Ever since the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2009-10, they haven't looked like themselves. Perhaps it has to do with the loss of key contributors Dustin Byfuglien and Antti Niemi, injuries, or simply the fact that there is a little bit of a letdown after you win hockey's ultimate prize. Whatever the case may be, the Blackhawks are still an elite team and despite bowing out to Phoenix in the first round of this year's playoffs, they have the talent to compete for the Cup every year.
If you look past the big guns like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, and Duncan Keith, you will notice the Hawks are bringing up quite a nice crop of young talent. One of those budding stars is defenseman Nick Leddy. Taken 16th overall in the 2009 draft, Leddy has yet to deliver the production that his talent is capable of.
As a rookie in 2010-11, Leddy played in just 46 games and recorded only seven points. Which is understandable as this was his first chance to get his feet wet in the National Hockey League. This season he played in all 82 games and countered with 37 points. Not bad offensive numbers for a defenseman, but his numbers in other areas weren't as beneficial to poolies.
Leddy was a minus-12 in 2011-12 which was the worst rating among the Chicago defense corps and second worst on the entire team. It's nothing unusual for a young defender to struggle defensively in the NHL, but in the situation that Leddy is in it is a little troubling. For instance, Leddy played the majority of his ice-time with either Niklas Hjalmarsson or Duncan Keith. Those two combined for a plus-24 rating, yet Leddy finished as a significant minus.
|30.76%||EV||4 HJALMARSSON,NIKLAS - 8 LEDDY,NICK|
|17.64%||EV||2 KEITH,DUNCAN - 8 LEDDY,NICK|
|16.02%||EV||8 LEDDY,NICK - 27 ODUYA,DAVID JOHNNY|
When you are playing with that kind of talent and still find a way to have poor defensive numbers there is a serious cause for concern. One thing that should be pointed out though is that playing with a guy like Keith means you are going to play a lot of minutes against the opponent’s top players. While a veteran with Keith's skills can certainly handle it, it appears that Leddy is not there yet.
There were other troubling areas in Leddy's play this season. Poolies aren't going to like that he only recorded ten PIM on the year. Unless the rest of your fantasy team is made up of the 1976 Broad Street Bullies, you are probably going to need your defenseman to contribute in the PIM category.
Another thing hurting Leddy going forward is his lack of blocked shots. Although he sits fourth on the team, he only posted 78 blocks on the year which works out to less than one per game. Chicago as a whole doesn't block a lot of shots as they ranked 26th in the NHL this season. So without a shock blocking mentality present, don't look for Leddy's numbers to improve by leaps and bounds in that area.
An area that Leddy did excel at though was with the man advantage. Nearly a third of his points came on the power play, and despite not scoring a goal while playing a man up, he did record eleven assists. He averaged over two minutes of power play time per game and you would think that would increase next year if he continues to produce consistently in that area.
Taking a look at Leddy's overall production so far it may have been wise for the Blackhawks to keep him in the American Hockey League for longer than the 22 games he played with Rockford in 2010-11. Of course hindsight is 20/20, but unless a player is 100 percent ready to play in the NHL, a season or two in the AHL can do wonders for a player's development both in the short and long-term.
Like many young players, Leddy has all the talent to be a solid NHL defenseman for years to come. That doesn't mean, however, he is ready to star for your fantasy squad just yet. When it comes to taking a chance on Leddy the best advice may be similar to driving through a construction site or eating spicy food. Proceed with caution.