Joining his fourth team in three years, Mike “Santo Claus” Santorelli brings with him an incredible amount of versatility to the Leafs lineup. And that versatility is vital to a team that is looking for more contribution from their bottom six, and is also a bit unsure of how their second line right wing spot is going to look.
Where he will play, no one knows at the moment (well at least I don’t). But he’ll have a positive impact on this roster. And for a one year, $1 million deal, that’s great value.
stats via hockey reference
Santo really broke out with the Canucks last year. His 28 points in 49 games put him on a point-per-game pace (.57) that would have resulted in his career high if he had kept up that pace for all 82 games. Further, his points/60 rate was the best of his career. Unfortunately, he had to have shoulder surgery and was out for almost the entire second half of the season.
But it wasn’t just his points that impressed in Vancouver. It was that John Tortorella used him in a defensive role. Santorelli faced unfavourable zone starts and was a positive possession player (his 5v5 fenwick close was a solid 53.5% even with those zone starts). That’s just another demonstration of his wide variety of abilities.
I can see Santorelli being everything from the 2nd line right winger to the 4th line centre throughout this season. Put him with some better players, and I think people will be very surprised by what he can do points-wise. That said, centre depth has been the weakness in Toronto seemingly forever, so I expect to see Santo spend most of his time as the third or fourth line centre.
While the Leafs have talked about top 9/bottom 3 heading into this season, if Carlyle decides to utilize a “shutdown” line again (and based on historical evidence, that seems likely), I see Santorelli being the pivot on that line. Hopefully he doesn’t use Santorelli how he used McClement, but if he does I’d expect Santorelli to be a lot better at it (Selke noms here he comes!). That’s almost entirely because Santorelli can actually put up some points and help drive possession lower in the lineup.
stats via hockey analysis
Now, how much Santorelli will drive possession is contingent on how he’s used. He’s a pretty unique case because of his versatility – his numbers are quite fascinating because he has been used very differently over his career.
In short, Santorelli can help boost possession lower in the lineup playing less minutes, but needs a bit of help if he is to play higher in the lineup with more minutes. He won’t be a huge detriment to the possession of his linemates higher in the lineup, but needs someone else to help drive it.
It’s going to be very interesting to see how Santorelli is used this year.
In deeper leagues, Santorelli is a solid depth option. How solid of a depth option is dependent on how he is used by Carlyle and co. 2nd line RW? Pretty good. 4th line shutdown centre? Not nearly as good.
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