Lars Eller is capable of being a top-six center, so why the heck isn’t he?
|17.0||time on ice per game|
|55.9||5-on-5 shot-attempt percentage, adjusted|
|53.3||5-on-5 expected goal percentage, adjusted|
|51.0||5-on-5 goal percentage, adjusted|
About this visualization: This series of charts made by Micah Blake McCurdy of hockeyviz.com shows lots of information for the player over the season. A short description of each chart:
So something interesting (to me, whose standards for “interesting” are shockingly low these days) is happening with Washington’s centers. Despite their histories, they’re all seem to be heading to the same spot: 0.9 primary assists per hour.
For today’s topic, Lars Eller, that’s an impressive improvement. For Nicklas Backstrom, it’s the usual. For Evgeny Kuznetsov, it’s yikes.
In context of all NHL centers, 0.9 assists per hour of five-on-five play is pretty good.
And Eller has hit this mark despite working with less talented goal scorers than his peers — and working with less talented goal scorers than his former self. For the two prior seasons, Eller had spent most of his time between Brett Connolly and Andre Burakovsky, both skilled finishers (both around 14 percent shooting in their careers). Now he’s mostly been with Carl Hagelin and Richard Panik, who are the exact opposite — with shooting percentages below 10 percent.
Below shows who scored goals during five-on-five play when Eller gets the primary assist. The grayscale players are no longer with the team.
In 2019-20, Eller and Vrana were deadly in limited time (281 minutes), scoring 15 goals while allowing nine and possessing 55 percent of the on-ice expected goals. It was a bummer when Vrana got paired with a different center, whom we won’t name until Friday September 18, and saw his margins and advantages disappear.
The point remains: Eller was given less in 2019-20, and yet he did more with it. Among his fellow top-nine centers, he was the only one in the black in goals-for percentage; he generated offense at about the same rate as Backstrom without any of the defensive deficiencies of Kuznetsov. (Oops I named him. Put a pin in that.)
I think the world of Eller. When Nicklas Backstrom got hurt in the playoffs, he stepped into a top-six role well. He was not immune from the team-wide disaster that afflicted the playoff Caps, but I would still be comfortable if he were to take a top-six role going forward. Which, by the way, he should.
You [have to get your] emotion in the game right away. We said all the right things before the game. Try to get a hit the first shift. Try to get engaged.
[ . . . ]
I think rough stretches teaches you important stuff going into the playoffs. . . We just gotta go home, regroup, reset mentally. I know we can play a lot better and I think that’s just the problem. We can play a lot better and we’ll find it. We’ll find it.
(They did not find it.)
How can the Capitals get more value out of Eller’s $3.5 AAV contract? Who would you put on his wings?
Read more: Japers Rink
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