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2016-17 Rink Wrap: Matt Niskanen

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From Alzner to Winnik, we're taking a look at and grading the 2016-17 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2017-18. Next up, Matt Niskanen.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Washington Capitals - Game Seven Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Japers' Rink Player Card (click for a hi-res version; data via NHL.com, Corsica.hockey and Cap Friendly):

Niskanen's Season, Game-by-Game (via HockeyViz, explained here):

Niskanen and His Defense Partners (chart by @muneebalamcu):

Niskanen's 5v5 Teammates and Competition (via HockeyViz, explained here):

Niskanen's 5v5 Usage (chart by @muneebalamcu):

Niskanen's With-or-Without You (via HockeyViz, explained here):

Niskanen's Rolling Shot-Attempt (Corsi) -For Percentage (chart by @muneebalamcu):

Niskanen's Last Ten Seasons (via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com):

Niskanen’s Goals Against Replacement (GAR) Components (chart by @ChartingHockey, data by @DTMAboutHeart, explained here, Tableau here):

Niskanen's HERO Chart (via Own The Puck):

Key Stat: Niskanen set a new career high in even-strength assists with 25, almost double his total from the 2015-16 season and the first time he’s had at least 20 even-strength assists as a Cap.

Interesting Stat: Niskanen’s 1.20 points-per-60 at five on five led all Caps’ blueliners this season and was the eighth-best rate among all NHL defensemen (min. 500 minutes).

The Good: Another year in DC, another solid season for Matt Niskanen, who continued to step up his game and show that he’s capable of carrying the bulk of the defensive load for the Caps. Niskanen averaged the third-most minutes per game shorthanded and on the power play among Washington’s blueliners, and second-most in even-strength and overall minutes per game.

He made good use of all of that ice time, too, putting up his highest point total as a Cap (and tops among Caps’ defensemen) with 39. He also led the team with an even-strength CF% of 54.3%, narrowly edging out his late-season defensive partner Dmitry Orlov (54.2%, per Puckalytics).

Speaking of Orlov, it was Todd Reirden’s brainchild to put the Russian defensemen alongside Niskanen - and the result, after some mild growing pains, was pretty darn impressive. It was their success that not only helped the team finish the season strong, but also resulted in them - eventually - being matched up against Toronto’s top line in the first round. That move was one of a handful of adjustments that helped the Caps rebound from a rough start and eventually defeat the Maple Leafs in six.

The Bad: Niskanen isn’t necessarily relied upon to score goals for the Caps, but it was an area in which he seemed to struggle more than usual this season. He matched last season’s total with five on the year, but it took him until mid-December to finally find the back of the net for the first of two two-goal outings.

As for the postseason, beyond that whole “conspiring to take out Sidney Crosby with an impeccably timed, completely accidental and fairly unavoidable check to the head” thing, Niskanen was strong defensively but was perhaps lacking in the offensive department. The Caps simply needed more from their offensive blueliner than the four points he managed to pick up in the playoffs, and for every good game he seemed to have one where he struggled in his own zone, through both rounds.

The GIF/Video:

This goal remains equal parts amazing and hilarious.

The Vote: Rate Niskanen below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.

The Discussion: Assuming the Caps are able to re-sign Dmitry Orlov, do you think he and Niskanen should remain as a defensive pairing next season or would you prefer to see Niskanen with someone new? Has Niskanen surpassed John Carlson as the team’s top defenseman? What would it take for you to give him a "10" next year?

Poll

How do you rate Matt Niskanen’s 2016-17 season?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    10
    (1 vote)
  • 14%
    9
    (19 votes)
  • 41%
    8
    (53 votes)
  • 25%
    7
    (32 votes)
  • 11%
    6
    (14 votes)
  • 3%
    5
    (4 votes)
  • 1%
    4
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    3
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    2
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    1
    (0 votes)
127 votes total Vote Now