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2015-16 Pensburgh Recap: Conor Sheary

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One of the Penguins smallest players comes up really big on the biggest stage of the year in the Stanley Cup Final. Check out the season review for Conor Sheary

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Age and Contract Status

Age: 24 (DOB: June 8, 1992). Has one more season on his entry level contract with a cap hit of $667,500 and then will be a restricted free agent next summer.

Preseason Expectations

By the end of the 2014-15 season Sheary was one of the best players in Wilkes-Barre (scoring 12 points in 8 AHL playoff games) but had no NHL experience and only 1 year of professional experience under his belt. We had Sheary ranked 10th last year in the Top 25 Players in the organization under 25 years old, saying:

With everyone in the NHL looking for the next Tyler Johnson - you know, undersized, skill winger who wasn't drafted but still can play, Sheary is such a contender. Sheary led the AHL Pens in scoring in the regular season as well, and could be a factor at the NHL level as soon as 2015-16.

2015-16 Stats

AHL Regular season: 30 games played, 7 goals, 29 assists, 36 points, 4 penalty minutes

NHL Regular season: 44 gp, 7g+3a, 10p, 8 PIMs

Playoffs: 23 gp, 4g + 6a, 10p, 8 PIMs

Verdict

For a season that started in the AHL in Wilkes-Barre, it ended playing most of the playoffs on the first line with Sidney Crosby, and scoring an important Game 1 goal in the Stanley Cup Final to make the Game 2-0 (just one minute after Bryan Rust opened the scoring). Then Sheary certainly had the moment of his career scoring an overtime winning SCF goal in Game 2 off a faceoff set play and feeds from Crosby and Kris Letang .

Sheary proved conclusively that he's beyond the level of just an AHL player and looked pretty comfortable in a role with Crosby under the brightest of lights, adding up to make Sneary of the team's biggest success stories of the season.

Future

The future looks bright for Sheary. He is in an interesting zone where he probably doesn't work as a bottom-6 winger too well (as we'll see below) but it remains unseen if he's got enough skill and consistency to produce the points required to be in a top-6 role, especially when that means having the pressure of playing with Crosby or Evgeni Malkin . Sheary was a huge beneficiary of the Penguins keeping HBK as a 3rd line, because it opens up a perfect spot for a player like him with good hands and great speed to jump up onto a top line. He'll have to keep producing to keep a spot there, but as we saw in the playoffs, that looks like something he's not totally incapable of.

2015-16 Pens 5v5 Forward Usage Chart

(via Corsica Hockey)

Sheary receives a lot more offensive zone starts than his other fellow young forwards (Rust, Scott Wilson, Tom Kuhnhackl). Which, there's nothing inherently wrong with that, he's also the smallest of the bunch and they don't want him pinned in his defensive zone all shift, they want him generating scoring chances and the coaches are definitely putting Sheary in the best position to do so.

Sheary's HERO Chart

(From Own The Puck)

Playmaking numbers stand out for being in the toilet with only 3 assists in 44 regular season games, but this is an area where more NHL experience should help and we should see a lot of improvement on this next year. Playing first line with Crosby in the playoffs, for instance, Sheary got 6 assists in 23 games.

2015-16 Game-by-Game Analysis

(From HockeyViz, explained here)

sheary72016

An interesting breakout  - when Sheary got his first callup to the NHL, he was playing with skilled linemates like Crosby, Malkin, Patric Hornqvist and Nick Bonino in his first 10 games. He would scored only 2 points, both of them in his second game against Boston on 12/18. But his production went dry, so then he was relegated for the 4th line with guys like Kevin Porter, Eric Fehr, Matt Cullen for the rest of the regular season

Distribution of Teammates and Competition

(From HockeyViz, explained here)

sheary720162

GIFs of the Year

That aforementioned first career NHL goal in his second game, courtesy a sweet pass from Crosby. Which would be a little bit of foreshadowing for the future.

Porter finds Sheary for a nice goal against the Hurricanes in January.

One of the top goals in the first round against the Rangers. Sheary's speed is on full display getting by everyone after blocking a shot. Interestingly, Sheary feasted on Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers this season, scoring 4 goals in 8 games against them this year. For the rest of the league, Sheary only scored 7 goals in 59 games.

Being a good player puts a target on you, as Sheary found out from Tom Wilson's dirty knee.

Game 1 SCF goal. What a pass from Crosby. And nice patience for Sheary to wait for the screen by Hornqvist to clear the shooting lane.

And we finish with Sheary's last goal of the season was by far his biggest, the OT winner for Game 2. Nice little play to even receive the pass from a weird position.

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Feel free to vote in the poll below to rate Conor Sheary's season. Vote based on your expectations coming into the season, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest.