Has Kent Johnson improved this season?

The eye test says yes, but do the stats agree?

I started writing this article to prove how much Kent Johnson has improved over the course of the season. His 69 games played breaks perfectly up into 3 segments, so I thought I’d aggregate his stats for each 23 game segment. The result was slightly shocking. Now I certainly don’t believe stats tell all of the story, but I do think there’s always a narrative to be told. Let’s dive into what I found.

Kent Johnson 2022-23

GamesAVG TOIGoalsAssistsPoints5v5 CF%5v5 xGF%5v5 ixGSH%

What immediately stood out to me is that KJ’s stats look like more like the entire ride of the Millennium Force instead of just the first steep incline. I was expecting the latter. The most recent 23 game stretch is his best in terms of points, but also his worst in almost every other category. His ice time has increased as the season has progressed and that’s likely connected to more responsibility and tougher matchups, so naturally you could expect a rookie’s possession stats to suffer slightly.

The even more interesting part is his ixG (individual expected goals) and shooting percentage. His most recent stretch of games have been his best in terms of the eye test, but the worst in expected goals. The middle stretch saw his shooting percentage closer to league average and he only scored three goals as a result. His high shooting percentage otherwise has his actual goals much greater than his expected, which is good, if not expected, for a highly skilled player. His expected goals, however, do show that his scoring opportunities have dwindled as the season has gone on.

You can tell by the above chart that as Johnson has moved up in the lineup his expected goals against has increased. He’s also seen more defensive zone starts recently. It takes a while for young players to make an impact defensively, and we all know that this team plays horrible defense as a whole, so the result here shouldn’t be shocking. If anything, KJ’s ability to keep the same scoring clip against better competition should be seen as a positive.

Another interesting tidbit: of Johnson’s 23 assists, only 7 of those are secondary assists. We know that KJ is a playmaker, but having a high percentage of primary assists at this stage in his career is a great sign. It also tell us that he’s driving play instead of relying on his linemates to generate offense.

What does this all mean? The decline in his possession stats are likely a combination of more responsibility, a bad team, and a learning rookie. To be clear, I am not at all worried about the development of KJ. He’s had a very solid season and the eye test says that his confidence has increased. In fact, his mostly consistent scoring could be looked at as a positive. I fully expect him to be a legitimate top six forward on a good team as he learns more and gets stronger. That said, all of this is a reminder that sometimes our eyes don’t see the entire story.

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