For those of you that have been following my articles every Wednesday this season, you may have noticed a common theme. I often point out a guy who is putting up more points than expected, and pick apart why it won’t continue. That won’t be the case this week. Jamie Benn is the real deal in Dallas.
Through 26 games, Benn has 6 goals, 17 assists, 33 PIMS, a +8 rating and one could argue that he is actually underperforming his underlying stats. After putting up 97 points in his first 151 career games, the 22 year-old Benn has blossomed in his 3rd NHL season playing alongside Loui Eriksson and Michael Ryder.
So far this season, Benn is only converting his shots 7% of the time after shooting 12.3% in his first two seasons. Right now his assists are carrying his point total, but we can expect his goal total to catch up quickly. To put that shooting percentage number in perspective, last year, of the 284 qualified forwards, only 36 shot lower than 7%. It’s a tough thing to do over a full NHL season.
Now, on to the assists. Sometimes assist totals can be inflated by line mates with unsustainable shooting percentages. One would think Benn would be a prime candidate considering he has generally been more of a scorer than a passer. However, that is not the case. None of his three most common line mates are substantially above their career averages. Eriksson is 0.1% above, Ryder is 3.4% above and Steve Ott is 1.7% above. This is probably only worth an assist or two so far, so the improvement seems legitimate.
In fact, Benn’s on-ice shooting percentage of 8.1% places him firmly in the middle of the pack among NHL forwards (165th of 312 players min. 20 games). He and his line mates are currently scoring at a pace that they should have no problem replicating moving forward.
His Corsi rating is also strong at 6.98, indicating that he is likely to finish with a positive +/- for the first time in his career. His O-Zone% is fairly low at 46.6%, indicating that his point totals aren’t the product of beneficial (and often unsustainable) coaching decisions. In fact, it is pretty difficult to find anything negative to say about Benn’s performance so far this season. The only thing I can really criticize is that he is picking up penalties at a much higher pace than his first two seasons in the league. For those of you banking on 100 PIMS as his current pace suggests, don’t hold your breath.
It would not surprise me in the least if Benn finished in the top 25 in NHL scoring this season along with a solid +/- and a healthy dose of PIMS. Not bad for a guy who on average was the 141st player off the board in Yahoo! leagues.
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