Two of his three seasons in Montreal, Tomas Tatar scored at least 20 goals during the regular season. He did this in 2018-19, when he had 25 goals, and again in 2019-20, when he had 22 goals. Last season, however, he did not reach 20 goals, nor would he have had he played a full 82 game schedule. He produced 10 goals in 50 games, good for somewhere between 16 and 17 goals across 82 games.
The question that all fans of the New Jersey Devils are going to want to know, of course, is whether he can get back to that 20 goal pace this season. That is what the Devils want, it is what Tom Fitzgerald signed him for, and it is not out of the question. Today, then, let’s look at some points that show that he is more likely to bounce back towards that 20 goal threshold, but let’s also look at a couple of counter points that might prevent him from getting there.
He Will Have More Time on Ice
This could perhaps be the biggest point in his favor of getting back close to that 20 goal season, if not going over that mark. Last season, he only played just over 621 minutes at 5 on 5, which was good for 12th on Montreal, and 6th among forwards. And even more egregious, he played exactly 100:00 minutes on the power play, which was good for only 8th on Montreal, and 6th among forwards. This season, you would think both of those numbers will rise, and definitely in terms of the power play minutes (of course they will rise if he plays more than 50 games, which is likely, but I really mean comparatively here, in terms of his teammates). If he does anything remotely similar to what Kyle Palmieri did on this team last season, it will involve a lot of minutes on the power play, camping out on the dot and waiting to drive it home. And you could also see his 5v5 minutes increase as well. He should be a staple on the top 6, which should get him at least in the top 3-4 forwards in terms of time on ice at 5 on 5.
Just in terms of the extra time, he should improve his goal output. Tatar has been fairly consistent with his shooting percentage across the years, never dipping below 11%. If he can maintain that this season, a decent prospect, that would definitely mean more goals this year.
He Will Have More Shots
Last season, Tatar posted the lowest shot total he has basically ever had, outside of the first two years where he only played a few games in the NHL. He had only 82 shots last year, lowest since 2013-14, when he had 158. This relates to the first point, but there are really two reasons he should almost assuredly have more shots this year: more playing time and more opportunities. Being a top 6 winger on New Jersey, playing alongside either Nico Hischier or Jack Hughes, who are big time distributors, he will get plenty of chances with the puck on his stick. And considering he usually is good for posting at least 2 shots per game, there is no reason he should not do that again. This is doubly true when you consider the power play time as well, and if he really does look to replicate the job that Palms had. And more shots, with a consistent shooting percentage, again something he has been fairly good with, will mean more goals.
He Should Get More Power Play Chances
I know I have brought this up in the earlier sections, but I feel it deserves it’s own heading. Tatar was sort of underutilized on the power play last year in Montreal. They were using the likes of Nick Suzuki, Tyler Toffoli, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Corey Perry, and Jonathan Drouin more often than Tatar. This season, you have to think he will be one of the forwards with more ice time. As I mentioned, Hughes and Hischier are more the distributors anyway, and you need shooters out there. Tatar has been brought in for just that purpose, so it would be weird to then not put him out there with the man advantage to let it rip. He will get his chances, and he will score power play goals for the Devils this season.
His Shooting Percentage Should Improve
I know I mentioned that he has been remarkably consistent and dependable with his shooting percentage, and largely that has been true. Since the 2013-14 season, he has hovered between 11.43% and 13.74%, with one outlying season where he shot at 15.06%. But last year, he was on the low end of that spectrum. In those 82 shots he took last year, he had a 12.2% shooting percentage. Now, that obviously isn’t really low for him, but it is lower than his career average of 13% even. On that thought process, it should rise at least a half percentage next year, if not closer to a full percentage point. And when you combine that with more shots, it will definitely lead to more goals. The upped shooting percentage could be the difference between, say, 18 or 19 goals and actually reaching that 20 goal mark.
This is a Transition Year
Of course, I have to mention some potential points that go against him getting 20 goals this upcoming season as well. One potential reason he does not reach 20 goals is that this is a transition year, and not everyone who comes over to New Jersey plays like they are expected to. The most recent and best case in point of that is fellow teammate Andreas Johnsson. When Johnsson came over last season, there were high expectations for him to do well, and he basically fell flat on his face. You might also consider Marcus Johansson from a few years ago, another bust with high expectations.
Now, that being said, when Tatar went to Montreal, his first year was quite good there, with 25 goals and 58 points in 80 games. So he has proven that he can be successful in his first year with a new team, but it should be noted that too often it does not work out that way.
Arguably He Has Joined a Worse Team
Just based on how the teams have done in recent years, Montreal was the better team when compared to New Jersey. I mean, mostly every team has been better than the Devils, so this isn’t a surprise, but it is worth noting. Generally, if you’re on a better team and given quality minutes, you will score more goals than if you were given those same minutes on a worse team. This is especially true with the Devils, who have usually been really poor drivers of play since Peter DeBoer left. If that continued this season, Tatar would have fewer minutes in the offensive zone simply because the Devils are forced to play defense more often than not. Last season, Montreal ranked #2 in the league in Corsi, with a 54.5 CF%. The Devils, meanwhile, were ranked 13th at 50.5%. That was a drastic improvement for the Devils over most recent seasons, but still a downgrade for Tatar coming in. In this scenario, even though Tatar might get more minutes next year, they might not be the best minutes in terms of being able to score more, as he might have more defensive zone starts and might not get as many opportunities to shoot if the ice is tilted against the Devils. Of course, CJ just wrote about how the Devils might significantly improve in CF% this season, so let’s hope that is true.
So there you have it. There are some reasons why Tatar could hit 20 goals once again, this time for the Devils, and also a couple of reasons against that happening. What do you think? Do you think he will get back to that 20 goal mark this year for NJ? If so, why? What are some other arguments in support of that? Or, do you think he might fail to reach that number? If so, why do you think that? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading!