July 21, 2019

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Jack Roslovic on track to be a star, stats show

John Woods / The Canadian Press</p><p>Jack Roslovic, seen defending against the Minnesota Wild’s Eric Staal, has the potential to be the offensive boost the Jets will need heading into the playoffs.</p>

John Woods / The Canadian Press

Jack Roslovic, seen defending against the Minnesota Wild’s Eric Staal, has the potential to be the offensive boost the Jets will need heading into the playoffs.

Coming into this season, Jack Roslovic was the player I saw as the X-factor for the Winnipeg Jets. A young centre who broke into the NHL last season after half of a dominant season in the American Hockey League, he put up about a half a point per game in limited minutes, giving the Jets yet another scoring option heading into the playoffs.

He wasn’t a huge impact player in the Jets’ run to the Western Conference Final with just three assists in 10 games, but there was a ton of promise.

Fast forward to this season and there have been times where Roslovic has struggled to get ice time from head coach Paul Maurice — and while he started the season slotted as the team’s third-line centre with Nikolaj Ehlers, that line never worked and was quickly dismantled.

As the season has gone on, it’s been clear Roslovic has been suffering that dreaded sophomore slump. However, a move to the wing seems to have sparked something of late and the young forward has six points in his last four games, including a hat trick against the Anaheim Ducks last Saturday night.

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Coming into this season, Jack Roslovic was the player I saw as the X-factor for the Winnipeg Jets. A young centre who broke into the NHL last season after half of a dominant season in the American Hockey League, he put up about a half a point per game in limited minutes, giving the Jets yet another scoring option heading into the playoffs.

He wasn’t a huge impact player in the Jets’ run to the Western Conference Final with just three assists in 10 games, but there was a ton of promise.

Fast forward to this season and there have been times where Roslovic has struggled to get ice time from head coach Paul Maurice — and while he started the season slotted as the team’s third-line centre with Nikolaj Ehlers, that line never worked and was quickly dismantled.

As the season has gone on, it’s been clear Roslovic has been suffering that dreaded sophomore slump. However, a move to the wing seems to have sparked something of late and the young forward has six points in his last four games, including a hat trick against the Anaheim Ducks last Saturday night.

It appears Roslovic is beginning to dig himself out of that slump and get back to the player we saw last season — but do the stats back that up?

 

Looking at his on-ice impact on differentials, we can see that last season the only area where he wasn’t at least even was in shots on goal, with passes to the slot being a particular strength the Jets as a team shared, and continue to share.

This season in the first two months, his on-ice differentials took a big hit, especially in high-danger chances, where both he and the whole team allowed a lot more quality shots to get on net than the previous season. All his shot based metrics had him below 50 per cent.

In passing stats, Roslovic remained strong, with few passes to the slot getting through him and the defenders he shared the ice with in the first two months, along with a great amount of puck movement generated by him in the offensive zone.

Puck movement, and defending against puck movement in your own zone can go a long way towards compensating for bad shot locations or being outshot in general, but clearly it wasn’t working for Roslovic early this season, so a change in his play came about.

Over the last two months and a bit, there’s been less focus on dominating puck movement, though when Roslovic is on the ice the Jets still get the better of opponents, and are more focused on getting in tight to the net.

When players are struggling to score, it’s often a coach’s mantra to get into the dirty areas, and it seems as though when Roslovic is out there, his line is taking that to heart.

The question then becomes, has Roslovic actually improved or changed his game much, or is he just playing with better linemates? To answer that, we have to look at his individual tendencies, which we can again compare to last season.

 

For the most part, the differences aren’t huge, but you can see over time that Roslovic has inched his way closer and closer to the net on his shots and shot attempts, while also transitioning towards more of a quick-strike offensive style, with far more attacking off the rush in each segment of time.

Throughout his short career, Roslovic has been one of the most successful passers into the slot in the entire NHL on a per-minute basis, and if that skill holds up over time, it would be crazy of the Jets to not take advantage of it. However, it makes sense that for now, in order to get going, his focus has drifted away from that and more towards improving his shots and attacking with speed.

Another factor in a drop in passes to the slot is that in playing on the wing, he’s going to be engineering the play less often than if he plays centre, and it’s much more difficult to make a pass to the slot when you’re already in the slot in shooting position than on the perimeter attempting to find a teammate.

Fewer passes to the slot hasn’t meant that Roslovic hasn’t been able to flex his playmaking muscles either, as over the last two months only 11 players in the NHL have been connecting on passes off the rush more often than Roslovic, and that group is truly special, boasting names like Aleksander Barkov, Nicklas Backstrom, Mark Stone, and Elias Pettersson.

Obviously you want to see him be able to drive possession eventually and improve those on-ice shot metrics, but Roslovic proving capable of putting himself in that group, even in limited, sheltered minutes, is the kind of thing that makes me think he’s a budding offensive star for the Jets. If his last third of the season sees him fully break out as an offensive force, it would be just the kind of boost Winnipeg could use in the playoffs, especially with Patrik Laine struggling.

Andrew Berkshire is a hockey writer specializing in data-driven analysis of the game.

Andrew Berkshire

Andrew Berkshire

Andrew Berkshire is a hockey writer specializing in data-driven analysis of the game.

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