One of the most unbelievable stats surrounding the New York Islanders relates to (a) three centers scoring at great clips at 5v5 and (b) none of the centers is Mathew Barzal. In fact, when we look at primary point rates this season one-third of Metro forwards in the top nine are NYI centers Casey Cizikas, Brock Nelson and Valtteri Filppula.
Metro division forward leaders for 5v5 primary points rate (per-60) with minimum of 100 minutes this season:
Goals and primary assists are considered “primary points.”
- 2.9 Cizikas
- 2.8 Simon
- 2.7 Nelson, Crosby
- 2.6 Kessel, Panarin
- 2.3 Malkin, Zajac, Filppula, Coleman
(Barzal is currently 1.4 for the stat.)
Is this luck? Is it skill? Is it a combination of the two?
Certainly a healthy portion of this is luck, as none is far above average for 5v5 on-ice expected goals rate. To the eye, though, all three have appeared opportunistic creating super-high danger scoring chances, while they and their linemates have been clinical plugging the puck into half-vacant nets.
Will this continue, though? That remains to be seen, but I’ll be surprised if even two of Cizikas, Nelson, and Filppula finish the season top-30 for Metro forwards in this stat, though they do each have a history of scoring well at 5v5. Even with great coaching, 5v5 conversion rates tend to even out over time, to some degree.
That said, it is safe to expect more 5v5 offense from Barzal, as he was among the league leaders in all sorts of 5v5 stats last season. In Sunday’s game against the Dallas Stars, Barzal shot the puck five times at 5v5. They weren’t merely perimeter shots; all five were jotted down as scoring-chance attempts by Natural Stat Trick.
In fact, Barzal has taken 15 scoring-chance attempts at 5v5 in the past six games, whereas he only took two the previous eight games. Reverse chrono by game: 5, 0, 3, 1, 4, 2, 0, 1, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0.
That total is good for 6th in scoring-chance shot attempts among Metro forwards the past six team-games, while Barzal’s nine high-danger attempts are tied for 3rd-most, behind Lucas Wallmark (CAR) and Nolan Patrick (PHI). Below are the top eight Metro forwards for scoring-chance attempts the past six games, with high-danger in parentheses:
23 Wallmark (13)
18 Aho (9)
16 Jenner (6), Konecny (9), JStaal (8)
15 Barzal (9), Hornqvist (7), Svechnikov (9)
(Ten of Nolan Patrick’s 14 scoring-chance attempts were high-danger.)
Even compared to last season these rates are high for Barzal, as he averaged 1.6 scoring-chance shot attempts and 0.8 high-danger attempts per-game at 5v5. It is good to see Barzal driving towards the net with a shooting mentality, as his skating ability allows him to squeeze around opponents and force them to hook-and-grab if they hope to keep him from the slot area.
Speaking of drawing penalties, Barzal is tied for 4th in the Metro at 5v5 with six, behind Warren Fogele (CAR), Anthony Duclair (CBJ), and Kevin Hayes (NYR).
Among Metro defensemen only Damon Severson (7, NJD), Robert Hagg (6, PHI), and Kris Letang (6, PIT) have more 5v5 primary points than NYI’s Scott Mayfield, who has tallied two goals, three primary assists, and one secondary assist at 5v5 through 17 games this season.
With his improved skating ability (particularly compared to three or four seasons ago) Mayfield is making a strong case that he is a regular NHL defenseman, capable of outproducing his $1.45 million per-season contract, which runs through 2022-23.
In contrast, Ryan Pulock hasn’t yet found his scoring groove on the attack this season, though he’s been solid at 5v5 overall and useful at 4v5 PK, particularly clearing pucks.
If the Islanders seek additional 5v5 scoring from their blue line, it appears inevitable they will tap into prospects from AHL affiliate Bridgeport, as Parker Wotherspoon, Devon Toews, Sebastian Aho, and Mitch Vande Sompel are all capable of contributing.
Even-strength points for BPT defensemen prospects this season:
- 9 Wotherspoon
- 7 Toews, Aho
- 5 Vande Sompel
As head coach Barry Trotz continues to improve the overall 5v5 system it will be interesting to see if the Islanders continue to be a scoring threat every game while they work to limit opportunities for opponents. Production may dry up for Cizikas, Nelson, and Filppula, but Barzal and others are capable of contributing more.
All statistics in this article are courtesy offsidereview (unless otherwise noted), including games played through Sunday, Nov. 18.