Pucks in Depth: Matthew Tkachuk Making an Impact … Minnesota Wild Overachieving
Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames and Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild
Rookie Matthew Tkachuk making an impact for the Flames …

When talking about the league’s top rookies, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Zach Werenski are the names most commonly mentioned.

While each of the three has been fantastic, they aren’t the only freshmen making positive impacts on their teams.

One of the guys flying under the radar as a result of The Big Three, among others, is Matthew Tkachuk.

He may not be piling up the points like Matthews and Laine, nor logging the kind of minutes Werenski does, but he’s quietly playing excellent hockey for the Calgary Flames.

To date, Tkachuk has seven goals and 19 points in 32 games. That is 18 goals and 49 points per 82 games, which are very impressive totals for a 19-year-old.

Tkachuk hasn’t relied on the power play to inflate his totals, either. He has been getting it done at 5v5. As it stands, 278 forwards have logged at least 300 minutes in that game state. Among them, only 40 average more points per hour than Tkachuk.

Some of the names Tkachuk ranks ahead of include Joe Pavelski, Artemi Panarin, Johnny Gaudreau and Tyler Seguin, among many others.

Perhaps even more impressive than Tkachuk’s counting numbers, and rate stats, is how much better the Flames, a team currently sitting in a playoff spot, are with Tkachuk on the ice as opposed to without him.

Screen Shot 2016-12-28 at 11.28.05 AM
data via corsica.hockey

As you can see, the Flames control better than 10% more of the shot attempts, scoring chances and goals with Tkachuk on the ice. That’s a significant gap.

Tkachuk plays with two very underrated players in Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik, which certainly helps, but he more than carries his weight.

If the Flames get back into the playoffs this season Tkachuk will be a big reason why.

Minnesota Wild not as good as their record indicates

There are few certainties in life. Among them are death, taxes, and Bruce Boudreau coached teams winning their division.

Boudreau has coached eight full seasons in the NHL. In each of those eight seasons Boudreau has led his club to a division title.

There is still plenty of season remaining, but the Minnesota Wild are currently tops in the Central in points per game. They’ve put themselves in a good position to help Boudreau extend his streak to nine.

The Wild have won 11 consecutive games, and lead the Western Conference in goal differential. I wouldn’t be too quick to crown them just yet though. On the surface, one would think they’re playing truly spectacular hockey but that’s not necessarily the case.

On the year, the Wild are controlling 47.7% of the shot attempts at 5v5. That puts them just ahead of New Jersey, and just beneath the likes of Ottawa, Detroit, and Buffalo. Not exactly great company to be keeping.

They’ve fared better in the scoring chance department coming in ~50%, but you shouldn’t have a plus-37 goal differential getting outshot somewhat frequently and essentially breaking even in the scoring chance department.

Why are the Wild winning so much? Why do they have such a good goal differential? In part due to luck.

Despite sitting 22nd in terms of generating chances at 5v5 on a per 60 minutes basis, the Wild are 7th in goals for/60. Why? They’re scoring on better than 9% of their shots. Only five of 90 teams (5.5%) have done that over a full season in the three years prior to this, so there’s reason to believe that won’t continue.

Meanwhile, Devan Dubnyk owns a save percentage of .947. Considering no goaltender in the history of hockey has posted better than a .938 SV% while starting more than 36 games, I’d say that won’t continue, either.

If the Wild don’t start playing better as a team, rather than relying on high shooting percentages and the best goaltending anyone has ever seen, the wins won’t come anywhere close to as frequent as they are right now.

Note: data via Corsica.Hockey and NaturalStatTrick.

Written by Todd Cordell (@ToddCordell)