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Eric Fehr: More Productive Than You Think

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[Ed. Note: Statistics do not include last night's game.]

Eric Fehr's prospect credentials are all but impeccable. The former first round draft pick scored 107 goals and 195 points in his last 142 Western Hockey League games and 22 goals and 19 assists in 40 games with Hershey in 2006-07. Unfortunately, Fehr's NHL production didn't come as easily, as Fehr put up only three goals and nine points in his first 48 NHL games, which were spread over the course of three seasons. Understandably, this led Capitals fans to wonder when, if ever, Fehr would translate his scoring prowess into points at the NHL level. As it turns out, 2008-09 may be Fehr's breakout year.

It's not that Fehr's numbers at all that impressive on the surface this year; his basic stat line reads:


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG PPA SHG GWG SOG PCT QCP QTM
Eric Fehr 46 10 11 21 9 18 1 1 0 2 108 9.3 0.05 -0.13

To make use of one of my favorite phrases, Fehr's numbers suggest he has been solid, but unspectacular, this season. But the numbers don't do Fehr justice because they don't reflect how little playing time he's been getting. In addition to being a scratch in 21 of the team's 67 games this season, Fehr's averaging 11:15 of ice time, and has seen less than ten minutes in 17 of the 46 games he played, while topping fifteen minutes just four times. The result is that, although Fehr's overall statistics aren't that notable, he has been one of team's best players in terms of per minute production.

To demonstrate how Fehr stacks up with other Capitals forwards we could just provide very basic numbers and say that Fehr scores 0.018959 goals per minute at even strength whereas Viktor Kozlov scores 0.013013 goals per minute, but that doesn't doesn't really mean all that much in and of itself. Plus, it's simply not very interesting.

What we have decided to do is put Fehr on level ground, statistically speaking, with his fellow Capitals wingers of top-six talent by seeing what Fehr's per minute production rates, both at even strength and on the powerplay, would yield if he were getting the ice time of some of his teammates.

(Note that quality of competition and quality of teammates statistics are included for reference for other players, but not for Fehr.)


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG PPA QCP QTM
Alexander Semin 48 28 35 63 28 65 5 18 0.06 0.32
Fehr Equiv. 48 17 19 36 12 32 5 5 - -


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG PPA QCP QTM
Alex Ovechkin 64 47 37 84 12 66 15 20 -0.01 0.35
Fehr Equiv. 64 29 31 60 20 36 9 9 - -

Neither of those tables is actually all that surprising - if getting the ice time of Alexander Ovechkin or Alexander Semin, Fehr would, theoretically, have better total numbers than he has, but wouldn't be as prolific as either of the Alexes. But Fehr's numbers as compared with the rest of the team's wings is where things get interesting.


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG PPA QCP
QTM
Viktor Kozlov 52 11 20 31 -7 10 2 11 -0.03 0.34
Fehr Equiv. 52 16 18 34 13 30 3 3 - -


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG PPA QCP
QTM
T. Fleischmann 58 17 15 32 0 14 7 3 0.04 0.14
Fehr Equiv. 58 16 18 34 12 31 4 4 - -


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG PPA QCP
QTM
Brooks Laich 67 16 22 38 -6 29 7 11 0.03 0.09
Fehr Equiv. 67 20 21 41 15 40 4 4 - -

Not only is Fehr outproducing the Capitals other top-six quality wingers in terms of per minute production, he's doing it while playing with weaker teammates and playing against stronger opponents. Fehr especially shines at even strength where he significantly outperforms everyone but Fleischmann in goal production and outperforms the other wingers by at least 18% in point production. In fact,the comparisons laid out above don't really demonstrate just how much more productive Fehr has been at even strength. Here's what the even strength numbers look like:


GP G A P +/- PIM QCP
QTM
Viktor Kozlov 52 9 9 18 -7 10 -0.03 0.34
Fehr Equiv. 52 13 15 28 13 30 - -


GP G A P +/- PIM QCP
QTM
T. Fleischmann 58 10 12 22 0 14 0.04 0.14
Fehr Equiv. 58 12 14 26 12 31 - -


GP G A P +/- PIM QCP
QTM
Brooks Laich 67 9 11 20 -6 29 0.03 0.09
Fehr Equiv. 67 16 17 33 15 40 - -

What prevents Fehr from running away from the others in total offensive production is his relative lack of powerplay success - one goal and one assist in 41:06. It is that Fehr isn't a good powerplay player? Perhaps that he's been unlucky? It's possible. But what is more likely is that it's a combination of lack of ice time (Fehr averages 0:53 of powerplay ice time per game, which others average at least 2:28) and quality of teammates (Fehr's quality of teammates rating in 5-on-4 situations is 0.46 while the rating ranges from 1.94 to 3.70 for the others).

In each hypothetical, Fehr is on pace for about 19 even strength goals and 21 even strength points and about fifty total points over an 82 game period - pretty good considering the quality of players he has played with and against so far this season and certainly good enough to think that Fehr can be a quality top-six NHL winger. In fact, he may well be there already.