For the most part, the predictions for Phil Kessel are in: TSN has Kessel hitting 31G in 76 games, MLHS says 35G in again, 76 games, and my own (somewhat naive) said 34. But why so low? Isn't this the guy we paid a King's ransom for in hopes that he could be a 40-50 goal scorer?
For the most part, goal predictions are generally based on conservative assumptions surrounding shots, sh%, TOI, previous season GP, etc., and as such always miss the mark on breakout or huge slumping seasons. There is a HUGE variability from season to season, especially in young, dynamic players, and no one should be surprised if the experts say 30 and Phil hits 40. Experts can only predict the future based on the data available to them in the present, and that data can change in an instant. That being said, there are generally some trends that players exhibit that makes it easy to plot a range of likely outcomes.
In my previous post on Kulemin's expected production, I noted there are 3 main things a player has to do to hit 30 goals. Well, the same obviously applies for hitting more than that, and we expect big things out of our awkward sniper.
Step 1: Stay Healthy
In the above chart we see a blue shaded region representing expected production - the top end of the range assumes Kessel plays all 82 and the lower end of the range assumes 70, which he has played twice in the last 3 years.
Step 2: Gimme the Ice
Ever since the trade to Toronto, Kessel has been given ample ice-time, playing on average about 19.6 minutes/game. I think it is reasonable to expect this won't change much in the upcoming season.
Step 3: SHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT
No one needs to tell Kessel to shoot, the guy is a shot machine. He ranked 3rd in the league in absolute # of shots last year, he's getting lots of chances to score. The above chart assumes his 3 year average Shots/60 of 12.38.
What does it all mean?
Well, from the chart we can see why most experts are predicting a 30-35G season. The last 2 years' output and sh% point towards this being the likely case. But if Kessel gets a bit of luck in the form of a 12-14% shooting %, expect his output to be more in the 35-45 range, and if the stars align akin to Corey Perry's Hart-winning 2010/2011 season with a 17.3% shooting percentage, 50+ isn't out of the realm of possibility.
Keep in mind that there is usually only 1, maybe 2 50 goal scorers per season, but if Perry can do it, why can't Phil?