Dallas Stars Jyrki Jokipakka Develops in 2015, Needs More in 2016

Jokipakka improved as the 2015 season wore along, but the Dallas Stars need more from him to pencil him in the lineup long term.

A lot has been made of the improvement to the Dallas Stars defense as the season wore on. There is no better example of this than our young friend Jyrki Jokipakka.

He turned heads in training camp. He looked the part of an NHL defenseman when he came up initially. The problem has been that his underlying numbers haven't been favorable for much of the season. I'd been wanting to revisit Jokipakka to see if that changed with the uptick in play the Stars experienced in March. Then noted sports personality Bob Sturm posed the question:

Given that we generally do whatever Bob wants, let's take a dive in the Jokipakka pool and see what happened with him in 2015. It may be late, but it's better late than never.

What I pulled together are scoring chance numbers from War-On-Ice to give a general idea of what happened with Jokipakka on the ice this year at even strength. This is a five game moving average of both scoring chances for the Stars per 60 minutes and scoring chances against the Stars per 60 minutes with Jokipakka out there. For is in blue. Against is in gray.

Predictably he was up and down throughout the year. At around the 25 game mark his season really began to turn around. The scoring chances against continued a steady decline. The offense began to tick up a little bit. His underlying numbers began to reflect more closely what the Stars saw in him.

The difficulty for Jokipakka is going to be finding the right mix of offensive and defensive play. He isn't a player with overwhelming offensive skills so he is going to have to make his name in the league defensively. One thing he could do to cement his place in an NHL lineup is provide value on the penalty kill.

Penalty killing wasn't his strong suit as a rookie. Much has been written about the difficulties plaguing Trevor Daley, but it was Jokipakka who was the Stars least successful penalty killer. He averaged about a minute on the kill per game and in that time teams generated a shot on goal per minute. Among defensemen who got at least 30 seconds of PK time per game and played in at least 50 games only Michael Stone of the Arizona Coyotes was worse.

As another point of reference more useful for Jokipakka, that was twice as many shots attempted against the Stars with Jamie Oleksiak on the ice.

So yes, Jokipakka did show significant improvement as the season wore on. He still has a long way to go to cement his place in the NHL though. Whether he refines his ability to kill penalties or further develops his offensive game something needs to happen developmentally for him to establish himself as a bonafide NHLer.