Thursday, September 23, 2010

30 Caps in 30 Days: Mathieu Perreault

During the thirty days of September, I'll be trying to preview the seasons of thirty players currently under contract with the Washington Capitals and who have a good chance of spending some time in red, white, and blue this season. Advanced stats are given from ranked against other players at the same position--forward, defense, or goalie--in the same organization, at 5-on-5, unless otherwise noted. Age is on opening night. Teammates are those listed at 10% or greater and at even strength (though the percentage includes all manpower situations). Today, Mathieu Perreault)

Mathieu Perreault: age 22, 5'9", 166 pounds, shoots left.
Contract: entry level, $62.5k in AHL, $650k in NHL, cap hit $717k, RFA in 2011
2009-2010 linemates: 13% Chris Clark and Eric Fehr, 11% Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr

2009-2010 raw stats:
NHL: 21 GP, 4-5-9, +4, 27 shots, 6 PIM
AHL: 56 GP, 16-34-50. +23, 94 shots, 34 PIM
Playoffs: 21 GP, 7-12-19, +14, 29 shots, 18 PIM

2009-2010 advanced stats: last in Corsi QoC, third-to-last in Corsi Rel QoC, fifth-to-last in Corsi QoT, and last in Corsi Rel QoT. Zonestart 57.5% offensive zone (third) with Zonefinish 52.7% offensive zone (fifth). Corsi Rel -9.6, 5th-to-last on the team (tied with Tomas Fleischmann)

(Photo courtesy Caps Snaps)

WOWY (yellow is how much better the player is with Perreault, green how much better Perreault is with the player)

Small players, in order to play in the NHL, have to play "bigger" than their size, be fast and elusive, be highly skilled, and have strong hockey sense. Mathieu Perreault, I think, has all of those four attributes.

His skill is undeniable, if you've seen him play at all. He certainly is quick and elusive. He does seem to ramp up his play in the playoffs and head to the net and corners more, and his NHL stints (including this year's preseason and training camp games) confirm this fearless attitude that size will not hold him back. His hockey sense is pretty decent, as we've seen in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (Perreault combined over his last two years of junior scored over 230 points in about 130 games). Is it enough, though? Here's what I wrote a few weeks ago:
Well, since Marcus Johansson probably won't be able to step in and play second-line center, I quickly looked up Mathieu Perreault's numbers, again using Vic Ferrari's great script. His Fenwick% was .497 and his Corsi% was .509 in 21 games played, so he was about a break-even player. But his teammates in general were pretty poor and he did alright for himself.

I'll also throw out that Perreault went 16-34-50 in 56 AHL games, a 23-50-73 82 game pace with Hershey, giving him an NHLE of 0.41 x 73 = 30 pts per 82 games. It looks though like Perreault was stuck on the depth chart behind Keith Aucoin and possible Kyle Wilson, and should make the jump to a top-6 center rather than a bottom-6, so we can add to this. Throw in PP time and "playing on the [Capitals' offense]" factor and maybe we're looking at 45 points. He looks better if we take his 2.17 pts/60 and give him 18 mins of ice time a night, thus getting .651 pts/game and 53 points over 82 games, and that doesn't even factor in that some of those 18 minutes will be power play time.

Still, not certain enough for me. Perreault was a streaky player in his stints with the Capitals and a few fewer points would paint an entirely different picture. Perreault looks like he's worth giving a shot, and can certainly change my mind depending on how he starts the season, but McPhee should definitely be investigating other options for center, especially players that play like Backstrom and Morrison.
Judging from his WOWY Perreault might be make-or-break depending on with whom he plays and finds chemistry with. Just for fun, I'd thrown this out:
If Bruce Boudreau gives [Chimera] consistent linemates that can help cover for him defensively, move the play up the ice, and be creative in offensive zone, like Eric Fehr and Mathieu Perreault, then Chimera could look and perform quite well.
Looking at reports out of training camp, that very line has been quite productive. If their chemistry continues, Perreault could crack the NHL as a full-time NHL third scoring line center. Chemistry, I think, is the extra edge he needs to beat out higher-profile players like Marcus Johansson.

Maybe this is me hoping rather than making an educated guess, but I get the feeling Perreault will be a full-time NHLer by season's end. His speed, offensive creativity, and tenacity on the forecheck makes him too good of a soft-minutes-type player to be left in Hershey. 55 GP, 10-20-30, +5 is where I'd put him, and a slightly higher scoring rate in the playoffs. Especially relative to players like Tomas Fleischmann, Perreault thus far has been clutch. For a team that has been lacking "clutch" play in the playoffs thus far, that's a huge bonus.

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