Frozen Pool Forensics: A Rookie Class for the Ages – Part 1

by Cam Robinson on April 7, 2017 | (2 Comments)

It took a little time, but it seems like both old-school hockey people and new-school analytics folks are all on the same page: If you want to win, you need cheap, productive talent to surround your core. Or in some cases, be your core.

The same adage is true in fantasy hockey as young, unproven talent is usually far easier to obtain than established stars. This season more than any in recent memory has seen a major influx of talent enter the league, and propel fantasy teams towards the ultimate glory of a league championship.

Over the next two weeks on Frozen Pool Forensics, we’ll take a deeper look at some of the players that headline this year’s rookie class, and wonder aloud if this is one of the greatest freshman classes of all-time.

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Matt Murray

You know what’s not fair? The fact that Matt Murray isn’t going to get much credit for a tremendous rookie season. It might be the fact that his dominant performance last spring en route to a Stanley Cup victory desensitized some people to his greatness, or perhaps it’s simply the position he plays that makes it difficult for most to assess the intricacies of his dominance.

Regardless of the reason, it’s going to be unlikely that Murray sees a finalist spot in Las Vegas this June for the Calder Trophy and that’s just too bad.

The 22-year-old net minder has accumulated a 31-10-4 record to go along with a .924 save percentage and 2.37 goals against average. Of the goaltenders with at least 20 appearances, his save percentage is good for a share of the lead among rookies with Juuse Saros, and sits as the fifth best mark in the entire league.

His 31 wins is the clear leader for freshmen, and is good for share of the tenth-most league-wide while starting at least five games fewer than any other goalie ahead of him.

Goalie Calculator

GP 48
Wins 31
GAA 2.37
SV%0.924

 

In comparison to the likely Vezina winner, Sergei Bobrovsky, Murray has performed exceedingly well. So far, this season, Murray has produced quality starts in over 60 percent of his games, compared to 65 percent for the Columbus goalkeeper.

Viewing their saves from various locations on the ice illustrates Murray’s top notch game even further. When seeing chances from High-Danger situations (1-15 feet out) he’s stopping 84.1 percent. From Medium Danger situations (16-30 feet out) 91.7 percent, and he’s stopped 96.7 percent of the Low-Danger shots that have come from outside of 31 feet.

That medium danger mark is better than: Bobrovsky, Carey Price, Braden Holtby, Cam Talbot, Fredrik Andersen, and a host of other elite goal keepers. Not bad for a guy who was in the OHL three seasons ago.

With the very real possibility that Marc-André Fleury will be leaving Pittsburgh this offseason, Murray is on the precipice of becoming one of the most valuable fantasy keepers out there, and while he likely won’t get the official credit he deserves this year, his rookie season has been tremendous.

 

Matthew Tkachuk

During last June’s entry draft, when Jim Benning walked up to podium to select fifth overall and began his introduction with, “…from the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League…” I’m sure there was more than a handful of people expecting him to finish that up with Tkachuk’s name. But as we know, the Canucks took defenseman Olli Juolevi, and let the rugged winger fall into Calgary’s lap.

We’re guessing the Flames are tickled pink that they did, too.

Tkachuk has had a splendid first season in the league, posting 13 goals, 47 points, and a plus-13 rating while seeing just 14:37 of ice time per night. Those numbers don’t even do him justice as he and his line mates have been tasked with some of the most difficult assignments in the league, while starting a paltry 35.6 percent of his shifts in the offense zone. Yet somehow, he’s sporting a 56 percent CorsiFor rating.

That’s some serious play-driving.

 

2016-2017 Regular Season

 

player

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

+/-

PIM

Shots

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

PPTOI

%PP

%PK

TOI/G

%TOI

TKACHUK, MATTHEW

74

13

34

47

0.64

13

105

141

65

3

13

0

20

02:01

38.4

0.4

14:37

24.1

To Date

2017-04-04

Pace

76

13

35

48

 

13

108

145

67

3

13

 

21


 

         

 

 

The 19-year-old has been a thorn in the side of opponents right from puck drop on opening night, and rare does a game go by that his abrasive style of play doesn’t result in a drawn penalty or two. Together with Michael Frolik and Mikael Backlund, the trio has formed a deadly second line, and is a clear factor in the Flames resurgence back into the playoffs this season.

Tkachuk will likely sit on the sidelines this June when the finalists are announced for the Calder Trophy, but his accomplishments should not fly under the radar. His 0.64 point-per-game output is sixth best amongst first-year players while seeing just the 14th most minutes of anyone on that list.

 

 

William Nylander

Nylander arrived last season and showed very well down the stretch for a not-so-hot Maple Leafs squad destined for a lottery pick. He played few enough games to maintain his eligibility for the Calder trophy this season, and despite producing terrific counting stats, he’s arguably not even the second-best rookie on his team. 

The eighth overall pick has had an eventful campaign. From first line winger to fourth line dog-houser, the sublime play-maker with the underrated shot has proven his mettle down the stretch by producing a league-high 12-game, 14-point streak. That helped earn him the Rookie of the Month honours in March for the second time this season.

 

 

Nylander leads all rookies in power play points with 26, and shares the lead in power play markers with nine. That type of production while seeing just 2:19 on the man advantage each night is massive for fantasy squads.

He’s just the fourth Leafs rookie to ever break 60 points, and the 15th to accomplish that mark in the last decade. Of those 15 rookies to crack the mark, five have won the Calder Trophy, and another will likely win it this year.

 

NHL Stats - Last 5 Years

 

SEASON

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

+/-

PIM

Shots

SH%

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

FOW

FO%

PPTOI

%PP

%SH

TOI/G

%TOI

2016-2017

78

22

38

60

0.77

-1

32

196

11.2

24

9

26

0

15

46

40.4

02:19

48.8

0.2

15:57

26.2

2015-2016

22

6

7

13

0.59

1

4

43

14.0

5

1

3

0

5

143

49.1

02:43

52.3

0.2

16:20

27.0

Average

82

23

37

60

0.73

0

30

196

11.7

24

8

24

0

16

155

46.7

02:24

49.6

0.2

16:02

26.4

 

 

 

 

There is still plenty of room for improvement with this player moving forward as well. Increased offensive opportunities on the man-advantage, solidifying a spot amongst the team’s top-six forwards, and an uptick in his moderate 7.6 percent even-strength conversion rate, to name a few.

The Leafs are boasting some of the top young talent in the league, and while Nylander might not get the most ink, he’s an extremely valuable commodity in both real life and in the fantasy sphere.

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Quick Hits

Jake Guentzel

  • If only the 22-year-old had played a full season in the league, he might have a legitimate shot at a finalist position. The slight, gritty, and supremely gifted forward has found a home next to Sidney Crosby at even strength and is making the most of it. He has 14 points in his last nine full contests and his 0.79 point-per-game output through 39 games puts him fourth for all first-year players.

There’s a reason he’s the top fantasy prospect on Dobber’s most recent prospect rankings.

 

Sebastian Aho

  • Somehow lost in the shuffle of this great class has been the 19-year-old Finn who helped propel his home country to a World Junior Gold medal next to Jesse Puljujarvi and Patrik Laine last year.

His 23 goals this season are third-most for freshmen, and he sits fifth overall in points with 48. He’s done so on the back of some very sustainable numbers and in limited amount of ice. There’s a high ceiling on this Hurricanes’ youngster.

 

Brady Skjei

  • Likely one of the least-spoken about rookie players from this crop, the smooth-skating defender surprised many by producing 39 points 78 games thus far, which sits second for first-year defensemen and eighth for skaters.

Thirty-two of those points have come via five-on-five play giving a strong indication that he can build off this performance with increased opportunity on the man-advantage.

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Thanks for reading and check back next week for Part Two where we’ll dig into the finalists.

 

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3 where I often give unsolicited fantasy advice that I’m sure at least someone is listening to.

More Frozen Pool Forensics:

College Signings

Sid and the Kids

 

  • Lewis

    Great article, looking forward to the next edition. Gonna have tough choices to make in keeper selection this summer with all these great rookies!

    • Cam Robinson

      Thanks, Lewis!