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Jason Williams Analysis

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Jason Williams was an undrafted OHL player who signed with the Detroit Red Wings. He put up few points during his draft year but then took a big step forward at age 19. That was enough to catch the eye of the Detroit organization.

He played a small number of NHL games during his age 20, 21 and 22 seasons but didn't really cracked the roster until age 23 when he appeared in 49 of 82 regular season contests. After the lockout the formerly big spending Wings needed to keep to get under the salary cap and Williams was young and cheap. He became a full NHL season guy in his age 25 and 26 seasons with Detroit. Towards the end of the 2nd post-lockout season (2006-07) he was traded to Chicago. Williams was expected to be a top six forward for the Blackhawks but ended up missing almost half the season with injuries.

This upcoming season with the Thrashers Williams will be only be 28. Along with the Hainsey signing and the Reasoner signing the Thrashers organization appears to have learned from past mistakes and are avoiding older players in their decline phase (which usually starts after age 33--unless you are a Hall of Fame level talent).

Williams is more of an offensive guy since he plays very few short handed minutes and receives significant power play ice time. But he has not received big even strength numbers so far in his career--something that will likely change with his arrival in Atlanta. Those ES ice time numbers could go up sharply if he ends playing right wing with Kovalchuk. Ilya plays roughly 300 more ES minutes than Williams typically does in a full season.

Jason Williams Time on Ice Profile
Year EStoi PPtoi SHtoi
2004 09.18 0.20 .02
2006 10.95 3.93 .03
2007 12.08 2.96 .37
2008 11.84 4.35 .35

While William's Even Strength ice time has been rather moderate (right around the NHL average for forwards) his Power Play ice time has been much higher. The last three seasons, Williams has been in the top 1/3 of all NHL forwards in the number of PP minutes played per game. Last season he moved up into the top 10% of all forwards in PP minutes so he has probably maxed out his potential for PP ice time already. Look for more ES minutes though.

How effective is Jason Williams in his scoring ability? One way to get a handle on scoring efficiency is to simply look at a player's point per hour (which is better than points-per-game because some players get more or less ice time in a game). In Williams case his Even Strength scoring rate per hour was very solid three of the last four season, he has ranked 64%, 79%, 34% and 73% in his four NHL seasons.

What do those percentile rankings mean? If you're ranked 64% that means that 64% of all NHL forwards were worse than you and that 36% were better than you that season in scoring rate per hour. If you're an offensive (top six) guy you should be above the 50% line and Williams was above that line three of the last four season. One season Williams even cracked the 75% barrier which ranked him with the bottom 1st line players in the NHL (if I recall correctly he was on a line with some high quality players much of that year in Detroit).

Jason Williams Scoring Profile
Points per hour of ice time
Year Total ES PP
2004 1.69 1.73 0.00 (very little PP ice time in 2004 with Detroit)
2006 2.92 2.33 4.59
2007 1.60 1.46 2.08
2008 3.03 2.00 6.10

In terms of Power Play scoring efficiency, Jason Williams has been up and down, but was VERY good last season. His Power Play Scoring Efficiency Rankings the last three years are 68%, 58%, and 95%. Those numbers indicates he was above average, barely above average and way above average the last three seasons. His numbers last year in Chicago were extremely good and the coaching staff keep giving him more minutes on the PP.

Should we count on Williams being terrific on the power play next season in Atlanta? Not necessarily, PP scoring rates are much less consistent from season to season than are ES scoring rates. I expect that Williams will better than the NHL average for forwards but not necessarily an elite PP guy.

So what do we have here? A player still in the peak section of his career. A guy who has demonstrated above averaging scoring ability, but is not really an elite 1st line scoring threat. A guy who probably will see more even strength ice time here in Atlanta and if he stays healthy could put up new career highs in points.

Overall I give this signing a thumbs up. Every player comes with upside and downside risks. In the case of Williams there appears to be more upside potential than risk of collapse. On the other hand, Williams is not an elite/impact sort of guy, he's more of a 2nd line NHL forward on a playoff team and you can't expect him to push the Thrashers into playoff contention by himself. If expectations are kept in check, he will likely end the season in the "pleasant surprise" category for many fans.