I had the chance to attend a junior game on Wednesday night.
The Calgary Hitmen beat the Red Deer Rebels 3-2 in overtime. Because it was my second time seeing the Rebels this season (and so I’d seen 2015 NHL Draft prospect Adam Musil a bit already), I spent a good chunk of the game paying attention to Keegan Kanzig. We’ve been a bit negative on Kanzig’s selection around these parts – in particular since drafting a big guy where he was chosen is a bit of a reach, to be blunt, particularly based on most pre-draft rankings – but I wanted to contextualize some of Kanzig’s performance by looking at one thing in particular.
Keegan Kanzig’s penalties.
So far this season, Kanzig has amassed 164 minutes in penalties. (He also has a 10 minute misconduct, which the WHL doesn’t count in penalty totals for some reason.)
Now, Kanzig fights. A lot. He’s among the WHL’s league leaders in fighting majors, with 14. That means of his 164 penalty minutes, 70 of them – just shy of half – are via fisticuffs. That leaves 47 minors that Kanzig took. That seems like a lot, and somewhat fuels the notion that he’s a big, slow defenseman.
But what types of penalties does he most often take? I break them into a few categories:
- Crimes of Passion
- Crimes of Laziness
- Crimes of Mistakes
Crimes of Passion encompass plays where Kanzig is playing physical and goes over the line a bit. So you’re looking at things like charging, checking from behind, roughing, slashing, cross-checking and boarding. These are infractions where he’s in position and doing his thing, but just goes a bit crazy and gets dinged.
Crimes of Laziness are situations where opponents blow past him and he needs to do something to stop them from scoring. These are otherwise known as your Pylon Penalties: hooking, holding, tripping and high-sticking. I’m including high-sticking here because I consider not paying attention to the high or your stick or your follow through an attention to detail (or laziness) issue. But your mileage may vary.
Crimes of Mistakes are situations where players just make gaffes: interference (goalie and otherwise) and delay of game calls. There’s no malice here and there’s not necessarily laziness, but there’s just a lack of execution.
So how do these shake down?
For the curious, the most frequent calls against Keegan Kanzig are roughing (13), unsportsmanlike conduct (8), holding (5) and interference (5).
The picture this paints for me isn’t a guy that’s a pylon. It paints a picture of a guy that doesn’t know his own strength or has questionable judgment about how much to physically engage in a game (or when). Granted, this is against junior kids. Professional hockey players are bigger and stronger and faster than WHL stars, so I would suspect that these penalty rates would change dramatically. Specifically, I’d suspect fewer passion penalties and more laziness penalties; it’s harder to push around bigger kids (and they’re mostly bigger kids in the AHL) and you’re more likely to become a turnstile when playing against players with their speed.
So all I can say is that, at this level, his size and mobility aren’t why he’s taking the penalties he is. The calls he’s taking primarily are based in judgment, which can be coached – “Keegan, stop punching everybody” is a conversation I foresee.