Lessons learned from Taylor Raddysh's first full NHL season
What we learned from the first long look at the 2022 trade acquisition.
The most difficult part of analyzing any players from the prior Blackhawks season is that the overwhelming majority of the roster was skating farther up the lineup than they'd be on just about any other team due to The Plan™. This was a central theme of Wednesday's discussion on Jason Dickinson.
There are similar themes with Taylor Raddysh.
Unlike Dickinson, however, is that Raddysh is three years younger than the soon-to-be 28-year-old Dickinson. The latter is also up to 361 career games now, while Raddysh is at 152, with 78 coming from the '22-23 season. It all means that there's still an element of potential with Raddysh that does not exist with Dickinson, and that's good news – because Raddysh probably needs to take some more steps forward if he's going to be considered a long-term option in Chicago.
With this being Raddysh's first full NHL season, everything was a career-high: games played (78), goals (20), assists (17), points (37) and – most importantly for this discussion – average ice time (16:34). Raddysh finished the season tied with Andreas Athanasiou for the team lead in goals and tied for second with Seth Jones in points. An offensive dynamo, this team was not.
Raddysh's possession metrics look awful in a vacuum, but that's true for just about every player on this team. Relative to the team, though, they weren't as bad. Among Blackhawks forwards who skated at least 300 minutes (a sample of 15) of 5-on-5 ice time this season, Raddysh was fourth in shot attempt share (45.82%), fourth in expected goal share (45.10%), fourth in high-danger chance share (43.46%) and fifth in scoring chance share (43.34%). The Blackhawks rarely had the puck this season, but they did seem to have it more often whenever Raddysh was on the ice.
Zeroing in further on those 5-on-5 numbers is where the concerns start to mount, though.
A significant portion of Raddysh's points came on the power play: 7 of the 20 goals and 8 of his 17 assists. Raddysh averaged 3:18 of power-play ice time per game last season, which was the most among Blackhawks forwards who ended the season in Chicago (trailing only Kane and Domi). It's entirely possible that Raddysh's power-play ice time could dwindle in later seasons, as more and more top-end talent – did you know the Blackhawks are probably drafting Connor Bedard in a month? – arrives in Chicago. And if he's not producing at 5-on-5, then it'll be harder to find a future role for Raddysh with this team.
Using the same parameters as above (Blackhawks forwards who skated at least 300 minutes of 5-on-5), Raddysh was ranked 10th out of 15 with a rate of 1.18 points per 60 minutes, behind players like the aforementioned Dickinson and fourth-liners like Sam Lafferty and Boris Katchouk. The top Chicago trio in this category was Domi, Kane and Lukas Reichel – all players with legitimate top-six talent/potential. It's possible Raddysh could work his way up to that level, but he should probably start trending north quickly or be lost in the wave of prospects building behind him.
And there are some signs that Raddysh has the potential to be a productive offensive player – and not just on the power play. The 5-on-5 data below from Corey Sznajder's All Three Zones Project finds Raddysh to be well above league average in several key passing categories, including passes from the center lane, high-danger assists and deflection assists (aka shots that were deflected by a teammate):
Raddysh's most frequent linemates at 5-on-5 this season, per Natural Stat Trick, were Jonathan Toews and Philipp Kurashev, neither of whom lit up scoreboards this seasons. Based on the data above – and Raddysh's success on the power play – it seems like the best way to maximize his abilities is to put him on a line with teammates who can take his quality passes and turn them into lethal scoring chances and, ultimately, goals. Then it becomes the Dylan Strome Conundrum all over again: a player who only excels when with other top-end talent but doesn't play well away from that talent so the coaches believe he hasn't "earned" the right to play with top-end talent. But Raddysh is still a healthy distance away from reaching Strome's level.
Raddysh is under contract for another season at an extremely affordable $758,333 and the Blackhawks will retain his rights in the summer of 2024 as he becomes a restricted free agent. There's still time for Raddysh to maximize his talent and become the top-six forward the Blackhawks were hoping to acquire in that Brandon Hagel trade last year.
Arriving at that destination sooner would be the better of the two paths, of course.