On July 1, the Nashville Predators traded winger Viktor Arvidsson to the Los Angeles Kings. Going back to Nashville was a pair of draft picks, specifically LA’s 2021 2nd rounder and 2022 3rd round pick. While it could be considered a small gamble, the Viktor Arvidsson trade should work out well for LA.
How the Viktor Arvidsson Trade Was a Safe Bet for the Los Angeles Kings
Even during their Stanley Cup runs during the early 2010s, the Kings have needed a goal-scoring winger. Heading into the offseason, the team has all the necessary assets to add exactly that. They have a stockpile of draft picks, one of the top prospect pools in the NHL, and an abundance of cap space. Ever since the Kings season ended, their general manager, Rob Blake, has made it clear he is looking to add to the roster. He plans to add two top-six wingers and some help on the left side of the blueline. The Viktor Arvidsson trade checks off one of these three boxes.
A Brief Look into Arvidsson
Arvidsson should slide right into the Kings top-six forward group, and could potentially end up on Anze Kopitar‘s wing on the top line. This will depend on what other moves Blake decides to make this offseason. Regardless of which of the top two lines he’s on though, Arvidsson should make a large impact for the Kings, as he is a major upgrade upfront.
Currently 28 years old, Arvidsson has three years left on his contract. The deal carries a cap hit of $4.25 million per season. Arvidsson stands at 5’9″ 181 pounds. He shoots right, which is something the Kings lack upfront, but he can play both wings, making him a versatile option.
The Kings have wanted to import proven NHL talent to their roster, which is exactly what they did with the Viktor Arvidsson trade. Arvidsson is a proven goalscorer at the NHL level. In the 2016-17 season, he scored 31 goals in 80 games with Nashville. The following year, he scored 29 in 78 games, which is a 30 goal pace over 82 games. During the 2018-19 season, however, Arvidsson exploded with goalscoring. In just 58 games, he scored 34 goals, setting the Predators single-season record for goal scoring. His 34 goals in 58 games put him on pace to score 48 goals that season if he played all 82 games.
Albeit having great production in his career, Arvidsson’s production over the past two seasons hasn’t been quite at the same level. This may be partially due to the injuries he’s suffered and the strangeness of the pandemic year. In any case, the numbers haven’t been as good. In 2019-20, he scored 15 goals in 57 games, a 22 goal pace over a full 82 game season. While this certainly isn’t bad and would help the Kings tremendously, it’s not the same outburst as he had the year before.
To follow it, Arvidsson scored just 10 goals in 50 games this past season, pacing for about 16 in a full season. Again, those numbers would help the Kings but aren’t the kind of production they are betting on Arvidsson bringing in.
Why Arvidsson Is a Safe Bet
If a player has a low shooting percentage, it usually means one of two things. Either A: they are simply a bad finisher or B: they have been getting unlucky. Some ways to distinguish which option a player falls under are by looking at previous numbers, and expected goals.
This season, Viktor Arvidsson shot 6.6 percent, which is a career-low. That is if you don’t count his rookie season. His career average shooting percentage is 11.4 percent. Based on his career average and the fact that Arvidsson is a multiple-time 30 goal scorer, it’s fair to assume that his 6.6 percent this season was more bad luck than skill-related. Knowing this, Arvidsson returning to or close to his career average shooting percentage seems more likely than another season riddled with bad luck.
Why This Matters
Arvidsson’s shooting percentage going up could mean wonders for him, primarily due to the type of player he is. Arvidsson is a shoot-first player, who creates shots on goal at a high level. According to Natural Stat Trick, Arvidsson ranked 18th this season in shots/60, averaging 10.91, out of skaters with at least 100 minutes played. This year, Arvidsson averaged 3.02 shots per game. This put him on pace to have about 248 shots in a full 82 game season, which would break his career-high of 247.
The point is, while Arvidsson’s offence slowed down this year, it was clearly just a result of his shooting percentage. The important part is that he still generated shots at the same level he did in his 30 goal years. This means that if his shooting percentage goes up to anything close to what his career average is, his goal total will too. As the amount of shots he takes is no different. Him having a similar, high volume of shots and a low shooting percentage is much more encouraging for a rebound than a high shooting percentage but a low amount of shots. This is because it means he is still driving offence and creating chances.
A Bried Example
To illustrate this point further, let’s look at a brief example. If Arvidsson shot at 10 percent this season, which would still be his career-low discounting his rookie year, he would have paced for about 25 goals in 82 games. If he shot at his career average of 11.4 percent, he would have paced for 28 goals. These are exactly the kinds of numbers that the Kings need to really improve their offence.
Goals Above Expected Overview
If you’re still not sold on Arvidsson’s dip in shooting percentage being due to luck, don’t worry, as there is another stat we can look into. That stat being expected goals, or more specifically, goals above expected. Goals above expected are a player’s goals scored minus their expected goals. If the difference is positive, it means the player scored more goals than their play suggested. If it’s negative it means they scored less than their play suggested.
Goals above expected are a great tool to use to measure a player’s shooting or finishing talent. If a player finishes with a negative value, it usually means two things. Just like shooting percentage, either A: the player isn’t a great finisher, or B: the player was unlucky.
Applying it To Arvidsson
This season, Arvidsson finished with -3.5 goals above expected according to MoneyPuck. Other than his rookie year, this was the only season in Arvidsson’s career where he finished with negative goals above expected. By having a positive value every other season, it tells us that Arvidsson has a trend of being a skilled finisher, otherwise, he wouldn’t be scoring more goals than his play suggests. This once again can implicate that Arvidsson’s dip in scoring this season was due to luck, and not a drop in skill.
We can also imply this simply from his xG/60 (expected goals per 60 minutes). In his career, Arvidsson has averaged 1.06 xG/60 not counting his rookie season. This season, he averaged 1.00, which is very close. This only further proves that it wasn’t Arvidsson’s skill disappearing that caused his goalscoring woes, but more bad luck, as the scoring chances were still being generated.
Other Strong Areas
Other than production, Arvidsson still proved to be a strong player this season in other areas. At five on five, Arvidsson was above 50 percent on virtually every possession metric. This includes Corsi percentage, Fenwick percentage, goals-for percentage, xGoals percentage, and scoring-chances-for percentage. Additionally, Arvidsson had a GAR (goals above replacement) of 7.2 and WAR (wins above replacement) 0f 1.2 according to Evolving Hockey. Each one is the second-highest season total in his career.
In the Viktor Arvidsson trade, the Kings traded two draft picks, each of which they had an abundance of. Arvidsson was great analytically this season, driving play nicely. While he did have a dip in production, analytics suggest that this was mainly due to bad luck. If this proves to be true, Arvidsson will likely find some more luck next season, and be a key piece in Los Angeles’s top-six. Don’t be surprised if Viktor Arvidsson returns to his old 30 goal form.
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