Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier. The New Jersey Devils have players to build around in those three, but what about complementary pieces? For the first time in a while, players to support that core three are beginning to emerge. One player who has solidified himself as someone who can support that core three is Yegor Sharangovich.
Sharangovich emerged as a potential winger for Hughes or Hischier during the 2020-21 campaign when he had 16 goals and 30 points in 54 games — a 24-goal, 45-point pace over 82 games. After a slow start to this past season, he backed up his 2020-21 by finishing with 24 goals and 46 points in 76 games. Not only did he match his production, but he made legitimate strides in his second NHL season. Let’s look back on his 2021-22 and why he’s a legitimate top-six option for the Devils moving forward.
Sharangovich’s 2020-21 vs. 2021-22
Sharangovich was a bit of an unheralded prospect coming out of the Devils’ 2018 draft class. A fifth-round pick, a potential 25-goal, 50-point scorer didn’t look like it was in the cards. That was until he went on loan to the KHL with Dinamo Minsk, where he had 17 goals and 25 points in 34 games ahead of the COVID-shortened 2020-21 NHL season.
Once Sharangovich returned stateside, he joined the Devils and began the season straight in the NHL. He got off to a slow start, with 12 points in his first 33 games. But once head coach Lindy Ruff placed him on a line with Jack Hughes to end the season, he finished with nine goals and 18 points in 21 games.
At five-on-five, Sharangovich totaled a Corsi for percentage (CF%) of 50.3 percent and expected goals percentage (xG%) of 46.96 percent. His on-ice impacts weren’t great, but more importantly, he demonstrated potential as a scoring threat on the wing. He averaged 1.77 points per 60 minutes and showed chemistry with Hughes, which was an important takeaway for the long-term picture.
Fast forward to 2021-22, and Sharangovich’s season looks quite similar on the surface. He got off to a slow start, with four goals and 10 points in his first 27 games. But once the extended Christmas break passed, he went on an identical scoring tear to close the season with 20 goals and 36 points in 49 games. That latter stretch comes out to a 33-goal, 60-point pace over 82 games.
But while the production may look similar to 2020-21, Sharangovich’s on-ice numbers improved in 2021-22. He finished this season with a CF% of 52.08 percent and xG% of 53 percent, with the latter being a nearly six percent increase from a year ago. What’s the reasoning for that? Sharangovich’s game off the puck, specifically defensively, improved from 2020-21:
You’ll notice the red line with a pretty steep climb upward from 2020-21 to 2021-22, indicating Sharangovich’s defensive wins above replacement (WAR) percentile took a positive jump. His defensive WAR percentile may have still been under 50 percent, but only slightly. With that said, an improvement is an improvement. And while his second-half surge can be tied to spending time on a line with Hughes, he was no longer reliant on Hughes to have success this season.
Sharangovich Not Soley Dependent on Hughes Anymore
As mentioned above, Sharangovich’s success a year ago largely came when playing on a line with Hughes. When he was Hughes’ linemate last season, he had a CF% of 54.14 percent and xG% of 52.64 percent. When away from Hughes, his CF% dipped to 46.59 percent, while his xG% dipped to 41.82 percent. That’s a significant dropoff, but it shouldn’t be a surprise. Hughes was beginning to show elite play-driving ability, while Sharangovich was still finding his footing as an NHL rookie and needed someone like Hughes to help carry him.
Returning to 2021-22 again, Sharangovich’s numbers with Hughes were better than they were when he wasn’t his linemate. But there wasn’t a significant dropoff like there was a year ago:
|Stat (2021-22)||Sharangovich w/Hughes||Sharangovich w/o Hughes|
|Scoring chances for percentage (SCF%)||55.51%||51.09%|
|High-danger chances for percentage (HDCF%)||57.36%||54.01%|
Though Sharangovich’s on-ice results dip a bit without Hughes, he’s still well above water in all four stats, which was not the case a year ago; he had an HDCF% below 40 percent. That’s the sign of a player who’s made progress in his game. And even after the Devils announced Hughes would miss the rest of the regular season with a low-grade MCL sprain on April 4, Sharangovich still held his own, breaking even in CF% (49.52 percent) and xG% (50.28 percent).
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While Sharangovich isn’t going to be the type of winger who can carry his own line ala Bratt, it sure seems he’ll be capable of playing in the top-six alongside Hughes or Hischier, as he’s no longer a passenger and can hold his own without either player, specifically Hughes.
But what really makes Sharangovich an ideal fit for the Devils’ top-six is his shooting talent. His shooting percentage is a bit over 14 percent for his career, and per Money Puck, his predicted shooting talent was 18.8 percent above league average in all situations this past season. If you peek back at the JFresh visual above, his finishing talent ranks in the 85th percentile among his peers, so he can shoot and score the puck.
By the looks of it, the Devils will be seeking to add a scorer or two this offseason to keep building around Hughes and Hischier (Jeff Marek has already connected them to Kevin Fiala). That’ll come through a trade or free agency, but either way, it shouldn’t push Sharangovich out of the top-six. Despite him improving away from Hughes this season, they undoubtedly have chemistry together. Hughes is an elite play-driver and playmaker, while Sharangovich is the shooting threat. It’s a perfect match.
And it’s clear Sharangovich has proven his 2020-21 wasn’t a fluke. His production between the two seasons is nearly identical, and his underlying results improved from year to year. There’s still room for him to get better, too, and in the right situation, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him become a 30- to 35-goal scorer, especially with an improved power play and Devils roster expected next season.
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Advanced stats from Natural Stat Trick