Who is the Better Fantasy Own: Jonathan Drouin…or Jonathan Huberdeau?

by Rick Roos on April 19, 2017 | (0 Comments)

Cage Match! Poolies who invested a lot in Jonathan Drouin and Jonathan Huberdeau have reason to be pleased with how both players fared in 2016-17. The question is whether their solid seasons were stepping stones to fantasy greatness. Let’s find out – Cage Match starts now!

 

Career Path and Contract Status

Drouin, who just turned 22, was drafted 3rd overall in 2013 and produced a modest 32 points in 70 games as a rookie. Things looked great in 2015-16 when he emerged with six points in five games; yet after that his Ice Time dropped and he went scoreless in five other October contests. Then injuries limited him to nine games in November and December, with points in just one lone contest. Drouin was back healthy in early January, but was assigned to the AHL and failed to report, igniting a “he said, she said” firestorm. That mess stretched into March before he did finally report to the AHL, where he posted 13 points in 17 games. He was back with the Lightning for their final two regular seasons games, posting two points, and then starred with 14 points in 17 playoff contests. This season the drama of 2015-16 seemed to be a thing of the past, and Drouin finished with a solid 53 points in 73 games.

Huberdeau, 23, was also drafted 3rd overall, but two years earlier. In his rookie campaign, Huberdeau produced one point less than Drouin did, but in 22 fewer games. Yet as a sophomore he slumped to 28 points in 69 contests. Fortunately for the Panthers, and poolies who owned him, he made big strides in his next two campaigns, with 54 and 59 points. Expectations were understandably high for 2016-17, until Huberdeau was lost to injury right as the season was set to begin. Although Huberdeau ended his abbreviated 2016-17 with a 69 point full season pace (via 26 points in 31 games), 15 of those points came in just six total games.

Drouin just completed the final season of his ELC and is an RFA on a team that also has Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat to sign. Huberdeau already inked his post-ELC deal, which is set to pay him $5.9M per season through 2022-23.

 

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

17:42 (J.D.) – 6th

17:55 (J.H.) – 4th

3:05 (J.D.) – 3rd

2:32 (J.H.) – 5th

0:00 (J.D.)

0:05 (J.H.) – 8th (tied)

2015-16

14:26 (J.D.) – 8th

18:08 (J.H.) – 4th

2:00 (J.D.) – 9th

2:41 (J.H.) – 3rd

0:01 (J.D.) – 11th (tied)

0:31 (J.H.) – 8th

2014-15

13:14 (J.D.) – 9th

16:44 (J.H.) – 3rd (tied)

1:54 (J.D.) – 9th

2:20 (J.H.) – 2nd

0:03 (J.D.) – 11th

0:07 (J.H.) – 10th

2013-14

15:39 (J.H.) – 11th

1:59 (J.H.) – 9th

0:01 (J.H.) – 16th

 

Looking at their 2016-17 data with a glass half full mentality, this is encouraging data for both players since it leaves realistic room for them to see more Ice Time, and, with that, to produce even better. A counterargument, of course, is that they’re already playing very well yet not getting top Ice Time, so who knows if added Ice Time will come?

 

With Drouin, there’s also the “unknown” factor of him and Steven Stamkos only having played nine full games together in 2016-17, on account of Drouin missing time in early November and Stamkos going down for the season on November 15th. In those nine games Drouin posted just five points; however, the good news is three of those points were on the PP, plus he played more than his season-long Ice Time average in six of the nine contests and was at or above his overall PP usage percentage in seven.

 

So although poolies shouldn’t worry about Drouin being pushed aside once he and Stamkos again share the ice on a regular basis, there could be some concern about Drouin being enough of a focal point to score at an elite rate. In other words, Drouin might be in danger of becoming the next Brayden Schenn, who shines on the PP but takes a back seat to Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, and Jakub Voracek at 5x5 and still has yet to crack the 60 point mark after 433 NHL games. Then again, he could seemingly turn into the Lightning’s version of 2007-2014 Patrick Sharp, who was a PP force yet also succeeded enough at 5x5 to score at a 70 point per season overall pace during that seven-year stretch.

 

With Huberdeau, there’s no comparable threat to his Ice Time or “spot,” since he’s already a key focal point of the team’s offense. Also, Florida will enter 2017-18 with a new coach – one who might lean on his stars even more, resulting in more Ice Time. Of course some of that added Ice Time could come in the form of undesirable SH Ice Time; however, it also could result in Huberdeau logging more PP Time than he did this season, particularly since his 5.0 points per 60 minutes at 5x4 was the second highest among Panther forwards (behind only Jonathan Marchessault).

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2016-17

0.22 (J.D.)

0.42 (J.H.)

0.68 (J.D.)

0.58 (J.H.)

0.22 (J.D.)

0.19 (J.H.)

2.50 (J.D.)

2.67 (J.H.)

0.35 (J.D.)

0.22 (J.H.)

2015-16

0.19 (J.D.)

0.56 (J.H.)

0.85 (J.D.)

0.69 (J.H.)

0.09 (J.D.)

0.47 (J.H.)

1.19 (J.D.)

2.29 (J.H.)

0.09 (J.D.)

0.17 (J.H.)

2014-15

0.48 (J.D.)

0.48 (J.H.)

0.78 (J.D.)

0.86 (J.H.)

0.23 (J.D.)

0.30 (J.H.)

1.08 (J.D.)

2.14 (J.H.)

0.08 (J.D.)

0.15 (J.H.)

2013-14

0.53 (J.H.)

1.05 (J.H.)

0.33 (J.H.)

1.56 (J.H.)

0.07 (J.H.)

 

What stands out is Drouin’s PPPts rate for 2016-17. I figured it’s rare for a player – especially as young as Drouin – to produce at a rate which, if projected to 82 games, would’ve resulted in 29 PPPts but under 60 points. And indeed it’s quite uncommon; in fact, since 2000-01 only four forwards posted 29+ PPPts but under 60 points in the same campaign by age 24: Rick Nash, Ryan Getzlaf, Jussi Jokinen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. The latter two never posted over 65 points in a season, but both Nash and Getzlaf became fantasy stars. Can we predict whether Drouin will be more like Jokinen and PMB, or Nash and Getzlaf? Not for certain; but for what it’s worth, PMB and Jokinen didn’t even average 1.5 SOG per game in the season when they accomplished this feat, while like Drouin both Nash and Getzlaf averaged well over 2 SOG per game when they did so. Some interesting food for thought.

 

Aside from SOG and PPPts, however, Drouin is a below average for multi-cat leagues. Then again, Huberdeau is nothing to write home about in these other areas either, particularly with his Hits per game having dropped in each successive season and posting a career low PIM rate in 2016-17. Yet Huberdeau’s SOG and PPPt rates have climbed with each passing season, and, in what’s unlikely a coincidence, so too has his point per game rate.

 

The magic question is whether Huberdeau’s PPP, SOG, and points can continue to trend upwards; and I think that barring unsustainable luck having occurred along the way (we’ll check that next) the answer is likely yes. This season Huberdeau was 28th in points per game among forwards who skated in 30+ contests, despite his team finishing 23rd in goals scored. Looking at the other 27 forwards above him in points per game rate, only one (Jack Eichel) was on a team which had fewer goals than Florida. Also, only four of the 27 had a lower PPPt per game rate than Huberdeau, and only eight had a lower SOG per game rate. In other words, Huberdeau still has realistic room to individually improve in SOG and PPP, plus gain points as the team around him scores more.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

 

Season

Personal Shooting Percentage

Team Shooting % (5x5)

IPP (5x5)

IPP (5x4)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5x5)

2016-17

11.5% (J.D.)

12.0% (J.H.)

7.20% (J.D.)

7.98% (J.H.)

68.6% (J.D.)

71.4% (J.H.)

69.7% (J.D.)

66.7% (J.H.)

57.1% (J.D.)

59.5% (J.H.)

2015-16

16.0% (J.D.)

11.5% (J.H.)

14.44% (J.D.)

10.50% (J.H.)

61.5% (J.D.)

71.9% (J.H.)

66.7% (J.D.)

64.7% (J.H.)

58.6% (J.D.)

42.4% (J.H.)

2014-15

5.3% (J.D.)

8.9% (J.H.)

7.77% (J.D.)

9.16% (J.H.)

78.1% (J.D.)

80.0% (J.H.)

50.0% (J.D.)

64.7% (J.H.)

58.5% (J.D.)

50.6% (J.H.)

2013-14

8.3% (J.H.)

7.76% (J.H.)

58.3% (J.H.)

66.7% (J.H.)

52.9% (J.H.)

 

For Drouin, 2016-17 data not only indicates that his outstanding PP scoring wasn’t a fluke, but also that he has room for realistic improvement at 5x5, what with a well below average team shooting % and a 5x5 IPP less than the 78.1% rate he posted while a rookie. As for his outlandishly high team shooting percentage at 5x5 last season, it’s not of concern given how few games he played plus having two other seasons of data to assess by comparison.

 

Looking at Huberdeau, his markedly improved scoring rate for 2016-17 occurred despite a far lower 5x5 team shooting % than in either of his most recent two seasons, which is a good sign. Where there’s uncertainty, is due to his OZ%, which he was gifted by now former Panthers coach Tom Rowe. It’s not clear whether the next Florida coach will likewise bestow Hubedeau with nearly 60% of his shifts at 5x5 in the offensive zone. Yet even if that doesn’t happen – and keep in mind, it still could – Huberdeau nevertheless should be capable of scoring at or above his 2016-17 rate. After all, his 5x5 team shooting % should rebound, plus his 5x4 IPP and 5x5 IPP were slightly off his normal pace; and as noted above, the team around him should do better. Long story short – Huberdeau should be primed for a 70+ point season in 2017-18.

 

Who Wins?

 

This is harder to judge since Drouin has played in barely half as many games as Huberdeau and is nearly two years younger. Also, a lot will be learned once the dust settles on Tampa’s RFA situation. But I need to pick a winner based on what we know now, and that winner is Huberdeau. Why him? Because if I’m deciding between two players I’ll take the one who – like Huberdeau – has shown me more already and who also happens to be more of a “face of the franchise” type of player, which Huberdeau is.

 

The issue with Drouin is he’s unlikely to be as much of a focal point on Tampa as Nikita Kucherov or Steven Stamkos. And although third wheels are capable of being 75+ point fantasy studs (think Sharp in several seasons with Chicago, or James Neal when he was with the Pens), most don’t end up being more than 60ish point players.

 

Going back to the Nash and Getzlaf comparisons, those two were face of the franchise guys, making it less clear that Drouin will have their fantasy trajectory. The more I think about it and look at the data, the more I worry that Drouin’s future will indeed resemble that of Schenn, who produces great as part of the potent Philadelphia PP1 but has never been able to hit the 60 point mark because he’s not an even strength focal point. And Schenn also brings a lot more to the table in multi-cat leagues.

 

Florida clearly sees Huberdeau as someone – along with Aleksander Barkov – around whom the team will build its offense. Plus, I was encouraged by Huberdeau still having room to do better in SOG and PPPts, plus Ice Time. And although he did get just under 50% of his 2016-17 points in 20% of his total games, if he can keep that explosiveness but become more consistent on a night-to-night basis, that too could lead to his production rising. Huberdeau gets the win here, by a wider margin than I expected.