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2018-19 Penguins’ Season In Review: Phil Kessel

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“The Thrill” is once again fielding trade rumors and shooting down deals that aren’t in his best interest, but that shouldn’t veer attention away from his stellar point-per-game season.

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Minnesota Wild Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Vitals

Player: Phil Kessel

Born: October 2, 1987 (31-years-old)

Height: 6-foot-0

Weight: 202 pounds

Birthplace: Madison, Wisconsin

Shoots: Right

Draft: 2006 Boston Bruins, 1st Round, Fifth Pick (Fifth Overall)

2018-19 Statistics: 27 goals, 55 assists, for 82 points in 82 games played

Contract Status: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Phil “The Thrill” is rumored to get traded this offseason. Or then again, maybe not. Our very good, back-to-back Stanley Cup champion and literal point-per-game player is riding out the rumors and shooting down trade offers that aren’t in his best interest thanks to his extensive no-movement clause on his current $6.8 million cap hit until the 2022-23 season. In three years, Kessel will be a pending UFA, and if he manages to stay in Pittsburgh for that long despite media pressing him season after season, I’m sure the fireworks will be even brighter then.

Echoing the offensive sentiment from above, Kessel was once again a consistent force on the score sheet. He didn’t eclipse the 30-goal mark like he did in 2017-18, but he was damn near close enough and kept his number of helpers in the same vicinity. Putting up 27 goals and 55 assists for 82 total points is nothing to turn your nose up at. Haters will point out his minus-19 showing to drag his defensive skill and focus on playing away from the puck, but when you’re dealing with a player lauded for his sniper ability, it’s important to remember that not every forward can be defensive superstars and Selke candidates. That said, if you actually watch the games, Kessel’s defensive work saw a bit of an uptick. He’s a lot faster of a skater than people give him credit for, and he frequently sprinted back on defense in back-checking situations where you’d assume he’d take a backseat approach.

Advanced Stats History & 2018-19 Season

Kessel’s advanced possession metrics took a minor hit this season, and by his final score sheet that comes as no surprise. His 47th to 48th percentile on many of his scoring percentage statistics, such as High Danger Chances For, Scoring Chances For, and High Danger Goals For are a clip lower than usual. On the bright side, Kessel’s 54.17 Goals For percentage sparkled among the rest of his stats, he just needs to be involved in more scoring situations, improve them, and even try to create them himself more often if he can going forward.

Monthly Split

via Yahoo! Sports

As per Kessel’s monthly splits, the biggest eye sore came in the second half of the season, where the known and respected sniper went a full month without a single goal (February) and significantly lagged in the offensive department from January on. Only netting 10 goals in four total months is a huge red flag.

Individual Playoff 5v5 Stats History & 2018-19 Postseason

Season Team GP TOI Goals Total Assists First Assists Second Assists Total Points IPP Shots S% ixG iCF iFF iSCF iHDCF Rebounds Created PIM Total Penalties Minor Major Misconduct Penalties Drawn Giveaways Takeaways Hits Hits Taken Shots Blocked Faceoffs Won Faceoffs Lost Faceoffs %
Season Team GP TOI Goals Total Assists First Assists Second Assists Total Points IPP Shots S% ixG iCF iFF iSCF iHDCF Rebounds Created PIM Total Penalties Minor Major Misconduct Penalties Drawn Giveaways Takeaways Hits Hits Taken Shots Blocked Faceoffs Won Faceoffs Lost Faceoffs %
20072008 BOS 4 43.9 1 1 0 1 2 100.00 9 11.11 0.6 18 10 9 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 4 3 6 1 0 0 0
20082009 BOS 11 143.43333333333 5 3 2 1 8 72.73 30 16.67 2.08 55 41 31 5 2 4 2 2 0 0 0 3 3 1 6 3 0 0 0
20122013 TOR 7 103.38333333333 3 2 2 0 5 71.43 25 12.00 1.79 42 33 17 7 1 2 1 1 0 0 0 8 3 0 13 3 0 0 0
20152016 PIT 24 320.51666666667 5 6 3 3 11 68.75 66 7.58 4.74 124 90 55 20 12 0 0 0 0 0 2 9 10 6 11 4 0 0 0
20162017 PIT 25 335.78333333333 3 6 4 2 9 50.00 48 6.25 2.77 108 69 45 14 8 2 1 1 0 0 2 4 8 7 13 3 0 5 0
20172018 PIT 12 144.43333333333 1 2 2 0 3 75.00 10 10.00 0.69 34 19 11 0 1 2 1 1 0 0 0 6 5 0 6 2 0 1 0
20182019 PIT 4 52.65 1 0 0 0 1 100.00 11 9.09 0.81 19 15 9 2 1 2 1 1 0 0 0 2 0 2 3 2 0 0 0
via Natural Stat Trick

On-Ice Playoff 5v5 Stats History & 2018-19 Postseason

Season Team GP TOI CF CA CF% FF FA FF% SF SA SF% GF GA GF% SCF SCA SCF% HDCF HDCA HDCF% HDGF HDGA HDGF% MDCF MDCA MDCF% MDGF MDGA MDGF% LDCF LDCA LDCF% LDGF LDGA LDGF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO Off. Zone Starts Neu. Zone Starts Def. Zone Starts On The Fly Starts Off. Zone Start % Off. Zone Faceoffs Neu. Zone Faceoffs Def. Zone Faceoffs Off. Zone Faceoff %
Season Team GP TOI CF CA CF% FF FA FF% SF SA SF% GF GA GF% SCF SCA SCF% HDCF HDCA HDCF% HDGF HDGA HDGF% MDCF MDCA MDCF% MDGF MDGA MDGF% LDCF LDCA LDCF% LDGF LDGA LDGF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO Off. Zone Starts Neu. Zone Starts Def. Zone Starts On The Fly Starts Off. Zone Start % Off. Zone Faceoffs Neu. Zone Faceoffs Def. Zone Faceoffs Off. Zone Faceoff %
20072008 BOS 4 43.9 53 36 59.55 36 31 53.73 24 25 48.98 2 2 50.00 23 17 57.50 6 10 37.50 1 2 33.33 17 7 70.83 1 0 100.00 25 14 64.10 0 0 - 8.33 92.00 1.003 2 8 8 40 20.00 7 16 11 38.89
20082009 BOS 11 143.43333333333 144 149 49.15 107 113 48.64 75 76 49.67 11 5 68.75 69 54 56.10 22 27 44.90 5 0 100.00 47 27 63.51 5 1 83.33 67 82 44.97 1 4 20.00 14.67 93.42 1.081 26 19 14 121 65.00 51 25 36 58.62
20122013 TOR 7 103.38333333333 121 147 45.15 94 115 44.98 72 85 45.86 7 3 70.00 58 62 48.33 21 24 46.67 4 2 66.67 37 38 49.33 2 1 66.67 60 82 42.25 1 0 100.00 9.72 96.47 1.062 27 13 9 106 75.00 43 18 22 66.15
20152016 PIT 24 320.51666666667 355 336 51.37 252 223 53.05 198 163 54.85 16 8 66.67 147 156 48.51 66 54 55.00 11 3 78.57 81 102 44.26 3 3 50.00 174 162 51.79 2 2 50.00 8.08 95.09 1.032 79 68 18 307 81.44 141 105 61 69.80
20162017 PIT 25 335.78333333333 316 310 50.48 229 207 52.52 172 154 52.76 18 9 66.67 142 150 48.63 55 51 51.89 9 5 64.29 87 99 46.77 4 3 57.14 150 139 51.90 5 1 83.33 10.47 94.16 1.046 85 77 19 312 81.73 148 109 64 69.81
20172018 PIT 12 144.43333333333 121 150 44.65 88 110 44.44 62 77 44.60 4 3 57.14 55 72 43.31 22 19 53.66 3 2 60.00 33 53 38.37 1 1 50.00 52 57 47.71 0 0 - 6.45 96.10 1.026 30 32 9 136 76.92 45 42 28 61.64
20182019 PIT 4 52.65 67 53 55.83 48 39 55.17 29 28 50.88 1 2 33.33 30 33 47.62 10 14 41.67 0 1 0.00 20 19 51.28 1 0 100.00 32 15 68.09 0 1 0.00 3.45 92.86 0.963 14 13 2 43 87.50 21 17 9 70.00
via Natural Stat Trick

Individual Playoff Power Play Stats History & 2018-19 Postseason

Season Team GP TOI Goals Total Assists First Assists Second Assists Total Points IPP Shots S% ixG iCF iFF iSCF iHDCF Rebounds Created PIM Total Penalties Minor Major Misconduct Penalties Drawn Giveaways Takeaways Hits Hits Taken Shots Blocked Faceoffs Won Faceoffs Lost Faceoffs %
Season Team GP TOI Goals Total Assists First Assists Second Assists Total Points IPP Shots S% ixG iCF iFF iSCF iHDCF Rebounds Created PIM Total Penalties Minor Major Misconduct Penalties Drawn Giveaways Takeaways Hits Hits Taken Shots Blocked Faceoffs Won Faceoffs Lost Faceoffs %
20072008 BOS 4 11.283333333333 1 0 0 0 1 100.00 3 33.33 0.43 8 4 4 1 1 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 2 33.33
20082009 BOS 11 25.616666666667 0 2 0 2 2 100.00 5 0.00 1.02 13 7 6 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
20122013 TOR 7 22.533333333333 1 0 0 0 1 25.00 3 33.33 0.55 8 5 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 1 1 0 0 0 2 0
20152016 PIT 24 86.716666666667 5 6 5 1 11 78.57 28 17.86 3.85 41 35 33 12 4 4 2 2 0 0 0 5 0 0 3 0 0 0 0
20162017 PIT 24 85.666666666667 5 6 3 3 11 68.75 17 29.41 2.28 39 27 17 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
20172018 PIT 12 53.9 0 6 2 4 6 75.00 6 0.00 0.92 14 11 8 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 7 0 1 2 0 0 0 0
20182019 PIT 4 14.033333333333 0 1 0 1 1 100.00 2 0.00 0.29 5 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
via Natural Stat Trick

Like the rest of his teammates, Kessel’s advanced stat line in the postseason looked excellent — it just lacked the same finishing ability. His possession metrics were superbly high — his Corsi and Fenwick For rates nearly reached the 56th percentile — but Scoring Chances For and High Danger Chances For (the metrics that usually yield goals) are where they went by the wayside. However, Kessel was among the few Penguins who actually hit twine in the playoffs against a tight-knit, defensive Islanders team.

Charts (via HockeyViz)

Overall Role & General Data

Kessel’s even-strength shot rates and goals per hour, for the most part, stayed amongst the “good” section of the graph, which is demonstrated in his advanced metrics above. Once he gets back his nuclear finishing prowess, he’ll be back to being the ol’ Phil we know and love.

Usage

Kessel spent most of his time flanking Evgeni Malkin’s right hip on the second line, but he also spent some time in the early season with Carl Hagelin, who’s a dreaded Capital now, and Derick Brassard, who’s sitting the bench in Colorado. In the second half of the season, Kessel saw some time with Zach Aston-Reese, who had his own injury problems yet again this year. Kessel moves around the lineup a lot, so hopefully Mike Sullivan can find a more consistent place for him come October.

Even-Strength Unblocked Shot Locations

This image is very self-explanatory, so I’ll save you a huge write-up. Kessel’s shot locations stay very centralized near the slot, but because of his handedness, he’ll often take his famous one-footed wrister from the right circle (many times off the rush) any time the space is given to him. Hint: don’t give Kessel time and space. He’ll rip a hole in the netting every time.

Shot Rates

As mentioned above, Kessel’s defensive work always seems to take a backseat to everything else, as shown by the bottom left-hand corner’s red spots, but normally that means that his offensive game is charged up. That wasn’t the case in the latter half of the 2018-19 season, as evidenced here in an article I wrote back at the end of February:

But Kessel’s slump seems to go deeper than a few glaring on-ice mistakes. Lack of attention to detail. Lack of energy. Lack of interest. When Kessel’s game is off, boy is it ugly to watch. He has genuinely looked broken and lost since the team’s return from their bye week and the NHL All-Star break.

In Kessel’s past 10 games, he’s sporting a lowly 42.16 average Corsi For percentage to go along with his mistakes. According to analyst Sean Tierney’s player charts, his shot rates are regressing rapidly. He continues to opt for the extra pass instead of shooting on clear looks. He’s fanning on one-timers on open nets. His giveaways come at the worst moments and are yielding goals against. He’s committing untimely penalties. And though he has five points (all assists) and 10 shots on goal in that 10-game stretch, his last goal came on January 30 against the Lightning.

Though he’s steadily getting quality chances, Kessel’s performances are graded on how well he fares on the score sheet — that’s just the type of player he is. And when he’s not putting pucks in the net, all his other attributes are exposed.

Ideal 2019-20

Thanks to a bombshell article by Josh Yohe of The Athletic, Jim Rutherford has seemingly conceded on attempting to trade Kessel this offseason and has stated that the elite winger will likely be playing for Pittsburgh next season. That being said, Kessel really needs to get back to his consistent goal-scoring ways and keep filling the score sheet after the calendars change, or more troubled waters will be afoot. He was a point-per-game player when it’s all said and done, but when all the points are being scored in the beginning of the season and are very sparingly coming in the second half, that’s still a problem. Kessel’s power play scoring came often in the month of March too, so more participating on the PP on a month-to-month basis would be welcome with open arms by all.

Discussion

Are you happy to see Kessel balking on all the trade offers Rutherford tried to put together to ship him out of Pittsburgh? Would you have rather had Jason Zucker come out of Minnesota if it meant Kessel and Jack Johnson were included in the package deal? Would taking on Victor Rask’s contract blatantly erase any progress done with ridding the team of Johnson in that situation? Do you think these trade attempts have broken or tarnished Kessel’s relationship with Rutherford or the team? There are many opinions to be had of this entire situation.

Poll

Poll

Grade Phil Kessel’s 2018-19 Performance

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    A
    (67 votes)
  • 61%
    B
    (255 votes)
  • 16%
    C
    (66 votes)
  • 4%
    D
    (20 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (4 votes)
412 votes total Vote Now