Sasha Mutala is the type of player that stands out every night because of his work ethic and fantastic skating abilities – but those attributes didn’t manifest in the production that you would’ve hoped from a player in his draft season, though part of that resulted from the role afforded to the Vancouver-born winger.
Sometimes there are players that have all the tools, and then you’re just hoping that they put them together in the two years between being drafted and when their rights expire. It’s a risky venture, but it’s one avenue through which teams can reap rewards in the later rounds. I believe that Mutala is one of those players.
- Age/Birthdate: 18 / May 16, 2001
- Birthplace: Vancouver, B.C. Canada
- Frame: 6-foot-1 / 196 lbs
- Position: Right Wing
- Handedness: Right
- Draft Year Team: Tri-City Americans (WHL)
2018-19 Stat Rundown
|GP||G||A||P||INV%||5v5 Pr INV%||5v5 ePr60||SEAL||Sh/GP||Sh%||5v5 eTOI||GF%||GF%rel||GD60 rel||XLS%||Top XLS%||XPR|
I mentioned it off the top, but the thing that stands out about Mutala is his ability to get around the ice and be constantly engaged. He combines those skills with a great anticipation and read of the play to constantly and effectively disrupt his opponents. If a defenceman has the puck on his side of the ice, Mutala quickly applies pressure and forces them to make a decision.
He has quick explosive strides and feet that never seem to stop moving. Although his skating makes him seem like he is smaller, he does effectively use his frame to protect the puck well and does drive the net when the opportunity affords him.
Mutala has a quick and heavy wrist shot that allows him to beat goalies when he is given the space to load it up properly. Although he didn’t rack up a flashy number of assists this season, there are some nice subtleties to his playmaking game and even considers himself more of a playmaker than anything else.
Mutala is also very skilled with the puck, displaying excellent puck control and deking abilities.
Lastly, the right-handed winger seems to always have his stick on the ice, calling for the puck. He wants that biscuit and will let him his teammate know it.
Despite playing on the wing, Mutala is a responsible player that is good at protecting the middle of the ice. He was a regular on the Tri-City Americans penalty kill and rightfully so.
Mutala’s stats leave a little bit to be desired, but he was also limited by the opportunity that the Americans gave him this season. He was mainly on their second line and second powerplay unit, and thus the lesser production when compared to the other WHL draft eligible forwards is partially explainable.
Interestingly enough, he saw his ice-time slowly dwindle towards the end of the season but his scoring rates increased:
He had a hot start to the campaign, struggled a bit, and then played well in the last two or so months. Ideally, we’d see more consistent and higher rates of production throughout the year, but I think he took a noticeable step forward in the latter parts of the season.
Despite his lesser role with the Americans, he appears to have had a positive benefit on his teammates’ share on on-ice goals, according to the following with-or-without-you chart:
Mutala was a positive player in terms of goal share, if only mildly so, while the rest of his team struggled in that area; Mutala had a plus-11% GFrel. He was also among the team leaders in estimated points per hour.
His production wasn’t fantastic, producing only 20 goals and 21 assists in 65 games this season, but he did rank 10th in goals scored by draft eligible WHL players and 10th in primary points among that same group (with 34). Obviously, there are a few elite forwards coming from the WHL this year, so being 10th isn’t a bad spot to be in.
The major takeaway from my observations is that his most common linemates, Hrabik and Sawchuk, aren’t really the best goal scorers, and thus Mutala’s assist totals suffered as a result. There were quite a few times where Mutala would make a nice play to get to either of them and it didn’t materialize into a goal. They were a good second line but with more elite talent around him, Mutala’s point total likely would’ve been much higher.
Mutala’s statistical output yielded the following information from pGPS:
With 444 matches, Mutala has a 9% likelihood of becoming an NHL regular. It isn’t exactly a high number, but given the context of his deployment, it shouldn’t be seen as a major red flag. It also lines up with his ranking of the 79th among North American skaters by NHL CSS.
With Mutala, there are valid reasons for trepidation about taking him this year. His production and underlying numbers aren’t fantastic, but there are some interesting aspects to his game. I liked his work ethic every time I viewed him and there is little doubt that his skating is at or near professional level already.
The question I keep coming back to, is what he would’ve done with a first line role this season. Would he have put up another 10-15 points and then those concerns about be quieted a bit?
Ultimately, I do believe that to be the case and is the main reason why I wouldn’t hesitate to select him from the late third or fourth round . There is some risk to taking him but he could be a player that takes a big step forward next season.
Raw data for the charts used in this article came from eliteprospects.com and WHL.ca
Some clips were pulled from videos from prospectshifts.com. Check out Sasha Mutala page here (paywall). Other clips were pulled from original broadcasts, with all rights reserved for the original broadcast companies.
Founder and analyst for NextGenHockey.ca — Contributor to The Athletic Vancouver, EliteProspects, CanucksArmy, and Canucks.com.
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