A look back at the first season in North America for European import Filip Roos

A deep dive on how Roos performed in the NHL this season and where he might fit in the crowded defensive prospect pool.

A look back at the first season in North America for European import Filip Roos

As mentioned in the Isaak Phillips article, the Blackhawks are at a point where some of their defensive prospects are reaching the age and experience level to be NHL-ready. As a result, five rookie defensemen played for the Blackhawks past season to varying degrees. Only two, though, hit double digits in games played. We've already discussed Phillips, so now it's time to talk about Filip Roos.

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Roos is an interesting case as a prospect: he has a full year of experience in a professional men's league (SHL) where he skated top-pair minutes. He's never been a particularly offensive defenseman, but he has attributes that should allow him to contribute to puck possession. He's, at least, decent on the defensive side of the ice with strong skating and transition skills, is above average in passing, and can generally get his shot through on net. So while Roos didn't produce much in the SHL, he theoretically did little things that helped his team get on the scoreboard.

On top of that, Roos put up some near-elite defensive results in the SHL:

The above is why the Blackhawks signed him last May. Chicago already had plenty of offensive defensemen in the years prior before they started focusing on more defense-first guys who can skate well – especially under current GM Kyle Davidson.

However, despite performing very well in another professional league, it's really Roos' performance in North America that matters the most – especially in the NHL. After evaluating that performance, the question becomes: does Roos do enough or is he skilled enough to stand out among the congested group Blackhawks' blue-line prospects?

Let's start with the basics. It might come as a surprise, but Roos actually played the most games among the Blackhawks rookie defenseman with 17. That surprise likely exists because, not only was his performance rather quiet, but 15 of those 17 games came before Christmas, so it's an older sample. Roos was never particularly eye-catching while playing, but he was fairly efficient in his role and not particularly prone to making mistakes.

Roos finished with one goal and two assists in those 17 games with an average ice time of 16:13. He and Phillips were the only two of the five rookie defenseman who scored in the NHL, though again, both of them played the most games so they obviously had more opportunity.

In terms of shot-metric possession, Roos had a 44.25 percent share of shot attempts at 5-on-5 (sixth among Hawks d-men), which is solid enough. Where he jumps to the top of the class is in terms of the quality that possession: Roos' 48.11 percent share of expected goals was first on the Hawks' blue line. The rate of expected goals for (2.35 per 60) with him on the ice was the third best on defense while the expected goals against (2.53 per 60) was the second best. Considering Roos started in the offensive zone a little more than half the time (52.54 percent) by two zone split metrics, those are very good numbers.

To compare with a similarly aged defenseman, Caleb Jones started less than one percent less time in the offensive zone but had a 46.17 percent expected goals share on the ice. Obviously Caleb Jones played a lot more, so it's not a straight comparison, but it shows that the Blackhawks were more successful with Roos on the ice when it came to generating quality possession and suppressing that of their opponents than with some other lineup regulars.

Looking into Roos' micro stats gives some insight on why the Blackhawks were successful in quality generation when he was on the ice – though less insight into the quality against.

As seen in the chart above, Roos was a mixed bag of results: he did quite well in the offensive categories like shot contributions and transition into the offensive zone, but there's a lot of red on the defensive size of things, especially related to defending the blue line.

The former is to be expected: he was quite good at pushing offense, even if he didn't show up on the scoresheet in the SHL. But the latter is disappointing, considering how good he was in all things defense when in Sweden. Not only was he targeted a lot (30.06 per 60), he allowed the fifth most entries that led to a scoring chance against (4.86 per 60).

To put those numbers into perspective, most of the Blackhawks defensemen have that section filled in red – players like Seth Jones and Connor Murphy were similar in the second stat, especially – but it's still an area that Roos would need to improve going forward.

Offensively, Roos was pretty solid. At 5-on-5, Roos finished with 4.29 shots per 60 (fourth among Blackhawks defenseman) and 9.78 shot attempts per 60 (second only to Seth Jones). The former is actually only bit above average in the NHL for defensemen, so that should put into perspective how little the Blackhawks defenders were helping the team on offense. Roos' general shot assist rate of 0.58 per 60 was also strong – again, not far off of Seth Jones' 0.66 per 60 rate – and he was positive in generating chances with his shots and shot assists at a decent clip. He was especially dangerous when setting up his teammates in high danger locations (3.94 per 60).

Roos was also good in transition overall, too, especially when it came to passing. He excelled at exiting the defensive zone with possession in terms of both rate (6.79 per 60) and overall success percentage (32.4) on the team, with both figures above average for the league. Roos was even better when it came to the neutral and offensive zones: not only did he excel at carrying the puck in (36.4 percent successful, second to Seth Jones again), but he was above average in entries with passing plays (3.21 per 60) and entries with scoring chances (0.97 per 60). Arguably, Roos' most effective move was his stretch pass on a zone exit, which sprung his teammates into an offensive threat immediately. It's hard to find a clip of this in the NHL, but here is one from the AHL playoffs:

The two main issues with with Roos' transition game were botched exits (1.42 per 60) and his low zone-entry attempt rate (5.33 per 60). This means that he flubbed his zone exits a bit too often (most of his 2.39 per 60 giveaways were in the defensive zone. While he was successful entering the offensive zone, he didn't do it enough to be as impactful as possible.

Ultimately, Roos has a lot of the tools needed to be an NHL defender: he's got good size at 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, and he contributes offensively, even those contributions don't result in a lot of points. His skating is quite strong and effective, and he has a history of defending successfully, even though that didn't work out so much in his NHL sample this year.

The problem for Roos is that several other Blackhawks defensive prospects have these traits as well, and Roos' age is already working against him considering the projectable timeline of the Blackhawks rebuild could be at least five years (even with the probable selection of generational talent, Connor Bedard, in the 2023 NHL Draft).

So, no, Roos didn't do anything particularly special to stand out among the defensive rookie group, but he did do well enough in comparison to the NHL regulars that it wouldn't be amiss to give him more opportunities to prove himself. There are only two or three other defensive prospects that are likely ready to take the leap next season anyway, and Davidson has mentioned the Blackhawks are leaning towards the over-marinating route when it comes to development, so giving Roos more time in the NHL isn't such a bad idea. He's got a Jan Rutta quality about him that makes it feel like he could be useful, if given the opportunity.

The 2023-24 season is the final year of Roos' current two-year contract. He would either be a better placeholder than some of last year's regulars or he'll turn out to be good enough to be traded for a longer-term solution. Either way, next season is probably make or break for him in the NHL.