Deep Dive Part I: What do the Canucks really have in Filip Hronek?

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
8 months ago
There’s just two months to go until the 2023/24 NHL season gets going, and despite decades of conditioning to the contrary, fans of the Vancouver Canucks are starting to get excited again.
And, perhaps, with good reason.
GM Patrik Allvin and Co. have added a fair bit of talent to their roster over the past few months. Carson Soucy, Ian Cole, and Teddy Blueger were signed as free agents. Nils Höglander is coming up from the AHL. Tanner Pearson is returning after an extended absence.
But if there’s one new addition that is going to truly make all the difference, it’s one the Canucks actually acquired back in March.
It’s Filip Hronek.
Now, to call Hronek “new” is a bit of a misnomer, as he’s been with the Canucks for almost half a year by this point. That said, injuries kept him out of all but four games post-trade, so what we really mean is “yet to be given a real opportunity to make an impact.”
But Hronek is healthy now, and he’s ready to start impacting. Which is good, because impactful is exactly what the Canucks need from Hronek if they hope to improve their fortunes in 2023/24.
Hronek enters the season as (fairly easily) the second-most talented defender on the blueline, after Quinn Hughes. But if he’s going to make a real difference, the Canucks are probably going to require Hronek to be a little bit more than just “second-best.” They’re going to need him to play — even if he’s not on the actual top pairing — like a true top-pairing D, good enough to join Hughes in elevating the rest of what remains a fairly lackluster blueline.
So, is he up to the task?
Today, we’re taking a deep dive into Hronek’s stats, his story, and his playing history in an attempt to determine the quality of his play thus far in his career, and just how good he can potentially be as a Vancouver Canuck.

Career Accomplishments

The 25-year-old Hronek has only played in five NHL seasons thus far, which is great news if you’ve just agreed to break down his entire career.
The Detroit Red Wings, still under the management of Ken Holland, drafted Hronek with the 53rd overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
He left his native Czechia to join the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL for the 2016/17 season, and when their campaign came to an end, Hronek went right on to the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL for a ten-game audition. He would stay in Grand Rapids for the entirety of the next season, then split his 2018/19 season between Grand Rapids and Detroit before breaking into full-time NHL duty as of 2019/20.
GamesGoalsAssistsPointsPIMAvg. TOICorsi
It didn’t take Hronek very long to become a VID (very important defender) for the Red Wings. In 2018/19, as a part-time rookie, he played just a hair under 20 minutes per game. By his sophomore 2019/20 campaign, Hronek was already up to an average of 23:54 per night.
He’s been over and above 21 minutes per game ever since.
There’s obviously no guarantee that those were quality minutes. Detroit was in the tank when Hronek arrived, and wouldn’t start to pull themselves out of it until this past season. Defensively, Hronek still had plenty to learn on the fly.
But something that did seem to arrive right away was his offensive production.
He had 23 points in 46 games as a rookie, and 31 in 65 games the next season. The COVID-shortened 2020/21 campaign saw Hronek slip a little to 26 points in 56 games, but that 0.46 PPG stint now stands as the lowest-scoring stretch of his career, and those 26 points still led the Red Wings in overall scoring.
In every other season, Hronek has posted a PPG of 0.48 or higher, including 38 points in 60 games for Detroit in 2022/23 (0.63 PPG) prior to being traded to Vancouver.
In his own end of the ice, however, Hronek struggled a fair bit under the weight of his hefty responsibilities, falling into the awkward spot of being unready for such duties, but still the best option Detroit had.
From 2018 to 2021, Hronek’s Corsi ranged between 45 and 47%, not awful by any means, but nothing to write home about, either. In each of those three seasons, Hronek was on the ice for far more goals against than goals for, up to a negative differential of 55 in 2019/20.
The 2021/22 season would see Hronek break out at one end of the ice, but the other end would have to wait.

2021/22, Offensive Breakout Season

The 2021/22 campaign marked a shift in Detroit’s fortunes, in general, and especially on the blueline. Nick Leddy, who Hronek would spend much of that season partnered with, joined the team. But more importantly, Moritz Seider hit the scene and instantly became the team’s number one defender.
But having Seider around to share the minutes did not impact Hronek in a negative way. Much the opposite.
Through some combination of his own continued growth, the slight lessening of his responsibilities, and the increase in the quality of the players around him, Hronek broke out in a big way for 2021/22.
His overall ice-time dropped by a single minute. His power play time took a more noticeable tumble.
His production, however, shot up through the roof.
Through 78 games, Hronek managed 5 goals and 33 assists for 38 points, a breakout effort in and of itself. That’s an increase from 0.46 PPG to 0.49, but now over a much longer period of time.
It looks even more impressive when we consider that missing ice-time, particularly on the power play.
Hronek’s even-strength points-per-60 increased from 0.9 in 2020/21 to 1.3 for 2021/22. Of more particular interest is his primary assists-per-60, which shot from 0.2 all the way up to 0.6, a genuine triplification.
He wasn’t just producing more offence, he was demonstrably more directly involved in the generation of offence, and that’s a an important distinction.
Defensively-speaking, however, a breakout was not occurring.
Hronek was asked to support a couple of aging partners in Leddy and Marc Staal, and he was also asked to take on semi-shutdown levels of deployment so as to ease Seider into his own responsibilities. And he was expected to do all this while continuing to focus on evolving his offensive game.
For the time being, it proved too much.
Hronek was on the ice for 77 goals for in 2021/22, and 116 against, a negative differential of 39. His Corsi slipped all the way down to 46.8%. His penalty minutes more than doubled.
It wasn’t that Hronek was playing poorly. It was just that he wasn’t quite ready for this amount of workload yet, especially not on a team as poorly-performing as Detroit, and he buckled a little under the weight of it.
But give him a year, and he’d figure it all out.

2022/23, Defensive Breakout Season (Plus, More Offence)

The 2022/23 season marked Hronek’s last with the Red Wings, what with his being traded to Vancouver in March ahead of the Trade Deadline.
But before that could happen, Hronek had to break out once again, and in a completely different way.
Oddly enough, 2022/23 could also be considered a subsequent offensive breakout for Hronek on top of his 2021/22 breakout, and perhaps an even greater one. He was all the way up to 38 points in 60 games prior to the trade, which is the same amount of points than he had the year prior, but in 18 fewer games.
His Detroit PPG shot up from 0.49 all the way to 0.63.
This can largely be attributed, however, to Hronek being allowed back on the Detroit power play, and that power play being more successful. A full 16 of Hronek’s 38 points came with the man advantage. His even-strength points-per-60 remained the exact same at 0.6.
But of far more relevance when it comes to determining Hronek’s worth to the Vancouver Canucks is the simultaneous defensive breakout that came along with it.
The quality of Hronek’s competition did dip a bit as Seider began to take on more responsibility himself (more on that in Part II). But the quality of his play increased far more than the minimal difference in deployment can explain.
Hronek’s Corsi rebounded to 49.1%, above his career average. He was on the ice for 81 goals for, a higher rate than the year prior, but the real difference came in the goals against. Through 60 games, Hronek was on the ice for just 58 goals against.
For someone playing 21:32 a night against top-six competition, that’s a remarkably low amount. Having never posted a positive goal differential before, all of a sudden Hronek was up to +23.
It’s all the more impressive when we consider that Detroit, as a whole, wound up -39 on the season, eighth-worst in the league.
At even-strength alone, Hronek was +13, which might not sound like much, but was ranked 34th overall among defenders who played more than 15 minutes of EV time a night.
Almost all of the players ranked ahead of Hronek on that list came from playoff rosters. One notable exception? Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks.


So, there you have it, a satellite view of Hronek, the hockey player. As it stands, we see a defender who has pushed through the weight of enormous early-career responsibilities and expectations until he was genuinely capable of handling them.
Many young players crumble under similar circumstances, but Hronek only grew.
From this perspective, he does indeed look like a top-pairing quality player, or at least someone who was a top-pairing quality player during the 2022/23 season.
If he can maintain a similar level of play in Vancouver, he’ll be exactly what they’re looking for.
But will he?
In Part II of this article, we’re going to go beyond the general view to get deep into the specifics of who Hronek is as a player. We’ll be looking at leaguewide comparisons, the penalty kill, his quality of teammates and competition, and all those underlying measures that tend to really show what a defender is made of.
We’ll catch you on the Filip side.

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