This is the fifth part of the Habs players analysis series for the season 2017-18. Be sure to check out parts one through four below.
Charles Hudon and Artturi Lehkonen are in their early parts of their NHL careers. It is time for them to shine, because if they don’t, there will be another young player, waiting in the wings, who will grab their spots.
For these reviews, only players who played at least half of the season will be covered. I’ll use some traditional statistics but mainly the advanced analytics eSAT metric, especially the eSAT Diff, eSAT FAR and eSAT AAR. If you are still unfamiliar with this advanced statistic, I suggest you read the article introducing the eSAT that will give you a better understanding of the metric.
In brief, eSAT Diff (effectiveness-of-the-Shot-Attempts Differential) shows the level of impact the player had on his team, therefore influencing the impact on the team rankings. It can also be use as a measurement to determine an MVP player.
The eSAT FAR (effectiveness-of-the-Shot-ATtempts-For-Above-Replacement) describes the quality of the offensive supply or the capacity to convert it into successful attack. The league average is at fifty percent, so top three forwards should be over 55 percent and top six should be over 50 percent.
Finally, the eSAT AAR (effectiveness-of-the-Shot-ATempts-Against-Above-Replacement) shows the quality of opportunities allowed to the opposition. Therefore, an eSAT AAR over the fifty percent mark would suggest a higher ability to shutdown the opponent’s offense.
But there’s more to the eSAT AAR, it will also tend to increase when players are in possession of the puck. On that account, it connects perfectly with the adage ‘the best defense is a good offense.’
After doing two stints of three games in consecutive seasons, it was time for Charles Hudon to get his official rookie season in the NHL. He closed 2017-18 with ten goals and 20 assists, good for the 21st rank among the rookies in the NHL.
In this first season, Hudon showed flashes of dangling and play-making skills. However, these beautiful plays didn’t always convert into goals. With only 63 shots attempts from the high danger area on 286, this influenced his shooting percentage of only 5.59 percent at all strengths.
With 15 rush attempts at five-on-five, he finished second among the Canadiens and first in the NHL among all rookies.
Nevertheless, on a team that was struggling, Hudon managed to maintain his performance around the league average. With an eSAT FAR of 49.8 percent and an eSAT AAR of 50.4 percent, this is what is expected from a player on a third unit.
At the beginning of the season, Hudon was part of a trio on the left wing with Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher. Together, they had a very positive impact maintaining an eSAT FAR of 55.3 percent and an eSAT AAR of 54 percent.
From mid-January to mid-February, Hudon centred Paul Byron and Max Pacioretty, where Charles was able to display his play-making skills. This trio had an eSAT FAR of 63.3 percent. However, the defensive responsibilities that come with the centre position might have been too heavy for him to carry and his eSAT AAR suffered at only 42.2 percent.
Charles Hudon hasn’t reached his full potential yet. It will be interesting to see what he will bring next season, as he attempts to avoid a second-year slump.
After an impressing first season in the NHL collecting 18 goals at 21-years-old, it’s fair to say the young Finnish player set the bar high for his second season in the league. And, like the Canadiens, it appears that Artturi Lehkonen wasn’t able to live up to expectations.
In the early part of the season, Lehkonen had difficulty contributing offensively. It took him almost the whole month of October to score, getting his first two goals of the season on the 30th of that month. From a player that is supposed to provide offense, this is disappointing.
Before getting too critical, it’s very important to note two factors. First, it has been confirmed that Lehkonen played the first 18 games of the season with a serious back injury. And it was something that kept him out of the lineup from early November until almost Christmas.
Secondly, as Tomas Plekanec’s linemate for a good portion of the time, Lehkonen had the responsibility of facing the opposition’s best offensive players on a nightly basis.
While Lehkonen collected only two goals and three assists in the first 18 games, the positive story from the analytics. He still maintained an offensive contribution with an eSAT FAR of 52.9 percent. During that time, Lehkonen generated the most high-danger scoring chances by anyone in the Canadiens lineup.
A comparison during the same period with Jonathan Drouin’s performance who had a lower eSAT FAR of 50.1 percent, but a higher points contribution of three goals and nine assists should help to understand how this is possible.
Within the same time-frame, Drouin played a total of 226 minutes. While he was on the ice, there were 119 scoring chances (48.8 percent of all shot attempts), 49 high-danger chances (19.8 percent of all shot attempts) and a shooting percentage of 6.72 percent.
Lehkonen played 208 minutes with 123 scoring chances (49.8 percent of all shot attempts), 51 high-danger chances (20.6 percent of all shot attempts) and the same shooting percentage. In a lower ice-time, there was almost the same amount of high quality of scoring chances, but Lehkonen might not have collected the glory of those chances, but he found a way to help his teammates to do so.
In his last 13 games, at five-on-five, the trio of Lehkonen, Jacob de la Rose and Alex Galchenyuk had success. Having an eSAT FAR of 48.6 percent wasn’t optimal, but their puck possession improves their eSAT AAR and was a very impressive 75.3 percent.
Towards the end of the season as he became healthier and feeling more comfortable with linemates, things were definitely back on track for Lehkonen. During the final 21 games following the trade deadline, Lehkonen recorded seven goals and three assists. He was one of the better Canadiens forwards and one of the few who were contributing offensively during that period.
The expectations for next season will be higher than what he brought this season. Lehkonen has a potential to develop in the role of a top-six forward.