Earlier this season, Chanelle from THX BUD wrote a piece about the improved play of Trevor Lewis. Though the season was still pretty young at the time, his play had improved in basically all facets. Still, though, even his biggest supporters probably expected a dip in his level of play.
It's just past the midway point of March, and we're still waiting.
Despite missing a handful of games, Lewis is currently tied for 6th on the team with Marian Gaborik in points during 5v5-play. When you adjust for ice-time and look at points/60 at 5v5-play, he moves up to a tie for 4th with Anze Kopitar (1.70 points/60).
Some of this is undoubtedly good fortune. We know Trevor Lewis is not a very gifted offensive player. This isn't really a question that's up for debate. His hands and shot are both still below average, and there's nothing special about his passing abilities.
It's no surprise, then, that the percentage numbers we'd use to evaluate luck are currently tipped in his favor. His shooting percentage at 5v5-play is currently 7.41%, which is more than 2% higher than his previous career best. Similarly, his on-ice shooting percentage (SH% of all his teammates while he's on the ice) is 7.32%, which is also a full percentage point higher than his previous best.
Again, some of this is good fortune. It just so happens that this particular bit of good fortune has been manufactured in part by Darryl Sutter. Lewis has played played 704 minutes during 5v5-play so far this season, and 136 of those minutes have come with Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik on the ice at the same time. That trio has put together a 10.53% shooting percentage so far, which is exceptional (and, even still, a bit lucky). Take Trevor Lewis off of that line and his on-ice shooting percentage dips to a much more reasonable 6.47%.
Even that 6.47% figure is good for Trevor Lewis though, and it would still be a career best figure coming into this season.
With that said, Trevor Lewis's improved play is not simply smoke and mirrors. 'Lewie' has not damaged the production of top line players as he has in years past. In fact, just last season, Lewis and Kopitar posted a 55% Corsi together. That sounds pretty decent, but Kopitar posted an otherworldly 61.2% Corsi away from Lewis. Expand that to a 3-season sample (2011-2014), and Kopitar went from a 55.5% Corsi with Lewis to a 60.1% Corsi away from him. Not so hot.
This season, without the benefit of favorable deployment, the Lewis - Kopitar - Gaborik trio has posted an excellent 59.7% Corsi, and all 3 players see their possession numbers dip when they're split up. For maybe the first time in his career, playing Trevor Lewis does not effectively deter the Kings from performing well. His improved performance could be a fluke, of course, but the cool thing about a career year is that you get to enjoy it as it happens.
On an individual level, Trevor Lewis is - still, as Chanelle also pointed this out in her piece 3 months ago - shooting the puck more than he ever has before. He has already notched a career high in shots at 5v5-play with 108. When you adjust that to a rate stat, his 9.32 shots/60 figure is nearly a full shot better than any other season in his career.
His assist production doesn't appear to be a total fluke either, as he carries an even split between primary and secondary assists. Secondary assists are largely not in the control of players; as such, they tend to fluctuate heavily from season to season. His even distribution between primary and secondary assists is roughly in line with his career norms, although he has so few assists in his career that we don't have a very large sample to work with.
The fact that Lewis is putting up plenty of primary assists speaks favorably to his overall play, and may even be another result of him shooting the puck more often. Most obviously, more shots means more opportunities to score, but it also gives the goalie a chance to spit up rebounds.
Lewis has not suddenly become an adequate top line (or even top 6) player at the age of 28. However, it's possible he has become a useful utility man. He carried a first-round pedigree for a reason, even if the Kings reached a bit to select him at the time. He's a smart, responsible player with well above average speed, and those are useful attributes on any line. Most importantly, his puck skills seem slightly improved this season, and those are something that are theoretically teachable at any age. He's not deking players out and weaving through traffic necessarily, but he's doing basic things like pass and receive the puck better.
I also can't remember the last time he shot from behind the net on a breakaway.
While it's certainly not an ideal situation to have Trevor on the top line, Tanner Pearson's injury and the struggles of some notable veterans have forced the Kings to shuffle things around. The speedy depth forward has responded by being a pretty useful pocket knife that won't be a disaster in any role the Kings have for him. That doesn't mean that Top Line Trevor should last forever, but - for once - it isn't cause for alarm.