Filip Forsberg made the Nashville Predators go last season. In what was technically his rookie season, despite having 18 NHL games to his name before the 2014-15 campaign got under way, the 20-year-old Swede racked up 26 goals and 37 helpers to lead the team in scoring.
Heading into this season, there were question marks surrounding Forsberg. Could he follow up his remarkable year and continue on with an 11.0 shooting percentage? Would his game suffer if his aging 35-year-old centerman Mike Ribeiro’s game fell off? Could he continue to carry the load offensively at such a young age?
Through 55 games a season ago, Forsberg had already recorded 19 goals and 31 assists. Through 55 games this season he has 18 goals and 19 helpers. Forsberg had five power play goals and 11 assists this time last season and has three goals and 11 helpers this year.
It is worth noting that Forsberg has seemingly caught fire as of late with four goals and two assists over the last three games. When it comes to possessing the puck, his Corsi For percentage has not fallen off too much from his impressive rookie campaign.
Through 55 games last year, his all situations Corsi For stood at 60.7 percent. This season it has dropped to 57.3 percent. Nevertheless, both numbers are impressive.
There are two statistics that have changed quite a bit from this point of the season a year ago. The 6’1” forward’s ZSO%Rel (fraction of offensive zone starts vs defensive zone starts, relative) stood at 30.4 percent. This year it is 23.4 percent. His PDO (essentially a luck meter that should be around 100.0) has dropped from 104.3 percent to 98.5.
There are two very simple explanations for these drops: playing on the penalty kill and power play shooting percentage.
Last season’s version of Forsberg saw a total of 1:55 of short-handed ice time. This season he has already played a total of 92:40, the fifth-highest total on the team, while averaging 1:41 of short-handed time per contest. Simply put, Forsberg is starting more in the defensive zone simply due to the fact that he has been called upon to be a penalty killer for the Predators.
Whether it is a good thing or bad thing to have one of the team’s top forwards blocking shots and killing penalties, it is a reflection of Forsberg’s skill set of being able to do more than put the puck into the back of the net.
When it comes to the Swede’s shooting percentage, he shot at a remarkable rate of 11.5 percent through 55 games a year ago and this season that number sits at 11.3 percent. While those numbers are extremely close, it is his power play shooting percentage that has dropped off rather drastically going from 15.6 percent to 10.0 percent. In total, he put 165 shots on net in 55 games a year ago and 161 this season.
All in all, Forsberg’s offensive numbers have dipped a bit from last season to this season. His point total is not near what it was, his possession numbers have dropped off ever so slightly and he has not been as deadly in the offensive zone.
With that being said, he has shown that he can play a complete game. He can be a go-to guy in even strength situations and on the power play, as we saw a season ago, but he has evolved into a jack-of-all-trades as a successful penalty killer who can bring a physical presence to the ice.
Forsberg has 81 hits under his belt compared to 71 at this point a year ago while also taking just 61 hits compared to 74 hits. He has put his body on the line even more so in blocking shots with 31 already this year compared to a total of 29 for the entire 2014-15 season. Since joining the penalty kill unit, his takeaway numbers from this point of the season a year ago to the present have jumped as well, from 35 takeaways to 43.
Forsberg does not turn 22 until August, but he’s already put together a Calder Trophy-caliber rookie campaign last season, is on track for another 25+ goal and 20+ assist campaign this season and has stepped into a pivotal role on the team’s penalty kill.
Forsberg has done his part, but it will be up to him continuing to perform on the same pace while receiving a bit of help from his counterparts for the Predators to make the postseason for the second consecutive year.
All stats via War On Ice.