Born: September 1, 1989 (26 years old)
Birthplace: Halmstad, SWE
Acquired: 2008 Entry draft: 4th round (121 overall)
Contract Status: Signed through 2018-19 ($4.75M annual cap hit)
Expectations are the pillory in which Gustav Nyquist's grade is going to hang. Here's what Kyle had to say in his preseason post on Nyquist:
Expectations: What can I say? I expect greatness from Gustav Nyquist, because he's a core player for this team. He's shown that he can be better each year, so I expect to see a 30 goal (or somewhat close to 30) season. I think expecting Nyquist to score at least 60 points shouldn't be asking too much.
As a reminder, "somewhat close to 30" was just three more goals than he had scored the previous year and "at least 60" was just a six point increase for a player who had just earned a new $4.75M contract and was expected to take the next step.
Perhaps nobody on the team suffered from the specific ways the Wings' offense disappeared more than Gustav Nyquist. Having gone from the sniper on a line with Henrik Zetterberg & Justin Abdelkader to something a bit more like a grinding playmaker with Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar, Nyquist found his minutes per game cut by more than one and a slight uptick in the level of competition he faced. He did see decent minutes with Hank, but those were essentially halved while Sheahan became his most-consistent center.
Somehow despite all this, the drop-off in Nyquist's production is almost entirely attributable to the power play woes. In terms of even-strength points production, Nyquist actually saw an increase from the previous year from 30 to 31, although his even-strength goal production dropped from 13 to 10 as well.
Nyquist finished the season fourth for goals scored and fifth for team scoring before putting up a disappointing one goal in the five playoff games the Red Wings had this season.
What He Did vs. Expectations
Possession-wise, Nyquist's season was honestly quite strong, but the drop in his shot rate from close three per game two seasons ago to below two, combined with the predicted drop in his shooting percentage from over 18% to a still-respectable 10% doomed him. Had Nyquist kept up the 18.3% on the same 161 shots, we're looking at 29 goals scored. Had Nyquist kept the same shooting rate per game from his breakout season but kept the 10.6 shooting percentage, we'd have seen 23 goals. The way both things dropped means we got 17... or barely over half of what was expected of him.
In looking at how Nyquist's teammates did with him versus without him (thanks to stats.hockeyanalysis.com), Nyquist did seem to be driving possession, as many of his teammates struggled away from him more than he struggled away from them, but you simply cannot avoid the fact that Nyquist's production is too important a consideration to simply let him off the hook thanks to pretty decent possession numbers.
As far as the power play failure goes, Nyquist went from tied for third in the entire NHL for power play goals in a season one year to outside of the top 40 the next. This is also where the majority of the drop-off in his shooting rate lived, as Nyquist's shots per 60 minutes on the power play went from 2nd on the team in 2014-15 to closer to the bottom the next year, below even Justin Abdelkader's rate.
I feel that a decent portion of this failure is a change in roles from the slot option on the power play to the half-wall quarterback, as Prashanth outlined in February. Nyquist was asked to stop doing his job of getting shots off quickly in open dangerous areas and in getting to mid-level rebounds and was instead turned into a perimeter passer. This might be one of the biggest reasons for the failure of the Red Wings power play all season, and it was a coaching decision rather than the player's.
By the time the season ended and the playoffs rolled around, Nyquist was visibly hesitating in shooting positions where he hadn't before. Although his backchecking game improved a lot during the season, the thing that earned him his new deal was his quick and deadly shot. As the season wore on, This disappeared.
Overall Grade: D+
I really wanted to put Nyquist on blast and drop an F on him as kind of a whipping boy for the failure of the Red Wings' offense this season, but I feel like there is a lot of mitigation at hand in terms of what Nyquist was asked to do and what positions he was put into. While the hesitation to shoot late in the season was infuriating, it was also the culmination of a long season where a sniper essentially was asked to be more of a playmaker. It's real easy to remember the bad from Nyquist, but that can't color the overall grade of a guy who fell short of expectations thanks in large part to being set up for it and for a guy who positively drove the puck all season long.
I will expect a bounce back year for Nyquist if he's still with the organization come next season.