On Impressions, the Percentages and Jordan Schroeder’s Two-Way Play

Photo Credit: Les Bazso, PNG Files

While Henrik Sedin closes in on Markus Naslund’s all-time franchise points leader milestone, Jordan Schroeder is approaching his own milestone. It’s one that barely warrants mention but is hugely impressive nonetheless: barring some unforseen catastrophe, the impressive Canucks rookie will play his one-hundredth minute at even-strength in the first period of Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Mild (TM @Socialassassin2).

Why is that impressive? Because in Jordan Schroeder’s ninety-eight minutes and twenty-six seconds of even-strength ice-time so far this season, the Canucks have yet to surrender a goal against. Read on past the jump.

This may read as if it’s harsh but it’s also true: heading into this season, the diminutive Minnesotan speedster was teetering on the edge of being labelled a "draft bust." Selected late in the first round of the 2009 NHL draft, Jordan Schroeder was the 29th of 30th first rounders that year to make his NHL debut. Schroeder’s AHL production has never jumped off the page at you, and doubts about whether or not he had the size to be effective as a two-way player were seemingly well-founded.

So far, and it’s early yet, Jordan Schroeder has looked like he belongs at the NHL level. His skating ability is high-end – not that there were any doubts about that facet of his game – and he uses his speed well to transition on zone-exits, enter the zone offensively, and he backchecks like a demon. His positioning is solid, and it’s my impression that he has a Kyle Wellwood-dian ability to be in the right place, at the right time in order to recieve the all important outlet pass that helps Vancouver’s defenders clear their zone when facing pressure.

Schroeder even started out winning face-offs at a very impressive rate – especially for a diminutive rookie – though his faceoff percentage has tailed off of late (this is an area of the game where young players do tend to struggle). Still, his two-way play and his winning percentage on defensive zone draws has been solid enough that it seems likely he won’t struggle to stay in the lineup the way, say, Cody Hodgson did.

There’s reason to believe, I think, that Jordan Schroeder has the wherewithal to remain in Vancouver’s top-nine upon Ryan Kesler’s return from two offseason surgeries: whether as a sheltered third-line centre, or as a hybrid type center with Kelser moving over to the wing. That said, looks can be decieving especially when that’s all you use to evaluate a players performance over a miniscule sample of games.

As the Canucks’ schedule shifted over the past week, and Vancouver began to feast on a steady diet of inferior Northwest Division opposition, Jordan Schroeder’s possession ratios have begun to improve. But Schroeder remains a slightly negative possession player despite facing relatively soft matchups and starting a slighlty higher proportion of his shifts in the offensive end than the defensive end. 

In fact, before we get carried away praising Jordan Schroeder’s defensive abilities, we should note that his underlying metrics suggest that he’s due for some very serious regression. For example, with Schroeder on the ice the Canucks allow shots against at a higher rate when only three Canucks forwards are on the ice: Alex Burrows, Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen; and those three have played the toughest matchups among all Vancouver forwards through eleven games this season. Jordan Schroeder’s defensive play passes the eye-test, but looking good defensively when you’ve got a 108 PDO (a metric that can be used as a short-hand measurement of "puck luck" anything above 100 is seen as "fortunate") isn’t the same as actually being the type of quality defensive player who can actually help a good teams win games.

Schroeder’s inauspicious underlying numbers through nine games aren’t comeplling enough yet (sample size etc.) for us to blow off the impression that he’s already a reasonably capable two-way forward. That’s an impression we share, frankly, but the numbers are essential context. Basically we don’t know very much about how effective Jordan Schroeder is at the NHL level yet, beyond the fact that he’s surpassed any reasonable expectations for his NHL-readiness up to this point. It’ll be fascinating to find out more over the balance of this season.