Getting your foot into the door of the NHL is an arduous task, and it’s much harder to then establish yourself as a full-time NHL player. Then, it’s even harder to become a productive, top-six caliber player once you get there.
2020 first-round pick Seth Jarvis has already checked all of those boxes in the first 24 games of what looks to be an NHL career with nearly limitless potential.
At 19 years and 344 days old, Jarvis is the fourth-youngest rookie that has played north of 200 5-on-5 minutes this season, a group of rookies that amounts to 44.
Among that group of rookies, Jarvis ranks sixth in goals, points, and goals per 60; fourth in assists per 60 and penalties drawn per 60; third in individual expected goals per 60; second in primary assists per 60; and first in points per 60.
While goal-scoring touch has been an understandably inconsistent facet in his game - he followed up a three-game goal streak with an 11-game goal drought that he broke on New Year’s Eve and has since scored twice in four games - the whole of his game has been present from day one and built upon since mid-November.
Jarvis has recorded at least one point in 12 of his last 18 games, a stretch that includes his 11-game goal drought. When his goal-scoring went dry, his playmaking shined, and his near-rookie-best primary assist generation started to flourish.
He’s a multifaceted offensive machine thanks to his mature offensive awareness, excellent puck skills, and slippery skating ability. Despite not getting the ice time that Carolina’s top forwards get on a nightly basis, his impact on the game is often just as noticeable.
When Jarvis is on the ice, the Hurricanes are a better team. His 7.09 on-ice relative expected goals-for rate at 5-on-5 is the best among any Carolina skater with more than 120 minutes of ice time, and his 59.93 5-on-5 on-ice expected goals-for rate leads all Canes skaters and is the top mark among NHL rookies.
Additional context makes these numbers even more impressive. Jarvis was not a day-one player in the Canes’ lineup. He was the odd-man-out, and had it not been for an injury to Nino Niederreiter, he almost certainly would have been sent back to the WHL for the remainder of the 2021-22 season.
He started on the fourth line, quickly showed that he belonged in the top-nine, and has been an increasingly prominent fixture in the team’s lineup ever since.
If his production continues through the rest of the regular season, he will end up being one of the league’s top rookies and be in the Calder Trophy conversation. Of course, barring some kind of outrageous more-than-point-per-game output from here on out, he won’t be beating out either of Detroit’s rookie phenoms in Mortiz Seider and Lucas Raymond, but that wouldn’t take away from the magnitude of his surprise impact as a 19 and 20-year-old first-year player.
I think everyone knew how high Jarvis’ upside was after he dominated the AHL as an 18-year-old over a short stretch last season, but few people would have had him being at this point just a year later.
Well, he’s here. And he’s a problem.
Hurricanes’ Best Forward Lines
We’re at the 33-game mark of the regular season, and the Hurricanes sit comfortably atop the NHL standings in points percentage, just one point out of first place in total points.
They are a legitimate contender for the Presidents’ Trophy, fueled by their league-best goal suppression and fourth-ranked offense.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll look at what forward lines and defensive pairing have stood out above the rest. We’re starting with the lines.
Due to the ongoing pandemic and the numerous obstacles in the way of player health and postponing of games, the Hurricanes haven’t iced a consistent forward group for much of this season. Instead, it’s often been a hodgepodge of whatever players they’ve had available on any given night.
Fortunately, Carolina’s forward group is deep with interchangeable players who have played all over the lineup over the past few seasons. Below are the Hurricanes’ 18 (yes, 18) most-used forward lines with their actual and expected goal differentials and shot attempt rates.
Hurricanes Forward Lines 2021-22
The numbers offer up a lot of expected and unexpected results.
Unsurprisingly, the trio of Teuvo Teravainen, Sebastian Aho, and Nino Niederreiter has been the team’s most productive forward line. It’s a tried and true combination that has been hugely impactful since the day Niederreiter joined the organization in 2019.
The line was reassembled to stop the offensive slide the team went through during late November and early December, and the results were game-changing.
The line was broken up again in Carolina’s loss to the Florida Panthers, with Niederreiter sliding down and Jarvis jumping onto Aho’s wing. That line ended up being the team’s best combination upfront and scored the game-tying goal early in the third period of their 4-3 overtime loss.
Andrei Svechnikov, Vincent Trocheck, and Jesper Fast make up another recently formed line, and they’ve been incredibly effective. Fast playing in what would typically be Martin Necas’ spot on that line hasn’t rendered the same real goal output, as is to be expected considering Necas’ high-end talent, but their possession metrics and expected values have shot up dramatically. That’s another sensible outcome. Fast plays a great two-way game that revolves around possession more so than Necas’ quick-strike ability.
Before the most recent line shuffling, Svechnikov played a lot of minutes with Fast and Jordan Staal. That trio generated very strong puck possession, but I’m not a big fan of limiting Svechnikov’s offense on what was, ultimately, a checking line. Swapping Trocheck into the middle of that line gives the trio more offensive upside.
The same argument I just made for Svechnikov can also be made for Necas, who was recently set up with Staal and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, but with the way Kotkaniemi has played over the last month, he brings up the offensive potential on that line while Staal’s defensive game provides a safety net of sorts for two offensively focused players.
Finally, there’s nothing more you can say about the fourth line. It seems like every iteration of that group has been outstanding, regardless of whether you throw skill guys like Jarvis or Kotkaniemi on there. For most of the season, Jordan Martinook, Derek Stepan, and Steven Lorentz have been puck possession demons, which is what you want when you’re setting the table for skill players at the top of the lineup.
Penalty Kill Dominance
We talk a lot about how Carolina fares at 5-on-5, but their special-teams success plays just as big of a role in their journey to the top of the standings.
When Frank Vatrano went to the penalty box and negated the final seven seconds of the Panthers’ power play in the third period of Saturday night’s game, it marked the Hurricanes’ 29th consecutive successful penalty kill.
That kill elevated Carolina’s PK success rate to 90% on the season, just three-tenths of a percentage point behind the league-best Pittsburgh Penguins.
The heat map borders on comical and does a great job visualizing why they’ve been experiencing such a high level of success.
The Carolina penalty-kill: possibly a nazgûl pic.twitter.com/VQiomeJnxN— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) January 9, 2022
Among NHL players who average at least 1:30 of penalty kill ice time per game and have played in at least ten games this season, Jesper Fast has the best on-ice expected goals-against per 60 in the league on the PK. Teuvo Teravainen (2nd), Martin Necas (5th), Ian Cole (8th), and Jaccob Slavin (9th) are all in the top ten. Slavin also leads all NHL skaters in total PK ice time.
Sebastian Aho falls just outside the top-ten list in xGA/60, but he’s in the top-ten in xGF/60 on the penalty kill. He is, undoubtedly, the main threat in pushing the puck up ice and generating the “power kill” that the Hurricanes have been so dangerous with over the last few seasons.
While a lot of this success has carried over from years past, first-year assistant coach and penalty kill-runner Tim Gleason deserves a great deal of credit for how well he has managed his group. It’s not just one PK unit that has been dominant; it’s been every single guy who jumps over the boards, including new guys like Cole, Ethan Bear, and even Brendan Smith.
“Nobody does it as good as they do,” said Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette on Saturday, and there’s plenty of evidence that supports that claim.