Jeff Skinner’s Progress

Carolina fans have a lot to be excited about in Jeff Skinner. He is only 19 years old, has played two full seasons in the NHL and has been one of the team’s best players in both of them. That is pretty amazing because there are some top prospects at his age who are still playing junior hockey. Overall, his game is still developing but he is already a dynamic offensive threat and it has shown this year as he leads the Hurricanes in scoring chance percentage and is second on the team in goals. His play away from the puck still needs some work and he really needs to clear up his act between the whistles but other than that, he’s made a lot of improvements since last season. It might not be showing up on the scoreboard, but Skinner’s offensive game has actually made a lot of strides this year which is what we will look at after the jump.

Skinner’s overall scoring is down from last year as he is scoring at about .4 less at even strength per 60 minutes, but if you look beyond goals and points, you will see that Skinner has actually improved offensively by a wide margin. Goals are very hard to come by in the NHL and while some players are better finishers than others, the most that a skater can do is get himself into a good position to get a shot on goal or a scoring chance. Going by that, Skinner has improved a lot.

Shots/Game Shots/60 Corsi Rel. Sh% On-ice Sh% OZ% Start
2010-11 2.62 9 5.6 14 10.97 53%
2011-12 3.28 10.332 9.5 9.7 9.63 55.5%

Skinner is on pace to have around the same amount of shots on goal as he had last season despite playing in 18 fewer games. His shot rate relative to his ice time has improved by a considerable margin and a big reason why his goal total is down is because his shooting percentage has taken a plunge. It doesn’t matter how good of a goal scorer you are, having 14% of the shots you take turn into goals is hard to keep up, and it’s even more difficult to have the rest of the team shoot at nearly 11% whenever you are on the ice. Shooting percentage has a tendency to do strange things over the course of a year, so Skinner’s goal and point total is prone to bounce around a little bit and that been the case.

What Skinner can control is the amount of shots and scoring chances that he is getting on net and he has improved in that area by quite a wide margin. If we were to adjust his shot on goal total to see how many he would have if he played 82 games, he would have 268 shots on goal. That would put him in company with Joe Pavelski, Gabriel Landeskog and Marian Gaborik this season, albeit with fewer goals. He is still getting soft minutes but he is only 19 and hasn’t developed enough to take the tougher minutes yet. This is possibly why he has struggled a little bit when he plays with Staal because Staal is usually matched up against top defense pairings while Skinner’s line with Jussi Jokinen gets the second pairing on most nights. I do think that Skinner will be able to take those tough assignments in another couple years when he becomes more of a complete player.

Increased powerplay time is another reason why Skinner’s shot rates are so high this year because if one were to break down Skinner’s shot totals by different playing situations, you get some interesting results.

EV Shots/60 PP Shots/60
2010-11 9.012 8.868
2011-12 9.888 12.648

Skinner has improved his even strength shot rate, but his increase there is nothing compared to how many shots on goal he has on the powerplay. This tells us a little about Skinner’s overall game because he is performing a lot better when he has more room to work with on the ice. That shouldn’t be a surprise to a lot of people because of the type of player Skinner is, but the drastic increase in shots from last year is what sticks out to me.

This is why I think Skinner’s offensive game has improved this year even if his goal and point total doesn’t show it. He’s been slightly more effective at creating shots and scoring chances at even strength than he was last year but his effectiveness on the powerplay has been on another level. If he was shooting at the same percentage as he was last year, he would be pushing 30 goals but, unfortunately, shooting percentages don’t always work out like that.

It is going to be scary to see what Skinner can do once he improves his overall game and begins to grow more. He is only 19 and is already a great goal scorer and is already producing at a high rate, so I can only imagine how good he can be once he improves his play in other areas. We’ve seen a little of that this year as his overall possession numbers have improved and he has been trusted with killing penalties, too.

Skinner’s not quite there yet in being a complete player but he is making great progress in doing so, even if his goal and point totals are down.