How Does Filip Forsberg’s Season Compare to Recent Rookie Campaigns?

Filip Forsberg has been leading the Predators in scoring, but how good has he really been?

With the 11th overall selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the Washington Capitals selected right-winger Filip Forsberg. Prior to the draft, Forsberg was regarded as a top - if not the top - European skater in the class.

However, the native of Osterville, Sweden fell outside of the top 10, as eight of the first 10 selections were defensemen, and was eventually picked by the Capitals.

In the year immediately following his selection, Forsberg returned to Sweden to play another season for this previous team, Leksands IF in the HockeyAllsvenskan league, the second-highest level in that country. In March 2013, the Capitals traded Forsberg to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Martin Erat and Michael Latta. Shortly after, the Predators recalled Forsberg from Sweden, and he made his NHL debut April 14, 2013.

While he broke camp with the Predators in 2013-14, Forsberg was quickly assigned to the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League. He played admirably while in Milwaukee, scoring at a pace of 0.72 points per game. Forsberg was even more impressive in last year’s IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships, helping Sweden to its second straight silver medal.

YearTeam (League)GPGAPts
2011-12Leksands IF (Allsv)438917
2012Sweden (IIHF WJC)6011
2012Sweden (IIHF U18)6527
2012-13Leksands IF (Allsv)38151833
2013Sweden (IIHF WJC)6325
2012-13Nashville Predators5145
2013-14Nashville Predators13145
2013-14Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)47151934
2014Sweden (IIHF WJC)74812

Fast forward.

Here we are, through the end of November for the 2014-15 season, and Forsberg has registered 10 goals and 13 assists; he is currently leading the freshman class in all offensive categories. (While not a “true rookie” because of his appearances during the past two seasons, Forsberg still qualifies for the Calder Memorial Trophy as he had not yet reached the games-played limit at the start of the season).

Filip ForsbergNSH2310132320670
Johnny GaudeauCGY24413179544
Andre BurakovskyWSH2349131331
Tanner PearsonLA24931211139
Aaron EkladFLA2129110137

Prorated to a full 82-game schedule, he is on pace for an impressive 36 goals and 46 assists for 82 points. Quite impressive! The question now is just how this season would compare to rookies in recent history.

Stacking Up

For this article, we have taken the top rookie years since 2007-08 (the earliest years advanced statistics are available) and studied all of the rookies that have scored more than 50 points.

Patrick Kane2007-088221517219111.00.88
Nicklas Backstrom2007-08821455691539.20.84
Nathan MacKinnon2013-148224396324110.00.77
Jeff Skinner2010-118231326321514.40.77
Matt Duchene2009-108124315518013.30.68
Peter Mueller2007-088122325420110.90.67
John Tavares2009-108224305418612.90.66
Jonathan Toews2007-086424305414416.70.84
Gabriel Landeskog2011-12822230522708.10.63
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins2011-126218345213413.40.84

Our sample size is a convenient 10 players, ranging from Patrick Kane to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Here is how each of them performed, on a point per game basis, over the first two months of the year.

John Tavares2009-10272011317427.031.15
Jeff Skinner2010-1124719266011.671.08
Patrick Kane2007-0825720276810.291.08
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins2011-12251116275221.151.08
Filip Forsberg2014-15231013237014.281.00
Jonathan Toews2007-08231010205817.240.87
Nathan MacKinnon2013-142551116726.940.64
Nicklas Backstrom2007-082621214345.880.54
Matt Duchene2009-102868145810.340.50
Peter Mueller2007-082274114814.580.50
Gabriel Landeskog2011-12255611796.330.44

Here are their numbers for the remainder of the season, December through April.

Nicklas Backstrom2007-08565510.10.98
Jonathan Toews2007-08413416.30.83
Nathan MacKinnon2013-14574711.20.82
Patrick Kane2007-08574511.40.79
Matt Duchene2009-10534114.80.77
Peter Mueller2007-0859439.80.73
Gabriel Landeskog2011-1257418.90.72
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins2011-1237258.50.68
Jeff Skinner2010-11583715.50.64
John Tavares2009-1055233.60.42

The per-game production basically funneled toward a middle ground. Including Forsberg, five of the 11 rookies averaged at least a point per game in the first two months of the season. Almost as many - four - averaged under 0.64 points per game.

During the rest of the season, no rookie managed to keep a point-per-game pace, but only one player, John Tavares, did not score at least 0.64 points per game.

Fancy Stats

But raw stats can only tell us so much, so digging into the advanced stats might tell us more.

Here is the difference between each player's October and November shooting percentage and the end of year and points per game, as well as their 5-on-5 Fenwick % (FF%), Team Fenwick, and the difference between the two for the season.

(5-on-5 Fenwick for % is an advanced stat that measures scoring chances (shots + missed shots) for versus chances against while a given player is on ice. A higher number indicates the player was on for more offensive chances than his opponents. Team Fenwick is much the same but for an entire team.)

PlayerSeasonDiff. S%Diff. Pts/GameFF %Team FF%FF% Diff.
Nicklas Backstrom2007-084.200.445953.55.5
Gabriel Landeskog2011-122.570.2855.450.45
Matt Duchene2009-104.410.2756.845.811
Peter Mueller2007-08-4.780.234949.1-0.1
Nathan MacKinnon2013-144.300.1846.646.50.1
Jonathan Toews2007-08-0.96-0.0450.649.61
Patrick Kane2007-081.09-0.2951.949.62.3
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins2011-12-12.62-0.4049.646.72.9
Jeff Skinner2010-113.82-0.454947.91.1
John Tavares2009-10-23.46-0.7348.448.6-0.2
Filip Forsberg2014-15- -54.753.80.9

After studying the numbers, it is apparent the stronger a player’s Fenwick %, the more likely he is to sustain or improve his points per game average; players that fit this mold were Backstrom, Landeskog, Duchene and Toews. Conversely, Nugent-Hopkins, Skinner and Tavares had weaker Fenwicks and played for weaker teams. Unfortunately, month-by-month Fenwick statistics are not readily available, so whole season Fenwicks have to be used. This generates some assumption that correlation is equal to causation here. To make a more thorough comparison there would need to be split-stat, Fenwick per month.

Forsberg is on ice for 4.7% more scoring chances for than scoring chances against; seeing as that number is only 1% higher than the Predators team number, there is no reason, barring a systematic melt-down, to think that he would not be able to sustain these numbers for the entire season. The biggest “red-flag” that is waved for a case against Forsberg being able to keep up his pace is the fact that he has never played for than 67 games in a season. However, the difference isn’t insurmountable.

A Cautionary Tale

A dig further into other players’ numbers doesn’t show many rookies that have extreme disasters after great starts through November. Nugent-Hopkins and Tavares regressed in the later months, but their points-per-game average would still put them into the category of “productive offensive player.” There is one cautionary tale however: Ryan O'Reilly in 2009-10

Rest of Year5354.40.09

O’Reilly is the most extreme case of a first year player starting his career well and then hitting a wall 30 games into the year. With only five points over the last 53 games of the season, O’Reilly represents the biggest rookie meltdown in recent history. His points per game average plummetted by 0.66, and his shooting percentage dropped 4.7%.

At his current pace of 36 goals and 46 assists over a full 82-game schedule, Forsberg's projected 82 points would rank the most for a rookie in the past seven seasons and third best rookie year since Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby scored 106 and 102 points respectively in 2005-06.

While no one can say for sure how the rest of the season will play out for Forsberg and the Predators, evidenced by O'Reilly's drop in production, he is definitely a player to watch. If he keeps scoring at anywhere near a point per game, he’d be a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year honors.