Jacob de la Rose spent all season in the National Hockey League for the first time in his career, and it was a season of mixed results for the 22-year-old (who turned 23 during the off-season).
He started the year in a rotation on the team’s fourth line, but his most common line during the season was one he finished the year with, playing with Alex Galchenyuk and Artturi Lehkonen. They played together for 22 per cent of de la Rose’s ice time despite only playing together in the last 13 of de la Rose’s 55 games on the year.
That just shows the level of stability he had throughout the year. They played together over 100 minutes more than any other combination. De la Rose had six combinations of over 25 minutes on the year.
With such a chunk with two offensively-minded players, you would expect de la Rose to have his most successful offensive year, and that’s what happened. He had four goals and eight assists on the season.
De la Rose won’t wow anyone offensively, but his time with better scorers did allow some of that part of his game to show itself.
Jacob de la Rose does the work down low, Alex Galchenyuk roofs his 6th goal of the year. pic.twitter.com/roWKhnM1iO— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 1, 2017
He is able to make smart plays with the puck in the offensive end, and a player like Galchenyuk is able to finish it. Likewise on the reverse.
Here, he starts the play and a nice pass from Lehkonen allows him to score.
Jacob de la Rose strikes again for his second of the night. pic.twitter.com/1cXggQiCae— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 7, 2018
But de la Rose will never be a scoring centre. His game is centred around his defensive play, and then allowing himself to take advantage of opportunities at the other end.
De la Rose, like so many of his teammates, was lifted by Jeff Petry’s play. De la Rose’s possession statistics (49% Corsi For), and scoring chance numbers (57% scoring chances, 61% high danger chances) all picked up in the close to 180 minutes the two played at even strength.
The shot chart also shows the significant impact that Petry had on de la Rose.
But even more remarkable was the combination of de la Rose, Galchenyuk and Petry. As soon as de la Rose played with Galchenyuk, the team’s shooting percentage when he was on the ice shot up from under four per cent to over nine per cent.
The trio, when together, was pretty elite in the small sample size. In just about 80 minutes, the trio had a 55.35% Corsi For, 62.50% of high danger chances and they were on the ice for four goals and only two against. To make matters even more impressive, they only had 41% of offensive zone face-offs.
Now, you don’t want Galchenyuk, one of the top offensive talents on the team, to be saddled in the minutes that de la Rose plays but it shows the potential that de la Rose has when he doesn’t play on a typical fourth line. I think that he has a future as a solid third centre or on a fourth line with skilled players. It’s a combination that could work.
De la Rose also had a very good World Championships for Team Sweden en route to a gold medal. He had a goal and an assist in 10 games, but it was his usage that was interesting to me. In the playoff round, he was fourth in ice time among forwards in both the quarterfinal and semifinal games ahead of players like Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg. In the gold medal game, he played only 44 seconds in overtime but was once again over 15 minutes in regulation. He also won over 63% of his face-offs in those wins.
He is a player coaches can trust in those situations to win those games. I would feel perfectly fine with him centring the team’s fourth line but they would be better surrounding him with more talented players. He played under 30 minutes with Daniel Carr last year, and I think it would benefit both players to have them play together regularly.
A lot of the heat de la Rose takes is what he doesn’t do well. He’s not a scorer, and he’s probably not going to be a top-six guy and he shouldn’t be put in that situation right now. But that shouldn’t cloud what he does well, and he has a spot on an NHL team doing that.
Grade de la Rose’s 2017-18 season
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