30 Days to Go: Can Jake Muzzin Elevate His Offensive Game?
Last season’s most productive defenseman at even strength still hasn’t hit his ceiling.
Our countdown to the 2016-17 season continues, with 30 days to go...
Last season, Drew Doughty took all the plaudits when it came to defensemen on the Los Angeles Kings. His defensive game shined the most — more on that in a few days — but a large piece of his Norris Trophy case centered around his power play production. Norris voters don’t pick out PP performance when they vote, but Doughty’s nine power play goals and 24 power play points helped give him a respectable enough offensive statline. It also made it easy to ignore the fact that Jake Muzzin’s even strength offensive performance outstripped Doughty’s last season.
Sure enough, Muzzin had a nice, well-rounded season: 7 goals, 7 primary assists, and 7 secondary assists. Going on points per 60, that goes to 0.30 goals, 0.30 primary assists, and 0.30 secondary assists per 60 minutes at 5v5 play. Over the course of the season, no full-time Kings defenseman picked up goals or assists more frequently.
As nice as that is for Muzzin, though, he’s capable of getting more, even if he continues doing what he’s doing. (This is a common theme on the Kings, as you might have noticed on Day 36 of the countdown.) For one, he actually had 6 goals and 19 assists at 5v5 in 2014-15. More noteworthy is that Muzzin’s never really had a full season’s worth of great shooting luck. He’s about average at getting the puck on goal on the power play and at evens but has shooting percentages of 2.9%, 5.8%, and 3.9% in the last three seasons. Compare with Alec Martinez’s percentages of 13.9%, 5.8%, and 8.1%. Muzzin took 203 shots last season; a similar output and even the smallest bit of luck could get him past the 15-goal mark.
According to Corsica Hockey, Muzzin, Doughty, Martinez, and Brayden McNabb all had higher points/60 at even strength in 2014-15 than they did last season. LA will need more from all four guys, but Muzzin probably has the best chance to post a career year.