Through the first 27 games the Columbus Blue Jackets’ leading goal scorer is Sam Gagner. With a goal last night in Edmonton he’s up to 12 on the season, scoring 21 points so far this season. He was the league’s overall third star of the week and is continuing to put up an impressive amount of points. Throughout Gagner’s entire career he’s only had a season high of 18 goals and it looks like 30 is within reach.
Gagner has been special to watch on the power play – where he has scored 4 goals and 9 points- but he’s also been a valuable source of depth scoring at even strength. The majority of his goals (8) are scored at even strength and usually in key situations.
Why is Gagner having such a stellar season?
Well, there are several things we can look at here. He’s not playing center, which leaves him available to put himself into the open spaces, rather than finding them. His TOI is lower this season than his career average, which leaves him more rested. It’s a fluke and we’re bound to see the bottom drop out (pshh, yeah right!)
Or he’s playing with great teammates like Lukas Sedlak.
Sedlak’s struggled to gain any league-wide recognition this season but those of us who have been watching him play understand that he’s a very valuable piece to this team’s early season success. In fact, he may be more valuable than any of us have given him credit for.
First things first, when Sedlak is on the ice the Blue Jackets are winning the possession battles. At even strength his line is driving 51% of play and if we adjust for score effects it jumps to 53%. He’s only averaging about 54 attempts per 60 minutes, 11 shy of the goal John Tortorella set for this team, but he’s also able to limit opponents to 52 attempts per 60 minutes. There is a caveat to this as Sedlak does not see a tremendous amount of ice time and most of that is against the oppositions bottom six.
Sam Gagner has 7 even strength goals (according to hockey analysis which is not updated daily) and Sedlak has been on the ice for 5 of those, assisting on several.
Sedlak also leads every skater with shared TOI with Gagner at 181 minutes. That’s at least 80 more minutes than any other skater has seen with Gagner.
Unfortunately when Sedlak is on the ice with Hartnell the possession numbers take a small dive to 49%. They’ve shared the ice for 95 minutes which is nearly half of his total with Gagner. His next most popular linemates are Boone Jenner, Matt Calvert and Markus Hannikainen who have a combined CF% of 52, 59 and 63, respectively. This fact makes me certain that Sedlak would benefit from seeing a little more speed on the ice beside him.
This is a player that, until this year, I’d never even paid attention to. He had a nice offensive outburst in the AHL playoffs last season on the way to a Calder Cup (9 goals and 7 assists) which is presumably what led to his spot on the roster this year. His two goals on the season is not as bad as it looks either. He’s only taken 21 shots and that gives him a 9.5% shooting percentage. He’s also only 23. Plenty of quality players have had to make their NHL debuts this late into their career.
I’m not going to get into a tremendous amount of detail with Sedlak in this post but his early success at the NHL level is something I’ve been wanting to point out for a while. He’s a player worth keeping an eye on through the rest of the season.