There's been a lot of talk about how the big story for the Calgary Flames this season is— shocker— the youths. With the continued development of Sean Monahan and the first full season of Johnny Gaudreau (and the potential of Sam Bennett at some point), there's more eyes on the really young guns than anyone else on the Calgary roster.
Of course, the youth doesn't really end there. While it seems like Paul Byron and TJ Brodie have been around for forever, it's important to remember that Paul Byron is only 25 and was drafted in 2007 and TJ Brodie just a year younger. TJ Brodie's development into a Very Good Player, though, has been happening for a while, and very visible. Paul Byron's emergence is fairly sudden, and that's what makes him such a fascinating player this season.
Here's a bunch of stats I pulled from David Johnson's excellent Puckalytics website. This is a list of forwards who've played at least five games and their Fenwick percentages, as well as some context.
No, Paul Byron's not topping the list. But he's holding his own- and with more interesting circumstances than Hudler. According to Left Wing Lock, Byron lines up with Backlund and Glencross more than any one else, two guys who've been fairly middle of the road all season.
More interestingly than playing with guys who aren't putting up as good of results, however, is the context in which that line plays, which is far more defensively. Byron is at about 19% offensize zone starts, which is miniscule compared to his 39% and 41% defensive and neutral zone starts respectively. The only other forward in that range is Matt Stajan, who's not been doing anywhere nearly as good as Byron with those starts.
Of course, when comparing Hudler and Byron, one item of note is that Hudler's spending a fair amount of time with noted boat anchor Joe Colborne, who's only marginally considered Not The Worst Regular Forward.
None of this is to say Paul Byron is the best player on the team or is a future superstar. Neither of these is probably accurate. What is accurate is that he's been an incredibly important player for the Flames, and one who's performance is fairly surprising. While he's always been a better player than management has seemed to realize he is, he's never shown skill at this level.
Other Notes From The Table
- Bollig is truly just terrible at hockey. So there's that.
- Gaudreau is about what I expected this year. Sure, we all wanted him to be a hero from the get go, but mediocre performance on a submediocre team for a guy in his first year out of NCAA is pretty O.K. You'll get no complaints from me here.
- Monahan's no longer succeeding on sheer PDO and ZS%. He's actually pretty good in his own right. Still some cushy starts there, but it's nowhere near as overwhelming as it was his rookie season.
- Colborne is gonna look awful when that PDO comes crashing down to earth. He doesn't belong anywhere near the top two lines.