Mikkel Boedker Finally Living Up to His Potential

With his game-winning, power play goal in the Sharks' 2-0 win over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, Mikkel Boedker surpassed his point total from his inauspicious first season in San Jose. 

In 22 fewer games than last year, his first with the team after signing a four-year contract as a free agent, Boedker's already scored three more goals (13) and one more point (27). He's been especially productive since the turn of the calendar.  

We wrote in January that Boedker was potentially poised for a turnaround, as he appeared to have finally gotten over an early-season injury. In 30 games in 2018, Boedker's scored as many goals (10) as he did all of last season. 

That's not the highest bar to clear, but he's been very good in 2018 regardless. Since Jan. 1, he's scored five-on-five goals at a higher rate (1.32 goals/60 minutes) than dark horse Hart Trophy candidate Taylor Hall (1.31), picked up primary assists in five-on-five situations at a higher rate (0.99 primary assists/60) than Anze Kopitar (0.98), and scored five-on-five points (2.64 points/60) at a higher rate than Sidney Crosby (2.44), among other players and according to Natural Stat Trick.

That's not bad company to keep, but what's driven that level of production? Let's take a look.

Boedker's shooting more

In 30 games in 2018, Boedker's shot 64 times across all situations. In the first 29 games this season, he shot 35 times. 

Boedker's attempting about six more shots per hour over the last 30 (15.04 shot attempts/60) than the first 29, and is also generating over three more shots on goal per hour (9.42 shots/60). Those rates over the last 30 games are higher than last season, when Boedker set the best and second-best rates of his career in five-on-five shots and shot attempts, respectively. 

He's also gotten better luck...

As he saw last season, shot generation can only go so far if good fortune doesn't come along with it. Last year, Mikkel Boedker's 8.2 percent shooting percentage was the lowest of his career. He wasn't much better in that area over the first 29 games of the season, scoring on only 8.6 percent of shots. 

Since Jan. 1, Boedker's scored on 15.6 percent of his shots. That's well above his career average (11.1 percent), but if Boedker had converted on 15.6 percent of his shots last season, he would have scored approximately 19 goals, or nine more than he ended up scoring. 

...and so have his teammates

If you thought Boedker's individual luck was bad last season, the luck of those arround him was even worse in the first 29 games of this season. Over that span, the Sharks scored on only 3.31 percent of their five-on-five shots with Boedker on the ice. 

Since Jan. 1, they've scored on 10.5 percent of their five-on-five shots, and Boedker's generated about an additional assist per hour (1.32 assists/60) compared to the season's first 29 games (0.4 assists/60). Had the Sharks converted on the same percentage of shots over the first 29 games while Boedker was on the ice, they would have scored approximately 16 goals, 11 more than Boedker was on the ice for over that stretch.

What does it all mean?

It's a tad reductionist to play 'what if' with shooting percentages, but it does highlight the role that luck played in Boedker's lack of success last season and the early part of this season. The individual productivity's been there, even if the results haven't followed. 

Now, Boedker's getting results that match, if not exceed his own level of production. Both his and the Sharks' shooting percentages should regress back to the mean, but he's doing enough individually to mitigate a drop in those percentages, remain productive moving forward, and start shedding any lingering labels of being a free agent bust. 

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