Is Matt Beleskey the Real Deal?


Nov 18, 2014; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames goalie Jonas Hiller (1) guards his net as Calgary Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie (7) and defenseman Mark Giordano (5) and Anaheim Ducks left wing Matt Beleskey (39) and right wing Kyle Palmieri (21) battle for the puck during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Anaheim Ducks’ offense has been off to a slow start this year. The team is scoring .5 a goal less per game so far this season, putting them on pace for just 229 goals for, compared to 262 last season.

This can be primarily attributed to a lack of depth scoring. Thankfully, the Ducks have still managed to find ways to win, with the help of a breakout season by forward Matt Beleskey.

Beleskey, a 26-year old native of Windsor, Ontario was drafted in the 4th round (112th overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Beleskey has made a living in the NHL as a defensively responsible power forward. At 6’0”, 204lbs., Beleskey combines agile skating with strong physicality to play his effective brand of hard-nosed hockey.

Nov 25, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks right wing Corey Perry (10) celebrates his second period goal against Calgary Flames with teammate Anaheim Ducks left wing Matt Beleskey (39) at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Beleskey has always had a nose for the net, but he’s never been identified as a pure scorer. In his first five NHL seasons (264 games), Beleskey assembled 80 career points (35g, 45a).

This season, he’s off to a breakout start. In just 29 games, Beleskey is tied for first on the team team in Goals (14) with Corey Perry.

He’s done this while playing on every single line. He’s spent significant time on the top two lines with Ryan Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, but he has also spent time with Nate Thompson, William Karlsson and Rickard Rakell.

Beleskey is a positive possession player wherever he goes. He carries an overall CF% of 54.9% while being utilized against moderately difficult competition and an even mix of offensive and defensive situations. This is a sharp increase compared to last season, when Beleskey maintained a CF% of only 49.0% in a more limited, sheltered role alongside center Nick Bonino.

His Corsi WOWY charts show that Beleskey has a net positive effect on his linemates as well.

[table id=59 /]

As the table above shows, Beleskey appears to be the real driver of play, or at least in the first 31 games of the season. He elevates the play of nearly whomever he plays with, whether it be stars Getzlaf, Perry, and Kesler, or depth forwards Jakob Silfverberg, William Karlsson and Devante Smith-Pelly.

It shows in the eye test as well. Beleskey works hard in the corners to win loose pucks for his teammates, driving play forward. And as his 13 goals show, he’s an able finisher as well. While in the past Beleskey got most of his goals in the dirty areas of the ice in front of the ice, this year he has found himself shooting in space and scoring more consistently.

Given Beleskey’s strong play this season, it should come as no surprise that he’s producing at such a high pace. Assuming he stays healthy (never a safe assumption to make on the Ducks this season), Beleskey is on track to score in the neighborhood of 36 goals this season.

The question is, can his numbers from the first 31 games carry over to the rest of the season?

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One statistic may cast some doubt over the likelihood of that occurring: Beleskey’s shooting percentage is through the roof.

While shooting percentages can sometimes paint a picture of a player with a simply superior shot, Beleskey’s overall history shows that it’s unlikely that Beleskey can maintain his current level.

Last season, Beleskey scored on 8.0% of shots taken. That appears to be close to his career mean when you account for prior seasons. He scored on 13.1% of shots taken in the shortened-sample size season of 2012-13, and 5.3% in both 2011-12 and 2012-13. This season, Beleskey has maintained a shooting percentage of 17.3%.

While Beleskey may not be able to maintain his astronomically high shooting percentages throughout the whole season, we shouldn’t write him off as simply a lucky player. His strong possession play has benefited him greatly, and will continue to long after his shooting percentages fall back down to earth.

If Beleskey continues to play as well as he has, he will be a valuable part of the Ducks forward corps in a year when the rest of the team seems starved for goals. He may not be able to reach his projected 36 goals this season, but it certainly isn’t out of the question that Beleskey can finish the year with 30 goals or more if he stays healthy.

This could pay huge dividends for Beleskey, as he becomes a UFA at the conclusion of this season. Currently holding a cap hit of $1.35 million/year, Beleskey could land a sizable contract with the Ducks or some other team this offseason, especially with a potential 30-goal season under his belt.

For his sake, and for the Ducks’ sake, we can only hope that Beleskey’s wild ride will continue, and help aid Anaheim deep into the postseason.