Player Power Rankings, Week 13: Double Karlsson Edition

More Karlsson! We need more Karlsson!

Welcome to Fear the Fin’s weekly(ish) player power rankings. Who had the biggest impact, the best goals or the prettiest smile in the week that was and who you should totally grab off of waivers in your fantasy league to stick it to Derek in accounts receivable. All rankings subject to the whims of fate and whatever we’re feeling in the moment.

In 2014-15, Carey Price had one of the more dominant seasons for a goaltender in NHL history. At the NHL Awards, Price walked away with a share of the Jennings Trophy for the goaltender whose club allowed the fewest goals (shared with Chicago’s Corey Crawford), the Ted Lindsay award for the most outstanding player as voted on by the players, the Vezina Trophy for best goaltender, and the Hart Memorial Trophy for most valuable player. Price became the first goaltender to win the Hart since Jose Theodore in 2002 (also for the Canadiens, they should cut their goalies some slack), and just the eighth goaler to win the award since its introduction in 1924. It was to be the beginning of a defensive dynasty, as the Montreal Canadiens, led by Price, would go on to dominate the entire NHL for years to come.

Except it didn’t quite work out that way. Price sprained his MCL early in the 2015-16 season and, though initially it was reported that he would only miss four to six weeks, Price did not return until October 2016. The Habs disintegrated: after winning their division handily in 2015 with 110 points in the standings, Montreal missed the playoffs by a mile the next year, recording 82 points and finishing sixth in the Atlantic division.

One of the more interesting rhetorical exercises to come out of the 2016 NHL Awards was (and this will sound familiar to anyone who had heard of Taylor Hall last year) what does “valuable” mean? If the Hart goes to the player who most effectively demonstrated his value to his team, should the award not go to Price again for demonstrating, through his absence, that he was worth 28 points? Can the value of a player, in other words, be demonstrated more fully with their absence than with their presence?

Enter the San Jose Sharks and Erik Karlsson’s two game suspension. In the two games the Sharks played without Karlsson in the lineup, the hole he left in the line up was vast, and he wasted no time reminding us all of his value on Saturday afternoon.

1. Erik Karlsson

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week113430476.21

Last week: 5

Karlsson put on a clinic in Edmonton. Recording four points, a team-leading shot attempt share and no shortage of game-breaking plays (particularly on the power play, a dimension of his game explored in yesterday’s entry of our excellent Winning Play series), Karlsson made fools of the Oilers, low bar that that is.

Karlsson’s adjusted 5-on-5 shot attempt share is the highest among all NHL defensemen with at least 200 minutes played and his 131 shots through 38 games is third in the league (Brent Burns is second). Much has been hypothesized and questioned about Karlsson’s role on the Sharks and the time it will/has/should take him to adapt to it, but Saturday’s display should end what little debate there was about how valuable a player like Karlsson is.

Advance apologies to Cam Talbot for the victimization he’ll undergo in this column. Of note in this clip is Karlsson’s second pass, to Joonas Donskoi. By leaning forward and reaching the puck ahead of himself, Karlsson effectively turned a 3-on-1 into a 2-on-none, taking Edmonton defender Caleb Jones entirely out of the play. This is only possible because Karlsson’s first pass, to the trailing Tomas Hertl, forced Jones to close the gap on the Czech, opening space behind him for the primary assist. Karlsson now has 14 points in a nine-game streak so, in case there are any doubters left: Erik Karlsson is good at hockey.

2. Melker Karlsson

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week230332757.25

While Erik Karlsson deservedly gets the lion’s share of the attention around here, another Karlsson made his mark on the Sharks’ fortunes this week. Leading the team with three goals in two games, and firing a team third-most seven shots on goal, Melker Karlsson has finally made his way into these rankings’ hallowed halls. Karlsson made himself a nuisance in both games this week, and when he wasn’t scoring goals himself, he fought in corners and impeded goalies with well timed screens. Karlsson’s underlying numbers are less than spectacular, so let’s all just enjoy our time with him this week while it lasts.

While we’re all still waiting for the Sharks to call up Linus Karlsson from the Swedish pro league he’s currently dominating so that we can see a Karlsson goal assisted by Karlsson and Karlsson; thanks to Melker, we’re two thirds of the way there. This play is a good example of Melker trusting his instincts. Initally, Melker headed back to the point to cover for his aggressively pinching countryman, but halfway there he changed his mind, opting instead to head to the front of the net where he belongs. He was immediately rewarded with a deceptive and perfect pass from behind the net, which he wasted no time converting.

3. Barclay Goodrow

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week205522164.21

It’s a bottom-six love fest here at the power rankings this week, as our resident fourth line center and financial adviser Barclay Goodrow led the Sharks in scoring this week with five assists. Goodrow has toiled at the bottom of the line up with little fanfare, but, in addition to managing John Tortora’s 401K probably, Goodrow has managed the team’s eighth highest shot attempt share with the sixth lowest offensive zone start percentage. The Torontonian is being assigned the most difficult jobs and excelling.

One of the reasons Goodrow isn’t mentioned more in this space is that his play does not tend to lend itself well to highlight reels. The way that Goodrow shrugged off Anaheim defender Josh Mahura here is noteworthy, though. Goodrow waited until the Ducks shifted their coverage to compensate his movement before tossing the puck back to Donskoi behind the net; Mahura backed off to concede coverage of the Shark to Brian Gibbons, and Gibbons hadn't yet applied any real pressure. Goodrow made good use of this gap to move the puck to a soft area, and the goal followed soon after.

4. Brent Burns

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week212330966.29

The Sharks’ game against the Ducks on Thursday was the 1000th of Brent Burns’ career, not to mention his 429th regular season game in a row. Burns celebrated by leading the team in ice time with 29:15, in shots with nine, while adding three blocks, three hits and, oh yeah, the game winning goal. That goal ended quite a drought for the big man, as it was his first since Dec. 2, a span of 11 games. With two more assists on Saturday, Burns holds a share of the team lead in points, and sits second in the NHL in shots among defensemen (eight behind Nashville’s Roman Josi). Burns may not be the best defenseman in the league, but he’s still clearly one of its best players.

Aided in no small part by an excellently timed Melker Karlsson screen, Burns’ bomb sneaked right under Chad Johnson’s right arm, ringing off of the far post and in. As long as Burns keeps pacing the NHL in shots as he does, he’ll score goals with more frequency than this, and he is showing no signs of slowing down.

5. Tomas Hertl

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week221320938.44

Last week: 1

Tomas Hertl should never be too far from these rankings, nor from our hearts, and here we are. Hertl’s nine shots on goal shared a team lead with Burns over two games this week, and his two goals trailed only teammate Melker. Hertl’s empty net goal to finish off the Ducks on Thursday was his 200th NHL point, and along with a goal and an assist in Edmonton on Saturday, he now has five goals and nine points in his last seven games, leading the team (with Erik Karlsson) in that span.

Yes, empty net goals are worth less in our minds, but they’re worth the same amount on the score board, and there’s enough here to really dig in. Hertl corralled the puck in the neutral zone and fought off a stick check from Jakob Silfverberg before coasting into the Ducks’ zone. Shortly, though, he was beset from behind by Brandon Montour and in front by captain Ryan Getzlaf. Always the selfless giver, Hertl opted to drop the puck to a trailing Goodrow who, after fanning on his initial shot, still got it past Getzlaf back to Hertl. Hertl absorbed an assuredly accidental head shot from Montour and launched the puck home for the milestone. Keep that puck, Tomas, you earned it.

Hono(u)rable mentions

Radim Simek: Despite not showing up on many stat sheets, Simek made his presence known on Thursday against Anaheim. Simek threw hits, started scrums, broke up passes and made himself an all around nuisance to the Ducks, and that is worth a lot in our book.

Logan Couture: With two goals during Saturday’s dismantling of what’s left of the Edmonton Oilers after Chiarelli insists on systematically crippling them, Couture reclaimed a share of the team lead in points at 38, tied with Burns.

Connor McDavid: Just look at this goal, just look at it. The game is already over, and it isn’t worth anything, but just look at the friggin’ kid.

What the heck even is that?