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With the recent flurry of trades in the NHL, many have offered their opinions and insight, flooding the market with a substantial amount of surface level detail. Prior to Kris Versteeg's recent trade to Philadelphia, I've always been a skeptic. This trade forced me to take a closer look though and determine some realistic expectations.

 

With my previous skepticism, I had dismissed many of Versteeg's accomplishments. After all, he was merely a fifth round pick by the Boston Bruins in 2004, failed to ever crack Boston's lineup, and was eventually traded to the Blackhawks for Brandon Bochenski. Nothing about this made me think he was a real winner. Then I looked closer.

 

At age 15, Versteeg was in his second year of Bantams and piled up 62 points in 36 games, not uncommon at the Bantam level. What surprised me though, was Versteeg's 102 PIM that year. Kris took the leap next year to play with Lethbridge in the WHL, rather than playing Midget hockey. His points gradually increased, but in his final two years, he averaged 77 PIM per year (in 68 GP).

 

Versteeg's fourth year in the WHL proved to be the biggest adjustment to his life. From 14-18, Kris had skated with the Lethbridge organization, but he was now beginning the season with Kamloops and after 14 games, he would be traded to Red Deer. In 57 games, Versteeg would register 36 points and 103 PIM. At the end of the season, he signs his first professional contract and debuts with the Providence Bruins in the AHL.

 

The fact that Versteeg was skating in Providence was a huge bonus for the Bruins, who couldn't have expected much from their fifth round selection, now 20 years old entering 2006-07. Despite scoring above a point per game and keeping his attitude in check (19 PIM in 43 games), Versteeg was traded that year to Chicago. Moving on to Norfolk, Versteeg scored 23 points in 27 games and added 20 PIM, which is interesting considering he had only 19 in Providence.

 

Now Versteeg is only 21 years old, but he's playing with a much more talented organization in the Chicago farm and he even gets a couple call ups for the Blackhawks. In 56 games in the AHL, Versteeg scores 49 points to go with his 174 PIM. Talk about a wild side! With each passing day, Versteeg is progressing and he can't get enough. He begins the 2008-09 season with a full time spot on the Chicago Blackhawks at age 22 and he takes full advantage. He finishes with 53 points, second only to Bobby Ryan for rookie scoring. Versteeg finishes as one of the three Calder candidates and is starting to catch the attention of just about everyone who had written him off to this point in his career.

 

Kris falls victim to the sophomore slump slightly and registers 44 points in 79 games with 20 less penalty minutes than the previous year. The bright side is that in his two years of NHL experience, he strings together two very solid playoff runs, scoring a total of 26 points in 39 games and even picking up a Stanley Cup ring. In the coming offseason, Chicago is forced to re-shuffle their team and in the transition, Versteeg finds himself in Toronto.

 

Is Kris Versteeg a talented hockey player? No question about it. The kid's great. The problem that he faced in Toronto was that they saw all of the stats I've quoted above and they assumed Versteeg was ready to make the jump as a go-to first liner. A closer look would've told them that every season Versteeg is successful is when he's not the primary focus. He is at his best when skating on the second line. Eventually he may turn into a first line player, but that's not something that should be rushed.

 

Many times the problem with having success early in a career is that people expect that success to multiply. Their eyes get big and the expectations simply become unrealistic. Toronto rolled the dice on Versteeg hoping he'd become the next Bobby Ryan, but unfortunately that's not what happened. With the organization sitting 12th in the Eastern Conference, Brian Burke was ready to cut bait. Toronto fans wanted more and many Flyers fans thought it was too much. Funny how that works.

 

So here comes Kris Versteeg, ready to start the next chapter of his career. He is 24 years old, has won a Stanley Cup, and made the playoffs in both years he's been in the league. What else is going on with him? Well, in Versteeg's short career, he's always worn #32. His childhood number was 10 and he wanted to take that number in Toronto, but felt it was a bad move wearing the number of former Leaf captain George Armstrong (apparently he has no problem wearing John LeClair's number in Philadelphia). The number change is a great sign of Versteeg feeling comfortable in his new home and comfort is typically a prerequisite to confidence.

 

Next is the actual on-ice situation Versteeg will face in Philadelphia vs the one he faced in Toronto. He goes from a locker room where players have had personal vendettas with coach Ron Wilson to a locker room where the entire team has bought into the coaching of Peter Laviolette and the system is well structured. He is also no longer looked at to be one of the top offensive producers, but instead, he is relied upon to be a depth player. This is the exact scenario where Versteeg has thrived his entire career.

 

Lastly, Versteeg has a sandpaper side to him. From his bantam years on, he has posted over 100 penalty minutes three times in his career. Despite possessing that fiery attitude, he has also shown restraint, at many times in his career doing a great job staying out of the box. With those attributes, Flyers fans will fall in love with Versteeg as he will drop the gloves when needed while not taking stupid penalties and chipping in offense to boot. In all likelihood, Versteeg will score 20 goals again this year, which means he has scored 20 or more goals in every year he's been in the league.

 

How did Versteeg feel about the move? Says Kris, "I thought I did my part there [Toronto], tried to play as hard as I could...but I couldn't be happier with where I ended up here with the Flyers."? The next logical question would be how the Flyers intend to use Versteeg, since that was an issue in Toronto. Peter Laviolette says "Sometimes you make a trade and you put all the burden on that person to change the direction. [Versteeg] gets an opportunity to come into a team that has a lot of talent right now and just add a nice complementary piece."

 

Kris started out on a line with Mike Richards and Andreas Nodl. He had a couple nice chances, but the adjustment period could take some time. Laviolette will adjust his lines until he finds the right fit. In all likelihood, he'll skate with Giroux, Carter, or Richards as his center and I'd expect him to really start clicking with about 10 games left in the season, carrying momentum into the playoffs. This is a great sign for current owners and a bad sign for potential investors. Acquiring Versteeg is likely going to get harder and harder from here on out.

 

When Versteeg starts clicking in Philly, which he will, he should score three points for every four games played. That's a 62 point pace in a full year which I fully expect in 2011-12. The great thing about Philadelphia is the city loves the rough stuff. Versteeg could be a dark horse for some serious PIM contributions in the near future. Odds are he'll make a great H2H playoff performer in 2010-11 and a valuable roto player in 2011-12.

 


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Comments (10)add comment

glgbill said:

glgbill
... You wrote:

"Toronto rolled the dice on Versteeg hoping he'd become the next Bobby Ryan, but unfortunately that's not what happened....Toronto fans wanted more and many Flyers fans thought it was too much. Funny how that works."

Objective much?
February 17, 2011
Votes: -1

TheRook said:

TheRook
... Great article dub! well done.

I am excited to see versteeg join the flyers. I think he is the perfect compliment to Richards as they both play a similar game. the flyers have been in search for a winger for richards for a few years and i think they may have found it.

Last night against Fla he looked really good. Still some rust and getting used to the system but the one thing i liked was his intention to pass the puck in tight spaces.

Everyone also needs to keep in mind how complicated Laviolettes system is and how long it took players to understand it last year. Some patience for Versteeg is necessary as he learns the system. I think your timetable of about 10 games left in the regular season is spot on for him to be comfortable enough with the system his creativity can come out.
February 17, 2011
Votes: +0

Michal Sk said:

StevenY
... Yes, when i thought you might not be right about 60 points what i had on my mind was 55points smilies/smiley.gif But when i re-considered that it is gonna be his 4th season (we all know what dobberhockey preach about that) you will most likely be right. Also one thing we forgot to mention is that with such strong PK units he can chip some extra valuable SH points smilies/wink.gif
February 17, 2011 | url
Votes: +0

Jon Dey said:

Sovereign
Versteeg.... With the exception of the section about Burke's motivation to trade him I think you hit the nail on the head pretty well.

Personally, I think many teams were interested in Versteeg for a lot of the reasons you highlighted. Many teams that may have been on the fence about him in the summer and wanted to know how he did outside Chicago go their answers as he proved he can produce pretty well, even on a bad team. I think that he garnered a lot of interest. Philly was willing to give up the most - or specifically what Toronto wanted, picks to fill the cupboard, which is/will be getting bare with all the call-ups.

As of today, I don't think you can really argue that it was overpayment by Philly if the likes of Chris Kelly gets a 2nd rounder, albeit BOS is betting it is a late 2nd rounder. Philly is banking on the same, with the 1st surrendered to Toronto being virtually equivalent to a 2nd rounder.

Overall, an intelligent and enjoyable read.
February 16, 2011
Votes: +0

duballstar014 said:

duballstar014
Wiki lol, no I didn't copy it. I have a couple different sources for data that I frequent. Sometimes I check the wiki stuff, but I've never added to it either. There are a few things I'm noticing on there that I also noticed, but didn't want to mention considering how long my article was already running. Some of those were:

-Versteeg played 3 seasons with Brent Seabrook in the WHL.
-His name was misspelt on the Cup. (seriously, we're still doing this?)
-Versteeg has sang (sung?) Fergie, LMFAO, and Kanye West in public, which to me would show that he isn't a shy guy. That is helpful in the locker room.
February 16, 2011
Votes: +0

Adrian Keogh said:

Goalin Crazy UK
Wikipedia You sir could make a huge contribution to his Wiki page, either that or you copied it?
February 16, 2011
Votes: +0

duballstar014 said:

duballstar014
60 points You might be right Michal, but if he were to hit 60 points next year, Philly is the place it would happen. Watching him score 20+ goals (assuming he scores 6 more this year in the 26 remaining Flyer games) in each of his first three years makes me think he has to be a 50-60 point player next season. I might be off by about 5 points, but I honestly don't think it'll be more than that.

Then again, it is just my opinion. smilies/smiley.gif
February 16, 2011
Votes: +0

Michal Sk said:

StevenY
... You might not be right about Versteeg scoring 60 points next year but this is pleasure to read..kudos to Duballstar!
February 16, 2011 | url
Votes: +0

Suvojit De said:

suvojitde
This article Wow - what an article! A very in depth assessment - should prove extremely useful to poolies. Thanks and keep it coming.
February 16, 2011
Votes: +0

Maximus said:

Mr Zizzla
Dub A round of applause goes out to you sir.

An absolute dandy of an article, keep it up!
February 16, 2011
Votes: +1
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