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Posted at 11:27 AM ET, 10/06/2010

Will Eric Fehr have another breakout season?

Last season the Washington Capitals scored an impressive 313 goals with seven different 20-goal scorers, including Eric Fehr, who set career highs in goals (21), assists (18) and points (39). His 1.48 goals per sixty minutes of ice time during five on five was more than both $100 million winger Ilya Kovalchuk and Hart Trophy winner Henrik Sedin, but does this mean 2010-11 will be another breakout year for the 24-year-old former first-round pick?

Looking at Fehr's last three seasons, we see a young player on the upswing:

Season Age GP G A PTS Shots TOI
2007-08 22 23 1 5 6 40 242
2008-09 23 61 12 13 25 134 686
2009-10 24 69 21 18 39 145 837

With the youth movement underway in D.C., some are expecting Fehr to take another step forward and perhaps score 25 or more goals in 2010-11, but are those reasonable expectations?

Since 1970, we have 32 wingers with similar seasons (the "comps") to Fehr's 2009-10 campaign with their results in the following season:

Age GP G A PTS Shots
Eric Fehr 24 69 21 18 39 145
32 Comps 23.9 75 21 19 41 140
32 Comps (year +1) 67 17 20 37 129

On average the comps played eight fewer games and scored four fewer goals. As a group, only 21 percent had more goals the following season, so another increase for Fehr looks unlikely.

A few things would have to go in Fehr's favor to take his game to the next level:

  • Have better success on the power play. Last year, Fehr scored only 3 power play goals with a decent amount of power-play time. There were only five 20-goal scorers with fewer PPGs than Fehr last season.
  • Stay healthy. We can see the comparable players, as a group, played fewer games the following season, and for a player like Fehr, with a history of back, hip and shoulder issues, this is not insignificant.
  • More ice time. Playing as a top-six forward on the Caps would certainly help boost his boxcar stats, but with Brooks Laich, Tomas Fleischmann and Alexander Semin in front of him, that will be tough to do barring an injury.

Secondary scoring is going to be a key issue for the Caps in 2011, and while it would be great for Fehr to outperform his recent contract extension, it is more likely we see him turn in a 15-20 goal season.

Neil Greenberg became interested in the mathematical side of sports in 1990, when he discovered Bill James and his statistical analysis of baseball. Over the past few years, he discovered a similar community focused around hockey and started to apply those methods to the Caps in an attempt to better understand the game. Neil also writes for Russian Machine Never Breaks, and you can follow him on Twitter here.

By Neil Greenberg  |  11:27 AM ET, 10/06/2010

Categories:  Statistical analysis, Statistical analysis

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