It’s a new day, a new season. A chance for young players to modify and enhance their games in advance of the approaching campaign. Younger players in particular have the capability of showing the greatest improvement from year one to year two. Making it happen is altogether another story.
For Washington Capitals young-gunners Connor McMichael and Joe Snively, there are two specific stats I’ll be watching during the opening month or two of the season, in order to tell if things might have improved or the level of play remains at the levels from last season.
Connor McMichael – (Finishing)
McMichael had a fairly decent rookie campaign, far outpacing many of the Capitals players in key offensive metrics. He did however struggle mightily in one key stat – “finishing”. Finishing is the difference between actual goals for and expected goals for (GF – xGF). Simply put, he wasn’t finishing his chances. [Click to enlarge].
McMichael finished dead-last among all Capitals forwards in finishing. The good news, he generated a lot of scoring chances and optimists and analysts, including myself, expect that number to improve significantly this season. He has pretty good play-making abilities, is a vacuum around the goal mouth and has a fairly decent shot. He’s succeeded at every challenge he’s faced since we started tracking him on draft day.
For many, including myself, it’s just a matter of time before McMichael starts scoring in bunches. He wound up shooting 8.6% last season, which isn’t bad, just below league average, and not too shabby for a rookie. I felt he was trying to be a little too fine with his shot locations, just missing corners on a regular basis. He’ll hit more of those this season. Watch this stat in the first month or two of the season.
Joe Snively – (Points/Minute)
Snively is on a different kind of a watch for me. Will there be any let up? He was playing at a very high level for the entire 2021-22 season, both in Hershey and with the Capitals, before the hand/wrist injury ended his season. Can he pick up where he left off? [Click to enlarge]
Snively was third on the Capitals in overall in points per minute of ice time last season. Aside from Garrett Pilon, who scored a goal on his only shot in the NHL, Snively was second only to Alex Ovechkin. That’s pretty impressive.
Many might think that Snively was on a bit of a heater during his 12 games with the Capitals, and that could be true. But again, he was on a heater all season. And 12 games in the NHL is a fairly decent sample size. He was simply a different player coming out of the chutes for the 2021-22 season. Snively was co-MVP on the Hershey Bears last season, even though he left the team for Washington by late January.
I expect Snively’s scoring rate will fall off a bit, but even with a slight fall off, the Capitals may have found something in signing the local undrafted free agent forward. Will he get playing time? Will it be with the right line combinations? Keep an eye on his points per minute of ice time.
I think the two areas to watch listed above will help paint the picture as far as how Connor McMichael and Joe Snively are performing at the start of the season, and potentially key indicators for how things may be proceeding in their developments.
We’ll take a look at a few of the other players and key stats to watch at the start of the season in the remaining run-up to the start of the 2022-23 season.
By Jon Sorensen