clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How Many Goals Can Marcus Johansson Score?

The 24-year-old scored a career-high 20 in 2014-15. Can he take the next step?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Johansson had his best year at an opportune time, posting career-best marks of 20 goals and 47 points in 2014-15. With his arbitration hearing this morning, the Capitals should have some cost certainty with Johansson within the next 48 hours, whether on a one-year or multi-year deal (with what will likely be around a $4 million cap hit).

His performance last season (87th among forwards in points and 83rd in goals) seems to merit roughly the 100th biggest cap hit, and at his age, term shouldn't be a concern. But the key question is whether he can sustain it — after all, mustering eight goals and 44 points while playing with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom isn't quite the same as scoring 20 as the primary or secondary driver of offense on a line with a rookie winger-turned-center and middle-six right wing.

Looking at Johansson's career boxcars, the easy answer would be that he can't sustain it — that this past season was a bit of an overperformance. Johansson scored 20 goals in 2014-15 after three seasons of scoring about 15 goals per 82 games and a fourth (2013-14) at eight.

The whole picture, though, isn't that simple.

The first thing to note is that Johansson has scored goals at 5-on-5 like a second-line forward over the course of his career. While Johansson has seemed overly deferential offensively when playing with Ovechkin and Backstrom, he's been effective away from them.

MJ90 Points

In the grand scheme of things, a second-line forward scoring 20 goals is pretty normal.

The second thing to note is that his per-game shot rate has been improving over the course of his career. Goal-scoring is a function of shot rate and shooting percentage, and Johansson's shots-per-game rate was substantially higher in 2014-15 than in years past — at 1.68, it was a shot every other game better than 2011-12 and the lockout-shortened 2013 season, and a shot every three games better than 2013-14 (during which he shot only 7.5%, far lower than his 14.3% conversion rate otherwise).

Johansson shot rates

In addition to general player growth, it seems like Johansson benefits from good, stable linemates. His strong first 15-20 games of 2014-15 (over which he put about 2.3 shots on goal per game) came playing next to Andre Burakovsky and Troy Brouwer. He put about 1.5 shots on net per game after the 20th game of the year — still a career-best rate, but only narrowly.

Johansson game history

Granted, Johansson fell off a little before the line was broken up. But Burakovsky last season was a much stronger possession player than Evgeny Kuznetsov (the replacement center on that line), so it stands to reason that Johansson would get a few more shots with Burakovsky than Kuznetsov at center, and there could be some stylistic advantages as well. As it turns out, Johansson also took a slightly higher share of the shots playing with Burakovsky than Kuznetsov, too.

Center

TOI (min)

Johansson SOG%

Center SOG%

Brouwer SOG%

SF/60

Burakovsky

151

29

23

20

27.4

Kuznetsov

317

23

30

19

25.7

Over a full season, that difference amounts to 30-35 shots on goal for Johansson (assuming the rates hold steady), or four or five goals.

Looking at his 5-on-5 per-minute shot rates, linemates seemed to have been a factor in the past as well:

Johansson 5v5 shot rates

As a rough baseline, 8.5 shots/60 is high-end second-line or low-end top-line level, and 7.5 shots/60 is top-six level (though playmaking top-six forwards often shoot less).

His early peak in 2011-12 coincided with his playing with Alexander Semin and (usually) Mike Knuble. His shot rate plummeted as he started bouncing around the lineup, eventually ending up on Ovechkin's opposite wing. His peak in 2010-11, though, came without consistent lines. Regardless, aside from the Hunter season, those peaks managed to propel Johansson to a respectable shot rate for the season, and Johansson, perhaps a little more than other players, stands to benefit quite a bit from linemates he clicks with.

Linemates

TOI (min)

SF/60

Johansson SOG%

Ovechkin, Backstrom

987

30.7

13

Kuznetsov, Brouwer

347

25.2

23

Backstrom, Brouwer

225

29.3

13

Burakovsky, Brouwer

151

27.4

29

Kuznetsov, Chimera

105

28.4

4

Other

905

26.3

20

(Since 2012-13)

For Johansson, then, the key is getting into the habit of calling his own number regardless of his linemates, which he's had a little trouble doing consistently when playing with skill. If he defers too much to his center and right wing, he won't score very much.

The final item to look at is how his shot volume interacts with shot quality — if he can boost his volume while maintaining 14-15% shooting, then he should be able to score 20 a few more times, but if the percentage goes down, it'll be more difficult. To that end, we can look at a few different pieces of data to try to get a sense of whether he sacrificed quality for quantity.

First, his shot distances:

Johansson shot distances

It looks like he may have turned some of his 10-15-foot shots into 5-10-foot shots, but other than that, there doesn't seem to be a major movement outward — which would be one indicator of poorer shot quality.

Sporting Charts has individual player shot heat maps and breakdowns. On the left, below, is Johansson's 2013-14 map, and on the right is 2014-15.

Johansson shot heat map

It seems like Johansson is taking more shots from the outside, but he also took far more shots, period. He's still getting shots from good locations, turning shot attempts into scoring chances and high-danger chances (per WAR-On-Ice) at a similar clip.

Johansson isc vs ifen

(2012-13 data prorated for 82 games.)

Johansson may not be able to get above two shots on net per game without a boost in ice time — unlikely, considering he's already been receiving 16:30 to 17:30 minutes per game and the team has just added, not lost, top-six players. But he should be able to be around 1.5, at least, and if he's able to shoot about 14% (a tick lower than he shot last season), then he'll get to about 17 goals — just a little luck or a little improvement away from 20.

With a pair of good linemates and good health, he could easily set a new career-best in goals for the second-straight year.