This was an interesting game. Tri cities took down Edmonton 7-1 in what turned into a pretty ugly affair. Things got chippy about half way through the game and there were lots of power play opportunities for both teams, but Tri cities did have an advantage in this regard. Dragicevic had a pretty interesting game himself, but certainly not a game that was as impressive as the scorecard might suggest, given his four assist effort.
I’ll start by discussing a couple of trends in Dragicevic’s game that are very apparent, even after just a single viewing. First, his defensive awareness and effort are not great. There were several bad turnovers he made in the defensive zone this game that were mostly just a result of laziness and poor situational awareness. Edmonton had very few shot attempts with Dragicevic on the ice, and even fewer from dangerous areas of the ice, but several of those rare opportunities were directly his fault, including this play, which was one of Edmonton’s best chances of the game at 5 on 5.
Another trend I noticed from Dragicevic was that he had a tendency to make long stretch passes from within his own blueline rather than trying to move the puck himself or find someone in transition. These passes were sometimes to forwards standing at the offensive blue line which occasionally presented the opportunity for a controlled zone entry, but it was far more common that the target of the stretch pass tipped the puck into the zone for a dump and chase. While this is a simple and often effective style of hockey, it's hard to take away anything about Dragicevic’s game from these plays other than the fact that he does seem to be pretty accurate with those stretch passes. This does seem to be a coaching issue though, not a player issue as the rest of the team had the same tendency to prefer stretch passes and dump-ins rather than controlled zone transitions.
With two shot attempts and six shot assists, Dragicevic was heavily involved in his team’s offense with him on the ice at 5 on 5. He accounted for eight of the seventeen shot attempts; however, he was involved in just one high or medium danger shot attempt while the team as a whole managed five such shot attempts with him on the ice. He seemed to have a preference for passes to low danger areas of the ice, particularly d to d passes to his partner who frequently took the shot from the blueline. I would guess at least half of his shot assists at 5 on 5 came from this exact play. This is backed up by the fact that he only attempted one pass to a medium or high danger area at 5 on 5. He was a bit more involved offensively on the powerplay, but even then he showed a preference for relatively simple plays working the perimeter. I would like to see a little more aggressiveness and creativity from him in the future.
As previously mentioned, Dragicevic, and the team as a whole, seemed to prefer a dump and chase style of game, but he did have a couple of decent moments in transition. Overall he was involved in about a third of the team’s controlled transition attempts with him on the ice (36% for O-zone entries, 33% for D-zone exits) and he was a bit more efficient than the team as a whole in transition. He completed 75% of his controlled O-zone transition attempts compared to the team’s 73% and he completed 100% of his attempted controlled D-zone transition attempts compared to the team’s 73%. However, he very rarely carried the puck himself, completing just two O-zone entries and one D-zone breakout with the puck on his stick. The following play was his most impressive in transition in this game.
Overall I was kind of disappointed by Dragicevic in this game. Having glanced at the score sheet at the beginning of the game, I was expecting a lot given the four assists, but none of those plays really stood out. His defensive awareness and effort need a lot of work and while he showed flashes of being an efficient puck carrier, I would like to see him be a lot more involved in transition as a whole. His involvement rate in this game wasn’t bad, but it was really a case of how he was involved. Five of his nine controlled transition attempts came on passes including four of his D-zone breakouts at 5 on 5. Furthermore, he had many more opportunities to make controlled zone transitions, particularly D-zone breakouts where he opted for a stretch pass leading to a dump in instead. He also showed flashes of being a pretty good playmaker, but his tendency to make simple plays along the perimeter, particularly d to d passes is going to limit his effectiveness in this area of the game. I’m not convinced that the skill isn’t there though. I get the impression that Tri-Cities simply doesn’t play a style of hockey that is conducive to the strengths in Dragicevic’s game, but that is yet to be seen.