By AJ Manderichio
As part of the AnaheimDucks.com annual Player Reviews, we will be featuring a different Ducks player throughout the coming weeks, in numerical uniform number order. Each review will include key stats, a highlight and an outlook for 2016-17.
It’s no secret Jakob Silfverberg helped turn around a bleak start to the 2015-16 season for the Ducks.
Unfortunately for him, it started later than he envisioned.
Silfverberg’s adversity began before the puck officially dropped to start the season. Raffi Torres charged the Swedish right wing during the final preseason game, delivering an illegal hit to the head as Silfverberg skated into Sharks territory. Torres received a 41-game suspension for the vicious hit, and though Silfverberg didn’t miss a game, it affected his early-season production.
He managed just six points (3g/3a) through his first 36 games, an abysmal total for a player used to consistently producing in a top-six role.
Like many of his teammates, his season turned when the calendar hit January 1.
Silfverberg poured pucks into the net with regularity, recording 17 goals over the final 45 games. March was especially kind to him, as he posted 10 goals – and 13 points – in 15 games. He finished the season with a flourish, scoring 11 goals in his final 15 games, the most in the NHL. Alexander Ovechkin finished second, with nine.
He wrapped up his prolific second half with 33 points, averaging almost a point-per-game as the Ducks clinched the Pacific Division crown for a fourth straight year.
Silfverberg finished the regular season with 39 points, tying a career-high. He also hit the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career, a milestone he acknowledged held some significance.
“It’s tough scoring goals in this league, that’s for sure,” he said before the Stanley Cup Playoffs began. “Obviously, I’m very happy with it. I take a little bit of pride in that.”
Silfverberg’s success is directly tied to the play of his linemates, Ryan Kesler and Andrew Cogliano. The team’s ‘shutdown line’ also served as its best offensive weapon over the second half of the season. Silfverberg posted goals-for totals of over 50% with both Kesler and Cogliano, and his advanced statistics – especially his Corsi numbers – were much higher skating alongside his regular linemates.
Defensively, Silfverberg posted another strong season. He remained an important part of the league’s top-ranked penalty kill unit and, along with Kesler and Cogliano, routinely faced the opposition’s best night after night.
His stellar play carried over into the postseason. Despite being held without a goal, Silfverberg tied Ryan Getzlaf for the team lead with five points. His five assists also led all skaters.
Silfverberg’s improved play earned him a spot in the World Cup, where he will represent Team Sweden. It will be the seventh time he’s represented his home country in international competition, and the first since the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Silfverberg silenced the Devils when they came to Honda Center in March, recording a hat trick – and adding an assist – for the first four-point game of his career.
Silfverberg laid to rest any doubt about his ability to score goals with his second-half surge. Stretched over the course of an entire season, his torrid streak during last season’s final 45 games would lead to a 31-goal season for the Swedish sniper. As the Ducks look to replace offense lost this offseason, the responsibility falls on Silfverberg to contribute more offensively.
His shootout proficiency should also help secure the always-valuable second point during the regular season. Last year, Silfverberg scored on four of his seven attempts (57.1%). He owns the best shootout efficiency rating in NHL history with players among 15 attempts (18-for-30, 60%).
The key for Silfverberg is consistency. There are times Silfverberg disappears offensively during the season, suffering through long stretches without finding the scoresheet. These stretches typically come when Silfverberg plays along the outside of the traffic areas. When he gets inside and bears down on the net, he finds success.
We’ve already seen the type of damage Silfverberg can cause late in a season, and his numbers in the postseason speak for themselves. The challenge for Silfverberg will be to carry his game over the course of a season, fulfilling his potential of an elite two-way forward.