Antoine Roussel: Accidental 20-Goal Scorer?

In his second, full NHL season, Antoine Roussel is dialing back the penalty minutes and pulling ahead in goal scoring. As a rookie, Roussel found difficulty in skating on the edge between a skilled agitator and a player who put his team at risk. With development time and a fresh, 4-year contract inked in the off-season, Roussel is close to matching his professional record of 29 points scored with the Stars in 2013-14. If he maintains his current pace, he could easily match his career-high of 14 NHL goals. Better yet, can Roussel score 20 goals by the end of the regular season?

Antoine Roussel is the Fifth Leading Stars Goal Scorer…

Currently, Antoine Roussel boasts 11 goals, the fifth highest on the team, with 11 assists for 22 combined points. The interesting thing about his playing style is that his goals are often deflected into the net. Whether off the boot of an opposing player, his own teammate, or deflected off his own body, Roussel has scored an abundance of accidental goals. This doesn’t show a lack of skill, however, instead it proves that Roussel gets to the dirty areas of the ice and takes chances on shots. He’s a player who is often in the right place at the right time, which shouldn’t be undervalued or dismissed as coincidence in hockey. With increased minutes, Roussel has only gotten six shots on goal in his last seven games, but has seen more ice time battling against physical teams like the Winnipeg Jets.

Take a look at three of Antoine Roussel’s recent goals. The first deflects off his body, while he put the second in due to great positioning at the back door. The third goal is the result of taking a chance on a badly screened goalie and reaping the reward.

While opposing players keep an eye on Roussel when looking to draw penalties, they underestimate his skill, leaving him unattended in front of their nets. Observe how the Ducks’ defense leaves him open at the back door, in the same manner as the Rangers. Anaheim won their way to the top of the Pacific Division, but they still made this short-sighted defensive mistake.

…But Those Goals Are Not Scored on the Power Play

Rarely receiving the power play minutes that give top scorers a productive edge, Antoine Roussel sees more minutes on the penalty kill. This doesn’t give the third-string left wing much of a leg up to generate more shots on goal. Roussel has a 15.1 shooting percentage on 73 shots this season. Compare that to Jamie Benn’s 10.7 shooting percentage on 150 shots, and it appears that Roussel is producing effectively for his third line role.

In his professional career, Antoine Roussel scored 15 goals with 33 points in 2012-13 as he made the transition from the AHL to the NHL after the 2012 lockout. In 2014-15, Roussel posted fewer points with 14 goals and 29 total points in his first full NHL season. In each of his two, full seasons in the Stars organization, Roussel racked up more than 200 penalty minutes. So far, he only has 95 minutes in 50 games this season. While he has gaps in his production in 2014-15, Roussel is proving more productive on the ice when he stays out of the box. He still posts the most PIMs on the team, but slowed down recently, not taking more than one penalty in any game since December 27.

Antoine Roussel: 20-Goal Scorer of the Future

With only 32 games left in the regular season, Antoine Roussel needs to break his six-game goal drought to score another nine goals by playoff time. Leading up to the NHL All-Star break, Roussel maintained consistent scoring that has since dropped off. While it looks unlikely that Roussel can find himself in the right position for nine more ugly goals, fans can expect his scoring to increase and his penalty minutes to decrease or stabilize as he matures. Antoine Roussel is not a run-of-the-mill agitator with a low TOI. He is a player who sees up to 17 minutes each night against the most physical teams in the league. For now, he hangs in there with the goal scorers who also spend big minutes in the box.