Travis Yost: Grading the Left’s Depth of Each NHL Team

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The National Hockey League calendar goes completely silent every August. For many, it’s a bit of a relief in anticipation of another long season of hockey. At TSN, a break like this is the perfect opportunity to spend some time dissecting the roster in fine detail.

Starting today, we’ll be unveiling a multi-piece series, categorizing each team’s lineup into positional groups in tiered fashion. We will analyze the depth charts on all the positions and prepare the talent tier for all the 32 franchises. For the opener, we will start with the left wing. Some housekeeping notes before we get to the piece:

Tiered approach is meant to bucket teams with similar talent profiles to a given position.
Position changes (during intra-year and off-season) are fairly common in the NHL, and in a season, a left winger may see more minutes in the center or vice versa. We scraped depth charts from two public databases (CBS and CapFriendly), reconciled them against positional use in prior seasons, and in some cases, forecast some changes or Make educated guesses. , Positional volatility only affects the forward group, so we will manage through each one carefully.
-The player’s contribution will be measured in substitutions over the goal, which separates the player’s performance into the following relevant categories: Value Added on par-strength offensively and defensively, Value Added in Special Teams’ play (if as applicable), and is incurring added value and penalty through drawing. Last year’s leaders include, for your brief conscience check, Johnny Goudreau, Austin Matthews of Toronto and Conor McDavid of Edmonton.
-We will use a weighted system for 2022-23 expectations. The top six wingers typically play about 62 percent of all available minutes; The bottom-six winger plays the remaining 38 percent of the available minutes.

let’s get started:

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Tier 5, In Trouble: Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks

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You can say at this stage that ‘we were a major franchise a decade ago and are now on the threshold of a multi-year rebuild’ (San Jose and Chicago), ‘pretend that we are not but are’ (Philadelphia) , and “Emerging” (Los Angeles). Of the sixteen expected regular lefties within these four teams, we have fairly high hopes for two of them: Chicago’s Andreas Athanasiou, and San Jose’s Timo Maier.

These depth charts on how much talent exists in league-wide positions are relatively weak on offensive firepower, and there are a bunch of penalty magnets within the bottom-six that force their teams into more penalty-killing situations than their head coach. does. to like. The saving grace for a team like the Kings is that they have plenty of strength around the rest of their lineup, which offsets the weakness of a clear position. For the other three teams, this is a primary reason they will struggle throughout the season. Oh, and did I mention Mayer is a banned free agent at the end of the year?

Tier 4, Underperform: Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabers, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins

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There’s certainly less fat within this group than your tier five teams, but the noticeable drawback is still top-end firepower. We saw lightning seasons from Anaheim’s Adam Heinrich (always productive, but with availability concerns), Arizona’s Clayton Keller (fresh from a points-per-game season), and Pittsburgh’s Jake Gentzel (40 goals last year!) Huh. This small group of players seems to be taking the lion’s share of production for their respective teams into position.

I think one of the interesting depth charts to follow in this group going into the next season is Montreal. The Canadiens continue to crave Cole Caufield and his shooting ability, and Evgeny Dadonov—who never did much favor in Vegas—is still a pretty capable playmaking mid-six forward, even at age 33. For a really rebuilding team like the Canadiens, there’s a decent amount of talent here, but I think it depends on a player like Caufield to be a more productive two-way winger in his second season. He will surely get minutes to prove it.

Speaking of make-or-break kind of seasons: Peyton Krebs of Buffalo, that famous Jack Eichel trade return package. The Alex Touch has fit like a glove with Buffalo, and that was a major reason the Sabers were so competitive last year. Krebs did not have the same kind of luck, struggling and regularly out-scoring along the lines of Dylan Cozens and Winnie Hinostroza. Krebs is still just 21 years old, but expectations are high for a former first-round selection, and he’s going to get a bigger shot at the Sabers team that aims to be more competitive in the top-heavy Atlantic division.

Tier 3, Average: Tampa Bay Lightning, Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, Vegas Golden Knights, Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers

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I want to start with a team that shouldn’t be in this group, and that is the Winnipeg Jets. The Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers tandem in wing position is effectively as good as it gets – you’re talking about two players who scored 75 goals last season, and Ehlers only played 62 games. They are notable playwrights and scorers, and are the main reason Winnipeg’s top six can still be brutal, even if the rest of the group’s future remains as vague as ever.

Jets fans know this all too well, but they are a great example of how poor depth can undermine team-wide results. Whether it’s Morgan Baron, Jenson Harkins, or several other options in the pipeline, production expectations from this bottom-six group are muted. Harkins had only 40 per cent of the target share a season ago. Baron? 38 percent. Christian Veslainen? 37 percent. The late Zach Sanford? 44 percent. you get the point.

They are not alone in this category – rows anchored by Artemi Panarin regularly pulled out of the competition (+22), with the rest of the team running close to break-even (+3). You can’t spend everywhere in a hard cap league, but the Rangers, like the Jets, need a lot of punching power from their bottom-six forward, especially in the wing position.

On a brighter note: The two Atlantic Division teams in Ottawa and Detroit have invested heavily in this position. The Senators who brought in 41-goal scorer Alex Debrinkett gives them a brutal top-six, while Detroit have four credible left-wing options, including Tyler Bertuzzi, Jacob Vraná, Dominic Kubalik and Adam Erne, who are joined by head coach Derek Lalonde. Will definitely play. , I think it’s a very intriguing group and, with some improvement in the center’s position, there could be an upside next year.

Tier 2, Outperform: Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, Vancouver Canucks

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The outperformance tier is full of top-end talent and merit at depth positions, but I think that’s more than how many skilled players in this group have changed teams. Calgary’s Jonathan Huberdeau, Carolina’s Max Pacioretti, Columbus’ Johnny Goudreau, Dallas’ Mason Marchment, New Jersey’s Ondrej Palt, and Vancouver’s Ilya Mikheev are currently the top six attackers in the league.

And, at the point of this exercise, remember how tier five had just two players on four teams that we expected a season of impact? Of these ten teams, we expect at least 13 of these players to grade very well, and that ignores another obvious point: There are too many forwards on these lists who are going to lose their minutes. And in a tough-time-cap league, playing for break-even performance on cheap contracts is nothing to sneeze at.

The most interesting team in this group, in large part because they are an offensive puzzle most nights, is Dallas. The Stars finished just 21st in scoring last season, and were dismissed during the season, despite qualifying for the playoffs. And, to be honest, hockey was structurally painful to watch from time to time.

However, 23-year-old Jason Robertson exploded onto the scene last year. Robertson’s 41 goals and 38 assists felt comfortable, and he quickly established himself as one of the league’s most influential attackers. Furthermore, it was clear that Robertson was the player to shake the drink, so to speak, on his line: as Robertson’s game went on, linemates Joe Pawelski and Roop Hintz followed. Unless they’re extraordinary, you see people on the Left running a performance of lines, it’s not common, and Robertson was last year.

The addition of the 27-year-old Marchment to free agency after his breakout second season gives the Stars two dangerous attackers in their top-six, though the Stars are dashing their hopes that neither Robertson nor Marchante will have a volatile breakout. were years. If Robertson and Marchante can replicate what they did last season this season, this Stars group is indeed knocking on the door to elite status. Big, but it’s a positional group to watch in October.

Another team in this group I’m eyeing is Carolina, who has Pacioretti. Hurricane took advantage of Vegas’s cap status and added sniper freebies (also known as “Future Thoughts”); This gives them redundancy and optionality around Andrei Svechnikov that the team may not have had in the first season.

Tier 1, Elite: Florida Panthers, Seattle Kraken, St. Louis Blues

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Three teams, with deep offensive firepower, and very few – if any – holes in position. Not a single winger on this list is of replacement-level caliber or below. And for top-end performance, we have five players we’re eyeing for a breakout season or continuation of a breakout season: Florida’s Matthew Tkachuk and Carter Verheghe, Seattle’s Jared McCann, and St. Louis Brandon Saad and Powell Booknevich.

I think the most debatable group of the three is Florida. I don’t think you can discount how impressive a player Takachuk is – whether you’re watching videos, counting stats (let me remind you, Takachuk had a 104-point score last season) , 8th highest in the NHL), or the underlying numbers that give him extra credit for his ability to take out penalties. He is the superstar of this league. And it’s no surprise that the Panthers didn’t trade their Whopper of a franchise name and a new contract, like Huberdew, for Takachuk’s services.

Behind them is Verheghe, who, along with Alexander Barkov and Anthony Duclair, had regularly dismissed opponents a season earlier to score 26 goals. Florida, despite the lineup changes, will have no difficulty scoring this year. But for this group to establish themselves in elite status, they will need a strong season with the likes of Ryan Lomborg and Nick Cousins ​​behind them.

One last note, this one on Kraken: Adding Oliver Björkstrand for such minimal cost was highway robbery, and I would argue that Kraken has the deepest left-wing position in terms of skill among all 32 teams. Seattle was a tough watch in its inaugural season, but you look at a depth chart like this and there’s real reason for excitement—I think it’s the best four-player group of all 32 teams. A player of Björkstrand’s abilities can watch the minutes of the third row to see how well the likes of Schwartz and McCann play. And, perhaps, for a better second year in Seattle.

Data via Natural State Trick,, Evolving Hockey, Cap Reference, CapFriendly, CBS Sports

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