2019-20 Season Review: Lean Bergmann has time on his side

The 12 games Bergmann played with the Sharks were unexpected. Did the winger make the most of them?

Twelve regular-season games and one assist isn’t much to go on, but there’s still a few things we’ve learned in those double-digit NHL games about Sharks winger Lean Bergmann.

First is that his overall numbers don’t look great. He did manage to show some progression toward the end of the season in some individual games. Aiding in the optimism is that Bergmann is still young; this is the 21-year-old’s first professional season, and he came into it with fairly limited experience on North American ice. He had played parts of three seasons in the USHL, totaling 125 games, but returned to Germany in 2018.

In addition to his 12 NHL games, Bergmann played 31 games with the Sharks’ AHL affiliate, the San Jose Barracuda, and tallied eight goals and nine assists. One concern from Bergmann’s signing was the rookie’s penalty minutes, and unfortunately that trend did not improve stateside, racking up 49 penalty minutes in the AHL, fourth overall on the ‘Cuda, in fewer games than all three players with more PIMs.

Though Bergmann didn’t have much of a positive impact on the team, his negative impact wasn’t necessarily the worst that could be expected from an undrafted 21-year-old rookie. The Sharks were obviously in an exceptional situation with injuries over the last season, but the fact the Bergmann didn’t get completely buried in his limited NHL minutes is assuring.

Averaging about eight minutes per game, Bergmann was on ice for 108 unblocked shots and attempts (Corsi) against at 5-on-5, compared to 74 Corsi for, leaving a 40.66 Corsi for percent on the season — the worst on the team. For comparison, Lukas Radil, who finished second to last and lost favor with the coaching staff quickly this year, finished with 45.24 Corsi for over 14 games. They put up similar performances, but the difference is that Radil is a few months away from turning 30, while Bergmann is barely out of his teens.

In an ideal world, we don’t see Bergmann at the NHL level next season, but his development is far from over.

RAPM Chart (via Evolving-Hockey)

The graphic above illustrates a player’s Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus (RAPM), a measure created here by the twins behind Evolving-Hockey to attempt to “isolate a given player’s contribution while on the ice independent of all factors that we can account for.” For more on their process, see this explainer on Hockey Graphs.

Not much to glean here, at it looks about how anyone else with a small sample size and average fourth-line performance does.

Career Summary (via HockeyViz)

Remember in the bottom image that positive numbers are better for offense and negatives are better for defense.

Bergmann isn’t very good at either of those things yet.

What Comes Next?

Bergmann has two years left on his three-year, $925,000 average annual value contract. Whenever the off-season happens, I expect more European depth signings from Doug Wilson and crew, giving Bergmann some more time to cook in the AHL. I hope the team is healthy enough to give him an entire season in the AHL, at minimum.

Getting his feet wet this year is assuring, but ultimately Bergmann is looking at the ceiling of a third-line winger, pending some kind of unexpected break-out. Rushing him back to the big leagues should become unnecessary as the league returns to normal. The eye test, combined with his age makes me want to give him all the time he needs to grow.