng placed in a more offensive setting, his shot rate unsurprisingly spiked to 6.7 ESSOG/60. The question is whether or not we can expect that from him on a yearly basis.
I'm almost positive that playing on Eric Staal's line had a positive effect on Tlusty's shot rate last season but what's to say that he can't produce at a similar rate next season? I'm usually a bit skeptical when I see a player's shot rate increase at such a high amount over the span of a year, but Tlusty was never given much of a chance to produce offensively before last season. If he does play on the third line and is given a more offensive role, then it's very possible that he may post a similar shot rate to what he had last season, especially if he is linemates with Chad LaRose. The big x-factor here will be Jeremy Welsh or Zac Dalpe and whether or not they are good enough to carry the third line & make them a good territorial unit.
The one thing Tlusty struggled so mightily at last season was being able to drive the play, as he was one of the team's worst forwards at driving possession and spent more time stuck in his own zone than not. I would have more confidence in Tlusty improving on his numbers from last season if he was a better play-driver, but it's obvious that this hasn't been the case throughout most of his career. If Tlusty ends up spending most of this next season struggling to get the puck in the offensive zone, then I don't see his shot rate or his goal total improving that much at all. He's still young so he might be able to improve this area of his game, but I I'll remain skeptical until he proves me otherwise.
If Tlusty were to spend most of next season drifting between the second and third lines, then I think he shouldn't see his shot rate drop too drastically from the 6.74 ESSOG/60 he posted last season because he will either have good linemates or be in an offensive situation. However, Tlusty's inability to carry the mail probably means that his shot rate won't improve from last season.
|Year||ESA||ESA/60||ESSF/60||ES on-ice Sh%|
Even though he spent most of his ice-time alongside Eric Staal, Tlusty wasn't on ice for that many shots on goal compared to the rest of the team's better forwards. His numbers improved from the year before when he was in a defensive role but they are still only average overall. What should we expect next season? Again, this will depend on what kind of role he plays because Tlusty hasn't proven himself capable enough to carry a line on his own. He could see the number of shots on goal he was on ice for decrease to where it was two years ago if he ends up on a line with no play-drivers but he could also see it stay constant or improve on what it was last season. The latter is very likely if he gets to play alongside either Jordan Staal or possibly Chad LaRose. We will probably know more about Tlusty after this season is over but right now, the most we know about him is that he is pretty dependant on his linemates to get the puck moving North, so that's worth keeping in mind when predicting the amount of shots he will be on ice for.
Since I have Tlusty shifting in and out of the top-six for most of next year, I think he will see his shot rate stay around what it was last season but it may also decrease if Dalpe or Welsh are inable to carry the third line.
|Year||PP TOI||PP TOI/G|
Tlusty rarely sees powerplay time and when he does, he is only out there for a minute a game at the most. If the Canes top-six manages to stay healthy, then I don't see this changing that much next season. He'll only get constant powerplay time if he can outplay Jussi Jokinen as a winger this season and even then that's a bit of a stretch. It makes sense to use Tlusty on the powerplay since he's a fine offensive player but it's hard to slot him on the first or second unit in favor of some of the other forwards on the team right now. I'm predicting he spends roughly a minute per game there, regardless.
|Year||PPG||PPP/60||PP SOG/60||PP Sh%|
Small sample sizes always lead to weird looking ratios and that's what we're seeing here for the most part. Therefore, predicting how many shots Tlusty will have on the powerplay next season is a bit of a crapshoot but his average PPSOG/60 rate is roughly 5.76, so going with that number next year is a safe bet. He might end up shattering that rate or performing well below it if he gets more powerplay time, though.
|Year||PPA||PPA/60||PP SF/60||PP On-ice Sh%|
The amount of powerplay shots Tlusty will be on ice for is even tougher to predict because you can't use the five-year average in this case. He has played such few minutes on the powerplay that his PPSF/60 rate has bounced around an enormous amount over the last five years. A prediction based on his past performance here would be very misleading. It's also tough to make a prediction based on who he might be playing with because we don't know what powerplay unit he will be placed on or even if he will be used there. The best we can do is make an educated guess and that's about it.
I have Tlusty projected to play somewhere between 12.75 and 13 minutes a game in the upcoming season. He could easily play more if he sticks in the top-six for most of the year, but I think about 13 minutes a safe best for him now. The tricky part is going to be predicting his shot rate, which I do not see improving from last season unless Tlusty becomes a better play-driver. He should have good enough linemates that he won't bottom-out, though and I could easily see him having more than 6 even strength shots per 60 minutes whether he's on the 2nd or 3rd line. I'm going to go on the lower end, though and say he has 6.57 shots per 60 minutes. This would give him roughly 118 shots in an 82-game season. Tlusty would then score 12-13 even strength goals if he shot at his career average. His career average is a bit unreliable because he has played in so few games, but I think him shooting at 10.8% at even strength is a reasonable prediction given that's around the league average and I don't think he will continue to score at 12.1% like he has the last two seasons. If he does, then he would have at least two more goals than what I am projecting here.
The amount of assists Tlusty ends up with will depend on whether or not he can control possession better than he has in the past and how his linemates perform. If he is on a line that produces 25-28 shots per 60 minutes at even strength, then Tlusty could end up being on-ice for anywhere from 28-45 even strength goals in an 82 game season. Given the Hurricanes shoot at a little over 8%, Tlusty would be on ice for about 38 even strength goals and that would mean he could tally 10-16 assists depending on how many goals he is involved with. I like to use five-year averages for this so going by that method, Tlusty would record an assist on 37.1% of the even strength goals he was on-ice for, which would give him 14-15 even strength assists in an 82-game season.
Tlusty's powerplay numbers could end up being anything, to be honest. I have him playing limited ice-time there (about 1 minutes per game), so that would mean he could have less than 10 powerplay shots on goal at the end of the season. If that happens, he could score anywhere from 0-6 goals at the end of the season, given how random shooting percentages tend to be in a small sample size. It's probably safer to take a lower number here, so I'm going to say he ends up with 1-2 PPGs on five shots here. As for his power play assists, Tlusty was on ice for 9 powerplay goals last season, so let's assume that doesn't change and he records an assist on his career average of 16.5% of the goals he was on-ice for. This would give him 2-3 powerplay assists on the season.
You also have to take into account that Tlusty plays on the penalty kill and recorded two of his points there last season. I think he will still get some PK duty but how many points he ends up with there is anyone's guess.
82 Game Projection
|Tlusty 2012-13||ESG||ESA||PPG||PPA||SHG||SHA||Total Pts||PPG/82|
Considering that Tlusty's top-six status is unknown and that I have him projected to play 12-13 minutes a game at even strength (with not much powerplay time on top of that), I think he finishes the year with about 30 points. It could be more if he receives top-six minutes but I don't think he will start the season there and he may actually fit better on the third line than anywhere else right now. A 30-point season is pretty standard for a third-liner and decent value for what the Hurricanes will be paying him next year ($1.6 mil.).
I don't have Tlusty's ceiling set that high either because this is what I have projected for him if he stays on the third line for most of the year. If he is able to earn a top-six role again, then he could easily shatter the expectations I have for him. His point total may also get a boost if he becomes a regular fixture on the powerplay, which looks unlikely right now but stranger things have happened. He managed to surprise everyone last season and is off to a pretty good start with Kladno in the KHL, so maybe we are in for another "breakout year" with Tlusty. He is the one player on the team that I'm not sure what to expect from this season.
Stats courtesy of Behind The Net & Time On Ice