We're back with the final part of our annual series that uses statistical methods to project how many points each of the Winnipeg Jets will score. First we looked at the top-six forwards, and we also explained what we're doing in a bit more detail, so check that out if you're just tuning in, and then last time we looked at their defensemen.
In this third installment we'll look at their remaining, secondary forwards. How did we do last year? Just check last year's recap of our projections where "we saw how Kyle Wellwood and Tim Stapleton truly did reach and even exceed the best-case projections, and how none of the secondary Jets forwards significantly missed the mark. Tanner Glass did well, Aleksandr Burmistrov did exactly as expected, and Chris Thorburn and Jim Slater only missed by a slim margin. Some things went well for Winnipeg this year, and some things didn’t – the scoring of their secondary forwards is one of the former."
Winnipeg quietly landed a 32-year-old former second-liner and possession monster on a low-risk one-year, $1.8M deal, making this Alexei Ponikarovsky's sixth team in five years.
Though clearly no longer in his prime, Ponikarovsky was one of the league's unsung possession heroes in three of the past four seasons. A solid top-six option about three years ago, last season in New Jersey and Carolina he completed the transition from a secondary two-way talent into a defensive-minded player, and kept his personal goals-against average below 2.00 for the second straight season.
He has used his big frame to throw about 7.0 hits per 60 minutes over the past three seasons, but takes too many penalties compared to what he draws. These days he still gets a little power play time, and depth penalty-killing minutes only.
If Ponikarovsky helps the Jets out it certainly won't be with his offensive production. Three of his closest historical matches extrapolated to exactly 14 points over 82 games, and the second best result was barely double that. Only four of the ten closest matches were on pace for double digit goal-scoring.
Examples of his worst-case and best-case scenarios of 14-33 points can be seen in two of his closest matches, Wayne Gretzky's old linemate Mike Krushelnyski and current UFA Radek Dvorak.
Young Alexander Burmistrov got a slightly tougher assignment last year, including more penalty-killing time, and slightly more offensive opportunities, including a little more time with the man advantage.
Blessed at even-strength last year with below-average competition and fairly offensive-zone tilted ice-time, much like Evander Kane, his possession numbers improved sharply. His scoring rate, however, remained largely unchanged in that 1.4 points per 60 minutes range. Other than that he's good at drawing penalties, but an absolutely terrible faceoff guy.
While the great majority of his close historical matches were nothing to write stale articles on Arctic Ice Hockey about, there was one particularly promising match: Ryan O'Reilly. Not only did their OHL scoring levels match, but their first two seasons did as well. Though Burmistrov is highly unlikely to become one of the team's top shutdown forwards, he could potentially pursue O'Reilly's 55 points, given top-six opportunities.
Antti Miettinen, who didn't take a single penalty last year, earned his reputation as a defensive gem with a personal goals-for average 2.04 or less in three of past four seasons. Though his scoring was on a gradual decline he was a solid possession guy his last two years in Minnesota, where he played a fairly balanced role against above average competition.
Unfortunately his first season in Winnipeg was a struggle, ultimately being used as a defensive-minded depth winger, being stripped of three minutes of even-strength play, all his power play time, and even some of his penalty killing time. His scoring will remain quite low if that continues.
There were only three decent offensive players among his closest matches, Jason Chimera, Bobby Nystrom and Robert Kron, all scoring in the mid-high 30s.
Sleeper alert! We might have some good news for the late rounds of deep fantasy pools. Jim Slater has had an awfully tough defensive assignment recently, usually with anvil-like wingers weighing him down, and now the Jets might finally have attracted the type of two-way talent that will permit him to open up his offensive game.
Slater's defensive credentials are quite impressive. He's the team's best faceoff man, throws over 8.0 hits per 60 minutes, blocks shots, drew more penalties than he took for the third time in four seasons, and his on-ice save percentage of .921 last year was actually his lowest.
The trouble is that Slater's assignment has been purely defensive: for three years he's had among the lowest offensive zone start percentages on the team, all the way down to 28.5% last season. Though he has occasionally been spared from having to shut down the top lines last year, as in 2009-10, he faced the highest quality of competition on the team. He was also put back on the top penalty-killing unit.
Even though this type of role doesn't lead to a lot of scoring, especially from 30-year-olds (in December), he still managed a career high 21 points, and was on pace for 27 the year before. Not only could he continue to be good for 25 points, he could break into the 30s if given decent linemates, or any kind of offensive opportunities.
His closest historical match recently has been Detroit's Kirk Maltby, who scored an era-adjusted 25 points in 2001-02 before back-to-back seasons in the mid-30s. Given a less defense-focused role Slater could perhaps even make that leap this season, like five of his ten closest historical matches.
Remember that anvil we just mentioned? One of them was Chris Thorburn. Despite struggling when he was facing depth lines, Claude Noel decided to use the defensive-minded veteran winger more often against the top lines last year, and it ended badly.
Thorburn blocked shots and throws a lot of hits, but also takes a lot of penalties – over 1.0 per 60 minutes in three of the past four seasons. He was taken off the penalty kill after two tough seasons, and his ice-time consequently dropped back to 10 minutes per game after this 2010-11 high over 13.
Thorburn doesn't work the power play, and his even-strength scoring rate has been a modest 1.0 points per 60 minutes in each of the past three seasons. Three of his ten closest matches scored 10 goals and only two topped 20 points.
Ryan Carter, who scored 8 points in Florida and New Jersey last season, is probably Thorburn's closest modern-day match. Both players are within two months in age, average just under 0.2 points per game, record just over 1.0 penalty minutes per game in almost exactly 10 minutes of action per game. I can't see a player like this getting much more than fourth line minutes – if that.
There's not a great deal we can say about a 22-year-old with 30 games of NHL experience, but Patrice Cormier has just one goal in his 35 NHL shots, but has won 61 of his 97 faceoffs. He's thrown about 10 hits per 60 minutes, and appears to be quite good at drawing penalties. So far he's been used somewhat defensively, but against average competition or worse.
So far he's looking like he could be a Steve Begin-type player (who was actually invited to Calgary's training camp this year) – a tough, defensive-minded faceoff specialist good for 10-20 points at best.
Perhaps even less can be said for someone with only 25 games of NHL experience, but you have to love the 9 points Spencer Machacek posted in his 13-game NHL stay last season. His scoring spread is consequently quite wide, probably because it doesn't account for the consistent 48-53 AHL points he's posted in each of the past for seasons. Ignore this projection - that's 25-point NHL territory, folks.
Impressively Machacek has just one penalty in his 25 games despite throwing a lot of hits, but has done terribly possession-wise thus far despite playing highly sheltered ice-time.
That's it for all this year's projections! I hope you enjoyed this series once again. As usual, we'll check back at the end of the season to see how everybody did, although be forewarned that shorter seasons result in far greater variance of results.