Ales Hemsky was brought on last season after Jim Nill signed him to a three-year, $12M deal on July 1st, 2014. Expectations were high with Hemsky as he put on quite a show with Jason Spezza and the Ottawa Senators after the trade deadline in the 2013-14 season. Unfortunately, Hemsky was not able to live up to those expectations and he often found himself demoted to fourth-line duties last season. He did not score his first goal with the Stars until his 22nd game and finished the season ninth on the Stars in points with just 32 in 76 games. Hemsky is back this season, fresh off hip-surgery and looking to show that last season was not the Ales Hemsky we should expect to see again. He’s off to a great start in that aspect, time to dig a little deeper into Hemsky’s performance thus far.
We are living in a world of advanced statistics, no question about it. Before I get too deep into those, I wanted to touch on the more basic statistics that Hemsky is also impressing in. After taking 22 games to score last season, he scored 25 minutes into this season. He has added five assists, two of which were the primary assist on the goal. Hemsky and rookie Mattias Janmark have found some early chemistry and have been playing on a line surrounding Cody Eakin for the past few games.
One noticeable problem with Hemsky last season were the giveaways and how easy he was to knock off the puck. I’ve noticed it just once so far this season on a play against Taylor Hall at Hemsky’s attacking blue-line. Hall made an aggressive play and went off on a 2-on-1. Instead of folding, Hemsky fought back and broke up the chance. He has just two total giveaways on the season and for a player that loves to throw the puck around a lot, that is a positive sign.
And in the “I didn’t expect to see that” category, Hemsky is tied for second among Stars forwards in blocked shots (The two players tied with him are Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, more surprises). With the Stars forwards, you expect to see players like Cody Eakin, Antoine Roussel and Vern Fiddler lead the way in blocked shots. It goes to show that Hemsky is putting in the work to be a more complete player and letting the productive side of his game come naturally.
Possession Isn’t Too Shabby Either
As Hemsky continues to do all of the little things in his game the right way, his possession metrics are following in a positive manner. Heading into the game against the Penguins on Thursday, Hemsky was ranked fifth on the team in corsi-for-% and came in fifth on the team with 2.54 points per 60 minutes of play at even strength. One downside is his scoring-chances-for-% is significantly lower than his corsi percentages which can indicate something that has been pointed out about Hemsky in the past. He is fantastic with the puck but at times he will hold on for far too long and the team will lose the opportunity at a scoring chance.
Hemsky is at his best when he is dangling through defenders with speed and making clever plays to his teammates. While he does hold the puck well and dominate possession at times, it may be more beneficial for him to start looking to create a little more on the ice, even if it leads to turning it over a little more.
What to Expect?
I fully expect Hemsky to blow his 2014-15 point total out of the water this season and be somewhere between 50-60 points by the end of the year. If he gets a little more time with players like Jason Spezza or Tyler Seguin, he will almost certainly achieve that mark.
One big question that remains is how healthy will Hemsky stay throughout the season? He has had problems staying in the lineup in the past and went through offseason hip surgery so it will be something to closely monitor. He takes his fair share of hits and as I mentioned above, he hasn’t been afraid of blocking shots so far this season. If Hemsky can stay healthy and effective, look for a huge jump in production from last year.
Jordan has been covering the Stars for The Hockey Writers since February 2015. He is originally from Iowa City, Iowa. You can follow Jordan on twitter @jordan_dix