Because for some reason, no one else is.
Stats and visualizations for this post from corsica.hockey, RK_Stimp, and hockyviz.com
It’s at this moment that I’ve realized that some people reading this post might not even know who Jakub Nakladal is. On the one hand, that’s good, he’ll be a huge bargain as an unrestricted free agent this season to a wise team. On the other hand, it can’t be fun for Nakladal himself or his agent.
Nakladal is a 28 year old defenseman who shoots right handed, has size (6’2″, 212lbs), and hails from the Czech Republic. Place of citizenship is important because Nakladal has been selected to represent the Czech Republic at this summer’s World Cup of Hockey where he will undoubtedly prove right the team that signs him in July.
The 2015-2016 season was Nakladal’s first in North America splitting time between the Calgary Flames and their AHL affiliate Stockton Heat. On the surface, Nakladal’s numbers aren’t that sexy. 5 points in 27 NHL games, 14 points in 35 AHL games.
My argument is that there is Anton Stralman levels of untapped potential in Nakladal.
Nakladal ended the season in Calgary, and his overview chart is as follows:
There are a few key takeaways from this chart. First, as he continued to spend time in Calgary, his time on ice per game increased at a constant rate. Despite being shuffled around a bit, though spending most of his time with Tyler Wotherspoon, Nakladal was an overly successful possession player on a not so strong possession team in the Flames who would finish 23rd in score and venue adjusted CF% last season.
In his 27 games last season with the Flames, Nakladal would finish with a relCF% of +4.72%, best among Calgary d-men. Another metric in which he led Calgary d-men? Individual shot attempts per 60 coming in at a whopping 13, good for 11th in the league among D with at least 300 minutes on ice. Nakladal has a cannon of a shot, and he clearly isn’t afraid to use it.
As the season went on, it appeared that Calgary knew that Nakladal deserved more time, and they gave it to him.
In his 27 games, Calgary had a player who was driving offense, deserving of more ice time, and making the players around him better.
Surely, it is in Calgary’s gameplan to sign Nakladal. There are now four days to go until other teams can start talking with free agents and begin the courtship. You have to believe that one of the more analytically inclined teams like Arizona or Florida (Campbell replacement and Yandle partner?) are going to begin the process. It may be in Calgary’s interest to lock Nakladal up and make sure they keep him around.
And it shouldn’t take much. This is performance in only 27 games. But it is positive performance, and there is reason to believe there’s more where it came from. This is the kind of player that you can throw a one-year deal at for roughly $1 million, and let him come into your training camp and prove that he’s earned that spot. There is untapped potential in Jakub Nakladal.
Keep an eye on him at the World Cup of Hockey. I know I’ll be.