#3: Tim Stützle (Reader Rank: 3rd, Last Year: 3rd)
If you’re familiar with my writing, you’ll know I’ve been a supporter of Ottawa’s approach to drafting over the past few years. The process of identifying their desired players and acquiring them without any care for the public is something I appreciate for its unique simplicity.
A notable exception to Trent’s Mannual came with the 3rd overall pick of the 2020 NHL Draft, as the team decided to stick with the consensus and select the best player available.
And just under a year later, it’s hard to picture a better result than what we’ve got.
You all know the reason why. You know exactly what Tim Stützle (Jimmy to his roommates) has done over the last year to become a household name in the nation’s capital. The 6’0 left wing’s career with the Senators started out in glorious fashion, as the late Alex Trebek, a University of Ottawa alumnus was called upon to make the selection.
Stützle spent his draft year in the DEL, the top-ranked league in Germany, in which he scored 34 points in 41 games with Adler Mannheim. From there, it was a quick stop at the World Juniors, where he contributed 10 points in 5 games for Germany, followed by playing a full NHL season at just nineteen years of age.
And he more than lived up to the hype, putting up 12 goals and 17 assists in 53 games, or 44 points over a full 82-game season. And of course, his most memorable goal was his first in the NHL, and of course, it came against the Toronto Maple Leafs. And of course, it was Chris “MARK STONE!!! AGAIN!!!” Cuthbert who made the call.
He continued to dazzle the fans throughout the season and capped off a successful rookie campaign with his first career hat-trick on May 8th against the Winnipeg Jets.
And because there were no fans in attendance to celebrate, a group of local kids arranged an unforgettable celebration.
That’s a pretty nice D+1 season, all in all. Forget the difference in skill, that’s a big enough jump to cover the geographical distance between the two leagues. Let’s take a minute to put that into perspective and show just how much of a süperstar this kid is turning out to be. That scoring pace is the highest among third overall picks who went straight to the NHL since Matt Duchene’s 55 points in 81 games with the Colorado Avalanche in 2009-10.
In his rookie season, Stützle demonstrated all of the qualities that made him such a sought-after player in the draft. He combines an impressive level of straight-line speed, with agility in all four directions, to place himself in an ideal spot to find his teammates. Considered one of, if not the best, playmakers in his draft class, he (literally) delivered on that promise, making use of his phenomenal vision to find teammates both on the forehand and backhand.
His shot, while not his best tool, is still strong, and allowed him to outscore his individual expected goals (via NaturalStatTrick.com) both at even strength and on the power play.
Despite all this, was he truly ready for the NHL? His on-ice metrics paint a picture of a player who struggled at both ends of the ice. Here’s his isolated impact from HockeyViz (offensive zone pictured above, red = more shots, blue = fewer), based on Stützle’s teammates typically faring better without him on the ice with them:
I wouldn’t worry about the shot metrics of a nineteen-year-old hockey player too much, since most of them aren’t even playing in the NHL at that point. There’s obviously the risk of rushing a player to the show, which could have long-term effects on their career, but Stützle still was able to produce at a top-six rate, and production is the basis for the confidence of a young forward. If a nineteen-year-old defencemen had this analytical profile, I’d be much more worried about them playing in the NHL. That’s because a player will stand out twice as much on defence, which is not ideal if you’re not NHL-ready
In the case of Stützle, I fully expect him to significantly improve his all-around game, for the very simple reason that he was drafted by the Senators, a team that always takes character into account, regardless of a player’s skill level. With the right guidance, Stützle should be able to round out his game over time, and he’s made strides as early as this past season.
Taking his game-by-game 5v5 Corsi (shot attempts) results, we can create a 10-game rolling average to track his progression over the course of the season. In other words, instead of looking at his new totals after each game, we limit each data point to a maximum of ten games. For example, the ninth point would represent games 1 through 9, the tenth point would represent games 1 through 10, the eleventh would represent games 2 through 11, and so on. Here’s what that looks like:
Tim Stützle's shot metrics developed over the course of the 2021 season. Using a 10-game rolling average for his 5-on-5 Corsi For (blue) and Against (red) per 60 minutes, you'll see the improvement in the second half of the season. #Sens pic.twitter.com/rGXfmyQow2— Sens Charts (@SensCharts) June 6, 2021
The scales on the chart represent shot attempts per 60 minutes, as opposed to shot attempt percentage. I marked his Corsi For in blue, and his Corsi Against in red. Therefore, whenever the blue line is above the red, as it is during the second half of the season, Stützle is generally putting up positive results and taking steps in the right direction.
Could next year be Stützle’s massive breakout season? Given the possibility of him playing with Shane Pinto and Connor Brown, there’s bound to be a great deal of improvement, though it’s likely going to have a bigger positive effect on the team’s results as opposed to Stützle’s individual numbers.
However, it would not surprise me to see him come into his own as one of the league’s premier playmaking forwards very soon. And when that happens, the Ottawa Senators will...I actually have no idea. But it’s going to be incredibly entertaining, and not in a bad way.