Welcome to Wojtek Wolski day here at Blueshirt Banter. We know what was traded away today, and if you want to help (or console - try not to laugh) Coyotes fans over at Fiveforhowling.com (SB Nation Coyotes), be my guest. But as for right now, let's focus on who Glen Sather has acquired for the biggest scapegoat defenseman since Marek Malik.
I haven't ever seen Wolski play enough to give even a semi-accurate scouting report, so I'll leave that to Fantasy Sports Services:
ASSETS: Has excellent scoring instincts and tremendous puck-handling skills. Owns plenty of size to be able to handle the physical play of the pro game. Can play both center and wing.
FLAWS: Lacks intensity at times. Doesn't use his 6-3 frame enough to score in high-traffic areas. Also needs more work without the puck, and in defensive-zone coverage.
While the assets are sure promising, one thing that may irk us Ranger fans is the first sentence of the flaw. As long as pucks are flying into the net, I personally don't care if a certain player lacks intensity, but if it's the first flaw pointed out on the report, it may be cause for concern. Adrian Dater, the Denver Post Avalanche beat man since '95, thinks said sentence will make or break Wolski in NY. While its not fun to read, it's an outside and neutral perspective. We will see how true that is soon enough, though.
Wojtek (also, use this thread for possible nicknames - I got nothin' right now) has had quite the young NHL career so far. Turning 25 in late February 2011, Wolski has never been below 0.54 PPG - which was good for 14 goals and 42 points over 78 games on an Avalanche team that finished 28th overall in the league. His NHL Equivalency numbers are beauties, averaging 1.3 PPG in 253 OHL games over 4 seasons with the Brampton Battalion. This gives us an average NHL season of 0.56 PPG, or 46 points over 82 games. What's really juicy about Wolski to me is his NHLe ceiling: his best OHL season was his last where he scored 128 points in 56 games or otherwise good for a 2.29 PPG. This puts Wolski PPG ceiling in the NHL at 0.98, or 81 points over 82 games. Yes please, where do I sign?
While his potential is high, his play at the moment is low (for him). He's only got 16 points and he's on pace for 33 - good for 0.44 PPG and career lows all around. While this is daunting, I respect Sather for buying low because as I've said before the numbers turn out more right than wrong usually, meaning Wolski should find his touch once again (maybe not immediately, but over time). Fear not, though, because according to the advanced numbers Wolski isn't playing as bad as his production might indicate.
Here's a fun fact: did any of you honestly know off the top of your head that the ‘Yotes finished fourth (4th to be clear) in the league last season? I didn't. As of yesterday, the Coyotes now sit 18th in the league while the Rangers sit 8th - which should be taken into account when we examine Wolski's play. This can be shown generally by looking at the zone start and finish percentages, as Wolski went from a player who finished of the O-zone more often in 2009-2010 to now going backwards most of the time. With a better team, he should start to shade more towards 50/50 or better.
Beyond that, there is only one more concerning stat before the good that reassures me; his shooting percentage. It has been inconsistent from year to year, hitting its peak last season (to no surprise, his best so far) at 11.13 percent. While this indicates a great year, anything over 10 percent is difficult to do and this season Wolski sits at 8.68 (as of Monday). This isn't his lowest in the past four seasons, as that would be 2008-09 with Colorado when he had his worst season as a pro so far when 7.74 percent of his shots went in. In general, the number of shots Wolski has been consistent (a small but overall insignificant bump last season); and although he is missing the net a bit more this season I think a bigger problem here has been his ice time.
As of Monday, Wolski was seeing less ice than he was in 2007-08 with the Avalanche when he scored 48 points. He led all Coyotes (min 60 GP) in Time On Ice/60 minutes and only played 18 games with them. He now sits in third line territory; something that won't help an offensively gifted player that needs to feel the game and get into a groove with his shooting. This will be something to watch with his future role with the Rangers. I honestly think he could play first line minutes, but at the minimum he should be a lock for the second line (disregarding line combos). Honestly, if given a fair shot at ice time, I think we could see Wojtek's production go back up again. His Corsi statistics (where the puck is when he's on the ice) indicate that he is still playing well against the competition and has been very consistent over the past three years in said category.
As of right now, I would call this a win-win for the Rangers. While they have plenty of depth in bottom-six forwards, I believe Wojtek is a top-six forward for sure. While he could come in and be an impact player immediately, what is more exciting to me is that Wolski is headed into the prime of his career as well. This deal may bring up some minor questions regarding the Rangers Defense at the moment, but in a league where offense is the premium product; this deal brings just that.
Also, here's a text conversation between myself and my long-time friend who is an Avalanche fan:
Rob: Rangers trade Rozival for Wolski... thoughts?
Him: Looking for one way forwards?
Rob: Actually, kind of.
Him: Be ready for solid breakaway moves and no back checking.
Rob: Hahaha I'll take it at the moment.
Hopefully this is what he means...
More commentary coming up here on Wojtek Wolski (W-squared? WW?) day here at Blueshirt Banter. Thanks for reading.