Wanna blog? Start your own hockey blog with My HockeyBuzz. Register for free today!

Have We Seen the Best from Tyler Toffoli Yet?

July 18, 2016, 5:52 PM ET [25 Comments]
Jason Lewis
Los Angeles Kings Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT

It is, perhaps, too easy to focus on all of the missed opportunities of a team's drafting history.

Did the Kings hit a homerun on Colton Teubert? No.

In hindsight, would they have rather had Vladdy Tarasenko instead of Derek Forbort? Yea, probably.

But there are also good selections which pan out to be everything you expected and more.

Tyler Toffoli, the Kings 2nd round pick in that same fateful draft as Derek Forbort, has been just that. Everything and more.

To get a bonafide 25-goal, 45-point winger in the second round is dynamite.

But have we even seen the best of Toffoli yet? Hard to say we have. In just his third full season at age 24, the young Toronto native has already hit the 30 goal mark and flirted with a 40-goal pace throughout most of last season. Can he become a regular in the 30-goal club? Can he touch 40? Seems like such a difficult task on the defensive oriented Kings, but without second half slump that was the reality for the Kings young winger.

You can see why Toffoli ultimately fell to the second round though. From a scouting standpoint, Toffoli had two massive assets: His hockey sense and his shot. His shot was nearly elite level, and back to back 50+ goal seasons with the Ottawa 67s of the OHL furthered that belief. However, other than that, Toffoli had a kind of middling package of assets as a prospect. He is not the biggest guy, nor was he the strongest, and his skating was always considered so-so. Another player who is somewhat similar in this regard is current Kings prospect, Jonny Brodzinski. However, we will stick a pin in saying JB will turn into a 30+ NHL goal scorer (Although his shot is wicked good.)

Nevertheless, CSS had Toffoli listed at 16th in their final ranking for North American skaters, and he had risen from 22 at the midterm. Whereas ISS didn't have him in their top 30 in the world. Despite being ahead of names in the CSS rankings like Quinton Howden (No. 25), Kevin Hayes (24), Brock Nelson (30), Dylan McIlrath (10), Riley Sheahan (21), Jarred Tinordi (22), and Charlie Coyle (28), the sniper fell almost a solid 20 spots from where he probably deserved to be in hindsight. But again, with a scouting report that lauded really only his shooting and hockey sense, you can perhaps understand that one.

Another team's loss is another one's gain, and the Kings scored big time with their 47th overall selection.

So what is it about Toffoli that not only makes him a good scorer but allows the imagination to drift into even higher echelons about his scoring ability?

It is really quite simple, but also beautifully instinctual. He just finds the right spots. Not a real technical analysis right? Well, let's just watch some plays and you will kind of get to know what that means.

View post on imgur.com

This is partly "What on earth are you doing?" for the Vancouver defense, but also a very nice heads up play from Toffoli.

When coaches tell players to go to the net, sometimes it can be taken in almost too literal a sense. I am not sure if you have ever slipped on a pair of gloves and tried to elevate a wrist shot in tight, but it is no piece of cake. Toffoli is good at finding a seams, not just in the high scoring areas, but far enough AWAY so that he has the space to unleash his devastating wrist shot.

Yes, this wrist shot.

View post on imgur.com

View post on imgur.com

And another great asset to his shot is that he can get it off with almost zero space to work with.

View post on imgur.com

But back to the finding space. Just taking in a shift with Toffoli, you can see how he just instinctively hangs around the right areas, sneaks behind defenders, and uses could misdirection and quick movement to get himself into primes spots. Some of this does indeed have to do with his centermen of either Anze Kopitar or Jeff Carter. Credit where credit is due. Defenses get so caught up with Carter/Kopitar, that Toffoli can quietly do his thing behind enemy lines so to speak.

Here are a few examples of little things Toffoli does that have that goal scorers instinct to them.

On this play, Toffoli, Carter, and Lucic work a rush up ice.

View post on imgur.com

While it doesn't seem like much. Watch Toffoli's stick placement both on the initial rush and the follow up.

View post on imgur.com

He is looking for the high tip here on the initial rush, which can be an absolute pain for goalies to pick up when tracking a shot coming in. He has the body and stick position on his defender, and has opened up a lane for Carter to get a shot through if he so pleases.

Carry on to the next phase.

Carter doesn't like his look at shooting, so he holds the puck. Look at Toffoli.

View post on imgur.com

Toffoli instinctually goes back to forehand, slows up instead of crashing in on the goaltender in order to give himself space, and now plays for a healthy rebound chance on his forehand side. If Carter's point shot gets through, Toffoli AGAIN has the positioning on his defender (Who would be trying to guard him on the backhand), and has the smallest of spaces to get a jump if he is anticipating.

Little as it may seem, those are small details that can help you score an extra 4-5 goals a year. It adds up.

But again, as far as finding space is concerned. Watch Toffoli in this series of GIFs against eh Blues. This is a single shift. Watch the shiftiness. He just seems to know when defenders are fixated on the puck, and that's when No. 73 gets open.

Puck is behind the net, and there he is, just kind of cruising in untouched.

View post on imgur.com

And this one is also good, as the Kings go into puck retrieval mode with a board battle ensuing, Toffoli takes a step off of Backes who is by the halfwall waiting for a breakout set up of St. Louis. Again, Toffoli is aware of the set-up, scenario, and uses the opportunity to step into a REALLY high scoring area in case the puck comes free. If it manages to get there, Toffoli doesn't have a Blue within a country mile of him.

View post on imgur.com

Fun, right? Toffoli is also really great at reading the outlets in his own zone. He knows when to break out of the zone, when to anticipate a play going up ice, and he is a good enough skater to create the space going up ice. He and Carter scored numerous rush goals this year, many of which were in part to the duo's excellent anticipation when it came to leaving the zone. However, the line could also be a bit exposed in that regard. Live by the sword, die by it, right?

We've seen the plays he makes, now let's talk about the numbers behind it.

Why is is plausible that Toffoli could be a 40-goal scorer, or at minimum a perennial 30-goal scorer?

First and foremost, you've seen his shot, and he takes a TON of them.

Last year, on an individual shots generated per 60, Toffoli ranked inside the top 50 in the league (49th to be exact) at 5v5 amongst players playing at least 500 total even strength minutes. Inside that top 50 of shot generation, he ranks 3rd in shooting percentage. Those ahead of him are not bad company to boot.

Tyler Seguin - 9.27 iSF60 - 13.41%
Jason Spezza - 10.19 - 13.21%
Tyler Toffoli - 9.10 - 12.42%
Filip Forsberg - 9.28 - 12.35%
James Neal - 9.60 - 12.18%

Not bad right?

Spezza logged 33 goals last year. Forsberg also had 33. Seguin...33. James Neal? 31.

So Toffoli is right in the meat of what you would consider four elite level goal scorers, and neither his shooting percentage, or shot rate is ALL THAT DIFFERENT. That's a good NON red flag.

It wasn't really a spike year either. In 2014-15, Toffoli registered a shot rate of 11.04, and a shooting percentage of 8.75%. He still managed a pace of 0.97, which rose to 1.13 in 2015-16. What we would be talking about with a spike year would be something along the lines of what Brooks Laich and a number of other players have done at some point in their career.

For reference, Laich rode a 9.78% and 7.09 per 60 shot rate in 2007-08 to a 21 goal season. Despite increases in his goal totals from 2006-20010, (21-23-25), he did so on the back of fewer goals per 60 (0.69->0.68->0.56), a lessened shot percentage (9.78->8.33->6.57) and MORE shots (7.09->8.18->8.59).

Laich eventually crashed back to earth in 2010-11 as the unsustainable journey saw a 9 point drop in goal production (0.54 per 60). He did so with increasing ice time.

That's a trend that is a bit of a red flag. While it can be sustainable over several seasons, like in the case of Laich (no pun intended), the trend Toffoli has going is much stronger.

He is increasing his percentage on LESS shots. Maybe next year you see the same percentage on MORE shots. A shot rate like that of 2014-15. However, there is a fine balance between shot rate and shooting percentage. More shots does not always translate to more goals. However, when you have proven to be a pretty darn good career shooter, the balance can result in some very good production.

Which brings us to another thing. He is young, and he has yet to really get a top line shot.

Toffoli, who ranked 20th in the league in goals per 60 (Behind Jagr and ahead of Galchenyuk), played just 17:19 on average. You bump that up about a minute or so, maybe two, and you could be talking big opportunities. What has helped immensely is also his increased powerplay usage. Nine goals last year was a career high, taking out the three logged in the previous year.

And his possession game? Beastly. He is the highest CF60 generating player when on the ice in the league at 71.40. Ridiculous stuff.

Finally, perhaps the best thing with Toffoli is that he is so young and has really good opportunities in front of him. He will play in the Kings top 6 alongside either Carter or Kopitar for at least a few more years. He has not even come close yet to hitting the statistical decline of post 26-27 hockey. Just perusing through the comparable names in terms of stats, we are talking very talented and lethal goal scorers.

We have seen some great things out of the Kings young winger, and there is reason to believe there is still more. One more year of this sort of high level production and people may need to start thinking about Toffoli alongside scorers like Neal, Seguin, Pacioretty, and Spezza.

Stats provided by Corsica.hockey

Follow me on twitter for news and notes about the Kings, the Reign, and the NHL

Also be sure to like HockeyBuzz on facebook!

++++I AM CURRENTLY LOOKING FOR ADVERTISERS! If you, or anyone you know would be interested in placing an ad on the blog here at HockeyBuzz then send me a PM!+++++
Join the Discussion: » 25 Comments » Post New Comment
More from Jason Lewis
» Kings recall/send down Scuderi after Brayden McNabb injury (UPDATE)
» From Denmark to the Ontario Reign, Patrick Bjorkstrand's roots stay strong
» Home opening Ontario Reign weekend recap
» Zatkoff injured, Jack Campbell up, what now?
» Kings finally getting on the right track