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About Last Season: Brett Pesce

2021-22 was a weird season for Brett Pesce, who took more shots but saw his 5-on-5 impact regress while remaining elite on the penalty kill.

Carolina Hurricanes v New York Rangers - Game Five Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

Brett Pesce By the Numbers

  • Age: 27
  • NHL Seasons: 7
  • Scoring: 7goals, 21 assists, 28 points in 70 games
  • Playoff Scoring: 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points in 14 games
  • Advanced Statistics: 55.12 CF%, 52.82 HDCF%, 52.26 xGF%, 52.68 GF%
  • Average TOI: 18:26 ES, 0:27 PP, 2:48 SH
  • Contract Status: Two years, $4.025 million AAV left on his current deal. UFA after 2023-24.

It’s almost hard to believe that Brett Pesce is just 27 years old. The 2013 third-round pick has been a staple in Carolina’s defensive lineup for seven seasons now, and the last two seasons and change have seen him lineup next to Brady Skjei, who was acquired at the 2020 trade deadline.

While 2020-21 was perhaps the best season of Pesce’s career and undoubtedly his best season of offensive production, 2021-22 was among his stranger seasons in the league.

According to Micah McCurdy’s isolated impact visuals, which take into account the quality of his on-ice teammates and opponents, among other things, Pesce had his first NHL season where he had a negative play-driving impact both offensively and defensively.

Brett Pesce 2021-22 5-on-5 Isolated Impact.
Micah Blake McCurdy

Among the eight defenders who played in 15 or more games for the Hurricanes last season, Pesce was sixth in on-ice shot attempt differential, seventh in goal differential, seventh in high-danger shot attempt differential, and eighth in expected goal differential at 5-on-5.

His heat maps alone tell the story of where the offense was produced when he was on the ice. When Pesce was on the ice, the Hurricanes piled up long-range shots, particularly from the right point. On the other end of the ice, the Hurricanes saw an uptick in shot attempts from right in front of the net.

This is in stark contrast to what he was a part of the previous year when the Hurricanes had a massive bump in shot attempts in high-danger areas offensively and were stout in front of their own net, limiting high-danger chances against at a much better rate.

So, for whatever reason, the Hurricanes took substantially fewer competitive slot shots with Pesce on the ice in 2021-22 and gave up more dangerous shot attempts compared to the season prior. Further digging shows what was going on there, and it was that Pesce was flinging pucks on net at the highest rate of his NHL career by a wide margin, and those shots were coming from his place along the blue line.

Last season, Pesce had 278 5-on-5 shot attempts, which was 42 more attempts than his previous career-high back in his age 22 season in 2016-17, despite playing ~200 fewer minutes in ‘21-22. That equates to 6.5 shot attempts per 60, a shot and a half more than any other season of his career.

Pesce taking more shots, on its own, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it becomes unsavory when he does so at the expense of shot quality, which was essentially what happened last season. What he did very well was getting his shots on the net. He had the third-highest shot thru rate of his career despite taking significantly more shots.

That said, any offense you get from Pesce has been considered a bonus to how impactful he has always been defensively. While last season was a below-average year in that regard for him at 5-on-5, it was another great year on the penalty kill.

Pesce had the lowest (best) on-ice total and unblocked shot attempts against per 60 on the PK in his career and was an integral piece in Carolina’s elite penalty kill during the regular season.

Unfortunately, that success wained in the postseason as the Hurricanes continued to take an excessive number of minor penalties, and the PK got overworked.

“The first thing that stands out to me is definitely special teams,” Pesce said was the thing that held the Hurricanes back in another abrupt playoff exit. “I take a lot of pride in the penalty kill, and I feel like we didn’t quite do our job. It’s kind of been haunting me a little bit.”

The Hurricanes are in a privileged position where the season they just got from Pesce is considered a down year for him. Despite being fairly average at 5-on-5, Pesce’s impact on the team and the matchups it gets is huge. He also happens to be one of the best penalty-killers in hockey.

It was a weird year for Pesce in that his offensive impact was so vastly different than where he had been trending. That is the most noteworthy part of his game from 2021-22. His down year defensively at 5-on-5 is far from concerning given how great he has been in his career and how impactful he continued to be despite it all.

With two years remaining on his bargain of a contract, the Hurricanes should feel confident that they’re going to get two more strong years from their cornerstone defender - and hopefully many more beyond that. This is a player with a track record that suggests last season was a minor setback.

Exit Interview


How would you grade Brett Pesce’s 2021-22 season?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    A - Outstanding Performance
    (38 votes)
  • 51%
    B - Above Average Performance
    (93 votes)
  • 25%
    C - Average Performance
    (46 votes)
  • 2%
    D - Below Average Performance
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    F - Significantly Below Average Performance
    (1 vote)
182 votes total Vote Now

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