Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

FlamesNation Player Evaluation: Kris Versteeg

Kris Versteeg had a wild 2016-17 season. In September, his contract with SC Bern in Switzerland fell through due to insurance concerns with prior injuries. Later that month, he joined the Edmonton Oilers for training camp on a tryout. But on the eve of the regular season, he spurned an Oilers contract offer for the sunnier climes of Calgary and a one-year contract with the Calgary Flames.

He proceeded to quietly become one of the more valuable complementary players on the team.

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2016-17 season summary

The ebbs and flows of Versteeg’s year more or less follow those of the Flames themselves. He was decent but not great in October and November, as he struggled to adjust to his new linemates and the Flames’ new system – he played primarily with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau during this time and they combined for one preseason game with Calgary between the three of them.

He suffered a groin injury in early November and then missed a couple games subsequently with an upper body injury. When he got back to 100%, he was dynamite in December and scored at just shy of a point-per-game pace. He slowed down in January and February, as did the entire team, but he got hot again near the end of the season with 14 points in 17 games in March and April. He was a point per game player in the playoffs, for what it’s worth.

Here’s a quick glance (via Corsica.hockey) at how his season went, possession-wise:

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Like many Flames, Versteeg was all over the place in terms of his Corsi. In terms of his counting stats, he was low-key good despite being really dependent on power play time. He was sixth among forwards in points and even strength points (and ninth in even strength goals). But considering the Flames used a weird mixture of players to complement their established top five forwards (Monahan, Gaudreau and the 3M line), Versteeg’s emergence as a low cost sixth-best player was one of the better surprises of the season.

Most common teammates

Versteeg had an interesting year, in the sense that he played with a seemingly endless rotation of different pairings. The five most common center and right wing pairs he played with this season were:

  1. Sam Bennett & Troy Brouwer (46.1% CF)
  2. Sean Monahan & Troy Brouwer (48.2% CF)
  3. Sam Bennett & Alex Chiasson (59.8% CF)
  4. Matt Stajan & Troy Brouwer (38.7% CF)
  5. Sean Monahan & Johnny Gaudreau (he played RW with these guys) (52.5% CF)

His results were, as you can see, variable based upon who he was placed with. (His WOWY, from Corsica.hockey):

Versteeg was dragged down by Brouwer, his most common linemate, and he and Bennett kinda helped each other (but not overly so). Other than that, for the most part the Versteeg experience was seeing your possession numbers dragged down a bit by playing with him. It also doesn’t seem encouraging that he started most of his shifts in the offensive zone, but it’s also difficult to suss out how much of the “bad” numbers were Versteeg and how much were Brouwer.

Any way you want to slice it, though, Versteeg wasn’t an amazing even strength player. He scored more goals on the power play than he did at even strength. He was very useful on the power play, but the team probably wishes they could’ve gotten more from him five on five.

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What’s next?

Versteeg’s on an expiring one-year contract. If not for the looming expansion draft, there’s a very good chance he would have been re-signed by the Flames already. Teammates and the coaching staff rave about him. He was useful and played in a lot of different situations, despite some not-great possession stats. He’s said that playing with the Flames reignited his love of the game. He’d like to be back.

Barring anything unforeseen, expect to see Versteeg back with the Flames next season with a bit of a raise over this year’s $950,000 salary. For the sake of his underlying numbers, let’s hope he finds an assignment far away from Brouwer.

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