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Beles-Key? How Is Bruins' Big Free Agent Signing Doing?

Matt Beleskey was Boston's big free-agent signing this summer in a less-than-stacked "top end" of the free agent class of 2015. With mixed reactions to his play so far amongst Bruins fans so far-has his investment been worth it?

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Beleskey is not a name you'd ever have expected to see among the "top free agent targets" list for...well, any season. The 27-year-old winger hasn't exactly made waves through the NHL-indeed before last year his most prolific season by far was with Coventry Blaze in the UK Elite League during the lockout season. "20-goal NHL scorer" was not something that ever appeared in the same article as his name, never mind the same sentence.

That changed last year, thanks to a career-year just in time for FA which saw the man from Windsor score 21 goals in Anaheim - at least partly due to a purple patch in shooting percentage and being placed on Anaheim's top line for long stretches.

The Bruins saw enough in Beleskey to give him $3.8 million a year this season, which was greeted with...well, shrugs and a lot of "hmm, not bads" from NHL watchers. He's had a solid if unspectacular first half-season with Boston, currently returning figures of 7+12 for 19 points in 34 games, or just over a point every other game. Not bad production for a 2nd/3rd line tweener.

But in this value-conscious age of fancy stats and instant comparables, how is Beleskey doing compared to others? Is he over or under producing? A boom, a bust or right where he would be expected to be?

Let's take a look, courtesy of the numbers provided by Chris Abraham, who you all know as crzycanucklehed here on Chowder. He's the maths whiz-I just interpret them.

(Note-these numbers are not RIGHT up to date, as they only take into account games played up to Christmas. However, they're an excellent guide to how Beleskey ranks in the NHL right now)

LINE USAGE

Beleskey has played the vast majority of his time on the 2nd and 3rd units. He's spent 5% of his total TOI on ice with the top line, 52% with the 2nd, 42% with the third, and 1% with the 4th. It's fair to say that he's a "tweener" between the top and bottom six, with slightly more emphasis on the 2nd line. That's probably about the level most would expect him to be in Boston. Certainly, it's the kind of level his salary would put him at for most teams.

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING - PRODUCTION

Beleskey is currently producing at a rate of round about a point every other game..projecting to a 41 point player as the season ends. Let's be generous and say he could produce 50. 50 points for $4 million a year? That's, again, round about the ballpark you'd expect for most forwards. Compare that to a market that once paid David Clarkson $5.75 million a year based on a 46 point season and...well, Beleskey starts to look like good value.

But how does he compare to the rest of the league in terms of how productive he actually is with his ice-time? To look at this, we're going to look not just at his points, but where he ranks in terms of points produced per 60 minutes of ice-time.

Interestingly, Chris took a look a the actual result and asked Twitter just where they thought Beleskey ranked among NHLers in these categories. Here's the result:

Beleskey Rank 5on5 All Sit Twitter Rank
Points/60 61 136 125
Points/60 49 144
37th best 2nd liner
Primary points 71 151
Primary points/60 90 171 0.3475
Weighted Pts 66 147 G+A1+.5A2
Weighted Pts/60 79 160 G+A1+.5A2

A quick explanation here - the numbers are where Beleskey ranks in THE ENTIRE NHL. Points/60 are his rank in how many points he produces per 60 minutes of icetime. Primary points are goals or first assists. "Weighted points"  are his rank when points are calculated to give more value to goals and first assists than secondary - basically, they're calculating how often he either scores or directly sets up a goal.

So, what does that table show?

As of Christmas, Beleskey was in the top 50 most productive players in 5-on-5 play. He was in the top 100 in the NHL in his rate of either scoring or directly assisting goals...when you place less value on secondary points he climbs even higher in the rankings-towards the top 50 best players at either scoring or directly assisting a goal in the NHL.

At his current rate, he can be counted upon to either score or directly assist a goal once every three games.

That's...really not a bad effort for a 2nd/3rd line tweener who isn't expected to be among the top producing players on his line most of the time, never mind among his forward group.

Beleskey isn't quite producing at the statistical rate he was in Anaheim last year, as yet, but that's to be expected for a player who's being used differently in Boston. He's not setting the world alight - but so far he is producing pretty much exactly where one would hope a two-way, 2nd/3rd unit tweener who's known more for his effort and tenacity than lighting the lamp every night would be.

What Beleskey is doing right now is giving the Bruins exactly what they believed they were paying for, at a reasonable cost. He's not quite hitting the heights that...say, Loui Eriksson is, but he's a valuable piece of the puzzle nevertheless...a useful part of the supporting cast.

He's not setting the world alight and may struggle to reach the goalscoring heights of last year, but in terms of production, Matt Beleskey is repaying Boston's investment pretty well right now.

The interesting thing now will be to see if it can continue into the New Year.