In the final episode of our Summer series looking at how the Avs youngsters fared last year we get to the best. It’s no longer intuitive to think of him as young but he’s only 21 and was the 2nd youngest regular forward on the team last year. It’s mind-boggling that a 6’5 220 lb forward can score 84 points in his sophomore season and still be an afterthought to most of the NHL media but here we are. Nate MacKinnon deserves tons of credit for Mikko more than doubling his point total from rookie year but Mikko deserves more than he’s gotten for Nate nearly doubling his too.
Mikko’s role all season was top line RW next to Mack and for most of it Gabe Landeskog along with 1st power play unit duty. He led the team in games played (81) and power play points (35) and was 2nd in overall points (84). Probably the biggest knock against him offensively is low shot generation, which falls in line with the other youngsters on the team, and the biggest knock overall is defensive skills. Let’s take a look at his profile:
Legend: i – individual, CF – shot attempts for, xGF – expected goals for, G – goals, GF – goals for, P – points
For the purpose of these comparison I’m looking only at the 16 forwards that played more than 100 minutes last season.
iCF/60 – 9.34, 12th
iCF/CF – 0.155, 14th
ixGF/60 – 0.5, 8th
ixGF/GF – 0.217, 13th
Both rates and shares are low for Mikko’s shot production. I wouldn’t say this is necessarily a bad thing when you’re playing with someone like Mack that generates shots at a fairly ridiculous pace. It does start hinting at the question of would Mikko be better off anchoring his own line. There’s definitely some unused capacity here, his iCF/60 is half of Mack’s. To get to the top 6 on last year’s team he would have needed another two and a half shots per hour which doesn’t seem like a huge ask.
G/GF – 0.237, 10th
P/GF – 0.679, 7th
G/ixGF – 1.46, 3rd
iSh% – 13.3, 3rd
The goal and point shares are fine for a young player that’s on the ice with two offensive powerhouses plus Gabe all the time. They all have to share so they won’t be team leaders here, nor would you want them to be. When Mikko does develop a quality chance he’s very good at capitalizing on it and while the shooting percentage is pretty high I wouldn’t say it’s unsustainable for how he’s playing. The crazy thing is looking at how many points he had then how many goals were scored with him on the ice that he didn’t factor into.
CF/60 – 60.21, 2nd
xGF/60 – 2.3, 2nd
GF/xGF – 1.34, 4th
On-ice Sh% – 9.64, 4th
His on-ice rates are all topnotch which reinforces Mack and Barrie’s influence. Is he a passenger? Yes, but a very good one and it’s not like he had a choice.
CA/60 – 59.42, 6th
xGA/60 – 2.39, 11th
GA/60 – 2.3, 13th
On-ice Sv% – .931, 11th
These defensive numbers seem a little alarming but a) Mikko faces the toughest competition just about every shift and b) unlike most guys on the team he’s on a line that generates a ton going the other way too. He’s got positive CF% and GF% so think high-event rather than defensive liability.
PP iCF/60 – 20.63, 3rd
PP CF/60 – 95.22, 2nd
PP iCF/CF – 0.217
PP P/GF – 0.686
Mikko overcomes his shyness about shooting the puck on the power play significantly. While he lead the team in PP points somehow his point share is even less than at 5v5. He’s definitely the second or third option in the Avs system but was still very productive. In this case I wonder if he becomes more featured as teams try anything to stop Mack on the left side. The key is going to be finding a way through the royal road and more weak side opportunities, which would be fantastic.
Most common linemates were MacK (949 min) and Landy (846 min), next closest was Andrighetto at 118 minutes from before those 3 were put together. During Mack’s injury the staff put Kerfoot in his place at first, which wasn’t that great then they put Mikko together with Jost and Compher which really didn’t work. That stretch was the only time all year when his CF% had a major negative spike but in all fairness he was dealing with his own injury at the time. The conundrum here is that there is little time apart from the other two parts of the top line to get a feeling for what he’s capable on his own.
What we have here with young Mikko is a large skilled forward with scoring talent already at an early age. That’s good to know. What we don’t know is where his ceiling is and more importantly can he take over his own line at some point. That’s going to depend on what they have as far as a 2nd line center when the time comes to give him that responsibility. Right now the candidates are Bowers, Kerfoot and Jost with some dark horses like Kamenev and Shvyrev already appearing. Not to mention what the org can get out of Ottawa’s 1st rounder and their own draft stock over the next couple of years.
Before contemplating a move like that the immediate concerns are backing up what he produced last season and rounding out his overall game. Coach Bednar’s first press conference at training camp showed that the staff have confidence not only in his game but that he can get even better, and I agree. His pedestrian shooting rates show a great deal of unrealized potential. He can be much better outside of the offensive zone with some work and experience. His skating and generally staying upright can get a lot better. There are indications that he’s still growing into his gigantic frame and getting comfortable playing at that height and weight. The finished product is still a few years away.
Thanks as always to Natural Stat Trick, Corsica and the NHL for their statistics and SeaMill for the help with our own derivative stats.