I did a piece over on DobberProspects.com looking at the pedigree associated with second and third line forwards. These are the spots usually up for grabs in training camp for talented prospects ready to make the jump, but in many cases end up going to more veteran players. The article looks at the career-high totals of players on the 2nd and 3rd lines, to reveal that (spoilers) in most cases, 2nd line roles go to skaters who have scored at least 60 points at some point in their careers, and 3rd line roles are held by guys with a 35-40 campaign as their career-best.
The purpose of that investigation was to compare 2017 to 2013, and how rookies in those roles are becoming more common (especially on the 3rd line). But what I wanted to do here is look at how Colorado stacks up against more competitive teams, who have more options for their middle-six than the Avalanche.
As spoiled above, based on 13 competitive teams this season (subjective, I know), the average 2nd-liner has, at some point in their career, scored 58 points. That doesn’t mean they are scoring at that pace this year, but that is the pedigree 2nd liners have on good teams. For 3rd-liners, that number is 37 points.
The Avs are obviously in a different boat than the teams evaluated - their poor standing last season and amount of talent in the pipeline allowed them to be comfortable with rookies holding important roles this year. This is most evident on their current 2nd line of Kerfoot - Compher - Jost, who going into this year had almost zero NHL experience (I gave Compher’s 2016-17 the benefit of the doubt and adjusted his totals for an 82-game campaign). This puts the 2nd line average “career-high” at a whopping (roughly) 7 points compared to the league average 58.
The 3rd line is a little trickier to nail down, so I went with what I consider their most suitable 3rd-line players despite their poor production or ability to maintain that ice time: Andrighetto, Wilson, and Soderberg. This unit averages a career-high of 45 points, which is over 20% higher than the league average. This would’ve been considered a good sign before any games were played, but now that we know how disappointing these players have been, we know this stat provided no advantage at all.
In the case of the second line, it’s no secret that there’s room for improvement. While Compher and Kerfoot are progressing well, they would be better suited further down the lineup on a more competitive squad. It obviously wasn’t the goal to be an elite team right now, because in order to match the best right now, they would need an entire line’s worth of players who have a proven ability to score.
In the case of the third line, however, we established that going purely off past performance leaves the potential for significant disappointment. So maybe it’s a good thing that the league has more rookies on the 3rd line than it did 5 years ago. If the Avs are any indication, a player’s pedigree of scoring capability is by no means a guarantee of suitability in the present, meanwhile, rookies are more talented than they ever have been. Going forward as a team with promising young pieces, it’s possible that the current middle-six deficiencies get filled. Kerfoot and Jost certainly have potential to be scorers in the 58-point range, while Compher and Greer should surpass the 37-point mark reasonable soon (and could push even further). But when the time comes to truly take the next step, it might take a veteran scorer to add the depth the Avs will need to match the deepest teams in the NHL.
What do you think? Does having scorers with a pedigree provide more secure depth than leaving room for youngsters yet to prove their worth?