With the summer months wedged perfectly in the middle of July and August, and training cap set to open in no time, I figure now is the perfect time to weigh in on how Phil Kessel will fair next season. What can we expect from Phil the Thrill? Is 40 goals a possibility? Well, let me see.
Last season, Kessel managed to hit the 30 goal mark for the second time in his career. He had his second best season as a pro, with 30 goals, 25 assists, and 55 points on a Leafs team which never found consistency in the offense or mediocrity on the defensive side of things. What is even more impressive is that he was only 6 goals and five points away from matching what he did with Boston only a year earlier, with players such as Marc Savard, David Krejci, and Milan Lucicat his disposal. Considering last year was spent with either Tyler Bozak, Matt Stajan, or Mikhail Grabovski centering him, with Nikolai Kulemin at his wing, to be so close to his career season is a very bright spot.
So what can we expect next year? Well, with the addition of Versteeg and Armstrong, I think we can expect Kessel to improve on his output next season (barring injuries). Even if Versteeg or Armstrong don't play with him, the secondary scoring/physical edge/defensive push will not force opposing defenses to put all of their time and energy on stopping Kessel alone, which seemed to be done towards the latter end of last season. The influx of these players should give Kessel more time and space to work, and with his creativity, should result in more offense.
Is 40 goals impossible? I think it remains a possibility, if Kessel can remain healthy and his chemistry with Boak remains, why not? If Kulemin can further his game even more, or Armstrong and Versteeg can be even more of an asset to Kessel, 40 goals is more and more realistic. Personally, I believe he will net over 30, less than 40, with a season of about 70 points. It won't be his breakout year per se, but I think it has all of the makings to be a career season for Phil the Thrill. And with his salary set to go up 1.5 mil, I sure hope he elevates his game to where his contract is.
Since joining SB Nation I have really only heard about these extended statistics such as Corsi and the like and am quite bummed that I do not have a great grasp on these stats, since I would have loved to have had some better statistical backing for this. Anyways, I'll get right on learning them so I can make my future FanPosts better. Is there any website which I can go to which explains each advanced statistic and what they are? Any help would be great.
Leave your comments below as to how you think Kessel will do.