Joakim Ryan, Defenseman
The San Jose Sharks were pleasantly surprised by the play of Joakim Ryan last season. He was iced for 62 games, most of them being partnered with Brent Burns. He seems like an excellent complement to Burns’ brilliant but often risky playing style. Ryan is new to the NHL, but his maturity seems beyond his years.
The 25-year-old is part of this new wave of smaller more mobile defensemen that have started to creep into the league. He is an extremely disciplined skater as he was only in the penalty box 4 times last season, along with only coughing up the puck 16 times, per naturalstattrick. Compare that total to his defensive partner Burns who had 124 giveaways over the course of last season, which placed second in the entire league.
Over the past few seasons it was Paul Martin partnered with Burns. Martin’s disciplined skating served as the perfect counterpart to Burns volatile style of play. But after coming back from injury last season, it was clear to the coaches that Martin was missing a step.
The coaching staff then decided to pair Burns with Brendan Dillon. On paper this combo seemed like a perfect fit. But realistically Dillon lacks the skate speed and positional awareness to make up for Burn’s questionable defensive plays, and it showed at times with those two on the ice together.
Using another fun visual tool provided by Micah Blake McCurdy’s (@IneffectiveMath) Hockeyviz site is his defender deployment groupings. This helps one get a sense of how defensive pairings are deployed throughout the course of the season by a coach.
Peter DeBoer got more and more comfortable pairing Burns and Ryan together over the course of the year. They were deployed mostly inside the offensive zone for maximum on ice effectiveness. Ryan started in the offensive zone at a 55.5% rate with almost zero time on the power play. Although he was given a bulk of zone starts inside the opponent’s zone, he is mostly tasked with staying home and roving the blue line to keep the puck in play.
Even with the bulk of defensive responsibility the New Jersey native was able to produce some points by feeding off of the play of his partner. Ryan compiled 12 points last year, with 3 goals in 62 games.
This was a nice little chunk of production considering that the offense completely flows through Burns’ shot when he is on the ice. Look for Joakim Ryan to improve on that total with the benefit of easier matchups created by the ridiculous depth on the San Jose Sharks blue line and better chemistry with Burns.