Torey Krug burst onto the scene last spring as the Bruins fought their way to the Stanley Cup Finals. With just three games of NHL experience to his name, Krug broke out with four goals and two assists in the playoffs, despite debuting in the Conference Semi-Finals. In recent years, the likes of Matt Hunwick and Steven Kampfer have looked primed for a breakout season, only to fall back to Earth, disappointing fans and the organization in the process. It was for this reason that expectations were tempered for Krug as he entered his rookie season.
At the start of the regular season, there was stiff competition between Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton, and Matt Bartkowski, as the trio vied for the last two spots in the Bruins defensive rotation. Krug got the nod early on, and never relinquished his spot. He has played in all 24 of the Bruins games thus far, and has exceeded even this highest expectations. After years of searching for a puck-moving defenseman, Krug maybe the Bruins answer.
Krug’s performance has been so impressive that, not only has he put himself in the Rookie of the Year discussion, he has become the early favorite. Krug’s primary competition, Tomas Hertl, has gained a lot of recognition across the league. In the first week of the season, Hertl put together a four goal performance against the New York Rangers, including the highlight reel goal seen below. As a rookie forward playing top line minutes, Hertl has posted 12 goals and 18 points through 23 games. As a rookie defenseman playing bottom pairing minutes, albeit top power play minutes, Krug has put up seven goals and eight assists through his first 24 games. Both teams are at, or near, the top of their division and legitimate playoff contenders, making Hertl and Krug deserving of consideration for the Calder Memorial Trophy.
At this point, you might be wondering why Krug is more deserving than Hertl. To put things in perspective, Hertl is leading all rookies in goals and points, while ranking second in +/-. Among all NHL forwards, Hertl ranks ninth in goals and 48th in points, and 28th in +/-. On the other hand, Krug is near the top of all four statistical categories for rookies, ranking third in goals, sixth in assists, second in points and fourth in +/-. Among all NHL defenseman, Krug is tied for the lead in goals, 32nd in assists, 11th in points, and 33rd in +/-. Based on the fact that forwards generally produce a lot more offense than defensemen, Krug’s ability to nearly match Hertl’s offensive output gives him the edge.
Impact on the Team
Krug’s biggest impact on his team has been transforming the power play, averaging more than two minutes per game and leading the team in power play points with seven (three goals, four assists). Krug’s emergence has helped the unit improve upon last season’s pitiful performance, both in production and their ranking in the NHL. Last season, the Bruins ranked 26th overall in the league, converting at a rate of 14.8% on the man advantage. This season, Boston has the 14th best power play in the NHL, scoring on 19.4% of their power play opportunities. Despite his ability to score, Hertl’s impact has had less of an influence on his team’s power play. He too has averaged more than two minutes per game on the man advantage and ranks seventh on the Sharks with two power play points (two goals, no assists). Last season, the Sharks ranked seventh in the league with a 20.1% conversion rate on the power play. This season, the power play has slipped to a 19.6% success rate, good enough for 13th in the NHL. Although Krug and Hertl both rely on their offense to drive their success, Krug’s contributions have had a greater impact on the Bruins than Hertl’s have had on the Sharks.
The season is still young, but it’s never too early to start the awards discussions. The Boston Bruins roster is full of young players that have made major contributions to the team’s hot start, although none may be as important as those of Torey Krug. If Krug’s success continues, the Bruins will not only be a serious contender for the Stanley Cup, but they will be the favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in the Finals. Although the Stanley Cup is the sole focus of the Bruins at the moment, a performance like this over the course of the season will result in some extra hardware for Torey Krug in the shape of the Calder Memorial Trophy.