Last year Matt Halischuk earned the nickname “Hustlechuk” for his intractable style of play. While Halischuk spent part of the season in the doghouse, he put up good offensive numbers in his second year with the Predators. Can he continue to improve?
Halischuk continued to improve on his performance from two years ago, racking up 28 points (15 goals) in 73 games. The real statistic to pay attention to, however, is his production compared to his average time on ice. Despite averaging the lowest TOI (11:15) of all of Nashville's regular skaters (more than 43 games) Halischuk was tied with Colin Wilson for seventh in goal scoring with 15 goals on the year.
When you compare the two, Wilson not only averaged five minutes more on the ice, but also was on the power play, a privilege Halischuk did not earn in the eyes of the coaching staff.
The Predator's offense is going to need contributions from different people every night, as they don't have a bona fide offensive superstar. Halischuk is going to have to be one of those "score by committee" guys. There is little doubt he can produce in the offensive zone and make the most of his opportunities (he had the team's third highest shooting percentage at 15.6% last year). What remains to be seen is if his work ethic and defensive play are consistent enough for the coaching staff to give him some more opportunities.
Halischuk should progress nicely this year and looks to be a well-rounded player. If he pays attention to the details of the game, he may even end up on the power play at some point. Last year Trotz briefly put Halischuk with fellow youngsters Craig Smith and Colin Wilson and that line had plenty of offensive spark. Trotz split them up again during the playoff run (probably because of their lack of attention to defensive details), but many fans would like to see the youngsters back together again. If Halischuk earns the opportunities, he should have a record year this season.
The biggest question surrounding Halischuk isn't if he can produce, as he has already proven that. The question is, will he earn enough ice time to make larger contributions to the team this year?