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In this edition of the hotstove, we share our choices for most underrated on the Arizona Coyotes.
The 24-year-old winger was an absolutely lethal offensive player in junior and it is really starting to translate at the NHL level. Garland netted 16 goals at 5v5 this season, equaling the likes of Evgeni Malkin and Sam Reinhart for 32nd place. He scored more goals than Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, Mark Stone, John Tavares, and Filip Forsberg in that gamestate. Pretty impressive.
While Garland was sheltered with plenty of offensive zone starts, it’s also worth noting he posted the best goals for%, and expected goals for%, among all Coyotes forwards. It’s not like his production comes with a cost. He’s not an empty calorie producer like one of his teammates, Phil Kessel.
Honorable mention goes to Niklas Hjalmarsson. He’s not flashy, he’s not going to put up points, but he is still one of the top in-zone defenders in the league. I don’t think he gets recognized nearly as much for it now that he’s no longer with Chicago.
I don't know if the Coyotes actually have an "underrated" player. Connor Garland is a good complimentary player that can really help a team when his contract is cheap, but people sort of act like he's going to be a star and I doubt it. It would appear that OEL has now gone from underrated to overrated, and players like Dvorak and Keller haven't lived up to their promise.
So while no one really fits the definition, the decline of Phil Kessel has been overblown due to an on-ice shooting percentage of 5%. He is now overpaid, but probably a bit underrated. I guess a lot of people don't realize Kuemper was a legitimate Hart Candidate until he got injured and is maybe the best goalie in the NHL over the last two years, so he might qualify.
It's hard to guess how people rate players on a team that no one talks about, especially when social media allows you to mostly talk with people who agree with you. So I may be wrong, but I do not think Darcy Kuemper is getting the credit he deserves. People seem to think his success is based on the Coyotes great defense, but their defense is massively overrated due (ironically) to their two great goalies.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com
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