2018-19 Player Review: Ryan Carpenter remains a safe yet unproductive bottom-six option for Vegas
The 28-year-old was defensively reliable but registered just 18 points in 68 games.
In the 2018-19 Player Review series, we will evaluate the 2018-19 performances of each member of the Golden Knights. 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.
The Vegas Golden Knights claimed Ryan Carpenter off waivers from the San Jose Sharks back in December, 2017, and he made his presence felt almost immediately, recording 10 points in his first 15 games. He was unable to sustain that level of production last year, and he never quite found that spark this season. That ultimately resulted in him serving as a healthy scratch during Vegas’ brief postseason run, and it leaves question marks surrounding his future in Sin City.
Season in review
Carpenter scored five goals and 18 points in 68 games during the 2018-19 regular season, which came out to a points-per-game rate of 0.26. That was a step down from the 0.39 points per game he managed with Vegas the year before, though 10 of his 14 points in 2017-18 came in his first 15 games.
But this year was a different story, as Carpenter came out of the gate on an ice-cold streak. In fact, he didn’t find twine until his 30th game of the season (Dec. 9 vs. Dallas), and he then failed to score a goal in his final 15 games of the year.
Part of that can be attributed to his abysmal shooting percentage of 4.9, which was the lowest among Vegas forwards. In the three seasons in which Carpenter has scored at least one goal at the NHL level, the 4.9 rate is by far the lowest shooting percentage he’s maintained, compared to 13.8 percent in 2017-18 and 10 percent in 2016-17.
However, he still managed to set career highs in assists (13) and points (18), even if he saw just a four-point improvement (not including the one assist he tallied in 16 games with the Sharks) in nearly twice as many games.
But while his overall production may have been scant, Carpenter’s advanced metrics remained near the top of the roster in most categories.
Among Vegas forwards who played in at least 20 games, he finished first in Corsi For percentage (57.88), third in Shots For percentage (55.71), third in Expected Goals For percentage (56.99), second in Scoring Chances For percentage (58.54) and sixth in High-Danger CF% (59.21).
Not bad for a bottom-six forward who averaged 12:37 of ice time per game.
Carpenter’s individual and line performance at 5-on-5
Carpenter spent the majority of the season on the third line with Tomas Nosek, most frequently joined by Cody Eakin or Oscar Lindberg. However, Carpenter’s numbers on the fourth line (with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Ryan Reaves) were particularly impressive, as you can see in the table above.
But regardless of line assignment, Carpenter made almost everyone around him better at driving play at 5-on-5, as demonstrated in the chart below.
The red boxes represent players’ performance without Carpenter, while the black boxes, almost all of which are in more favorable positions, represent players’ performance with Carpenter.
Notably, however, Carpenter was held out of the lineup for the entirety of Vegas’ first-round series against San Jose. That made him the only Vegas skater to play in at least 20 regular-season games but serve as a healthy scratch in all seven postseason games.
Head coach Gerard Gallant did not make many adjustments throughout the series, though it was the more offensively-inclined Brandon Pirri who got the call in Game 7.
He didn’t score often, but Carpenter’s fourth goal of the season, which came in the Jan. 12 matchup against the Blackhawks, was a nifty strike. After collecting a lob pass from the defensive zone, Carpenter beat netminder Colin Delia with a top-shelf blast, bringing Vegas within one in the final minute of the second period. The Knights eventually won the game in overtime by a final score of 4-3.
Looking ahead to 2019-20
Carpenter is one of three Vegas forwards set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1 (with Pirri and Bellemare being the other two). Carpenter is coming off a two-year, $1.3 million deal he originally signed with San Jose; the contract carried an AAV of $650,000.
It wouldn’t require too much more than that to re-sign Carpenter, but Vegas will be forced to cope with considerable cap trouble this offseason as the only team already over the projected salary cap of $83 million.
With William Karlsson’s contract hanging in the balance, the Knights will need to move at least one or two contracts this summer, which could make room for Carpenter on an inexpensive short-term deal. However, his status could depend on what the Knights decide to do with players like Nosek, Nikita Gusev, etc.
The fact that Carpenter was held out of the lineup throughout the postseason could be very telling as far as what Vegas has in store for him, though Gallant has since spoken highly of the Oviedo, Florida native.
There are arguments to be made for a lot of the bottom-six options, but Carpenter’s assets are his (presumably) affordable cap hit, reliable two-way play and solid possession metrics. Whether that’s enough to warrant a roster slot for the 28-year-old has yet to be determined, especially given his lack of offensive growth in 2018-19.
How would you grade Carpenter’s 2018-19 performance?
|A+ or A||1|
|A- or B+||3|
|B or B-||16|
|C+ or C||14|
|C- or below||5|
Statistics courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com.