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Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Ferland’s shooting talent will prove to be useful asset for Canucks

Micheal Ferland burst into the mainstream hockey consciousness early last season after scoring seven goals in his first 12 games with his new team after an offseason trade that sent him to Carolina.The former Calgary Flame was packaged and shipped to the Hurricanes with Dougie Hamilton for Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm. Early on in the 2018-19 season, it seemed like a steal for Carolina, but after those initial seven goals coming off the Ferland’s stick, he was only able to muster 10 more in the remaining 59 games he played.

It seemed like he was going to cash-in during the beginning of last year, but through some slight misfortune for him, his stick just dried up and he was unable to get to the same level as he previously shown. Especially towards the end of the regular season where the 27-year-old had zero goals in the last 17 games before heading into the playoffs.

His postseason suffered the same fate, totalling zero goals and a single assist through an injury-riddled playoffs for the winger.

Still, now a member of the Vancouver Canucks, Ferland’s ability to get the puck towards the net and influence the play to get a solid number of scoring chances for his team is unquestioned. It might not show up directly on the scoresheet, but Ferland has his game and he plays it well.

There’s a reason why he has a career 10.5 shooting percentage.

viz by Sean Tierney / data by MoneyPuck

Most of his shots come extremely close to the crease — practically sitting right on top of the opposing goaltender hoping for any loose puck to pounce on. That is how Ferland was able to get most of his goals this past season with the Hurricanes and it will most likely be how he will score during his time in Vancouver.

It’s not the extremely skilled shooting that we have seen in Pettersson last year or an elite distance shooter like Steven Stamkos, Ferland crashes the net hard and that is his role.

There’s no nuance to his goals, but he demonstrated early on last season that he can put the puck into the back of the net. That above-average shooting percentage results from him getting in really tight and getting his chances that way.

He rarely attempts the mid-range shot, but would rather go in and get personal with the opposition deep into their own zone.

In this one sequence, Ferland grabs a loose puck off the stick of Andrei Svechnikov and goes through two Flyers to attempt a backhanded chance. It doesn’t result in a goal, but his offensive instincts is on full display here. Going for the high-danger attempt rather than putting the puck towards the net.

This is how he gets his shots to go in more than the league-average amount, opting for the higher-probability chance instead of shooting from distance and allowing the goaltender and defence to adjust.

What’s more impressive is that he goes for his own rebound in-tight and it almost becomes a goal on that second opportunity that Ferland created.

On his own rebound off his backhand, he switches to his forehand quickly and is able to bat the puck towards a fairly open net. Pulling Neuvirth out of his net with his initial shot and then seeing the rebound clearly and making it another scoring opportunity.

Highlighting this one play might be considered cherry-picking, but it does demonstrate that he does have this in his game. It wasn’t a goal that was completely set up by a linemate and Ferland was just reaping the rewards of being on the ice at the same time as a top-tier forward, but it showed his individual ability.

It wasn’t uncommon for Ferland to make individual plays either. He would sometimes rush the zone in complete control of the puck and attempt to create an offensive opportunity.

A prime example would be in one game last season against the New York Rangers. It was some atrocious zone defending by the Rangers, but Ferland took his chance and went for the shot.

Sometimes the more predictive play isn’t always the best option, if he was to lay the puck off to the teammate to his left, it might have dulled the offensive threat down, but instead Ferland decides to take his opportunity and knows that he might as well get the shot off.

It doesn’t show his shooting talent directly, but his ability to get to the front of the net and get those prime scoring opportunities.

Just like in this scoring chance during a game last season against the Washington Capitals, Ferland is able to pounce on a loose puck after sustained offensive pressure from Carolina. Then he’s able to get past some immobile defensive players and get two shot attempts off.

Again, it didn’t result in a goal but Ferland is clearly able to create this offensive pressure and keep his opposition back on their heels in their own zone.

When he enters the zone, he essentially has blinders on and darts towards the net when it’s appropriate.

He isn’t anything near a one-trick pony in the offensive zone either — at the right moment, Ferland can use his shooting ability to his advantage.

Of course being on the ice with Sebastian Aho and Jordan Staal makes his life incredibly easier, but the 27-year-old winger was able to rip a shot on the rush as the third forward entering the zone.

Perfectly placed and perfectly timed.

This is definitely picking one good play out of his 1001 minutes he played this past season, but it demonstrates that he can score some goals and beautiful ones too.

How he acts in the offensive zone led to more chances created. He was part of a Hurricanes team that were expected goals monsters last season, leading the league in xGF% for most of the season. While there were other Carolina forwards that were dominant by this metric, Ferland still carried an on-ice 54.32 xGF% at even-strength, well above league median.

That is just when Ferland is on the ice as well. Individually, he’s at the top tier of the league when it comes to generating expected goals.

Among forwards that played at least 200 minutes at even-strength last season, Ferland ranks 12th in individual expected goals per hour. His 1.06 ixG/60 is just slightly lower than John Tavares (1.08), and above other top-line wingers like Max Pacioretty (0.96) and Vladimir Tarasenko (0.91).

The way he is able to get his scoring chances so close to the net helps this number increase. Obviously the closer you are to the net, the more likely the attempt will become a goal.

Ferland benefitted greatly with the talent around him, playing with Teuvo Teravainen and Aho the most out of any other Carolina forwards. But his future with the Canucks can look fairly similar due to the amount of young talent this team already has on their roster.

He will definitely be lodged into a top-six role in Vancouver — they simply do not have the depth at his position to force any other decision by Travis Green. His future success with his new team all depends who is his centreman though.

In Aho, Ferland had a linemate that was able to create scoring chances out of nothing and get some clear chances against his opposition, with the winger picking up the scraps.

But in Vancouver, there are two options — either Bo Horvat or Elias Pettersson. Horvat had Loui Eriksson to his left for the majority of last season, while Pettersson had Josh Leivo. Neither are deserving of a top-six role on a team that hopes to be competitive sooner rather than later.

It might not be as easy as seeing what kind of styles either centre play and matching Ferland up with the best hypothetical fit, but if Ferland is the one driving towards the net there are some other options to consider.

viz by Sean Tierney / data by MoneyPuck

Horvat played especially well last season, generating a boatload of chances close to the net and getting heaps of pucks towards the opposing goaltender.

While viewing both Ferland and Horvat’s shot maps from last season, they play a similar game — while Horvat had much more ice-time and therefore a bigger total of chances. But they both have a similar gameplan and while that can work in some cases, there might be a better option that’s heading into his sophomore year in the NHL.

viz by Sean Tierney / data by MoneyPuck

An all-world talent like Pettersson deserves a winger that can do all the dirty work for him. While Ferland can certainly do the grinding-out in the corner, he’s clearly shown that he’s a talented offensive player as well.

Pettersson can shoot from practically any angle but he has historically preferred to shoot from distance and not crash towards the net. Having a winger like Ferland that drills that way with his intensity could be beneficial.

If his production continues throughout the next season, Ferland will score more goals than his mediocre 17 he did last season while also justifying his low-risk contract.

He had the talent to benefit from top players around him and he can do the exact same thing in Vancouver. He had an incredible start to his season last year but dropped off massively in the second half and throughout the postseason. If Ferland is able to continue a modicum of his early-season chance creation, he should be able to succeed next to Pettersson.

It doesn’t show up in the raw numbers, but Ferland has the mentality of a goalscorer that can compliment his team and linemates. Even though his career high is just 21 goals, given the right environment, he might be able to breakout and score many more than that.

This is all hypothetical — putting hockey puzzle pieces together and hoping that they work the same way as they have in the past can be a pointless task. But if everything just breaks the right way and some chemistry is created within the Canucks lineup, Ferland’s abilities will be noticed.

With the new additions this roster has, improvements in most areas, at least the Canucks will try to be competitive.

Rising the talent floor, deepening the pool of players that will be called upon to win some games — Ferland’s acquisition will benefit them if he’s able to continue the rate of expected success.

-data via Corsica-

  • The terms of his deal were fair. I’d play him with EP and Boeser. He certainly has the potential to be JB’s best UFA signing, which admittedly is not setting the bar very high.

    • I can see a good case for either Ferland or Miller on the top line. As discussed here Ferland can provide a net front presence, puck retrieval and physicality on that line but is very much a charge the net and shoot first kind of player. Miller on the other hand is a much better play-maker and has the creativity to set up EP and BB for good chances, but isn’t really the guy to be sitting on the goalie and swatting in rebounds.
      Either way the other one is going to be playing with Horvat so I think the only real option is to try them both and see what works.

  • “potential to be JB’s best UFA signing, which admittedly is not setting the bar very high.”

    LOL Beer – Benning’s UFA bar is set so low a centipide would struggle to crawl under it.

    Ferland scored just 17 in 71 last term, faded like a flower, lost interest and is now struggling with lingering injuries, including concussions.

    Get back to me if he stays fitter and plays more games than Roussel and Beagle did… two more ‘sandpaper’ guys whose style of game is catching up with them. Ferly has NEVER played a full NHL season in his career… tick tock.

  • I like the fact Ferland does the dirty work in the corners and drives the net, but J.T. Miller is a pass first guy that will set up Brock and EP. EP/ Brock/Miller first line will have Dmen spinning.
    Ferland playing with Pearson and Bo would put a really hard to play against line that will skate and drive the net. I’m tempted to hope Sven plays on the second line, but who knows how his health is.
    If GMJB could trade Sutter, I wouldn’t mind seeing Gaudette center Ferland and Jake or Levio.
    The
    Ants leaving out Goldy…. the combos make for interesting conversation and optimism since last year there was no depth in forwards or Defense.

  • In years past, it was hard to keep one or two good lines healthy and on the ice. This year, our top 9 looks to have some solid options and some depth behind. We can run 3 scoring lines and a checking line, or we can run 2 and 2 like last year. No one is even hypothetically penciling in Goldy, Eriksson, Levio, or Bearschi in our top 6!? I’m just saying, even our third and fourth lines got options! First time in I-don’t-know-how-long we can look at the roster and think ‘not too bad!’

    • I think we need Rousell back though. I kinda think he is adds some thing to the team that brings the guys together. The ‘pimenter’ that brings the soup together.

    • I’m not sure how we’re going to have three scoring lines with Sutter and Beagle as two of our centres. Unless one of those two is moved we’re stuck with two checking lines again.

  • I suspect Ferland and Miller will go back and forth between Bo and EP as the season moves forward. The potential looks so promising for the club, as there now looks like there is a legitimate top 6. Skilled grinders in the right role will certainly move this group forward. Can’t wait for October.

    • Agree entirely. I think that the coach will find a regular assignment for him but will also deploy him on the PP and PK as the “atmosphere” dictates.

    • I believe there will some experiments with the first line, but TG will settle on a line. We Canucks fans have been used to the juggling since the West Coast Express. Burr did have a couple of great years with the Twins.
      With Miller and Ferland signed for 4 yrs, the coach should want a real first line, not juggling. Given past play Miller seems like a perfect fit, but Ferland could click?

      One premise I have never bought into was making your top line less effective to increase scoring on the second line. Dropping Miller to make Bo and Tanner better is not an answer. Seems Miller was brought in to be the set up guy for EP and Brock…. and add 25 goals himself.
      Ferland will make the second line real nasty. How many penalties will They draw with their relentless play… then out comes! EP/Brock/Miller/Meyers or Quinn. It will be fun

  • I really liked the article. Thanks. It will also show that we have some push back this year. I really don’t like pre-meditated or staged fights, but at least we have a few that won’t back down. This will frustrate other teams and then our PP units can work efficiently. This is a good year to bet on the team to win the division. Vegas has ’em slated fourth. I really don’t see Ferland on PP1 initially, but things change. Speaking of change. What is the status of Newell Brown? Is he gonna be back?

  • I too like it most when Roussel is in the line up. He has grit and annoys people and adding Ferland gives this team a whole different feel. Prepare yourselves, Canucks fans, for inevitable injuries and everyone that Benning has signed or will sign will be needed in the 19-20 campaign. Still think Ferland should play with Petey and Brock and J.T. with Horvat and Leivo leaving Sutter with Pearson and Shotgun Jake. The rest will be the usual Green dog’s breakfast because I doubt any lines they come up with will be etched in stone.

    • I agree….but I like Petey with Miller and Brock…..Horvat with JV and Ferland to bang and crash….then Sutter with Peason and Leivo….that leaves Beagle with Mott and Rousell…..not sure who takes Rousell place to Xmas….lots of possibilities….

  • What I like best of getting more grit is there will be someone on the ice at all times who could take care of making sure everyone one the ice plays within the rules. Each one can play from Ferland, Benn, Miller and Roussel they play a heavy game but are not dirty players they can intimidate but are not cheap shot artists.