Panthers proving to be one of NHL’s best bargain hunters
Welcome to 10 Insights and Observations. Each week, I will use this space to cover teams, players, storylines, and general thoughts about the NHL.
This week, we’ll cover a fun shootout goal, how the Panthers find value, Nashville’s pick, Jack Achel, Vince Dunn, and more.
Stamkos signature move in shootouts
While shootouts are on the decline, I always wonder when a guy has a “move” and he works properly. Jussi Jokinen liked to hit the low blocker, Patrick Kane slowly enters and holds the stick until the goaltender flinches, Evgeny Kuznetsov also likes to go at a snail’s pace, and TJ Oshi usually shoots from five holes.
One player’s move that stands out lately is the move of Steven Stamkos. He is one of the top scorers of this generation and his shot was his daily bread, as was Alex Ovechkin. He has an interesting approach to shootouts. He leans slightly to the left like a right shot, then rolls from left to right with the puck in front, ready to shoot all the time. The second the goalkeeper starts moving with him, he kicks through his body to the starting side (left) he came from. In consecutive matches, he made the same move and scored both times.
It looked easy. Against Arizona it was not so smooth, but a goal is a goal.
At some point, the goaltenders will catch on and deceive that way, so he will need to come up with a return move – maybe instead he will throw high in the glove if the goaltender lingers, sliding along with him? However, it’s a good move and not something we usually see when shooters do in a firefight.
Zaka comes into his own with the Bruins
In 2015, Pavel Zacha was selected sixth overall. It was the same project as Connor McDavid, Jack Achel and Mitch Marner. The four picks behind him were Ivan Provorov, Zak Verensky, Timo Meyer and Mikko Rantanen. All of these players achieved relatively early success in their careers, but for Zaki, growth problems were more apparent.
The 6-foot-4 forward entered the league and didn’t achieve much—he still hasn’t scored 20 goals or 40 points in a single season. But he’s shown signs of life over the last two years, scoring 17 and 15 campaign goals, and his New Jersey linemates weren’t exactly bad players. In his last five seasons with the Devils, the two forwards he played with the most were Miles Wood and Jesper Bratt.
A move to Boston, where he played with fellow Czech natives David Krejci and David Pastrnak, really kickstarted his career. He plays just under 20 goals but is very close to finally breaking that mark. He shows the best result in his career – 0.7 points per game. To be fair, the only other time he has done this has been an abbreviated COVID season. Ironically, he does so by playing 15:47 per game, which would be his lowest since his second full league season in 2017-18. Even though the total number of goals is not particularly high, his shot really stands out.
This is an absolute break against an elite goalkeeper whom he beat cleanly. In the game against the Leafs, he loads up and just shoots Ilya Samsonov’s puck from afar without a screen.
There are not many shooters in the league who can beat goalies so cleanly. You wonder why he doesn’t score 30+ goals with that shot, and then watch and see that he doesn’t even score two shots in a game. He plays with the second highest scorer in the league, so it’s easy to catch yourself falling behind him. Zaka is only 25 years old, and the Bruins essentially signed him in his prime. They are good at it.
It’s time for Achel to step up
When the Vegas Golden Knights made great strides and acquired Eichel, there were a lot of questions surrounding his health at the time. He did not play for almost a year and was seriously injured.
For the most part, he has remained healthy, so now it’s time to take up his game. Since joining the league, Eichel has become a brilliant goalscorer and his best moments are second to none other than Connor McDavid. Although he was drafted by the Buffalo organization, which was in turmoil at the time, he will also have to show at some point that he, too, can help lead a winning team. He turns 27 this year and has played 450 NHL games but none in the playoffs.
Vegas began to claim victory in their division. Mark Stone is out. Logan Thompson is running out of time. Eichel’s numbers with and without Stone have fluctuated wildly since he joined Vegas. Their corsi together when playing 5 on 5 is just over 54 percent. Without the stone, the Eichel is at 49.5. Together, Fenwick is over 58 years old, and without Eichel, just over 51 years old. The expected number of goals combined was over 60, while Eichel’s figure without him dropped to 48.5%. Their goalscoring percentage is over 72 percent combined, but Eichel without him is 45.8 percent.
Maybe Stone won’t be back before the playoffs. There are other good players in Vegas, so the support of the team does not fall solely on the shoulders of Eichel. But it should be his time to step up and lead the Golden Knights, paving the way for their captain to return to the post-season run.
Predators are in for a shake-up?
If you look at the Nashville team last season, you can see that it was a collection of career achievements. Matt Duchene scored 43 goals and 86 points. Filip Forsberg scored 42 goals and scored 84 points (in 69 games in total). Roman Yozi had 96 points. Yousse Saros played a monstrous 67 games with a .918 save percentage. Jeannot Tanner came out of nowhere with 24 goals and 41 points. Just massive years everywhere.
The Predators made it to the playoffs and quickly lost. They looked at it all and said, “Let’s buy it.” They traded for Ryan McDonagh, signed Nino Niederreiter and kept their core. Technically, they are still on the hunt for the playoffs. They will probably be stuck there until the end of the season. But it’s hard for them to look at teams like Oilers, Flames, Wild, maybe even Avalanche and maybe Kraken. These are complex compositions with which you need to compete.
Nashville has tried this core, but at this point you’re wondering how far it can really go with them.
Dunn becomes the Kraken’s offensive force
There are a number of defensemen who have a career span of 2022-2023, such as Brandon Montour and Josh Morrissey. Especially funny is Vince Dunn on the Kraken. Originally drafted by the St. Louis Blues, he was caught in the expansion draft. He fell out of favor with the Blues and Craig Berube.”Can’t go one by oneThe comment after Karl Grundström burned him in the game seemed to seal the deal.
After being picked up by the Kraken, he responded by tying his career points record, and although his key figures with Adam Larsson were generally good, they suffered from playing on a poor team. Not this season. Still paired, Dunn and Larsson are above the water in every major category and have outpaced their rivals by a whopping 60-34. They are the prototype of the shooting guard and the stop-and-go defender that balance each other well.
Dunn has been hottest in the new year, posting 21 points in 20 games and playing 24:05 a night since the calendar rolled over to 2023. the attacking force of the Kraken team, who really want to get into the playoffs.
Kotkaniemi offer list still looks like a mistake for the Hurricanes
We are in the second year of an eight-year, $38.65 million contract that Jesperi Kotkaniemi has signed with Karolina. Although we still have a lot of time to play something, the early returns were… questionable.
Kotkaniemi played 12:01 a game last season and scored 29 points and he’s not a center because they already have Jordan Staal. If there is a team that can find that kind of value on the cheap better than anyone, it’s the Hurricanes. In the summer they said goodbye to Vincent Troczek, perhaps in part to open up more opportunities for Kotkaniemi. He’s playing a little more, averaging 14:18 per game this season, and he’s actually producing less across the board.
It doesn’t look like he’s playing with the guys from the deep. His most frequent line partners this season are Martin Nekas and Andrey Svechnikov, the first and third scorers of the Kanese. Kotkaniemi supports both and the puck doesn’t die on his stick. He has shown the ability to make multiple plays, but the number of players who can play in the center at this place is, to put it mildly, high. At 22, he still has plenty of time to take the step and reach the next level, but at some point he has to reward the offer sheet.
Panthers are skilled bargain hunters.
Matthew Tkachuk’s deal was a league-wide blockbuster. This season, he was a legitimate superstar.
When you look at most of Florida’s list, you’ll see a number of quality-related benefits beyond that. Gustav Forsling’s waiver has become legal…