Cage Match: Adam Henrique vs. Brock Nelson

by Rick Roos on September 13, 2017 | (1 Comments)

In the later rounds of your fantasy draft, would it be better to target Adam Henrique or Brock Nelson?

Winning in fantasy hockey is all about finding value. What poolies often forget – to their detriment - is in many cases it’s just as beneficial to pay 40-point value for a player who ends up netting your team 50+ points as it is to get a 70+ point player for a 60-point price. With that in mind, today we focus on Adam Henrique and Brock Nelson – two players who figure to be in their teams’ top six but who seemingly could end up with anywhere from 40 points to even 50-55+. Let’s see what Cage Match tells us, so you can decide whether to target one (or neither, or both) in your leagues this year.

Career Path and Contract Status

Henrique, 27, was drafted 82nd overall in 2008 and proceeded to put up 140 points in 110 games in two more junior seasons. His 50 points in 73 AHL games in 2010-11 was promising, but few likely would’ve foreseen him breaking through with 51 points as an NHL rookie in 2011-12. And perhaps even fewer envisioned he wouldn’t even match that total in five full seasons since then. Instead, after honing his game in the AHL during the lockout, Henrique managed a mere 16 points in 42 games in 2012-13 then followed with identical 43 point outputs in 2013-14 and 2014-15. In 2015-16 he rebounded to 50 points, only to drop to 40 last year, marking his worst full season output as a Devil.

Nelson, 25, was drafted 30th overall in 2010, then embarked on a two-year college career that saw him post better than point-per-game numbers in his second season. After impressing with 52 points in only 66 AHL contests, Nelson was with the Isles for 72 games in 2013-14, managing only 26 points, or half as many as he’d tallied in six fewer games in the AHL. Since then, Nelson has consistently posted 40-45 points per season, leaving poolies to wonder if he has another fantasy gear.

Henrique will make $4M this season and next before hitting unrestricted free agency, while Nelson is set to make $2.5M this season before becoming an arbitration-eligible RFA.

Ice Time

Season

Total Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)

PP Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)

SH Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)

2016-17

18:10 (A.H.) – 3rd

15:38 (B.N.) – 5th

2:27 (A.H.) – 5th

1:52 (B.N.) – 7th

2:15 (A.H.) – 2nd

0:36 (B.N.) – 8th

2015-16

19:49 (A.H.) – 2nd

15:48 (B.N.) – 5th

2:41 (A.H.) – 3rd

1:46 (B.N.) – 5th

2:37 (A.H.) – 2nd

0:28 (B.N.) – 6th

2014-15

17:44 (A.H.) – 3rd

15:52 (B.N.) – 5th

1:43 (A.H.) – 8th

2:42 (B.N.) – 4th

1:51 (A.H.) – 3rd

0:56 (B.N.) – 6th

2013-14

18:03 (A.H.) – 3rd

14:15 (B.N.) – 10th

2:06 (A.H.) – 6th

1:51 (B.N.) – 8th

2:12 (A.H.) – 1st

0:50 (B.N.) – 5th


These numbers seem to support their production levels. With Henrique, he had clearly better Ice Time in 2015-16 when he just so happened to tally 50 points. In the case of Nelson, his justification for not having topped 45 points is he’s yet to have averaged even 16:00 in Ice Time per game in any season. Still though, upon closer inspection the numbers show both players having some warts.

Henrique’s 2016-17 Ice Times shouldn’t have resulted in a 20% drop in his scoring, especially since the team’s scoring output was virtually unchanged (182 goals scored in 2015-16, 180 in 2016-17). He’s also not helped by his consistently high SH Time, which we know from other top six pivots like Ryan O’Reilly and Ryan Kesler will work against one’s scoring even with offsetting high PP Time.

According to Frozen Pool, despite ranking only fourth among forwards in PP Time, Nelson received consistent PP1 deployment in 2014-15; yet he managed only 42 points, which is a bad sign. Also, the argument that Nelson isn’t scoring because he’s not getting enough Ice Time is only meaningful if there’s a chance things will improve in that area. Of course John Tavares might not re-sign with the Isles, in which case Nelson could see an increased role; but only once has Nelson’s points per 60 minutes exceeded 1.93, which was the 137th highest rate among 60+ game forwards last season. Thus, it’s reasonable to wonder if Nelson would find added success and production in an increased role, or whether the Isles would even rest their hopes on putting him in such a spot were Tavares to leave.

Secondary Categories

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2016-17

0.46 (A.H.)

0.44 (B.N.)

1.07 (A.H.)

0.61 (B.N.)

0.83 (A.H.)

0.59 (B.N.)

1.73 (A.H.)

2.13 (B.N.)

0.12 (A.H.)

0.07 (B.N.)

2015-16

0.28 (A.H.)

0.37 (B.N.)

0.82 (A.H.)

0.73 (B.N.)

0.70 (A.H.)

0.61 (B.N.)

1.86 (A.H.)

2.03 (B.N.)

0.15 (A.H.)

0.06 (B.N.)

2014-15

0.45 (A.H.)

0.29 (B.N.)

0.78 (A.H.)

1.20 (B.N.)

0.58 (A.H.)

0.63 (B.N.)

1.69 (A.H.)

2.31 (B.N.)

0.21 (A.H.)

0.18 (B.N.)

2013-14

0.26 (A.H.)

0.16 (B.N.)

0.95 (A.H.)

1.02 (B.N.)

0.65 (A.H.)

0.52 (B.N.)

1.78 (A.H.)

1.82 (B.N.)

0.15 (A.H.)

0.08 (B.N.)


Henrique isn’t doing his scoring any favors with these SOG and PPPt numbers, nor do they give poolies much hope of improvement. After all, in the past four seasons there’ve been only five instances of 55+ point scoring by any forward with under 146 SOG and fewer than 12 PPPts in a season (i.e., Henrique’s averages over these campaigns).

One positive note is Henrique offers nice across-the-board production. In fact, he’s one of just nine NHLers to have at least 215 blocked shots, 280 Hits, and 500 SOG over the course of the last four seasons, with that number dropping to just six if you also include 1800+ total FOW as a criterion (and to only five if you remove the recently retired Mike Fisher).

Nelson’s multi-cat contribution, although at least a notch below that of Henrique, is also somewhat decently across the board. Seeing Nelson’s drop in PP Time from 2014-15 to 2015-16, I figured he must have flopped on PP1; however, that doesn’t look to be the case. Yet for whatever reason he’s been relegated to PP2 for two seasons now, so we can’t count on that cycle breaking. Still though, it’s good to see hard data, albeit from only one season, indicating he has produced when on PP1.

Nelson’s SOG have been beneficially above two per game in each of the last three seasons; but we also can’t lose sight of the reality that him being already above that threshold on a regular basis makes it all the more disappointing he’s yet to produce above 45 points. Plus, it’s less likely he’d be able to see his point total jump due to more SOG, since, like Henrique, that seems an unlikely occurrence given what looks like a settled pattern.

Luck-Based Metrics

As a reminder, I’ve now added average shot distance and secondary assists percentage as gauges of whether a player may have lucked into, respectively, more goals and assists than he should’ve.
 

Season

Personal Shooting %

Team Shooting % (5x5)

Individual Points % (IPP)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5x5)

Average Shot Distance

Secondary Assists %

2016-17

14.1% (A.H.)

11.6% (B.N.)

7.61% (A.H.)

9.09% (B.N.)

63.5% (A.H.)

72.6% (B.N.)

48.2% (A.H.)

47.4% (B.N.)

22.5 (A.H.)

25.9 (B.N.)

35% (A.H.)

44% (B.N.)

2015-16

20.1% (A.H.)

15.8% (B.N.)

10.93% (A.H.)

8.47% (B.N.)

64.1% (A.H.)

71.4% (B.N.)

50.7% (A.H.)

57.8% (B.N.)

24.1 (A.H.)

26.7 (B.N.)

65% (A.H.)

50% (B.N.)

2014-15

12.6% (A.H.)

10.5% (B.N.)

8.04% (A.H.)

7.72% (B.N.)

70.5% (A.H.)

56.0% (B.N.)

46.2% (A.H.)

43.2% (B.N.)

24.4 (A.H.)

20.5 (B.N.)

40% (A.H.)

54% (B.N.)

2013-14

18.2% (A.H.)

10.7%(B.N.)

8.37% (A.H.)

7.00% (B.N.)

67.7% (A.H.)

53.3% (B.N.)

52.1% (A.H.)

49.0% (B.N.)

24.7 (A.H.)

25.1 (B.N.)

50% (A.H.)

66% (B.N.)


Seeing Henrique’s numbers for 2015-16, and now with another season in the books since then, poolies might have to cancel plans for him to return to 50 points, at least on the Devils. The huge jumps in his shooting percentage and secondary assists numbers for that season underscore just how unsustainable his production was, and, in turn, how unlikely it will be for him to get back there again. Moreover, the fact that he’s only been above 70% in IPP once, and he’s had reasonable OZ% and Average Shot Distance numbers for the most part, drill home that he’s a 40-50 point player, not a 50+ point player.

There are some glimmers of hope for Nelson. In particular, it might’ve been easy to dismiss his spike in IPP from 2014-15 to 2015-16, until it rose yet again in 2016-17. Having an IPP over 70% two years in a row is a good sign in that it signifies Nelson is the type of player who gets involved in scoring to a degree that would allow him to rack up points. The problem is that Nelson’s presence on the ice seemingly doesn’t help scoring occur, since we saw above that his points per 60 minutes data has been perennially lousy and here we see he’s been mired in the 40-45 point range despite two years of decent team and personal shooting percentages.

Who Wins?

I won’t mince words – if you were hoping I’d dig up evidence that either player has a chance to step into consistent 50+ point territory, think again. These are by seemingly all accounts just 40-50 point players.

And keep in mind, we’re not talking about young and inexperienced guys here (Henrique has played in over 400 games, and Nelson over 300). Both have received plenty of chances to succeed along the way, yet here we are still waiting for them to truly break through.

All is not entirely lost with either player though. Nelson’s IPP is solid enough to still give poolies remote hope, such as if John Tavares leaves town, giving the Islanders little choice but to put Nelson into a more prominent role. Yet even then, his woeful points per 60 minutes numbers make it difficult to envision him being able to carry a true top line role. He looks to be a rare example of a player who doesn’t help to generate offense, yet on the too rare occasions when points are scored with him on the ice he at least finds a way to involve himself in the scoring. The result is a fantasy tease of sorts.

As for Henrique, the glimmer of hope is him being able to leave New Jersey as a UFA. The issue is even if that was to happen, chances are on his new team he’ll still be saddled with a lot of shorthanded duty due to his skill in that area. And without any decent SOG or PPP numbers in his past, he’ll probably be much the same leopard with much the same spots on any other team.

Overall, the winner (or, I suppose, the lesser of two fantasy evils) is Nelson, due to slightly more straight-faced future hope attached to him and likely a lower price to obtain due to Henrique’s past seasons of 50+ points. My advice to poolies is to avoid both. For what they’d cost in draft or trade, there are bound to be better options for players with the same downside guarantee but a far better chance to hit 50+ this season and/or down the road. If you own either Nelson or Henrique in a keeper, try to package him in a deal now or wait until he gets hot and send him packing without hesitation.

 

  • John Tortorella

    In a standard league, I don’t even think about either of them.

    In deeper leagues I agree: Nelson.