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Jason Pominville’s impact has been undervalued this season

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Pominville isn’t a flashy player at this point of his career, but he’s had an under-appreciated positive impact on the Sabres this season

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

It has been an interesting season for veteran Jason Pominville. The 36-year-old forward found himself on the top line early in the season and benefited greatly with offensive production. He then went into a scoring drought, battled injuries, and even ended up as a healthy scratch.

Through it all Pominville has been one of the most positively impactful players all season. He’s on pace to tie his point total from last season (34 points) and score more goals (18) than he’s registered in the last three seasons.

There’s no denying that he may have lost a step with his speed, but he still has shown the ability to be an effective player. He still goes to the front of the net to score, has the dangerous shot, and plays a solid two-way game.

The line of Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner, and Pominville was one of the most efficient trios in the NHL this season. They rank near the top in expected goal share of all the lines in the league tracked by Moneypuck.

It wasn’t just Pominville’s scoring that made him an important part of that top line. While Eichel and Skinner are great offensive producers, they have some shortcomings defensively. Pominville, on the other hand, is a good defensive forward. Looking at Evolving Hockey’s RAPM (regular adjusted plus-minus) data, he ranks fourth on the team in xGA (expected goals against) impact with a -1.22. Skinner and Eichel rank in the bottom-six on the club in xGA impact.

Combine those defensive numbers with Pominville’s 0.73 xGF (expected goals for) impact, which is also fourth-best on the team, you can start to see how he’s positively influenced the team throughout the season. Overall he has an xGPM impact of 1.95; ranking him second on the team in that stat behind only Rasmus Dahlin.

I know the initial thought is that those numbers are inflated by Eichel and Skinner. However, Evolving Hockey’s RAPM model takes into account a few different variables. Two of those variables are the quality of teammate and quality of competition. Meaning that they account for him playing with top players in this formula and he still grades out on the high end.

As you dig deeper into the data, you find even more that shines a positive light on Pominville. His even strength goals above replacement per 60 rate of 0.715 rank him at the top on the entire team and are good enough to be ranked in top 50 of all NHL players.

The chart below displays how Pominville has had one of the better GAR and WAR seasons over the last few years of his career.

His impact went beyond the top line with Eichel and Skinner. The veteran has been one of the better wingers on the roster for the rookie center Casey Mittelstadt. When placed on a line together they’ve been effective.

Mittelstadt stats with Pominville at 5 on 5 according to Natural Stat Trick:

  • CF% - 56.04%
  • SCF% (scoring chances for percentage) - 55.56%
  • HDCF% (high-danger scoring chances for percentage) - 61.76%

Mittelstadt stats without Pominville at 5 on 5:

  • CF% - 48.00%
  • SCF% - 45.62%
  • HDCF% - 40.66%

Pominville’s contract expires after this season and general manager Jason Botterill may want to consider bringing him back on a one-year contract. Of course, it’ll be at a cheaper cap hit than he currently takes up on the salary cap.

Also, it may be wise for both parties to understand that Pominville may end up as the 13th forward and a healthy scratch on some nights. A player of his age could benefit from some nights off on back to back situations, for example, to remain fresh over a long 82-game season.

If they bring him back, the Sabres keep a veteran around the team with playoff experience and respected in the room. They also get a player that can be impactful in the bottom of the lineup and has the ability to move up the lineup in various circumstances.

While a lot of Pominville’s offensive production came playing on the top line; his overall impact throughout the season was felt in many different roles on the roster. His value to the team this season should not be undervalued.