Hindsight is 20/20, but it certainly smiles upon the Charlie Coyle trade.
General Manager Don Sweeney exchanged Ryan Donato and a fifth-round pick for the pride of Weymouth, Massachusetts in a deal with the Minnesota Wild in February 2019.
Donato was an offensively gifted prospect at the time, but he ended up eventually dropping to fourth-line minutes for a Wild team who struggled mightily and was flipped last month to the San Jose Sharks.
Coyle, on the other hand, has since signed a long-term deal with his hometown club and looks set to anchor the third line for the next few years. As Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci creep into their mid-thirties, Coyle should provide a steady presence down the middle of the ice for years to come.
Coming into the 2020-21 campaign, Coyle is tentatively slated to be between Anders Bjork and new signing Craig Smith. Bjork showed flashes of chemistry alongside Coyle, but couldn’t capitalize on opportunities higher up the lineup.
Smith brings a strong scoring touch, averaging 20.6 goals over his last seven seasons. Out of Coyle’s 21 regular season assists, 17 of them were primary assists, showcasing his involvement when he has the puck.
As seen above in the chart above, all but one of Coyle’s goals came within spitting distance of the blue paint. Coyle had a litany of breakaway goals, exemplifying his underrated hands and shots.
His 16 goals in 70 regular season games gave him a figure of 0.22 goals per game, the second-highest total of his career.
Coyle’s strengths remain his physicality along the boards and positioning, consistently being in the right place around the net. His tendency to find separation for passes in front in addition to outmuscling defenders and tipping pucks in the shooting lanes showcase Coyle’s combination of smarts and strength.
Coyle’s unheralded at keeping plays alive in the offensive zone, forcing turnovers and either instinctively finding teammates or shielding the puck with his large frame.
Coyle’s CF% was the third highest of his career (52.05%), yet high-danger chances were 41-47 in favor of the opposition (46.59%). While Coyle’s other possession numbers remain in his favor, the high-danger chances and goals for and against (two - six, respectively) indicate that opponents are able to gain a slight advantage in optimal scoring situations.
Given Coyle’s strong giveaway to takeaway numbers per 60 minutes (1.68 to 2.45, respectively), shoring up net-front play in the defensive zone will lead to fewer high danger opposition chances.
Coyle’s versatility and all-around game lend him to being an integral, yet somewhat unheralded, member of the club this coming season and going forward.
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