Last week we wrote about the gap in the Seattle Kraken goal differential compared with better teams and illustrated the target goal differential the team would need to hit to become playoff contenders. This week we are going through a goal forecasting exercise to estimate the number of goals on the current roster and what might be needed during free agency.
This is an over-simplified analysis and does not consider a lot of the additional skill sets and factors that would be considered by general manager Ron Francis and team. There are a lot of assumptions and gaps in the process, but directionally, this team clearly needs goal scoring to become contenders, and this sheds some light on how much more it needs.
Goal scoring projections for known or expected players next season
We recognize that the roster can and will change between now and the start of the 2022-23 season, but there are several assumptions we can make about the current rosters, specifically which players we can pencil into the lineup.
Assuming there are no major trades or injuries before the season starts, we expect Alex Wennberg, Jaden Schwartz, Jared McCann, Jordan Eberle, Matty Beniers, Yanni Gourde, Brandon Tanev, Joonas Donskoi, and Max McCormick to play somewhere in the Kraken organization. Except for McCormick, all are expected to play in the NHL full-time. For now, we are going to also assume that the list of restricted free agents will also remain with the franchise. Those players are Ryan Donato, Daniel Sprong, Kole Lind, Alexander True, Morgan Geekie, and Karson Kuhlman. There is a chance that one or two of those players do not get qualified, which would mean they become unrestricted free agents and likely play somewhere else.
On defense, Adam Larsson, Carson Soucy, Jamie Oleksiak, Vince Dunn, and Will Borgen are all under contract, while Haydn Fleury, Cale Fleury, and Dennis Cholowski are restricted free agents. For now, we are assuming that all three RFA’s are qualified and will be back with the organization next season.
Player game capacity
Just because they are in the organization does not guarantee they are playing each game. The typical NHL line-up every night is 12 forwards and 6 defensemen. Project that over 82 games and you have 984 forward games and 492 defenseman games. We are going to call that “player game capacity.”
Forecasting the lineup
To keep this very simple, we are forecasting the number of games each player plays by looking at his utilization and assessment of his play in 2021-22. The number of games that the players actually play will obviously vary from the forecast, but we feel this is a good starting point that will balance out across the team.
Here is a look at the forwards:
- Schwartz and Tanev are estimated at 75 percent of games because they are coming back from injuries that might be nagging or create some level of uncertainty.
- Geekie and Donskoi are estimated at 75 percent because they were healthy scratched a few times last year. Both could end up playing over 90 percent of the games but for now we are sticking with the 75 percent.
- The forecast total of the current roster is not at the full 984 player game capacity because we anticipate the signing of two skilled forwards during free agency that are expected to play in 90 percent of the games.
Here is a look at the defense:
- We are confident that Larsson, Soucy, Oleksiak, and Dunn will be in the lineup every night if healthy. After that we become less confident in how much others will play.
- Cale Fleury had an excellent season in the AHL and could draw into more than 20 games this season, but for now, we are expecting him to weave in and out of the lineup.
- We are forecasting one defenseman signing in free agency. If the team does not sign a defenseman during free agency, we are reasonably confident that the bottom four defensemen listed can play more regularly next season.
Forecast the goal scoring
With the intent of keeping it simple, we are going to forecast goal scoring at the same rate the players had during the NHL 2021-22 season. We acknowledge this will not be accurate, but on the aggregate, we think this is a fair and reasonable starting point.
Here is a look at the forwards:
- Brandon Tanev’s goal scoring pace in 2021-22 was well above expected before he got hurt, so there could be a regression in his goal production per game. His 14.4 goals could be a little high.
- Morgan Geekie is someone we expect to take a step forward this season. His 5.9 goals feels a little low.
- Joonas Donskoi struggled to find the net last year and estimating his goal forecast on last year’s production rate yields an extremely low estimate.
Here is a look at the defensemen:
- Dunn should benefit from a full year on the team’s top power play unit. A spot there opened after the 2021-22 trade deadline move that sent Mark Giordano to Toronto. This should help his scoring opportunities and production.
- We expect a moderate increase from Jamie Oleksiak next season, but for now, we are leaving it at zero goals based on his 2021-22 pace.
Putting it all together
In our last post we mentioned the target for becoming playoff contenders is to have a negative five adjusted goal differential. We mentioned that we are assuming a slight and reasonable improvement of 10 fewer goals allowed on the season from the Seattle Kraken goalies. This is based on expected regressions to Grubauer’s traditional numbers and his play down the stretch of last season. Such an improvement would put the estimated goals against at 248. Based on the exercise in this post, we are forecasting 197.4 goals from the current rostered players. That leaves us with a current goal differential of -50.6 goals and a gap of 45.6 goals to reach the negative five goal target.
If the Kraken intend to be aggressive in free agency to become a contender, there are plenty of candidates on the market that can help close that gap to become contenders. We estimate that the Kraken could sign at least two skilled forwards and one skilled defenseman during free agency.
In the next post we will breakdown the potential free agent targets and the likelihood they could sign in Seattle.
Interesting analysis. Three points to consider:
1) Ryker Evans might have a shot to take a roster spot on defence, but I’m not sure how to forecast his production.
2) Seattle’s PP was subpar last season. Targeting a RHD to run PP2 could improve scoring for all players on the PP unit. Having an improved PP2 unit could help the scoring on PP1 indirectly too.
3) The article says this analysis could help shed light on potential moves in free agency, but this could also be used to estimate the impacts on scoring from a trade also.
All very good points Mike. The analysis was intended to be very basic and understandable for all hockey fans. Then we can layer on nuance and complexity which is exactly what you did….I love it.
1) Evans is an interesting one. Even if he does not makes the roster out of camp, I do expect him to get some games. The estimates on the bottom four D listed are low and if we want to be conservative, Evans will be in that range as well. (hopefully higher)
2) PP(and PK) was really bad last year. Keep in mind, Gio is no longer on the team so talent wise, it got worse. That makes me think the changes on the PP need to be systematic, not necessarily personnel. Either way, that is another opportunity for the team to improve and add more goals to the Goals for category. Acquiring a skilled RHD would also help.
3) Absolutely. It is a framework to identify needs and potential impacts.
Thank you for the excellent comments and insight.