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2018 Player Report Card: Riley Sheahan

The season that was for the Penguins big center

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Player Details:

Riley Sheahan, center

Age: 26

Contract: Restricted Free Agent, arbitration eligible (due a $2.075 million qualifying offer)

Resume (via hockeydb):

Sheahan is the classic “big reliable center”. Since breaking into the league he’s played 79, 81, 80 and 81 games this season. He’s a guy you can count on to answer the bell and play every night that certainly won’t wow you, but will be consistent and do small things right all over the ice.

Fancier stats:

Sheahan was used in an ultra-defensive role, taking a team high 380 faceoffs in the defensive zone, compared to just 214 in the offensive zone. (By comparison, Sidney Crosby was 517 oz to 355 dz and Evgeni Malkin was basically the opposite of Sheahan with 466-247 offensive to defensive). Despite that, scoring chances while Sheahan was on the ice ended up being 50.6% in his favor, so that’s a great sign that even though he started defensively, some good things were happening in the transition game while Sheahan was playing.

After coming over in an early season trade, Sheahan took advantage of his new opportunity and probably surprised a bit with his playmaking ability. At 1.18 assists/60, Sheahan ranked 4th among forwards on the team and ahead of guys like Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Conor Sheary and Patric Hornqvist in that metric.

Sheahan was used in a lot of different spaces and places, racking up 140 minutes played with 7 different forwards alone, the most listed above.

One off-season talking point has been the alleged complaints/requests of Phil Kessel and his desire to want to play with Evgeni Malkin, creating some friction with head coach Mike Sullivan who seems to prefer Kessel on his “own” line and not with Crosby or Malkin. One other way to look at this might have been for Kessel NOT wanting to play with a center like Sheahan. And while Sheahan can pass the puck, his shot takes too long to release and isn’t much of a threat. Sheahan’s a good two-way player but more of a plugger, very plodding in his style and skating. That’s not an insult either. Regardless, Sheahan is not the optimal center for a fast-skating, pure-skill offensive winger like Kessel.

The data supports Kessel’s claim too (but more on him in his own report card later on). Kessel+Sheahan were able to score a lot (3.5 goals/60) but literally gave it all back (3.5 goals against/60). Their Corsi together was a drag on both of them, who performed better without each other this season rather than together. The acquisition of Derick Brassard ought to make this more of a moot point for next season, as Sheahan can be relegated back to a 4th line role and the more skilled Brassard can play with Kessel on more of a scoring line, ideally.

Monthly Splits (via yahoo)

Once Sheahan got the Detroit stink off himself early on his stats were remarkably consistent from month-to-month and then even had an uptick of February and March which is always nice to see.

Funky stat:

Sheahan was a 2nd half player; pre-All Star break he only had 4 goals and 15 points in 51 games.

Post-All Star break, Sheahan scored 17 points (7g+10) in 31 games, a pace of a 45 point season had he been able to keep that up for a full season.


“I thought that might have been Riley’s best game as a Penguin. He played a really strong game at both ends of the rink, he did some really good penalty-killing for us and was good in the faceoff circle.” —Mike Sullivan on Sheahan’s 1/2/18 game vs Philly. Sheahan had 2 primary assists in 18:56 of icetime.

“When we traded for him, there had been some rumors before. When it actually happened, I was excited. I was really excited. I knew he had that season where he didn’t have a goal all year until the last game. I would watch games last year and he would get chances, he just couldn’t bury them. But without a doubt, when he got here, I knew that he had the skill to contribute not only in a defensive center role, but certainly offensively as well. He’s big, he can skate, he’s got hands, he can shoot the puck. He’s a smart player. And now he has a ton more confidence.” —Ian Cole

“We’re going to keep pushing Riley to try and get his game to another level because we think he’s capable. He’s a real good hockey player. What we love about him is his 200-foot game, and that’s something we’re looking for for that role on our team. He’s not just a one-dimensional player, we think he can help us at both ends of the rink and he’s been doing that as of late.” — Sullivan

“It was definitely an adjustment, and I just think in terms of outside the hockey rink, you’ve got to deal with finding a good living situation and you’ve got a lot on your plate. Then you’ve got to come into a whole new group of people and it’s tough, but I mean, everyone was awesome. It maybe took me a little longer than I wanted to start playing the way I’d like to, but everyone’s been awesome.” — Sheahan

Gifs of the year

The Grades:

Penalty kill: A

Sheahan was a very integral part of the PK. He was the team leader in SH TOI, and heavily relied upon to start penalty kills. And his 4v5 goals against/60 were best among forwards on the team, can’t ask for much more than that.

Even Strength: B+

Pretty good production for a 3rd line role, Sheahan basically replicated the regular seasons that Nick Bonino was having in terms of boxcars.

Durability: A

Playoffs (3 points [1g+2a] in 12 games): C-

Comments: Many weren’t quite sure what to expect when Sheahan was acquired from the Red Wings since his career was slumping, but he bounced back in a major way and had a solid season. He’s a reliable player who will help a team win by doing some of the grunt work and dirty work required to open up chances for the stars to get better usage. Sheahan helped turn the team’s biggest weakness (no depth centers at all) into a team strength by the end of the year with depth down the middle.

But, unlike Bonino, Sheahan wasn’t able to accomplish much in the playoffs this year. It’s certainly not Sheahan’s fault the Pens lost, but the Caps saw Lars Eller score some big goals, we’ve seen Bonino raise his game...Special years require efforts of depth players to step up and Sheahan certainly isn’t alone among his teammates who didn’t raise their games, but that will have to be noted and reflected in the final grade.

Overall Grade: B


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