Why Evander Kane Will Lead the Sharks in Scoring

The St. Louis Blues' Robert Bortuzzo (41) tries to prevent a pass to the San Jose Sharks' Evander Kane in the second period on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Also defending on the play is Blues goaltender Jake Allen. The Blues won, 3-2, in overtime. (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS via Getty Images)
The St. Louis Blues' Robert Bortuzzo (41) tries to prevent a pass to the San Jose Sharks' Evander Kane in the second period on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Also defending on the play is Blues goaltender Jake Allen. The Blues won, 3-2, in overtime. (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS via Getty Images) /

Evander Kane made a huge splash for the San Jose Sharks after they acquired him at last year’s trade deadline. His playing style seamlessly blended with a Sharks team who desperately needed an elite scorers impact. It’s gone by smoothly thus far, but will Kane elevate his game even further with a full season in San Jose?

The San Jose Sharks gave up a first round pick in order to acquire and eventually sign him to an extension. First round picks are becoming more and more coveted in today’s NHL, but for a team  with the luck of the San Jose Sharks it was definitely a price worth paying to lock down an elite NHL scoring threat.

The 27 year old played in 78 games last season, the most he’s played his entire career. Over his 9 seasons in the National Hockey League, Kane has had problems staying on the ice. He has missed time for a variety of reasons, whether it was legal, behavioral, or from injury Evander Kane has failed to be iced for a full 82 game season.

But after signing a lucrative 7 year 49 million dollar contract this offseason per capfriendly. Kane is looking to put together his first complete season in San Jose. The Sharks obviously believe that the Vancouver native can become that elite scoring winger that he has been projected to become his entire career.

More from Blades of Teal

He made an immediate impact after coming over at the trade deadline last year for a conditional first round pick. He had 40 points on a muddling Sabres roster in 61 games. During his 17 regular season games with the San Jose Sharks, Kane put up 14 points with 9 goals over that span. Just two weeks into his Sharks career he was able to put up his first hat trick in his career, with 4 goals against the Calgary Flames on March 16th

He continued his strong play into the playoffs accumulating 5 points over the 9 games he played in, even after it was found out after that he was playing with a separated shoulder. The Sharks were ultimately stopped short by Marc-Andre Fluery and the eventual western conference champions the Vegas Golden Knights. It might have been a short window of time; however Kane put on an impressive showing. The Sharks are looking to build off this momentum during training camp, which starts on September 14th.

There are plenty of reasons to believe that Kane is capable of leading the Sharks in scoring this upcoming season. They were not a high scoring team and their leading scorer was Brent Burns with 67 points in 82 games. Kane’s career high in points is 57 with Winnipeg in 74 games during the 2011-2012 season.  This is arguably the most talented roster he has been a part of.  So if the Canadian forward is able to stay on the ice for a full season it is not unreasonable to assume that he can eclipse both those marks.

Kane’s speed and tenacity were something that the Sharks lacked throughout most of last season. He uses his strength, reach, and quick hands to dig pucks out of corners and his skate speed to trek the puck through the neutral zone. But his ice time is maximized inside the offensive zone. During his time in Buffalo last year, Kane was deployed into the offensive zone at nearly 60%. But during his brief time with the Sharks one can see his usage dipped down to nearly 52%.

This is a high number for a San Jose Sharks team that tries to roll all four forward lines. Much like defensemen Brent Burns, Coach Pete DeBoer does seem to rely on Kane’s ability in the offensive zone. Using Micah Blake McCurdy’s  (@IneffectiveMath) visualization tool you can see that he was deployed into the offensive zone at much higher rate than the other Sharks forwards. Over the course of a full year one should expect this number to regress more towards the other skaters, but still it represents DeBoers trust in Kane’s ability to produce points.

Kane’s presence was a breath of a fresh air on a sometimes predictable Brent Burns centric offensive zone strategy. Kane placed 4th in the league in overall shots, with 307 between Buffalo and San Jose. His ability to get the puck through shooting lanes creates offensive chances for a Sharks team relies heavily on deflections and net front presence to produce points.

Using another Micah Blake McCurdy Hockeyviz tool that tracks the amount of 5v5 shot share and scoring % accumulated by a specific team. One can see that in his short sample of work that he shot the puck a lot when he was on the ice. This visual illustrates the shooting disparities between all of the Sharks skaters, and how much they rely on Burns for offensive production.

At various points last season the Sharks struggled to create offense, especially when Brent Burns was not on the ice. But with the addition of Kane the offense seems much more balanced. Kane’s powerful shot created 26 rebounds at 5v5 per naturalstattrick. That ranks 3rd among all players in the entire NHL. It is not hard to picture these rebounds being scooped up by one of the  big bodies they park in front of the crease to score goals.

Kane is a lethal scorer and it can be argued that he has yet to reach his ceiling even though he turned 27 over the summer. Last season Kane ranked only behind Connor McDavid in High Danger Scoring Chances created at 5v5 with 104. This means that his shots often goes unblocked, creates rebounds, or come off zone rushes. This stat is a good representation of a player’s offensive explosiveness and their ability to create their own shot.

Kane did major damage at 5v5 last season, but wasn’t quite as effective when his team has the numerical advantage. But with a training camp with the Sharks it is easy to see Kane improve on the on power play. Teams need time to work on their special teams and do not really get time to practice during the season with an already strenuous schedule. With more power play usage he will be given more opportunities to use his size, speed, and raw skill to produce offense.

It’s looking more and more like he will be starting the season on the first line with Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton. Jumbo and Kane are very good friends off the ice. While last year it seemed that Kane and Pavelski built up a decent chemistry during his brief time on the Sharks roster. There hasn’t been a mainstay on that line for years and it seems that a player with Kane’s style of play will fit in well on their Left flank.

Next. Diving Deeper: The San Jose Sharks '18-'19 Schedule. dark

It is hard not to be excited about EK9’s potential impact on this roster. His grit and quickness is something that the San Jose Sharks have been missing. His impact last year after being acquired at the deadline was immediate and almost propelled a Sharks team to another Stanley Cup Final appearance.

The Sharks are banking on Evander Kane to continue to elevate his game, and hoping he’s able to stay on the ice for the majority of the season.