To this point in the season, there’s little arguing that Filip Forsberg has been one of most shocking stories. The centerpiece of a deal that brought Martin Erat to the Washington Capitals from the Nashville Predators, Forsberg looks to be blossoming before our very eyes.
And while he continues to produce at an alarming rate, there remains a certain skepticism about his ability to keep it up. Could the Capitals really have traded away an early Calder candidate for a player they would jettison just eight months after his arrival in the US capital? Is this a deal Washington will forever regret?
The easy answer is that, yes, this will be a trade that Washington fans look back on for years to come and wonder how they could so grossly underestimate Forsberg’s talent. But, as pertains to his current play, Capitals fans can take a couple steps back and breathe. Forsberg is undoubtedly one of the more talented young forwards in the game, but his current generational talent type pace will slow.
One of the first things pops out in regards to Forsberg when you look beneath the surface is the incredible amount of goals for he has been on the ice for. While the Swedish winger is on the ice, the Predators are accounting for nearly 90 percent of the goals scored. To put that into perspective, no forward who has played at least 750 minutes of 5-on-5 time has eclipsed 73 percent in the last seven seasons.
Of course, it being the early season, these numbers are certainly skewed in favor of absurd totals for the 20-year-old Forsberg. However, it stands to tell us his pace will absolutely slow. While it’s difficult to compare Forsberg’s minutes last season in a different system, under a different coach, in a similar amount of minutes Forsberg’s line scored only 10 percent of the goals. It’s also worth noting, though, that his linemates in limited time last season were Eric Nystrom and David Legwand, both of whom don’t really compare to his current linemates in James Neal and Mike Ribeiro.
In addition, his on-ice shooting percentage is running at a pace that’s well above some of the most notable scorers in the game. The likes of Corey Perry, Claude Giroux, Pavel Datsyuk, and even Sidney Crosby are far, far below what Forsberg’s 15 percent. This will drop and it should be by a significant amount. Even a seven percent slide would still keep Forsberg at a pace similar to some of the game’s elite talents.
While these undeniable facts make it seems obvious that eventually his pace will slow, there’s a case that when it does, Forsberg will still be among the league’s best and, quite possibly, one of the more serious Calder contenders.
Early Calder favorite Tanner Pearson has already come back to earth, failing to register a point in his last six games, while Forsberg has continued to shine. He’s been a positive possession player and just as solid without Neal and Ribeiro as he has been with. In fact, both Neal and Ribeiro have benefitted from playing with Forsberg, as their possession numbers are down without the rookie.
Some recognition also must be given to Peter Laviolette for optimizing the rookie’s minutes. Starting his shifts primarily in the offensive zone has helped to foster this early season breakout, and there’s nothing to suggest that the newly minted Predators coach will change anything about Forsberg’s minutes throughout the season.
Should we expect Forsberg to finish the season as a point-per-game player? Of course not. Maybe too much has been made of what are obviously inflated point totals thanks to some tremendous puck luck. But, as a veteran of 31 career NHL games, maybe there’s more to Forsberg’s totals than previously thought. His possession is strong but not outrageous, Neal and Ribeiro are benefitting more from the Swede than the other way around, and Laviolette is enhancing Forsberg’s opportunities.
While there’s little doubt that Forsberg’s point totals are due to dip, fans in Washington have a reason for regrets. It appears the newest Music City Miracle might be the real deal.