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Ryan Callahan - A look at his progress

Editor Note By Joe Fortunato: Great story Smurf. Enjoy the main page bump.

The ever popular law firm of duo of Dubinsky & Callahan causes many a debate among Rangers fans.  With opinions ranging from 1st line potential stars, to career 3rd line role players, there is no consensus on what we actually have in these two young forwards.  They have both completed their 3rd season with the big club, and are entering the prime years of their careers.  Thus, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at their progress to date.  In part one, we'll focus on Mr. Callahan.

Ryan Callahan was the 127th pick in the 2004 draft, coming off his first point per game season in the OHL as a 19 year old.  Using the NHL equivalencies data from BehindtheNet.ca, we can look at how Callahan's career has unfolded (I prorated the two AHL/NHL year totals based on the GP in both leagues):

Year Team League GP G A PTS PPG Factor NHLE PPG 82 Game
2002-03  Guelph Storm  OHL  59 14 17 31 0.525 0.29 0.152 12.495
2003-04  Guelph Storm  OHL  68 36 32 68 1.000 0.29 0.290 23.780
2004-05  Guelph Storm  OHL  60 28 26 54 0.900 0.29 0.261 21.402
2005-06  Guelph Storm  OHL  62 52 32 84 1.355 0.29 0.393 32.218
2006-07  Hartford Wolf Pack  AHL  60 35 20 55 0.917 0.44 0.403  
2006-07  New York Rangers  NHL  14 4 2 6 0.429 1 0.429 33.465
2007-08  Hartford Wolf Pack  AHL  11 7 8 15 1.364 0.44 0.600  
2007-08  New York Rangers  NHL  52 8 5 13 0.250 1 0.250 25.511
2008-09  New York Rangers  NHL  81 22 18 40 0.494 1 0.494 40.494
2009-10  New York Rangers  NHL  77 19 18 37 0.481 1 0.481 39.403

After the jump, we'll take a look at these numbers, and try to draw some conclusions.

As we see, Callahan has gradually increased his production over the years, but there seems to be a two year waiting period for each jump.  03-05, he's at ~22pts, 05-08 at ~33 pts (with a hiccup in 07-08), and 08-10 at ~40 points.   Continuing that trend, one might expect Ryan Callahan to increase to ~50 points as he reaches the next two-three years of his career, which fall into his prime.  One point of concern, however, is the preciptious drop in ES production for Ryan.  While stats for PP/SH assists are difficult to obtain for other league, we can look at his goal production:

Year 2002-03  2003-04  2004-05  2005-06  2006-07  2007-08  2008-09  2009-10 
ES Gpg 3.627 7.694 6.341 9.972 12.234 11.402 19.235 10.649

Ryan showed a nice steady production in his even strength goals from year to year, until this past year, where his production fell precipitously.    Several factors could've contributed to this.   Let's look at those in table form:


ZoneStart ZS Rank Shot Distance True Shooting % QualComp QC Rank Qual Team QT Rank
2007-08  56.7 6 of 14 31.2 6.4 -0.012 14 of 14 0.01 9 of 14
2008-09  60.6 4 of 13 27.1 6.7 0.034 5 of 13 0.023 9 of 13
2009-10  44.7 12 of 14 24.2 4.4 0.068 5 of 14 -0.071 10 of 14

For those unfamiliar, ZoneStart represents the ratio of offensive to defensive zone starts.   So at 56.7%, Callahan starts 56.7 starts in the offensive zone for every 43.3 in the defensive end.   True shooting percentage is the goals scored divided by all shots either on goal or missing the net (not blocked).

So first off, we see Callahan was dumped into a highly defensive role this year.  In his first two seasons, Callahan saw him get very favorable starting positions, and he was able to capitalize decently this that role.  With the loss of Betts and Sjostrom, Callahan, along with Drury, was forced to take more of the defensive faceoffs that our beloved 4th liners used to take.  These extra responsibilities certainly took their toll on his production.  That he was rewarded with PP time to help keep his production up is a plus, but if he is kept in his role, he may not see the jump that his trending otherwise may indicate.

The second factor is the quality of the people on the ice with him.  While his ranks among the team have stayed fairly consistent the last two years (Renney clearly sheltered him in 2007-2008 while he got his feet wet), the overall quality has significantly increased, and his teammates have become significantly worse.  Combined with the unfavorable starting positions, Ryan is fighting a serious uphill battle in trying to maintain his scoring rates.

The third and final potential cause is simple mathematical luck.  As you can see, Ryan has been able to get his shots closer to the net each year, but this year, he saw an unnatural drop in his shooting.   Had he continued his typical ~6.6% shooting, he would have provided an extra 4 goals to his ES totals, giving him 14 ES goals and 23 total for the season, both very respectable totals.

So what will this mean for the Rangers and Ryan Callahan going forward?   Based on these numbers, it is clear they are at a crossroads.  If the Rangers (and notably Tortorella) continue to use Callahan as a defensive specialist, we may never actually see how high Ryan's ceiling will go.  This year's FA signings are presumably completed, and so he will certainly have to play in this role for at least one more season.   He'll be just a 3rd line grinder, he'll chip in 15-20 goals, he'll kill penalties, and he'll be beloved cause he hits anything he can find.   However, if they can bring in a defensive specialist next year and ease up on Callahan's assignments, he may actually become the 2nd line, 25-30-55 guy that many see in him.

Coming up in part 2 - Brandon Dubinsky.

credit for the stats goes to behindthenet.ca and hockeydb.com

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