Introducing The Hockey Writers’ Countdown to Puck Drop collection. From now till the puck drops on the 2019-20 NHL’s common season on Oct. 2 when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Ottawa Senators, we’ll be producing content material that’s linked to the variety of days remaining on that individual day. Some posts could also be related to a participant’s quantity, whereas others shall be linked to a yr or size of time. We’re actually enthusiastic about this collection as we take you thru the rest of summer time in anticipation of the return of NHL hockey.
With 71 days left till puck drop, right here’s a take a look at the Tampa Bay Lightning’s No. 71 Anthony Cirelli and why he might someday be a Frank J. Selke Trophy nominee.
Cirelli broke onto the scene in March 2018 to assist the Lightning with their playoff push. In his first NHL recreation, he netted his first NHL purpose with a short-side snipe on former Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop. Tampa Bay followers anticipated that type of pace and explosiveness from forwards like Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, however not Cirelli. Followers shortly turned conversant in the then-21-year-old as he had 11 factors in 18 regular-season video games and have become one of many group’s high penalty killers on the finish of the season.
Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
In 2018-19, Cirelli picked up proper the place he left off by scoring the Lightning’s first purpose of the season shorthanded. He elevated his common time-on-ice by greater than a minute from 2017-18 and proved to be among the finest two-way gamers within the group all through final season. He additionally turned a robust heart within the face-off dot, one thing the Lightning have struggled with traditionally. He gained simply 44.9% of his face-offs in 2017-18, however final season, he elevated that quantity to 52.eight%.
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Cirelli developed about as shortly as any participant might within the NHL and he turned a vital a part of the NHL lineup virtually in a single day. With no sturdy two-way, penalty-killing ahead like Cirelli, the Lightning wouldn’t have led the league in penalty killing.
Turning into a Penalty Killer
Final season was nonetheless technically Cirelli’s rookie season, and he was voted to the NHL All-Rookie group having performed all 82 video games and, extra importantly, was second within the NHL in shorthanded targets. Slightly below 70% of his ice time takes place within the Lightning defensive zone, up by about 13% from 2017-18, which exhibits how sturdy he was on the kill.
One statistic that makes Cirelli an elite penalty killer is his giveaways and takeaways. When the Lightning have been shorthanded, he had just one giveaway in 219 whole minutes, however he had 13 takeaways. What this exhibits is his capability to get sticks within the passing lanes and to learn the opposition and predict what’s going to occur subsequent. He additionally gained 52% of his face-offs whereas shorthanded which allowed the group to own the puck and kill off penalties extra effectively.
New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider, Tampa Bay Lightning heart Anthony Cirelli and defenseman Sami Vatanen (AP Picture/Julio Cortez)
For good measure, Cirelli led all Lightning forwards in shorthanded time-on-ice with 2:55 per recreation, however he additionally led all forwards within the league in shorthanded ice time along with his 219 whole minutes. He had extra time shorthanded than Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Mark Giordano, John Carlson and Drew Doughty for starters. Not too shabby for a 21-year-old rookie.
In comparison with the Selke Winner
St. Louis Blues ahead Ryan O’Reilly gained the Selke Trophy this yr and evaluating his numbers with Cirelli’s creates an fascinating dialog. Clearly, O’Reilly has extra enjoying time on the Blues’ high line and scored extra usually due to that, however they each performed 82 video games and Cirelli had two extra factors than O’Reilly whereas shorthanded. He additionally had 94 takeaways and 33 giveaways, whereas Cirelli had 46 takeaways and 15 giveaways whereas enjoying almost 500 whole minutes much less.
Final season, Cirelli gained 52.eight% final yr which is sort of similar to O’Reilly’s face-off proportion in his age-21 season. Cirelli’s shorthanded face-off proportion final season was simply zero.1% beneath the Selke winner. The Blues heart is understood for his face-off capability and the Lightning needs to be very inspired to see his numbers so near somebody with the face-off prowess like O’Reilly.
Ryan O’Reilly of the St. Louis Blues, Sport 6 of the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Ultimate (Picture by Brian Babineau/NHLI through Getty Pictures)
The distinction between O’Reilly and Cirelli must do with their roles on their respective groups. O’Reilly has all the time been a first- or second-line heart who can rating 50 or extra factors a season. Cirelli, then again, is a third-line heart on a Lightning group who has elite gamers on their first and second traces. However, he might positively slot right into a second and even first-line position if the Lightning have been determined for facilities. O’Reilly has the sting in point-scoring, however they’re very comparable in lots of key statistics for Selke Trophy voting, particularly as mainstays on the penalty kill.
As a rookie final season, Cirelli completed sixth in Calder Trophy voting for the league’s high rookie and 11th for the Selke Trophy. As a 21-year-old, he has a variety of time to develop each on and off the ice, and it helps that he performs with a number of the high forwards within the league in addition to just a few of the most effective defensemen. He can study from all of these gamers to proceed to be a risk on either side of the puck en path to someday profitable the Selke Trophy.