Expectations were starting to rise for Lars Eller this season, after a full NHL season under his belt, people were expecting a return on the investment of trading Jaroslav Halak for the young center. Lars ended up delivering on expectations but not in the manner many expected. Eller did not prove to be any kind of offensive dynamo, although he managed a very respectable 16 goals (tied for 2nd among Habs centers). Instead he demonstrated a very good defensive, puck possession, and penalty killing game, making him the heir apparent in the Habs organization to Tomas Plekanec as the team's top shutdown forward.
|Player||Berkshire||Cooper||Peter||Boyle||Van Steendelaar||Dahan||Ive||Boucher||La Rose||Rice|
While there is some disagreement, the general consensus is that Eller should be either the 4th or 5th player on our list as befits the best non-star NHL player in the group.
Eller's scoring stats really don't do him justice. In his second NHL season the 22 year old forward has evolved into a very good puck possession and defensive forward. Unfortunately, due to management decisions he generally lacked the linemates to do much offensively and far too often was stuck carrying weak depth forwards on lines that had more responsibilities than they could be expected to handle.
Eller actually ended up with the best goal scoring rate (ES) among Habs' centers, helped along by a very poor shooting percentage year by Plekanec. Any efforts to build a large amount of assists were sabotaged by the quality of forward he had to set up last season though.
Eller's biggest accomplishments were on the penalty kill though. He managed a solid goals against rating (slightly better than Plekanec's) but also the 2nd best shots directed on net rate in the entire league (behind only Scott Nichols). It appears that if there is anyone on the team that could take Plekanec's job as top penalty killer long term it would be Eller as the young Dane appears to be in is his element defending against the man advantage.
Take a look at Oliver's take on number 81 here.
Strengths: Eller is a simply superb puck carrier and controller based off of strength, speed, and puck handling. A very good skater both in terms of speed and technique. Physically strong and hard to knock off the puck. Solid at playing a simple cycle game in the offensive zone. Excellent penalty killer. Pretty good passing and shot although he isn't a high volume shooter.
Weaknesses: Doesn't make the best use of his linemates and tries to do too much himself. Not the best offensive instincts or creativity from what has been seen so far. Does poorly when moved to the left wing. Has yet to put up really noteworthy offensive numbers in the NHL, but also has not played a role were that might be reasonably expected of him. Could be much better on faceoffs.
Projection: At best we can hope that Eller becomes a solid two-way second line center that is deployed against the opposition's best forwards. At worst he can be a solid defensive 3rd line center and penalty kill specialist. I doubt he'll be the next Mikko Koivu like we initially hoped, but I feel pretty good about him becoming the Habs' version of David Bolland.
We would be remiss if we didn't link to the best game so far in Lars Eller's career, his demolishing of the Winnipeg Jets:
Lars Eller's 4 goal, 5 point night against the Jets (via rvwv89)
|#5: Nathan Beaulieu||#4: Lars Eller||#3: Alex Galchenyuk|