Cole Caufield didn’t play a ton for the Habs last season as a shoulder injury ended his year early. Will he be able to stay healthy this year and make a run for the 40-goal mark?
There was some intrigue surrounding Caufield heading into last year. Could he maintain what looked to be an unsustainable pace after Martin St. Louis took over as head coach? That would be a tall task but with it being a contract year, the eyeballs would be on him even more than his 2021-22 campaign of one extreme to the next.
With two goals in the season opener, Caufield started strong and wound up being a point-per-game player in October, albeit with an unsustainable shooting percentage. That normalized from there but he still kept up the production, collecting 11 points in 13 games.
Things got a bit weird in December, however. From a goal perspective, Caufield did well with nine goals in 15 games. But he didn’t record a single assist in the entire month. When you add in the end of November and the first half of January, the drought lasted for 23 games. When you’re playing with another productive offensive player in Nick Suzuki, going 45 appearances without an assist is almost unfathomable. Except it happened.
Near the end of that stretch, Caufield suffered a shoulder injury. While he played through it for a few games, saner heads prevailed and he underwent surgery, one that allowed him to basically have a full offseason of training under his belt. The overall stat line for his season was pretty good although the way he got there was a little odd in the end.
Stats: 46 GP, 26-10-36, -10, 2 PIMS, 7 PPG, 3 GWG, 158 shots, 18:03 ATOI
2 Year Averages
(Since Caufield played just ten games late in 2020-21, it’s not really relevant for full-season averages.)
Well, there isn’t a whole lot to dive into here. While it’s safe to say that the projected role for quite a few Habs is still somewhat in flux even two weeks into training camp, that is not the case here. Caufield is going to be a fixture on the top line, predominantly on his off-wing. While it’s possible that he and Nick Suzuki could be separated at times, it almost certainly wouldn’t result in a significant drop on the depth chart.
He’s also pretty much a lock to be on the top power play unit throughout the season. Notably, there have been no tangible improvements to the power play, both in terms of better personnel or, based on the preseason at least, strategy. That’s bad news for the Habs but it means that Caufield will be featured heavily on that top unit.
Martin St. Louis has experimented this preseason with putting some more offensive-minded forwards on the penalty kill. Caufield wasn’t one of them which should come as no surprise. In late-game situations where they’re down a goal and shorthanded, sure, but otherwise, he won’t be used in that situation.
Considering that the Habs are a team that isn’t exactly known for its offence, there aren’t a lot of players on this team that are viewed as being worthy of an early-round selection in fantasy leagues. Caufield is one of the exceptions.
It’s pretty easy to see why. Extrapolate his goal output from last year over an 82-game rate and you have a 46-goal scorer. And if you think that was an outlier, his goal production from 2021-22 under St. Louis was at a 48-goal pace. It doesn’t matter what type of league you’re in, a 40-goal player is quite valuable.
Of course, I’m cherry-picking stats here and that’s where there’s still some risk associated with a high pick on Caufield. His shooting percentage last season was a bit on the high side due to that first month and he’s coming off a serious injury. While he scored at a high rate under St. Louis the year before (with an even higher shooting percentage), it can’t be entirely forgotten that he couldn’t score under Dominique Ducharme. I’m not saying he’s going back to that level of futility though, just that we’re dealing with pretty small sample sizes so it’s hard to make any sort of meaningful extrapolation.
Could Caufield score 40 this season? Sure, it’s a very real possibility but also far from a given.
It’s interesting to see the big divergence in ADP across draft platforms. On ESPN, his ADP is around 70 which, frankly, is too early. On the other hand, his ADP on Yahoo is around 137 which seems too late. If you can get Caufield there, take him.
For leagues that place a heavier weight on goals than assists, give him a boost. If your league has shots on goal as a scoring category, move him up there. In those ones, he’s probably worthy of being picked somewhere in the 80s or early 90s overall. If your league has equal weighting for goals and assists, he should be dropped a couple of rounds in the rankings, putting him closer to the 120 range. There’s some risk with a Caufield pick early but the potential for a big reward is certainly there as well.
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