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COMMENTARY: In Praise of Jakob Silfverberg

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It's time to acknowledge the Ducks' most underrated player.

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When Jakob Silfverberg finished last year's playoffs tied with Corey Perry for second on the team in postseason scoring, a number of observers declared he was ready to take a big step forward in his career. Apparently, so did General Manager Bob Murray, who awarded Silfverberg a four-year, $15 million contract. At the time, the contract was widely regarded as a good move by the hockey media and blogosphere.

If his play keeps progressing, Silfverberg’s $3.75 million cap hit is going to look like a steal by the time the deal ends in 2018-19.

— Jared Clinton, THN

[Silfverberg] was also fifth-best on the team last season in points per 60, was on the ice for more penalties-for than penalties-against (plus-2), and is a positive possession player.

If you can get all that for $3.75 million, you're in really good shape. And hey, the Ducks need value contracts anyway, because of that insane Ryan Kesler extension earlier this summer.

— Ryan Lambert, Puck Daddy

This contract has the potential to be a real value for the Ducks down the line, considering Silfverberg's blossoming offensive game paired with his ability to play penalty kill minutes and defend.

— Eric, Anaheim Calling

But halfway into the season, Silfverberg was buried in a slump even worse than the one he endured at the beginning of the previous season. On New Year's Eve, with 36 games in the books, he had scored three goals (two against goalies) and three assists. At a time when the Ducks needed scoring more desperately than at any other point in franchise history, the $3.75 million-dollar man wasn't chipping in.

Perhaps Silfverbeg's preseason encounter with Raffi Torres took him off his game for a while, but if it did, he never used it as an excuse. It also didn't seem to affect the subtler aspects of his play. Even during that unproductive first half, he was a major part of a hugely successful penalty-killing unit, and his possession numbers were always positive, despite playing against the opponents' best lines.

In the 37 games since the calendar turned to 2016, Silfverberg has scored 12 goals and 13 assists for 25 points. His offensive turnaround — most apparent in a four-point hat trick game against the New Jersey Devils — mirrored that of the entire team. Everybody had an unsustainably low shooting percentage in the first half, and everybody has seen it go way up since then.

But even when Silfverberg isn't scoring, he provides incredible value to the team. As of this writing, he sits second in shorthanded time on ice behind Kesler and ahead of all defensemen. This on the best penalty-killing team in the league.

At even strength, he is fourth in shot attempts percentage (CF%/SAT%), behind only the excellent Hampus Lindholm-Josh Manson pairing and the incomparable Ryan Getzlaf. He's even a full percentage point ahead of his linemates, Kesler and Andrew Cogliano.

Courtesy of Puckalytics.com

Courtesy of Puckalytics.com

And for a guy whose reputation rests on responsible defensive play (well, and the shootout), he apparently isn't too bad at creating offense, either. Here's what Andrew Berkshire has to say on the matter:

What is surprising is how dominant the unheralded Jakob Silfverberg has been. He’s the second-best possession driver, second-best scoring chance generator, and tied for second in individual scoring chances on the team.

— Andrew Berkshire, Sportsnet (MUST READ)

That's high praise, but the eye test seems to bear it out.

For what it's worth, Jere Lehtinen is the only winger to win the Selke Trophy in the last 25 years, and even his last win came more than a decade ago. Silfverberg isn't going to be nominated this year, or likely ever.

That doesn't really matter. What does matter is that he is one of the most underrated players in the league, and his line might just be the best checking trio the Ducks have had since 2007. Which is worth a hell of a lot more than a Selke Trophy when the playoffs start.