Last week the Last Word of Hockey Predators team took a look at the Nashville Predators defensive depth using advanced statistics as a guide. Now members of the Predators bottom-six on offense come under the microscope.
The Nashville Predators had a lot of changes come their way this off-season. They lost forward James Neal to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft and lost forward Colin Wilson in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche. With young talent on the rise and the signing of Scott Hartnell, things are going to look different on the bottom six forward group this season. Along with Hartnell, Calle Jarnkrok, Frederick Gaudreau, Colton Sissons, all look to play big roles for Nashville, but what do the numbers say we should expect from them? Expect a bottom-six with talent, defensive ability, and scoring touch.
By the Numbers: Nashville Predators Offense Depth
Calle Jarnkrok has become a reliable asset for the Nashville Predators. Playing in 81 regular season games last season, Jarnkrok, 25, became a mainstay in a Predators lineup that often saw the bottom-six stifled by injuries. Nashville fans have a lot to look forward to this season out of Jarnkrok. With a Corsi-for percentage of 51.51%, and Fenwick-for percentage of 51.09% at five-on-five last regular season, Jarnkrok consistently showed his value on the ice on both ends. With a high danger chance percentage of 58.65%, Jarnkrok not only was consistent in generating scoring chances at five-on-five, he was consistent in making sure the same opportunities didn’t occur on the defensive end.
This isn’t Jarnkrok’s first time producing consistent numbers. Jarnkrok posted consistent stats in 2015-2016 as well. Playing in 81 regular season games, he posted a Corsi-for percentage of 51.78%, a Fenwick-for percentage of 52.82%, and a scoring-chances-for percentage of 51.69%, while five-on-five.
Jarnkrok had 394 scoring chances for in 2016-2017, while only giving up 350 scoring chances against adding up to a 52.96% scoring-chance-for percentage. Those numbers are impressive in their own rights, but add in to the equation that Jarnkrok took 53.74% of his face-offs in the defensive zone, they make them that much more impressive. With the previous mentioned departures of James Neal and Colin Wilson, Jarnkrok’s consistency will bring about a sense of comfort this upcoming season.
The Sissons Show
Colton Sissons 2016-2017 season was a bit of a roller coaster, to say the least. Sissons, 23, played 58 regular season games with the Western Conference Champs last season. Sissons saw most of his time on the fourth line, with some short stints on the third line playing both winger and the center position. In the 58 games Sissons played, he showed glimmers of hope, but mostly inconsistency. He posted a Corsi-for percentage of 43.71% and a Fenwick-for percentage of 44.51% at five-on-five. Both are the lowest for any Predator who played over 10 regular season games. His numbers don’t jump off the page.
To add to his unimpressive Corsi-for and Fenwick-for stats, Sissons only generated a 42.83% scoring-chance-for percentage at five-on-five in the regular season. While all of these stats point to Sissons being an unreliable option in 2017-18, one stat suggests that it’s unfair to count him out. Sissons only took 28.31% of his faceoffs in the offensive zone. To put into context how low that number truly is, the next lowest percentage of a Predator center with over 10 games played is Mike Fisher with 40.55%. As low as that number is, it’s no surprise his Corsi-for percentage and Fenwick-for percentage were that horrendous.
With the regular season behind him, Sissons really started to shine in the post-season. In 22 games played, he posted a Corsi-for percentage of 51.58%, Fenwick-for percentage of 51.47%, and scoring-chance-for percentage of 52.81% at five-on-five. Sissons looked to turn the corner after taking on a heightened role when top line center Ryan Johansen‘s season was cut short in the Western Conference Final. The most impressive part of these playoff numbers? Sissons still posted the second lowest offensive zone face-off percentage at 38.30, second to only Vernon Fiddler, who appeared in only nine games during the playoffs. Sissons’ playoff numbers could be a result of being surrounded by more talented teammates, but by proving he can adapt to a larger role, and producing in that role, it’s reasonable to expect Sissons to continue to trend upward this upcoming season.
With only nine regular season games under his belt, Frederick Gaudreau was a relative unknown before the playoffs. Gaudreau, 24, has spent most of his time in Milwaukee in the AHL since the 2014-2015 season. When a stretch of injuries struck Nashville’s forward core last season, Gaudreau was called up for a short stint. In such a small sample size, Gaudreau put up respectable numbers. Although he was kept scoreless, he put a Corsi-for percentage of 50.00% and a Fenwick-for percentage of 52.73% at five-on-five. These numbers suggest he was capable on both ends of the ice. He was even able to create more chances for than he gave up, posting a scoring-chance-for percentage of 51.61% at five-on-five. Gaudreau was acceptable, but really stepped up on the grandest stage of them all: The Stanley Cup Final.
While Gaudreau’s numbers saw a slight dip in Corsi-for percentage (48.08%), and Fenwick-for percentage (51.38%) five-on-five, his limited goals production was paramount to the Predators success. Gaudreau was able to net his first two career goals in the Stanley Cup Final, flashing scoring potential he had yet shown. After signing a three-year extension with Nashville this off-season, look for Gaudreau’s ice time to only climb, along with his role in the bottom-six of the forward core. While nothing in Gaudreau’s skill set contains anything that will keep opposing teams up at night, his numbers suggest that he can be a consistent fourth line option for the Western Conference Champs this upcoming season.
Scott Hartnell was acquired through free agency by Nashville this past off-season and signed a one year, $1 million dollar contract with the Predators. Hartnell, 35, spent the 2016-2017 season with the Columbus Blue Jackets and consistently produced in 78 games played. He put up a Corsi-for percentage of 52.50% and a Fenwick-for percentage of 52.15% while five-on-five. The veteran also posted a scoring-chance-for percentage of 52.41%, producing shots and most importantly, preventing them. Hartnell looks to to bring some more veteran leadership to Nashville’s forward group after losing Mike Fisher to retirement this past off-season. It also doesn’t hurt that Hartnell was drafted by Nashville in the 2000 entry level draft (6th overall), and spent six years in Nashville before moving on to Philadelphia.
The past few seasons, Hartnell has been an example of consistency for Columbus. He’s played in an average of 78 games since 2014-2015, rarely missing ice time. While Hartnell’s shot totals have steadily declined since 2014, his shot percentage took a huge leap last season reaching 11.96%. So while the argument can be made he’s not putting shots up like he has in the past, he’s established himself as a player who takes smart shots, instead of a player who fires at the net every chance he gets. Other than leadership, Hartnell brings with him a special gift of getting other players involved. In 2016-2017, Hartnell scored 11 goals and 21 assists. While those numbers aren’t the most impressive, they tell a deeper story.
Of his 11 goals, center Sam Gagner assited on four of those goals. Hartnell assisted with Gagner on six goals, and assisted for Gagner on five goals. Gagner’s boosted production is important in the sense that these numbers came alongside of Hartnell. Gagner had career highs in goals, assists, and Corsi-for percentage. That’s exciting for Calle Jarnkrok. Although Jarnkrok has played alongside the likes of James Neal, he’s never worked with a facilitating winger quite like Hartnell. With the addition of Hartnell, the numbers suggest Nashville’s third line could become a point producing machine.
Last season, Nashville had a bottom six forward group that was riddled with injuries, and inconsistency. This season, Nashville has group of young centers and a reliable veteran on their bottom two lines. They’ve added depth to their forward group, even with the loss of players. History suggests a deep forward squad is vital to any deep playoff run, and the Predators have just that.
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