FlamesNation Player Evaluations: Bill Arnold

bill arnold asvitt photography
Photo credit: Asvitt Photography

The Flames have just two hopes for success from their 2010 draft class. Fifth round pick Micheal Ferland has already made the NHL; fourth round pick Bill Arnold still needs to get there. If he does, though, he projects to be in a similar standing: both bottom six guys.

While Ferland is more known for a physical game, Arnold is known as a strong defensive guy. He’s probably never going to be a major scorer – not since he was a part of college hockey’s best line in 2013-14 alongside Kevin Hayes and Johnny Gaudreau (and even then, he was well behind both in scoring) – but there’s a lot to be said for the strong defensive presences in a lineup.

If Arnold makes it to the big league, it’ll be because he can provide exactly that.

Season summary

This was Arnold’s second year as a pro, but it saw him decline offensively. As a rookie, he scored 15 goals and 38 points through 61 games (.62 points per game); as a sophomore, he scored just nine goals and 22 points through 52 games (.42 points per game). Arnold wasn’t unique to the Heat in his step back – and indeed, the injury he suffered mid-season likely played its part – but that’s still a little disconcerting to hear.

Despite the low numbers, Arnold was seventh in team scoring, and one of just eight players to even hit the 20-point mark for the Heat. However, he stands out from that group as well, and not in a great light: he only had 84 shots on net (1.6 per game).

Garnet Hathaway, who had 21 points, just outpaced Arnold with 87 shots, but in 44 games. As for everyone above him in scoring, they all ranged from 56-110 more shots than him – differences that Arnold’s missed time this season can’t really account for.

It should be noted, however, that 17 of Arnold’s 21 points were primary – so while he didn’t score much, at least he was driving what he did, even with his lack of registered shots on net. It should be noted, however, that nine of his points came on the powerplay.

Impact on team

Offensive numbers are only part of the story – and in a player like Arnold’s case, they certainly aren’t the entire thing. It would be nice if he scored more – it would be nice if everybody did – but Arnold’s true value comes in his defensive performance, which is much more difficult to measure, especially with the absence of stats like corsi in the AHL.

To that end, we turn to the Heat’s play-by-play man and director of media relations, Brandon Kisker:

This year Bill had a quiet but effective year for Stockton.  He’s not someone that blows you away offensively but if you throw out Hunter Shinkaruk’s stats with the Utica Comets, Billy was actually seventh on the team in scoring with 22 points.  He did miss time to injury as his season was cut 16 games short of the 68 mark. 

That being said, Billy still is someone who could prove to be a useful player to have in the system.  He is a defensive guy, playing a lot on the PK and easily one of the best among the forwards at getting in front of shots.  There were certainly a couple times this season where an opposing player had a clear shot into an empty net while the Heat were scrambling to get the puck out and a change in their end, and all of a sudden Billy would emerge and tip the shot out of play or block it completely.

As far as that goes, Billy provides a lot that you want in a player.  Goes hard, lays his body on the line, and is a team first kind of guy.  Mix in a little offensive production and the ability to stand in front of the net and take some punishment and you have a solid player. 

One other good attribute is his faceoff ability.  I thought at the first half of the season, he was easily behind Derek Grant as the second best faceoff taker on the team.  After he came back from his lower body injury in the second half of the season, I thought he lost a step and was probably third behind Grant and Freddie Hamilton, but he was still good on the draws.

If Arnold can translate these skills to the next level, he could have a future as a regular defensive centre in the NHL. 

What comes next?

Arnold, a restricted free agent, is up for a new contract. Despite unimpressive offensive totals, the Flames should absolutely re-sign him. Defence takes time to develop, but it certainly sounds as though he’s working towards that.

While Arnold did just celebrate his 24th birthday in May, he isn’t necessarily old by hockey standards – and certainly not for what he projects to be. Josh Jooris, for example, is another low-scoring defensive forward who posted lesser numbers than Arnold in his AHL season, and he made the NHL as a 24-year-old.

That said, Arnold will definitely have to put together a better year and continue to improve this upcoming season, especially if the Flames only re-sign him to a one-year deal. Strong defensive play is fantastic – now it’s up to him to prove he deserves to showcase his abilities in the NHL.