On October 22nd, in a home game against the Arizona Coyotes, Shane Pinto picked up a loose puck in front of the net before sniping it past the opposing netminder. It extended his goal-scoring streak to four games and he is now at a point-per-game pace to start the season.
Off-season trade talks
Throughout the off-season, there was a plethora of talk about the Senators acquiring a top-end defenceman. One of the defencemen included the Coyotes’ blue-liner, Jacob Chychrun. The asking price seemed to start with a first-round pick, a quality young player, and a top prospect. This is enormous, especially considering he is a good-second pairing defenceman, something Graeme Nicholas mentioned on Twitter:
One of the Senator’s top prospects that kept resurfacing in trade talks was Shane Pinto, the 32nd overall pick in the 2019 draft. Since starting competitive hockey at 15 years old, he has been developing well as a player. He was slated to play in the top 6 last season before being sidelined with an injury that kept him for the majority of the season as he played a mere five games. As Tim Stutzle switched to the centre position and proved to the hockey world his capability to play down the middle, it pushed Pinto down the depth charts, alleviating pressure in the process. This made Pinto seem more expendable as a trade chip, especially if it was for a defender, a position that is a more pressing issue.
However, Sens fans are starting to find out the importance of depth scoring as they have been vital in the Senators’ current three-game winning streak. The bottom six have chipped in 40% of the total goals scored by forwards this season and those goals have been coming at pretty important parts of the game. In the game against the Boston Bruins, Pinto scored the fourth goal to break the tie while Mark Kastelic scored the sixth goal which was the decisive goal in a thrilling 7-5 victory for the Senators. In the next game, against the Washington Capitals, it was Pinto who scored the game-winning goal (GWG), helping his team win 5-2. Although it was the captain, Brady Tkachuk, who scored the GWG against the Coyotes, it was Pinto who got on the scoresheet first and helped set the tone early in the game.
Is his production sustainable?
Pinto’s current scoring pace is likely not sustainable as he is currently riding a 33.3% shooting percentage. This means that if his shooting percentage was the same as it was in the 2020-21 season (9.1%) and he took 12 shots (the number of shots this season), he would have only scored one goal. Furthermore, Pinto is scoring 4 goals against his 1.4 expected goals. Scoring 2.6 goals above expected is somewhat unsustainable, especially as it is still toward the beginning of the season. This means that Pinto’s scoring pace will likely slow down. However, with an increase in ice time, from the 14 minutes he currently averages, along with playing with better linemates, it is unlikely that his scoring pace will fall off a cliff. Meaning, his production overall will likely not take a huge hit as the number of assists he has may increase if he continues to create chances like this one:
Pinto’s value outside of scoring
Pinto has been important to the Senators thus far in the season and his value has not been limited to scoring goals. One key aspect of his game has been his ability in the faceoff circle (winning an outstanding 61.9% in 2020-21 while at the University of North Dakota). He has been excelling at the NHL level this season, winning 58.8% of his draws. This is important on a Senators team that struggled to win faceoffs last season, winning a mere 47.9%, which was eighth last in the NHL. Another aspect that was praised was his two-way ability. Other than the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, in which his team was dominated when he was on the ice in terms of expected goals, Pinto has generally been making a positive impact when he is on the ice. This was especially prevalent in the games against the Capitals and Coyotes in which Pinto had xGF% of 87.13% and 78.95%.
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In short, it was a good idea to keep Pinto, a player who continues to grow as the team reaps these benefits. As a middle-6 forward, he can contribute to the scoring as a secondary scorer while being able to move up the lineup if injuries occur. This is especially important as Josh Norris recently went out with an injury and his timeline to return is still up in the air. Pinto can slot in between Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat and potentially find some chemistry. It will be a good opportunity for Pinto to play between players of this caliber and prove to hockey fans why Dorion was firm in his decision to keep him.