2017-18 Player Review: Tomas Nosek found a new gear in Vegas’ postseason run

The fourth-line winger was one of only six Golden Knights to score four-plus goals in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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.

In a season full of surprises, Tomas Nosek still managed to make a name for himself in Sin City, and the Golden Knights rewarded him with a one-year contract extension this offseason. He exceeded expectations with excellent analytics during the regular season and followed that up with one of the team’s best overall performances in the postseason, which is impressive for a fourth-liner that most people did not have on their radars before the start of Vegas’ inaugural campaign. Nosek is definitely a player to watch moving forward; here’s a closer look at his 2017-18 performance.

Season in review

Nosek scored seven goals and 15 points in his first full NHL season, appearing in 67 games for the Golden Knights, most of which he spent as a member of the fourth line.

Prior to last season, the former Red Wings forward had just 17 games of NHL experience under his belt. An injury that kept him out of the lineup for four weeks starting in late January may have limited his overall production, but he picked up the pace when he returned to the lineup Feb. 13, scoring four goals and seven points through the final 26 games of the regular season. He finished tied for third on the team with two short-handed points, and he finished 12th on the team in goals. He also finished fourth in takeaways while shorthanded (10), including this one. His stats may not be awe-inspiring, but for a forward who averaged just 11:06 of ice time per game in the regular season (including an average of 1:31 on the penalty kill), Nosek’s contributions were not insignificant. League-wide, Nosek finished sixth overall in scoring among players averaging 11:06 of ice time or less.

Taking a closer look at the numbers shows solid possession metrics for the 25-year-old Czech forward. Nosek finished the regular season with a 50.25 Corsi For percentage as well as a 49.69 percent shot share, 50.0 percent goal share and 52.11 percent scoring chance share. His 93.54 on-ice save percentage was second on the team among players who played in at least 41 games last season, trailing only William Karlsson, who also led the team in scoring. His 1.21 points-per-60 rate in the regular season was 11th on the team among forwards who played in at least 25 games, and his 0.81 minor penalties drawn per 60 was fifth on the roster within the same parameters. Also, his 0.75 individual expected goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 ranked fifth on the team among players who played in at least three games (i.e., not including Brandon Pirri). While plus-minus is no longer considered a reliable stat, it’s interesting to note that Nosek finished fourth on the team among forwards in plus-minus with a plus-six rating, trailing only the three members of the top line.

But Nosek really shined in the second season. He managed four goals and six points in 17 playoff games, including a team-high three goals in the Stanley Cup Final. His standout performance in Vegas’ postseason run had somewhat of a mixed bag as far as possession, though. His 47.71 Corsi For percentage ranked 12th among Knights forwards, as only Alex Tuch and William Carrier had lower percentages (among players who played at least four games). Plus, his 49.09 percent high-danger chances share was below average as well.

However, Nosek’s 50.34 percent shot share, 75 percent goal share, 52.82 percent scoring chance share and 80 percent high-danger goal share were very impressive, as was his 97.22 on-ice save percentage, which was the best on the Knights among players who played in at least four games. His 1.93 points per 60 ranked sixth overall on the team, and he did all of this while averaging just 11:35 of ice time, which was the third-lowest on the Knights.

Standout moments

Nosek may not be the flashiest player on the Knights, but he sure made some significant plays last season.

Perhaps the most significant Nosek moment from the 2017-18 season was his game-winning goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Washington Capitals.

Nosek gave the Knights a 5-4 lead at 9:44 of the third period and later added the empty-net goal to seal the victory, finishing the game with two goals, three shots, three hits and two blocks in 12:22 of ice time.

That stands as the biggest goal in Golden Knights history as Washington proceeded to win the next four games.

But one of the most emotional goals of the entire inaugural campaign also came courtesy of Nosek, who beat Arizona’s Antti Raanta just 2:31 into the opening frame of Vegas’ home opener to give the Knights their first home lead in franchise history.

Nosek also grabbed the only assist on Vegas’ first-ever postseason goal just 3:23 into Game 1 against Los Angeles in the first round.

KOI composite grade: A-

Taking everything into consideration, Knights On Ice awarded Nosek a composite grade of A-, with individual grades ranging from B+ to A. Obviously, it was not his production that earned him this grade as his 15 points ranked 15th on the team. But clearly there are other ways to evaluate a player’s performance. In Nosek’s case, pre-season expectations as well as how he fulfilled his role on the fourth line and on the penalty kill were major contributing factors in this assessment, as was his standout performance in the postseason. Arguably, Nosek was the Knights’ best overall player in the Stanley Cup Final, and he was a key member of a fourth line that played a major role in the Knights’ success throughout the playoffs.

To be fair, it wasn’t too difficult for Nosek to exceed expectations given the fact that he was relatively unknown to most Golden Knights fans. However, it became clear pretty early on that Nosek was a valuable asset to this team. Not only was Vegas able to roll four lines for the entire season because of the play of guys like Nosek, but the Knights also maintained a top-10 penalty kill in the regular season (81.4 percent) and the seventh-best penalty kill in the postseason (79.5 percent). Nosek isn’t solely responsible for that success since he averaged the fifth-most shorthanded time per game on the team in the regular season. But while he may not have shouldered the bulk of the penalty killing duties, he was effective when he was out there.

Just look at Vegas’ unblocked shots against rates with and without Nosek on the ice, courtesy of HockeyViz. Nosek was able to force opposing players to shoot from the perimeter as well as limit shots from the slot and in tight.

When he was not on the ice, teams shot more frequently from high-danger areas, including from the slot and in front of the Vegas crease.

Facing the other team’s top power play and the larger sample size can account for a lot of this, but Nosek’s value on the penalty kill cannot be overlooked.

As explored earlier, Nosek’s analytics were impressive throughout the season, especially given his limited ice time and fourth-line assignment. He far exceeded expectations and helped the Knights ice one of the best fourth lines in the league. Though his skill may be even better suited for a third-line role, Nosek excelled last season and put together an encouraging campaign. His postseason run was the icing on the cake of an already-impressive year.

Looking ahead to 2018-19

It’s safe to say that Nosek has secured himself a spot in the lineup, and it’s possible he may even have/deserve a shot at cracking the third line given the key offseason departures of James Neal and David Perron. He’s also guaranteed to remain a key component of Vegas’ penalty kill, where he could see an increased role now that he has proven himself in a large sample of games.

Nosek is a skilled forward playing a checking role as a bottom-six winger. There’s certainly room for him to improve, and it’s fair to expect a slight increase in production assuming he remains healthy. That being said, especially with the re-signing of Ryan Reaves, Nosek’s offensive output could be limited by his linemates.

If he moves up to a third-line role in more than a temporary capacity, 15 goals would be a reasonable benchmark. However, given the likelihood that he’ll remain on the fourth unit, expect 10-plus from Nosek, who will be 26 at the start of the regular season.

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

C- or below0