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2017-18 in Review: Who is Derek Forbort?

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When it came time for the expansion draft, the Kings chose to stick with Derek Forbort. Did they make the right call?

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Los Angeles Kings Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

While the 2017-18 season ended with more of a whimper than Kings fans hoped for, we still learned a lot about the team, its players, and the direction for the future. Over the course of the next month, we’ll dive into the Kings’ roster and take a look at what worked, what didn’t work, and what things might look like in the coming season. Today, we’ll spend some time with Derek Forbort and see if he avoided the dreaded sophomore slump.

For a period of time, Kings fans looking toward the future of the team’s blue line wondered who would be invested in as a defenseman of the future: Brayden McNabb, acquired from the Buffalo Sabres in 2014 and who made his Kings debut the following season, or Derek Forbort, drafted in the first round by the Kings in 2010, who took a longer route to the NHL, not debuting until the 2015-16 season.

By October 2017, the Kings made their choice clear. They extended Derek Forbort with a two-year contract and agreed to expose McNabb in the expansion draft. McNabb went on to take a starring role with the Golden Knights, scoring a career high five goals (not including a very infuriating goal in the playoffs against his former team).

Forbort? He continued to do much of the same as he did the year before. Over 78 games with the Kings, Forbort put up 18 points, matching his total from the previous season. While he skated most often with Drew Doughty - over 840 minutes at even strength - Forbort’s numbers from a scoring perspective peg him as a second-pairing player.

He’s been remarkably consistent over his two full seasons in the NHL, so much so that we could easily tweak a few numbers from last season’s review and have it still be a valid overview of Forbort’s performance. He’s about average when it comes to possession during 5-on-5 play, recording a 51.49% Corsi For in 2016-17 and 50.33% in 2017-18. He’s on the ice for slightly more shots for than he is against, although the shots he does allow are slightly more often turned into legitimate scoring chances.

Derek Forbort 2016-18 Stats

Season GP TOI CF CA CF% SF SA SF% GF GA GF% SCF SCA SCF% HDCF HDCA HDCF% Off. Zone Faceoff %
Season GP TOI CF CA CF% SF SA SF% GF GA GF% SCF SCA SCF% HDCF HDCA HDCF% Off. Zone Faceoff %
20162017 82 1418.07 1275 1201 51.49 664 624 51.55 47 43 52.22 562 561 50.04 237 221 51.75 53.59
20172018 78 1350.38 1209 1193 50.33 653 643 50.39 54 44 55.1 527 552 48.84 196 225 46.56 45.63
via Natural Stat Trick. All stats at 5v5.

Year over year, Forbort from a statistical perspective hasn’t regressed, but he hasn’t begun to pull away from the crowd and establish himself as a legitimate #2 defenseman, either. From an eye test perspective, Forbort did seem to have more poise and consistency to his game in 2017-18. It’s just that his game is so no-frills that nothing about it truly stands out. He does just about everything with a reasonable level of adequacy.

That may sound like damning him with faint praise, but not every defenseman can — or should — be Drew Doughty. Doughty gets the latitude to make risky on-ice moves because the players and coaching staff trust that he has the skill to recover from any mistakes. Forbort just needs to play his game — sometimes physical, not flashy, but gets the job done.

Did the Kings make the right decision in keeping Forbort over McNabb? Maybe. They’re still fairly similar players, and McNabb’s numbers may be skewed in comparison by the different role and different defensive philosophy the Golden Knights utilized with their players. Forbort’s next hurdle will be earning a longer term contract after the 2019-20 season. Both Forbort and McNabb signed similar contracts in 2017, but the Golden Knights chose to lock McNabb up for four years. The Kings gave Forbort two — and there’s just enough competition on the blue line that Forbort’s going to need to make these next two seasons count.

Last year, we asked if Derek Forbort would be able to repeat his performance from his rookie campaign. Clearly, the answer is yes — he didn’t regress, didn’t take a step back, didn’t even really find himself bumped off of the first pairing all too often. Is he an elite defenseman? That’s probably taking it a step too far. But he generally helps keep pucks out of the net, and probably most importantly, meshes well enough with Drew Doughty to allow him to play his own game.