There’s no easy way to review the season of Alexander Wennberg. Is he the player who started the year cold, then got hurt several times? Or is he the player who led a second scoring line during the red hot March? Was his 59 point season in 2016-17 a fluke, or can he get back to that level? When grading him, do you grade on a curve due to the injuries, or do you grade more harshly because of the elevated expectations entering the season?
Recently I went into more details about his season, which you can read here. I’ve been a fan of Wennberg since he arrived. His skating and puck handling stood out from the beginning. He’s never been a shooter (I doubt he ever will be) but he has thrived when he can set up shooters. Brandon Saad, Nick Foligno, Thomas Vanek, Boone Jenner: all guys who have been capable of 30 goal seasons. The latter three thrive in front of the net, while Wennberg and Saad could keep up with each other on breakaways.
One development I want to see more of: part of what revived the power play in the second half of the season was Wennberg moving from the half wall to the front of the net on the first power play unit. He doesn’t strike you as the type of gritty player who would thrive there, but he did quite well at staying put and making things difficult for the goalie. With his patented hop to make room for the puck, he either shielded the goalie’s view, or managed to get his stick on the puck for a deflection. We missed this in when he was out during the playoffs, and in Game 5 when Wennberg had returned to the lineup, but not to the first power play unit.
Alexander Wennberg 2017-18 Stats
Games played: 66
Time on ice: 18:08
Penalty Minutes: 12
Corsi For (even strength): 53.7%
I considered his goal in Game 1 against Washington, and I considered the game in Edmonton where he was on ice for 6 of the 7 Blue Jacket goals. I settled on this game during the 10 game winning streak, in which Wennberg scored a season high 4 points. The goal was one of those power play deflections, and one assist came on the power play as well thanks to a heads up pass from the behind the goal. Starting at 1:03 here, watch how Wennberg makes a subtle fake to his left, which draws the penalty kill to the Atkinson side of the ice. That leaves Panarin wide open on the other side, and he quickly passes to Jones, who shoots while the PK tries to recover:
More of that next season, please.
His early season struggles are best exemplified by a six game stretch in early November where he scored 0 points despite averaging 19 minutes a game of ice time. He got injured in that last game and missed the next two weeks.
How would you grade Alexander Wennberg’s 2017-18 season?
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