After a struggling start to the 2023–24 season, the Calgary Flames turned to making call-ups from the AHL. It started off with Connor Zary who has been fantastic for the Flames. A few days later, another player would receive the call to the NHL. That player would be Slovakian winger, Martin Pospisil. Unlike Zary, there weren’t high expectations for Pospisil, so based on his performance so far, he’s completely blown them out of the water.
Pospisil’s journey to the NHL
Martin Pospisil joined the Calgary Flames organization back in 2018 after getting drafted 105th overall in the fourth round. Pospisil spent two years with the Sioux City Musketeers racking up 100 points in 103 games. He would then make the jump to the AHL and join the Stockton Heat in the 2019–20 season. He would get 10 points while playing only 26 games.
The limited amount of games came from the fact that he was sidelined for three months after getting a concussion in a fight in just his sixth game. The next season would see him split games in Slovakia and the AHL due to the global pandemic. Pospisil would suit up for 22 games for HC Kosice and score 17 points. Then in the AHL, he scored 11 points in 14 games.
Once again, he missed a large amount of games due to injury, this time due to a knee injury after a knee-on-knee hit. In 2021–22, Pospisil would still have injury problems just not as major as the prior seasons. He would find himself in 47 games scoring seven goals and 25 points.
Then came last season and his terrible injury luck would return. Once again, Pospisil would get into a fight and receive a concussion that would sideline him for a long time, this time for the rest of the year. Before his season-ending injury, he was able to pick up 10 points in 20 games.
Since he joined the Flames’ affiliate, Pospisil had played 113 games out of 231, meaning he had missed 118 or 51.1% of the games. After his injury last season, Pospisil questioned if he would ever play hockey again, thinking that the game he played on December 30th, 2022 may be his last. If his body and/or the medical staff didn’t give him the green light, he knew it would be best to quit.
Fortunately, he got the green light and had a fantastic summer, spending months working to get where he is now. Pospisil had a great start to his 2023–24 season, scoring six points in six games for the Calgary Wranglers before getting called up to the Flames. He made his debut against the Seattle Kraken on November 4 and started on a line with Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman.
His first game went phenomenally, as 14 minutes into it, he scored his first career goal. The following game he went pointless, but then rebounded with the game-tying goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs to push the game to overtime. That started a three-game point streak as he assisted on the lone goal against the Ottawa Senators, and the game-winning goal against the Montreal Canadiens.
Unfortunately, the streak ended on Thursday as he went pointless in a win against the Vancouver Canucks. He has picked it back up as he scored a highlight-reel opening goal against the New York Islanders last night.
At this point, Pospisil is now on the second line with Connor Zary and Nazem Kadri, and he has three goals, two assists, for five points in his first seven NHL games.
Pospisil’s numbers tell a great story
Pospisil looks amazing on the ice, on the stat sheet, and even in advanced stats with his underlying numbers.
Via NaturalStatTrick.com using 5v5 score- and venue-adjusted metrics, this is what Pospisil numbers look like:
These numbers alone look fantastic. Any percent above 50 is considered good and in each stat, he’s in the 60s. When looking at these amongst Flames forwards, Pospisil leads in every single one. When you include defencemen, it’s the same story except for SCF% as Nick Desimone edges him out slightly to lead that category.
His PDO of 1.090 says he has been extremely lucky so far which makes some sense. When you break it down, his on-ice shooting percentage (OiSH%) is at 11.65% and his on-ice save percentage (OiSV%) is at 97.38%. 11.65% is a little lucky but then you look at 97.38% and it’s a whole different story. Most of the PDO is coming from the OiSV%, so realistically, his production may drop a bit with more goals being scored against than currently.
The last thing to highlight is his offensive zone starts percentage. It currently sits at 50% on the dot, this indicates that the other 50% of the time, he’s starting in the neutral or defensive zone. This means he has to work his way into the offensive zone half the time which makes his production a bit more impressive and this could also potentially mean that Ryan Huska trusts him with defensive assignments already.
Using a model for a deeper breakdown of Pospisil
We will be looking at two impact charts via HockeyViz.com.
Pospisil’s isolated impact
First, let’s look at Pospisil’s isolated impact chart. The major standout is his offensive impact. It currently sits at a +9% score which would put him up there amongst the league’s best. Most of this offence is being generated in more dangerous areas. The first being the left side of the net and higher circle, and the second being the lower slot and middle of the zone.
Defensively, Pospisil has been around the worse side of league-average. This is highlighted by his +1% score. There isn’t a real standout area where it needs to improve or continue, except for maybe the bottom right of the lower circle (reversed on the graph) which even then is a decently small area.
His sG score (stat similar to the more common WAR) is also great. He sits with a +3.9 sG with most of the positive score coming from his great offence which gives him +4.1 on its own.
With and without Pospisil
While acknowledging small sample sizes, Pospisil elevates both the Flames and defence when he’s out on the ice. Starting off with the offence, you can already see the difference in the amount of deep red with Pospisil. With Pospisil out on the ice, the Flames offence has jumped from a -3% score to a +31%, a positive leap of 34%! The xGF/60 also goes from 2.57 to 3.46, almost a whole expected goal. The red areas are close to matching Pospisil’s isolated impact chart, the left side of the net and higher circle, lower slot, middle of the zone, and left side of the right circle.
Going down the ice to the defensive zone, the defence with Pospisil has also been crazy good. With him, the defensive score goes from a +0% to -19%, an easy difference to see of -19%. A 2.65 xGA/60 drops by about half an expected goal down to 2.14 xGA/60. The chart looks close to identical to his isolated impact chart, just with the areas being a lot deeper in colour. Most of the positive impact comes from the right side of the zone and around the net, with struggles coming from the left side of the zone.
Pospisil’s been the best surprise so far this season
It’s hard not to be happy for Martin Pospisil. He’s struggled with injuries since reaching the pro-level missing more games than games he played. These injuries stopped him from having great seasons and even almost made his career very short. But he persevered through them and is now living his NHL dream. Since joining the Flames, Pospisil has been one of their best players. He’s positively impacted the team on and off the score sheet and it looks like he’s going to be with the Flames for quite some time.
Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire