Today, as we continue our player previews, we move up the forwards depth chart to a couple of grinders with good offensive upside and excellent penalty killing chops. These two are likely to share ice time with each other and with the two guys that Graham previewed on Friday: Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader.
One is a fifth-round pick who rose through the ranks to cement himself as a fan favorite and the other is a former first rounder who was looking to prove that he still had something to provide to the club which would offer him the opportunity and the right fit. Today we'll be looking at Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves.
Last Year's Benchmark: Darren Helm had his best professional season as a Red Wing last year. He had career-highs in goals (12) and assists (20) averaging just 13:18 in mostly defensive minutes. Patrick Eaves played himself out of the 13th forward rotation with strong play, finishing the season with 13 goals, three of which came in a December game against the Dallas Stars. The two of them led all Red Wings forwards in shorthanded ice time and scored 60% of the team's shorthanded goals (which sounds better than 3 of 5).
#43 / Center / Detroit Red Wings
Jan 21, 1987
|2010 - Darren Helm||82||12||20||32||9||16||0||2||2||177|
I could throw stat after stat around trying to give a complete picture of the 24-year old who's still developing his total game. From his team-high CSSI adjusted +/- rating, to his incredible 8 penalties taken to 37 drawn ratio that ChuckyD pointed out in his weekend Fanpost, to the fact that he had a better takeaway-to-giveaway ratio than Pavel Datsyuk. Helm is playing on the back end of a two-year contract which has his cap hit at $912,500. He'll be an RFA next summer provided Ken Holland lets him get to July 1st without giving him an extension.
Strengths: Helm's speed makes him dangerous. Combined with his good vision and anticipation and he's deadly. The defensively responsible center seems like he can kill penalties all by himself at times (because he can). While he doesn't put it together as consistently as we would like, Helm has very good puck-control skills and is a good passer.
Weaknesses: Helm's career shooting percentage is .061. If he shot at the team average last year (0.09322 according to this site), he would have finished the season with 16 goals instead of 12. Also, while Helm is a fantastic backchecker on the rush, he's still working on how to improve defensively once the opposition has established the Wings' zone and has set up the cycle. It's partially mitigated by the extreme defensive responsibility, but Helm led all Wings forwards in blown coverages leading to goals last season.
Expectations: What should terrify the league is that Helm is still improving his game. He'll continue to get tough defensive minutes, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him deployed in more offensive situations (though I'll stop short of predicting anything more than tiny amounts of PP time). I don't think he's there quite yet, but I'd be thrilled if he can pull at least one fifth-place Selke vote by the end of the year.
#17 / Right Wing / Detroit Red Wings
May 01, 1984
|2010 - Patrick Eaves||63||13||7||20||-2||14||2||1||1||108|
Patrick Eaves is the right-shooting former first-rounder who went from a 20-goal rookie season to an eventual contract buyout and a role rebirth in Detroit. Originally counted on to be an offensive producer, Eaves has taken to his defense-first role very well while showing that he still has impressive goal-scoring chops. This offseason, he signed a three-year commitment to the Wings at $1.2M per season.
Strengths: As one of only two right-shots among Wings forwards, Eaves has a wrister that some call "heavy" and a nose for the front of the net. He kills penalties well and is a good forechecker. His all-around game is very solid and he doesn't make a lot of mistakes anywhere on the ice.
Weaknesses: While he shows flashes of offensive brilliance, he can't keep it all together consistently enough to be considered anything more than an emergency injury replacement for the top two lines (which he spent time doing last season). While he definitely has passion, I'd like to see him develop a tad more snarl.
Expectations: Two straight seasons in Detroit with at least 10 goals and 20 points sets those as the minimum expected bar for him. He's yet to play more than 65 games in Detroit and I'm not sure he'll surpass that, but if he hits more than 70, his offensive numbers should increase as well. He doesn't have to score a lot against tough competition, but when matched up against other teams' third-liners, I expect him to outplay them.
Stay tuned for Wednesday, as Jeff has the next piece in the installment. He'll be looking at a couple of grouchy mother(shut yo mouth!)s who make their homes in other people's property. Holmstrom and Cleary are up next.