Our off-season task of making sense of the Avs young players’ progress over the season continues with Alexander Kerfoot. Less than 2 months before opening night few Avs fans had ever heard of Kerf and yet there he was. Six months later he ended the season having played all but 3 games, a major accomplishment coming from the NCAA, and 5th in scoring with 19 goals and 43 points.
In contrast to JT Compher, who shares a very similar GF/60 rate of 2.25, the Avs scored plenty of goals when Kerf was on the ice – 2.61 per hour. Pretty impressive considering he was 11th in average ice time for forwards at 5v5, basically 4th line minutes. The number that everyone points to is the 23.4% shooting percentage. Kerf took just over one shot on goal per game (81) and scored on 19 of those. Efficient, Alexander “Tanguay” Kerfoot perhaps.
Time to develop a profile on what happens when he’s on the ice and how he contributes. All numbers 5v5 unless specified otherwise.
Legend: i – individual, CF – shot attempts for, xGF – expected goals for, G – goals, GF – goals for, P – points
iCF/CF – 14.0%, 21st on team
ixGF/xGF – 21.7%, 12th on team
This says that he attempts one-seventh of the shots attempted when he is on the ice and in that respect is only ahead of Sam Girard and Anton Lindholm. Not a great look but his expected goal share isn’t bad so when he does shoot it’s a good one. The ixG number is just slightly ahead of Mikko so he’s in fine company. Not that this is a surprise but this has passer written all over it.
G/GF – 39.1%, 2nd on team
P/GF – 72.4%, 5th among regular forwards
So despite a reluctance to shoot he’s driving the scoring when he’s on the ice.
iCF/60 – 7.33, 21st on team
ixGF/60 – 12th on team
G/ixGF – 2.27, 1st
iSh% – 24.6%, 1st by a mile
This says that although he doesn’t generate many attempts personally, he does generate quality attempts when he does. Furthermore when he does generate quality, it goes in the net at a very high rate. For comparison, his quality rate is slightly more than half of MacKinnon’s yet his actual goal scoring rate is 78% of Mack’s. The Tanguay comparison is apt, he won’t have a career 25% shooting percentage but playing a style like this could make something in the high teens sustainable.
CF/60 – 52.5, 17th
xGF/60 – 1.97, 5th among forwards
GF/xGF – 1.34, 4th among regular forwards
on-ice Sh% – 9.21%, 6th on team
These are all on-ice metrics rather than individual, but like his personal stats it shows that shot generation lags but quality generation is good. Also that when quality is good the team tends to capitalize on that at a high rate.
Kerfoot’s most common linemates were Jost, Yakupov, Wilson, Compher and Andrighetto. Hey, the whole bottom 6 gang is here. His overall goal rates were 2.61 per hour for and 2.25 per hour against. Here are his rates with the various other guys:
Jost – 1.99 for, 2.24 against – offense worse, defense same
Yak – 3.00 for, 1.00 against – offense better, defense amazing (what?)
Wilson – 2.00 for, 3.14 against – offense worse, defense terrible
Compher – 1.17 for, 2.92 against – hideous offense, bad defense
Sven – 3.74 for. 3.00 against – firewagon hockey
He and Jost actually make some sense together, Kerf propped up some lackluster scoring numbers when Jost was on the ice in general and their defensive numbers together were fine. Whatever was going on when Yak was on the ice doesn’t really matter since he won’t be back, I’ll chalk it up to very soft usage. Wilson has a generally negative effect on anyone he’s on the ice with and Kerf was no exception. I never liked Compher and Kerf together, they are both very centery and look like they are both trying to play C at the same time. The numbers look scary (but fun!) with Andrighetto but those two need a third linemate that can… I don’t know if calm is the right word but something like that.
What we’ve got with Kerfoot is a player that’s very good at driving quality offensive chances. Outside of the top line, he’s the next in line when you look at scoring chance rates and converting expected goals into goals. That’s quite valuable. When you look at his 19 goals on 81 shots it looks really unsustainable, and it should. But even if you cut 25% of his goals out from shooting luck or whatever he would still be 2nd to Mack in goals per hour. What does look sustainable and perhaps even quite low is the 12 assists at 5v5 and 24 overall. It really depends on how the staff want to use him. Can you justify giving the 3rd best 5v5 point generator on the team 4th line minutes?
The above visualization of opponent shot attempts when Kerf is in demonstrates where the staff’s concerns lie. When he’s on the ice, that hot zone to the goalie’s left is not a good thing at all. In general the Avs are pretty stout at keeping shots to the outside but for whatever reason, be it linemates or the defensemen deployed when he’s on the ice or his play specifically, that was a problem last season. If they can solve that then we have a serious scoring threat without major drawbacks.
What you might not have noticed is that despite the elevated shots and goals against, Kerf performs many other functions of a center outside of the o-zone quite well. Getting the puck out of the defensive zone is a really good thing and he has high rate of exits with possession. Clean up the also high rate of failures and, like with scoring, he’ll be up with the top line guys
Along with exiting your d-zone, entering the offensive zone is also important and Kerfoot stacks up here with the best as well.
As in most other things, Mack is otherworldly gaining the o-zone but Sven and Kerf are an admirable 2nd and 3rd. Like I mentioned above, that’s a combo I think can step into more responsibility and ice time next season given a complementary winger to complete the trio and make it a viable 2nd scoring line.
Few teams luck into a player like Kerf on the eve of training camp. This past summer the “trade” that brought him here and led to Will Butcher signing with the Devils worked out great for both clubs. The Avs got a resilient high-quality passer that augmented their scoring and as a rookie showed flashes of 2nd line ability. Most that follow the team look at the shooting percentage and write off the chances of him repeating but when you look at his skillset and where the points actually came from it’s not hard to justify thinking he will be even more productive next season. With a similar 16-18 points on the power play, cutting his goals back to around 10 and 20-25 assists at even strength he could hit 50 points, which would make contract negotiations interesting next Summer.
Thanks to naturalstattrick.com, Corsica and the NHL for stats, Micah and hockeyviz.com for the heat map, CJ Turturro/Corey Sznajder for the zone data and our own SeaMill for spreadsheet wizardry.