Generally speaking, the hockey world doesn’t spend nearly enough time appreciating Mark Stone.
Since he broke in as a full-time player in 2014-15, Stone has more points than Jonathan Toews, the same number of goals as Jeff Carter, and 105 more takeaways than anyone else in hockey. He’s also been a possession god to boot with a relative Corsi that has climbed every season from 2.6, to 6.8 then 8.4 last year and a gaudy 10.4 this season.
The fact Stone is good is no longer a surprise, but just how good he is eludes many because he plays in Ottawa and has yet to post a 30-goal season or make an all-star team. Both of those things could easily change this season.
Right now, the 25-year-old is tied with Alex Ovechkin for third in the NHL with 13 goals (in two fewer games) and stands on the precipice of a career year that could finally shine the spotlight on him. He is shooting an unsustainable 25 percent, but he’s shot 16.5 percent in his career to this point so we are looking at more of a minor correction than a harrowing plummet to earth.
More impressive than what Stone’s done individually is just how essential that contribution is to his team. The Senators sit at a less-than-impressive 8-6-5, but without him they’d be be deep in the cellar, not hanging around the wild card.
Stone doesn’t just lead Ottawa in goals, he’s got more than next two guys combined (Derick Brassard and Mike Hoffman). The seven tallies between him and the second-highest scorer on his team is tied for the biggest gap in the league with Nikita Kucherov — the most dangerous man in hockey right now.
Not only has Stone been essential to the Senators’ offence, he’s done all his damage at even strength. The team already has a highly-accomplished power-play triggerman in Hoffman, so they’ve needed him to carry the load when they don’t have the man advantage — and he’s done exactly that.
Stone’s 13 goals at even strength rank second in NHL (to Kucherov’s 14), but perhaps more significant than that total is its proportion of the Senators’ offence. Ottawa has scored 46 goals in that game state, meaning Stone has accounted for 28.3 percent of his team’s EV attack — tops in the NHL. Kucherov ranks second at 25.4 percent, while Arizona Coyotes rookie sensation Clayton Keller rounds out the podium at 21.9 percent.
It’s not as if Stone is taking a huge chunk out of a tiny pie either. The Senators score 2.05 5-on-5 goals per game, which is the 10th highest total in the league. Stone isn’t just carrying any even-strength offence on his back, he’s lugging a pretty good one.
Even when he’s not scoring goals Stone is valuable. He takes the puck away and drives the play. He plays defensively responsible hockey and kills penalties. He logs more minutes than any winger in the NHL except for Brad Marchand. When he’s scoring like Ovechkin though, that package goes from under-appreciated excellence to downright dominance.
That’s what the Senators are getting from him right now. They might not get it all year, but right now when they desperately need it Stone is coming through to keep them in the race. If they’re going to stay in it, someone else will have to as well.
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