2017-18 Player Review: Ryan Carpenter finally proved he can produce at the NHL level

The 27-year-old forward nearly tripled his career point total in just 36 regular-season games with the Golden Knights last year.

In the 2017-18 Player Review series, we will evaluate the 2017-18 performances of each member of the Golden Knights. We have assigned each player a grade, which is a Knights On Ice composite grade made up of our individual ratings. Players were evaluated based on overall performance in both the regular season and playoffs, especially with regard to pre-season expectations and how that player performed in his particular role. Note: Only skaters who played in at least 20 games and goalies who played in at least 10 games were included.

The Golden Knights claimed Ryan Carpenter off waivers from the San Jose Sharks in mid-December. The Oviedo, Florida native had 28 games of NHL experience over the span of three seasons with the Sharks. Carpenter had yet to find a home for himself in San Jose’s lineup and therefore spent the majority of the previous few seasons with the San Jose Baracuda of the AHL, where he recorded 94 points in 120 games. With two goals and five NHL points to his name, Carpenter made his Knights debut Jan. 5 against Chicago and ultimately played 36 regular-season and 17 postseason games in a Knights sweater. Here’s how he fared.

Season in review

It didn’t take long for Carpenter to shed his stigma of not being able to stick around at the NHL level. He brought an unexpected and much-needed burst of secondary scoring to the Knights’ offense, and he quickly doubled his career total with six goals and 10 points in his first 15 games. At one point he had a three-game goal streak and scored four goals and six points in the span of five games. Carpenter appeared to be yet another example of Gerard Gallant and the Knights organization getting the most out of a player who had been overlooked and underestimated elsewhere.

In total, Carpenter recorded nine goals and 14 points in 36 regular-season contests with the Knights. Other than a Goals For percentage of 47.5 and a High-Danger Goals For percentage of 41.67, Carpenter’s 5-on-5 possession stats were solid across the board. He finished the regular season with a 50.71 Corsi For percentage as well as a 51.16 Shots For percentage, 54 Scoring Chances For percentage and 50.7 High-Danger Corsi For percentage, all with a 48.5 offensive zone start percentage.

Carpenter also made the players around him better, as indicated in the graph below.

Colin Miller (the red “6”) generated more shots without Carpenter than he did with him, and Shea Theodore, Miller’s defensive partner, gave up fewer shots against when he was not playing with Carpenter. However, Miller and Theodore had high offensive zone start percentages (60.98 and 54.28, respectively), which certainly could have affected that. Everyone else was better with Carpenter on the ice.

While Carpenter contributed just five assists in 17 playoff games, his possession stats improved in every single category during the postseason.

Carpenter’s 5-on-5 possession stats

Carpenter in theCF%SF%GF%SCF%HDCF%HDGF%On-ice save %Off. zone faceoff %
Regular Season50.7151.1647.55450.741.679048.5

Even though he didn’t have the scoring touch during Vegas’ postseason run, he was effective in driving the play during his roughly 14 minutes of ice time per game. He served as a healthy scratch twice in the second round and once in the Stanley Cup Final, but Gallant’s decisions were more a matter of changing things up than truly slighting Carpenter.

Standout moment

Carpenter’s sixth goal of the season was a thing of beauty. Not only was his back turned, but he scored on a between-the-legs, no-look backhand shot.

Another notable moment from Carpenter’s season was an assist in Game 6 against the Sharks. Though the play itself was simply a routine pass, Carpenter’s unselfish decision to pass the puck to Cody Eakin rather than take a shot at the empty net says a lot about him as a player and as a teammate.

It would have been particularly sweet for Carpenter to seal the deal against his former team, but instead he was thinking team first all the way, which is admirable. It still must have been mighty satisfying for him to get the primary assist on the play that eliminated the team that gave up on him just months earlier.

KOI composite grade: B-

Knights On Ice awarded Carpenter a composite grade of B-, with individual grades ranging from C+ to B.

Carpenter took full advantage of the fresh start Vegas provided. He nearly tripled his career total in points and scored 1.31 points per 60 minutes in 36 games with the Knights. He had never before produced consistently at the NHL level despite putting up impressive numbers in the AHL, so expectations were low when he joined the team mid-season. It’s safe to say that Carpenter exceeded those expectations on every level, and his strong possession stats carried over to Vegas, which is likely something George McPhee was banking on.

Carpenter played well on the third line, contributed on the penalty kill and made the players around him better. Had he maintained the ridiculous scoring pace he set early on, his grade would have been even higher. However, a B- is still a promising grade, and it’s a reflection of Carpenter’s positive contributions to the Knights’ inaugural campaign.

Looking ahead to 2018-19

Carpenter has one more year on a contract that carries a $650,000 cap hit, which makes him an excellent value player for the Knights this season. While he won’t automatically earn one of the 12 forward slots in the lineup since there’s a surplus of bottom-six forwards vying for spots, there’s a very strong chance Carpenter will be with the team for the duration of the season. At the very least, he’s certainly a top candidate to be the 13th forward. His two-way game and strong possession play make him a safe and reliable option, so it would be surprising to see him not make the team out of training camp.

There’s a chance he’ll experience a regression considering his hot streak wore off as the season progressed, but if Carpenter has a full NHL season with which to work, he’s more than capable of potting 15-plus goals and 30 points.

How would you grade Carpenter’s 2017-18 performance?

C- or below0