Seventh Heaven – Patrik Virta is an exciting prospect to have

Patrik Virta

The Rangers are about to enter a new era. We will be seeing more of a youth influx to the roster and one of the names that fans are getting really excited about is Ty Ronning. This is for fairly good reason, sure he is an older player in the WHL but you love to have a 50+ goal scorer in the system. It is still a long road for him but this is a great step to take. Ronning however, isn’t the only 7th round pick in the system that has been making noise this season. Last summer, the Rangers selected Patrik Virta of TPS and he has quietly been providing them with value few get from 7th rounders this quick after the draft, even for a two-times overager.

All stats from this analyses and hype post are from Simo Teperi (@SimoTeperi). He has built a great website to compliment the already comprehensive stat website from Liiga. Being able to get this deeper level analysis is extremely useful for dealing with any prospects, especially the European leagues where the team building may be a bit different than in North America.

I discussed Virta a little bit earlier in the year mentioning how he is scoring a bit more than last season but his value would be in his on ice shot effects. Now a few months later, we have a greater sample size and a greater reason to be excited. Virta has already eclipsed his point totals from last year, currently going 12 goals and 22 assists in 53 games. Certainly respectable but it is understandable for some people that it doesn’t seem like a world beater but let us break it down.

Virta currently ranks 17th among all Liiga forwards in P/60 at even strength and 24th in primary P/60. This is an improvement on last year, where he was ranked just outside the top 30. His point production is respectable but Virta has absolutely pushed the play for his team and is always a threat on the ice. Virta ranks 3rd amongst forwards in CF%REL at 9.74, and is actually the best forward in the league in xGF%Rel at 12.21. The second best is at 10.92 and his name is Ville Leskinen, remember that name for another post later this year. What we are seeing is a player that makes his team better when he is on the ice by a significant margin but we can get even deeper.

Patrik Virta is at that super sweet right corner with his fellow TPS teammates
Yea… He is pretty good, when compared to the rest of the league

We can also talk about Virta’s usage as well. In order to do this I recreated one of the first advanced stats graphs I’ve ever seen by one of the pioneer’s Rob Vollman. I made his famous usage charts but for the Finnish League.

Virta is being trusted with not only ice time but a little bit more balanced ice time than some of the teams higher scoring but older forwards. Kallio, Perrin, and Filpulla while all talented producers in this league have been given some more offensive starts, and this is likely from simply the coach being smart and putting older, slower skaters in better offensive positions. This leads to Virta being given the good old Derek Stepan role on the team where, while he still gets some good offensive starts, he is being leaned on more defensively than some of the other go to producers on the team.

A greater all encompassing visual would be Simo Teperi’s player cards.

It is so easy to be excited for this guy when offensively his team completely dominates the dangerous scoring areas. It is no secret why his xGF is so high when the opposing team faces an onslaught every time he is on the ice. Meanwhile, defensively, it looks like the other team can really only get shots from the point off, which is awesome news as the wingers would cover the points while the center would help the defense deal with the cycle. The sheer emptiness of chances from areas around the net and lower in the slot makes Virta one of the most dominant players on the ice.

One can also see from both the shot and goal impact charts that while his team by themselves is about average, they immediately become a threat offensively when he is on the ice. It is not just the numbers themselves that excite me, it is the stark difference between when he is off the ice and when he is on the ice that make me think we can have a guy that may be able to make a jump soon.

Overall, I am really excited for Virta as a prospect but I am not willing to get ahead of myself and call him our next sniper. I think given his on ice effects, Virta is looking like he can be a quality bottom-six player, perhaps in line with a center version of Jesper Fast as of now. He is clearly adept defensively and can help his team produce which would make him a nice add to the team.

The only thing missing from an outright dominant player profile is being a point per game player, but when you rank at the top of the league in nearly every other category one must wonder why. There are a couple of reasons and it is not his shot. If one were to ever watch him play –and you can see some highlights from @ajranger— you can see he gets his shot off fast and can find teammates with crisp passes. Turns out he ranks 110th in iShot% at 5v5, but given his on ice effects it is totally possible that he may just be unlucky.

Another issue may be linemates. It is not so much about a lack of skill but play styles. I spoke to a couple of people who watch him consistently and one problem earlier in the year is that Petrus Palmu, a Vancouver Canucks prospect, had issues with holding on to the puck a little too long in the beginning of the year. Virta can also likely need to bulk up a little bit in order to probably make a confident jump to North American pro hockey, but he clearly has all of the tools to be successful and outside of producing more. You likely can’t find a better all around player in the league than him right now.

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    1. You can put a Dorsett type of player and still keep him due to his age. I rather see him play with whoever comes through the major upgrades and Andersson in the near future than Vesey. I wouldn’t mind if they were to trade him and replace his role with Antoine Roussel if JG were to trade with Dallas.

    2. With all the value Jesper Fast brings to the table you have to focus on his one issue. Sure this is why he’ll never be a consistent Top 6 guy. You can plug him in for a while but over the long haul he can’t produce offensive numbers, still I would take 12 of him to play forward (with his off wing and center versions) — ok, I’m exaggerating, but the truth is we could use a few more Jesper Fast type players, they’re reliable.

      1. Okay but they would have to come in a couple different sizes and with more of a edge. I have a feeling Andersson is going to start out next to Fast next season.

        1. He may not have the size and he can be knocked off the puck and down to the ice, but you won’t find a player in the league that gets up faster and fights to win the puck back. His battle quotient is sky high and that’s what you need in this league, fast players that never stop battling, never give up — and yes, generally they come in slightly smaller packages.

          …. and yes I agree, I have a sneaky suspicion that he’ll start off on the wing with Andersson next year —- and one guy I wouldn’t mind seeing them play with is Vesey, at least I would give that a try.

          1. Tanto….100% agree, I love Vesey and the energy and enthusiasm and fight he brings to the game!!!!
            He was the Captain of his boston college team, which is a
            huge accomplishment and says a lot about his character…vesey is 6-3 but does need another 20 pounds as does buch……
            Fans need to be patient with these young guys…vesey, buch, hayes, miller and soon andersson, chytil and ronning…….add a kovalchuk along with zib and grabner and we are in business….IMHO

          2. Harvard, but why quibble. 😉 Not sure about Kovalchuk, I would rather spend the money on tying up a few of the younger players on longer term deals — that usually turn out to be cost-effective in the long run unless they absolutely fall apart.

          3. Harvard….I stand corrected…..
            I assume this off season we buy out stall, nash leaves, mcdonagh traded ……cap wise we should be good….

  1. The Liiga is garbage; low end American League, upper end ECHL. He gets top 6 minutes, PP time. He’s playing well, but so has Kaapo Kakko(on his February callup before going to 5 nations camp) and he just turned 17.

    If you think he’ll do anything in New York, he should be dominating, over 1ppg. Instead he’s .64ppg(will add P60 later) not productive enough for top 9(Deshatnais produced circles around him at the same age), doesn’t skate well enough for 4th line. He probably could be a middle 6 in Hartford, but that’s his ceiling.

    I watch Liiga hockey via the Ruutu app a couple of times a week(translate via chrome register via their website using a Finnish phone number you find via google; it’s $17/month if you’re that hardcore), saw TPS play live a few times last November. Please don’t even get started on Reunanen.

    1. P60 is 2.25. I’d do the NHLe numbers, but that’s ppg and you have to account for ice time and I feel like shit from coughing the last few days. The raw number has him around 22 points if he played top 6 minutes.

    2. As an example: TPS just added Zach Budish for their playoff run, yo-yo’d between Milwaukee & Cincinatti in his North America career. Goes to Finland and puts up Virta like numbers. Now as a bigger guy he probably should be doing that, but that’s the gap in talent one is looking at.

  2. Thanks for this info! Boo is by no means terrible, but he still doesn’t quite seem to have locked down the 4th line center of the future role, and the clock is ticking for him. If perhaps a few years down the road Virta becomes that younger cost-controlled above-average 4C similar to what we had with Lindberg, not bad for a seventh rounder. If he becomes even more, then that’s just gravy on the taters.

  3. I have embarked on point watching with high hopes of finishing in the bottom for the draft order.

    Picks 1-3 are quite obvious …Dahlin-Svechnikov-Tkachuck

    4-7 I would love Oliver Whalstrom
    7-10 Noah Dobson or Evan Bouchard

    Middle of the draft Rasmus Kupari

    Late Middle Ryan McLeod or Serron Noel

    A get of Whalstrom, Kupari, either of McLeod or Noel it’s a win

    Any of the top 3 and 1 of the others is a win,

    I think the Rangers have to do everything they can to end up in this type of position with trades versus having 2 in the late draft positions….so who they trade to is very important

    Ducks, Stars, Columbus Philly 1st, Islanders, and Minny would be teams I would be looking to get the 1….Not sure if the Caps would trade…..but another team to watch for.

    Nashville, Pens, Bruins and Winnipeg stay clear…..If things align those are your semi finalists and real late picks

    If throwing JT or Zibby gets you amother pick in top 10….gotta do it

  4. The thing with Ronning went into the season with a shoot first mentality so he could show he has enough of a skill level to make the next step instead of relying on his teammates(any decent ones got hurt or dealt.) Completely understandable.

    At Traverse City he looked clueless reading the play, just kept on cheating for breakouts. He looked better the year prior.

    With this season, he’s got a bit of leverage as he will be a UFA if the Rangers don’t get him under contract and if you’re Ronning, why would you sign unless they give you the minor league max & the max game appearance bonus? I’d. E looking for a better organizational fit as everybody is going to give you that.

    Also, his ELC will not slide.

    1. I wonder how compensation the Rangers would be awarded if Ronning bucked the system and went FA?

      The NHL website says case by case basis, so I doubt it’s as simple as giving the Rangers another 7th round pick in 2018 if Ronning refuses to sign by June 1st.

      1. No compensation as he isn’t eligible for re-draft. Exclusive negotiating rights until June 1 and that’s it. Compensation only if 1st rd pick who re-enters. Year 21 only eligible if not drafted prior.

        8.4(draft eligibility)
        10.1.d(Unrestricted FA)

    2. Since we’re clearly in a modified rebuild mode we’re a damn good fit — and if they have to offer a burn year, I say do it — no reason to lose a good pick (whether he makes it or not) for virtually nothing.

      1. ELC is 3 years, too old to slide. So all a team can offer is the max ELC & bonuses, max minor league($70k) and minor league appearance bonuses. Beyond that it’s what org has the easiest path to the show and cash in on the ELC.

        I’m not sure that’s the Rangers.

  5. Seems that Lias Andersson is very quickly getting the hang of the AHL

    From the Rangers Prospect Update 2.19.18:

    Lias Andersson registered three points (two goals, one assist) in four games during the week, including two points (one goal, one assist) on Feb. 14 at Charlotte. The Rangers’ first round pick (seventh overall) in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft has registered seven points (three goals, four assists) in the last seven games, as well as nine points (three goals, six assists) and a plus-two rating through his first 12 career AHL games. In addition, the Wolf Pack have posted an 8-3-1 record in the 12 games Andersson has played with the team thus far this season.

    Among AHL players younger than 20 years old, Filip Chytil and Andersson rank first and second, respectively, in points per game in 2017-18 (Chytil – 0.79; Andersson – 0.75).

    1. Andersson in Frölunda this year produced at a similar rate to Virta in a better league completely worn down from the summer as an 18 yr old. Even at that point he projected out as a 30 pointer in the NHL and he’s much earlier in his development curve.

  6. Did anyone notice Kovelchuk against the U.S. Olympic team? He is a pure sniper (like no one on the Rangers roster), plays with an edge and seems to thrive in a chippy game (goodbye Mr McLeod), highly emotional and wants to play for Rangers!

    I want to see Kovy playing opposite of Zucc with Cyhtil in the middle next year (line #2…. nice combo of youth, skill, speed with complimentary skills)

    1. Kovelchuk would be a tremendous addition to this team…….he brings exactly what you said and we lack…..pure sniper and an edge to his game!!!!
      What would be the cost to the devils if any?

    2. If you’re rebuilding, why would you keep Zuccarello?

      Declining production, might have value to an coaching staff that knows what they’re doing. Contract isn’t going to kill anybody to take on, won’t have to protect him in the expansion draft.

      Of course we could crawl down the rabbit hole of him blocking Miller’s progress, but that’s more on the current coaching staff than Zucc.

      1. Last year he had 0.735 ppg in a +/- nod bad team, this year he has 0.712 in a really bad team…. no much problem with productivity

        1. His ppg is more like .729 this year.

          Declining production for an over 28 is still declining production. Whistling past the graveyard is no way to build a winner.

          1. Part of Zucc’s declining stats is attributable to playing opposite of Nash, who logs the puck along the boards while Zibanajad and Zucc stand around in the offensive zone trying to figure out where to go. Example of AV’s lousy deployment and schemes!

            Zib excels with Kreider and Buch because they counter, pass the puck quickly up the ice and attack.

            Brassard stopped being a prolific scorer once he lost Zucc as his winger. Zucc still has something in the tank and could remain a productive top-9 player.

          2. I agree. Zucc gets a lot of support because he is a fan favorite. Keeping him does not help with the rebuild If you get a good offer he should be traded.

          3. He is my favorite Ranger and I want him traded. Not many if any bring the fight and passion to the game like Zuc does on the Rangers. My only gripe with him is he doesn’t shoot enough

          4. That’s fine, but you see the writing on the wall. He’s 30 years old and declining. Most games this season he’s been a non-factor. He’s been a good Ranger, but its time to move on.

      2. If I’m swinging for the fences, I LTIR McD and trade him in the offseason, use his credit to get Bobby Ryan, 2019 & 2020 1st rd picks and send Zuccarello back in return. Will have the cap room for the next few years, expose Ryan for expansion draft & if he doesn’t go there, buy him out.

        With so many players on ELCs, no problem having his salary for now. Ottawa is going to be bad for a while and they need his salary off the books.

        1. You should be the GM …Reenavipul…. Rangers management never thinks or acts this logically!!!!

  7. 21 years old in 4th grade league… with productivity way bellow 1ppg…. I wouldn’t be that optimistic about him

  8. Harvard….I stand corrected…..
    I assume this off season we buy out stall, nash leaves, mcdonagh traded ……cap wise we should be good….

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