It's often unwise to put much stock in early season numbers, particularly those that are unexpected. Such cases tend to be rooted in results that are unsustainable over the course of 82 games. Take Calgary, for instance: The Flames are now fourth in the Western Conference, but are scoring at a rate that isn't viable long-term. Their shooting percentage will crash at some point, probably soon, and the losses will mount. It's only a matter of time.
Occasionally, though, we find surprises in October/November that should be taken with more than a proverbial grain of salt. Jakub Voracek's recent success falls in this category.
Voracek, 25, is currently second in the NHL in scoring (eight goals, 22 assists), and trails Sidney Crosby by just a single point. This production has thrust him into the Hart Trophy conversation, along with some of the best players in the world.
Luck's got nothing to do with it
Those closest to Voracek have been singing his praises. Consider the following quote from Flyers coach Craig Berube, via CSN Philadelphia:
"Quickness and competitiveness stand out to me, and playmaking with the pucks. Mark Recchi was a real good passer and playmaker who could finish. Jake [Voracek] is getting to that level where he can finish which is dangerous."
That's quite a compliment from Berube, who once upon a time skated alongside Recchi. Recchi owns the Flyers franchise record for points in a single season (123), and as of Friday, Voracek is only six points off this historic pace.
Odds are he'll fall short of the record by a significant margin; after all, no one has registered more than 113 points in one year since 2007-08. Still, there are good reasons to believe Voracek's start is not an aberration, but rather a sign of what's to come.
Unlike Calgary, Voracek is succeeding without hugely inflated percentages. Yes, his 11.4 shooting percentage is a tad high -- a full point higher than his career average, to be exact -- but it isn't alarming. And, remember, the majority of his offensive output is coming from assists.
When looking at his on-ice shooting percentage by month over the course of his career, it's pretty obvious that puck luck isn't a big factor here:
Voracek's power play numbers aren't wildly unsustainable, either. Just nine of his points (two goals, seven assists) have come on the man-advantage. And his shooting percentage during 5-on-4 is actually lower than it is at even strength (10.0).
Also encouraging are Voracek's underlying stats. The Flyers are controlling 54.61 percent of play during even strength when he's on the ice. When he's off, that drops to 44.39.
This huge gap speaks to Voracek's abilities, as well as Philly's remarkable lack of depth. It helps that Berube is giving Voracek a lot of offensive zone starts: His 2014-15 5v5 relative zone start percentage sits at 15.51 -- 5.27 points higher than 2013-14.
Interestingly, Voracek is racking up all these assists despite Claude Giroux's troubles at even strength. Giroux, who had 16 five-on-five goals last season, has scored just once from 63 shots on net -- a 1.59 percent clip.
It's worth noting that those 63 shots are 21 more than anyone else on the Flyers. Giroux isn't playing poorly; he just isn't getting many bounces to go his way.
That will change, and his right wing will be a huge benefactor.
In the meantime, Brayden Schenn (16.30 shooting percentage) and Michael Raffl (20.00 shooting percentage) have enjoyed somewhat lucky starts. Voracek has assisted on nine of their 13 combined goals.
The beginning of something great
Everything considered, we can expect Voracek's stats to dip in the near future. He probably won't continue to score at his present rate, and even though his on-ice shooting percentage isn't high, it's destined to bounce up and down over the next five months.
And that's OK, because any reasonable normalization still leaves the Czech winger with All Star-caliber numbers.
With normalized rates Voracek would like have 24 points, which is 105 extrapolated over 82 games. Yeah.— Arik Parnass (@ArikParnass) November 24, 2014
How will it balance out? Hard to say. But there is no evidence to suggest a major drop in production is imminent.
Indeed, this fast start is no fluke, and when we look back in a few years, these last couple months should go down as Voracek's emergence to stardom.