What the numbers say the Canucks are getting in Filip Hronek

Photo credit:© Brian Bradshaw Sevald-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Liu
1 year ago
Okay, deep breath.
We will remove what we think about the acquisition cost for the Vancouver to get Filip Hronek from the Detroit Red Wings. That’s been covered in depth already, both good and bad. For the purposes of this article, we’ll be focusing on Hronek, the player. Vancouver is acquiring a 25-year-old right-handed defenceman. Hronek has been playing well so far this season, on pace for about 52 points.
Here’s what the numbers have to say about Filip Hronek.

Detroit’s number 1 defenceman

You might think that title belongs to Moritz Seider, but the sophomore German is currently trying to bust through a slump of his own. Statistically, the best defenceman that the Red Wings iced this season has been Hronek himself. His impact at both ends of the ice has been key to buoying a somewhat suspect defensive corps upwards.
Hronek currently leads all Detroit defencemen in goals, assists, and points, his total of 38 points ranking him as the second-highest scorer on the team, as well as leading all defencemen in shots (122). What makes this feat more impressive are the partners that he usually has. Currently, Hronek has spent the most time alongside Olli Määttä and Ben Chiarot, both who aren’t exactly known for being mobile and their offensive pedigree. More often than not, Hronek does the heavy lifting on his pairings.
It shows in the advanced stats. Hronek currently leads all Detroit defencemen in CF% (49.37), FF% (50.14), and xGF% (53.92), while ranking second in HDCF% (47.12). This suggests that not only is he the best defenceman in terms of puck possession, but is able to effectively transition the puck out of his zone as the primary puck-moving defenceman on his pairing to generate good scoring opportunities.
What’s also noticeable is his effect on his partners. Alongside Määttä, Hronek’s stat line reads as 45.37 CF%, 46.00 FF%, 49.34 xGF%, and 44.05 HDCF%. Without Määttä, his stats jump up to 51.55 CF%, 52.49 FF%, 56.81 xGF% and 50.00 HDCF%. Those increases might not look drastically significant, but consider that Määttä’s line plummets to 43.85 CF%, 43.43 FF%, 39.28 xGF%, and 38.89 HDCF% without playing alongside Hronek.
A similar story can be seen with Chiarot, who drags Hronek down into the high 30’s across most of the rate statistics. It tells of a defencemen trusted to elevate the play of his partners when they would otherwise flounder with lesser players. It sounds kind of familiar for Quinn Hughes, in all honesty.
The numbers tell of a defenceman who can put up good offensive numbers and play a defensively responsible game. Hronek has shown the ability to play well in spite of his partners, moving the puck in all zones and suppressing chances against effectively. But it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the Czech.

Benefitting from deployment

As a byproduct of being Detroit’s best defenceman, Hronek has gotten plenty of special teams action that he’s made the most of. Out of his 38 points, 16 have come as power play markers, 4 goals and 12 assists. Power play production is never a guarantee, but it always makes it more likely for a defenceman to put up better numbers if they are quarterbacking their team’s primary power play option.
Interestingly enough, Hronek also receives favourable deployment and zone starts in his shifts. Though usually matching against the top 4 of opposing teams, he receives the most starts in the offensive zone amongst Red Wing defencemen with over 40 games played both off faceoffs (50.31) and shift starts (48.18). While this shouldn’t suggest poor defensive work, it speaks to Detroit making sure that Hronek has the best possible opportunity to showcase his offensive abilities, which he has done so this season.
Taking the power play usage and deployment into consideration, it makes looking at his body of work a little bit harder. Yes, Hronek’s shooting percentage of 7.4 is a little higher than his career average of 5.3. That shouldn’t be of big concern. But what is a little worrying is how in the past two seasons, his shooting percentage sat at 3.8 and 1.3 respectively. Hronek has been shooting a lot more this season and been converting on a lot more — but will you get that version of him when he moves over to Vancouver? It’s hard to say, given the inconsistencies he’s shown in previous years.
Because of the way Hronek is used, his increase in produce could be a flash in the pan. With the Canucks, it is highly unlikely that he will receive heavy usage by the top power play unit unless Hughes goes down with injury. Vancouver has historically been very stingy with using its PP2, which will affect the offensive production of the Czech defender. While points aren’t the end-all be-all of his game, it certainly is an attractive selling point that makes him all the more valuable.

So what to make of it?

As Chris Faber said on yesterday’s Canucks Conversation, the Canucks have acquired the best partner that Quinn Hughes might ever have. Hronek promises to be a good secondary puck-moving option, with chops at both ends of the ice to give Vancouver a very mobile, offensively gifted pairing with the ability to defend on top of it.
Canuck fans shouldn’t expect Hronek to be a 50-point defenceman though, at least not with how we think he will be deployed. The reduction in special teams time and possible shifting of his deployment to start more in the defensive zone could affect the numbers that he puts up, which would dampen the allure he provides. It will be interesting to see if Tocchet opts to have Hronek on the penalty kill. He’s spent the 4th most time on the PK, suggesting that the Red Wings haven’t been shy about using him in that role, but questions still surround if he will be able to translate good analytics into good results on the kill.
Regardless of how you feel about what Vancouver gave up in exchange, a 25-year-old RHD fits with the projected core of Pettersson, Hughes and Demko. The only question is if they can get everything else around them right.

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