Why does Pontus Aberg seem incapable of sticking with an organization?
Originally drafted by the Nashville Predators at 37th overall in 2012, Aberg’s career has been a whirlwind since 2018. At the 2018 trade deadline Pontus Aberg was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for Mark Letestu. In 16 games with Edmonton he registered 8 points.
At the start of the 2018-2019 season, he was put on waiver and claimed by the Anaheim Ducks. After posting some decent numbers with the Ducks (19 points in 37 games) he was again traded to the Minnesota Wild in a very curios move. In Minnesota his offense suddenly dried up, posting only 1 goal and 5 assists in 22 games.
Troubles in Anaheim
The inconsistency in Aberg’s game is super obvious when you look at his time with the Anaheim Ducks.
When Aberg first came to the Ducks, you can see right away there was a huge spike in offensive output. His shooting percentage, shown by the first graph shows that twice his goals per shots on goal spiked over 20% which is an extremely effective rate. for reference here is the Minnesota Wild’s leading scorer Zach Parise on the same graph.
Any spike over 20 percent usually indicates a top 6 caliber forward. Parise and Aberg both had more than one last season, yet the peaks and valleys in Aberg’s game hold him back. Even though he was producing he was still moved from Anaheim to Minnesota. Looking at the graphs, you can clearly see why Aberg was moved. Even though Aberg had seemingly captured lightning in a bottle with the Ducks, his play quickly did a 180 degree turn.
At roughly the 30 game mark, 7 before he was traded, Aberg fell off a cliff. All of a sudden the goals per shots on net against ballooned and the goals for fell off a cliff. This defensive drop off, combined with a complete evaporation of his offense, helped add fuel to the fire that was the Ducks 12 game losing streak.
Minnesota’s Offensive Black Hole
To say Pontus Aberg struggled with the Minnesota Wild this season is a big understatement. In every way Aberg regressed in Minnesota. He went from .51 points per game to .27, his Fenwick ratio tanked from 50.6 to 48.1. His Fenwick ratio relative to his teammates went from 4.9%, a positive impact to his teammates, to -4.5%. He came to Minnesota to add depth scoring, and failed at that in a big way.
looking at his career trajectory he’s at the point now where at 25, he’s pretty much done developing at the NHL level. Furthermore he has at his best, never been more than an above average third liner, outside of one fluke streak in Anaheim.
When it gets to the point where you are no longer even breaking even with a team, and are regularly having a negative impact, it becomes a problem. In the article I wrote on Victor Rask, I mentioned that although Rask struggled mightily to post any offense he was still driving possession when he was on the ice. While there is still hope for Rask (even though he played a lot with Aberg) I don’t see the same happening for Aberg. Aberg is damaging to the Wild stat wise, and possession wise, and he represents a big risk to the Wild’s success.
So should the Minnesota Wild re-sign Aberg? in short, no. At least not with the expectation that he can be a full-time NHL player. If he is willing to be on the AHL team to start the year and be one of the first call-up options, then he represents value.
If Paul Fenton is penciling in Aberg for a spot on the third line, then that represents a problem. Better players will be available for third line spots, for not too much more of the cap. With the space Minnesota has to add, I would much rather go out and get a Michael Grabner or Richard Panik type player that can consistently contribute 35-40 points.
*Credit to Hockeyreference.com for the analytic stats used and Hockeyviz.com for the charts used in the article*
Featured Image Photo Credit – Nikos Michals