One thing that is prudent when your work and thoughts in fantasy sports are distributed through social media is to take rumours with a large grain of salt. Most never come to fruition, some do but are an altered version of themselves, and some are just outright silly.
When it comes to the Boston Bruins and trading a young star, however, I tend to pay attention. Whether it be Joe Thornton, Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler, Tyler Seguin, or Dougie Hamilton, if there’s a franchise that has become notorious for trading young stars (I guess Joe wasn’t *that* young, but regardless), it’s the Bruins. So when I saw David Pastrnak’s name floated a few days ago, I perked up a little bit.
I have no idea where the contract negotiations stand, but Pastrnak is a bona fide star. I wrote briefly on him back in April, and my point still stands: this kid had literally one of the best 20-year old seasons the post-lockout era, and is a stud in every sense of the word. Boston would be foolish to trade him.
I won’t get too far into this aside from what I wrote months ago when I reviewed the 2016-17 season of the Oilers from a fantasy perspective. He has yet to prove he can carry a line by himself, and presumably that’s what this contract indicates they want him to do. If they gave him that contract to be McDavid’s winger, that’s fine, I just don’t think they did.
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Throughout the summer, I’m going through each team and reviewing the relevant fantasy performances therein from 2016-17. We have reached the end of the road, with the Winnipeg Jets as the final team in this review.
Last year was a special season for Scheifele, not the least of which was finishing with 82 points in 79 games, bettering a point-per-game pace. What was special about that is he accomplished that feat with just 15 power-play points. Let’s put how amazing that is into context:
- Of the top-10 scorers last year (which includes Scheifele), 15 power-play points is by far the least, with the next-closest being Vladimir Tarasenko’s 22 points. The average number of PPPs from the other nine players was 26.7.
- To go further, Scheifele and Artemi Panarin (17 PPPs) were the only players to manage at least 70 points without at least 20 PPPs.
- There have only been four players to play 75 games, manage at least a point-per-game, and fail to reach 20 power-play points since the 2005 lockout: Taylor Hall (2013-14), Corey Perry (2013-14), Rick Nash (2008-09), and Scheifele. Of those players, Scheifele had the fewest PPPs.
It is crucial to understand that given all the talent that team has, the fact that Scheifele only managed 15 power-play points is underwhelming. Going into 2017-18, that’s a good thing.
Even over the last five years, with the introduction and (at least partial) acceptance of advanced stats, sometimes the automatic thought for a player having a huge season when they haven’t had one before is “regression.” That’s not a bad way to think – don’t assume what you’ve just seen will continue, investigate, and find the answer.
When you see Scheifele shooting 17.17 percent at five-on-five, that should raise some red flags. He had been an above-average shooter for his career going into 2016-17, shooting 12.2 percent in 227 career games, but shooting an even 20 percent in all situations is a problem. He’s not a volume shooter, and unless that turns around next year, 25 goals would be a good year.
Scheifele had some good fortune last year, and the team scored 3.45 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five. However, the team scored 3.39 goals per 60 minutes the year before, and 2.67 the year before that (which is still solid). His three-year on-ice goals for per 60 minutes is 3.16. For context:
if my math is right (which it often is not):
Scheifele on-ice 5v5 GF/60 last 3 seasons: 3.16
Crosby on-ice 5v5 GF/60 last 3 seasons: 3.06
— Michael Clifford (@SlimCliffy) August 15, 2017
Obviously there are differences between the two, but for fantasy hockey purposes, all that matters are goals and points. Even if Scheifele can be spelled off in defensive situations by Bryan Little, it doesn’t matter. As long as the team scores at that rate with him on the ice, and he’s given first-line minutes, they can use him however they wish.
Maybe Scheifele does regress, but if he can manage 1250 minutes in an 82-game season (he had 1216 in 79 games last year), at 3.16 goals per 60 minutes and managing a point on 75 percent of those goals, he can push for 50 five-on-five points. If that power-play comes around, as it should, getting back to 75 points is well within reach.
I’m likely too pessimistic in fantasy, always concerned with players that seemed to have performed way too far above expectations. As long as owners aren’t expecting Scheifele to push for 100 points, though, they shouldn’t be disappointed with their investment. Just be wary in multi-cat leagues, as he has much more value in points-only formats.
Even the most optimistic fantasy hockey owners couldn’t have seen a 36-goal season coming. Had he played a full 82-game season, he probably breaks 40 goals, which is just absurd for an 18-year old. Well, 36 goals is absurd for an 18-year old as it is, seeing as he’s one of only five 18-year olds to score at least 36 goals in a single season:
That is all well and good.
Laine shot 17.6 percent to get those 36 goals, and that’s high. It’s not impossible to be a shooter in that neighbourhood, as Ilya Kovalchuk shot nearly 15 percent over the first seven seasons of his career. But that was a different era, and the only players in the NHL to shoot even 15 percent over the last four seasons (minimum 2.5 shots per game) are Brad Marchand and Joe Pavelski. Maybe Laine is a true 15 percent shooting talent - it remains to be seen.
What concerns me isn’t necessarily the shooting percentage, it’s the location of the shots. Here are Laine’s shot maps at both five-on-five, and five-on-four, from hockeyviz.com:
Those are some long distances. At five-on-four, it’s not dissimilar from someone like Alex Ovechkin, but I’d very much hesitate to say Laine is comparable to arguably the greatest goal scorer of all time. It’s similar to Tyler Seguin, which would be a bit more rational of a comparison.
What is odd about Laine’s season is that he shot 11.11 percent on the power play, but 16.15 percent at five-on-five. It’s not unforeseeable that those two rates switch, which is a good thing for his PP production.
There are some things working in his favour here. He should be given more ice time, he should be a focal point of the power play, and his shot is off the charts. That could easily mitigate a drop in shooting percentage. I don’t know if he improves his goal totals significantly – maybe he pushes for 40 in 2017-18 – but his overall point totals should see a boost with a full season, more TOI per game, and a bigger role on the power play. Conservatively (keep in mind I haven’t finished my projections yet), 35 goals and 70 points seem to be realistic.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy watching this kid play hockey. Just following him around the ice – the vision, the hands, the whole package. I was very high on him last year:
Free fantasy advice: draft Ehlers on every team you have this year. All of them. Get 100% exposure.
— Michael Clifford (@SlimCliffy) September 13, 2016
like, if I had to make a list of five players going outside the top-120 who I think can get to 60 this year, it's Ehlers
— Michael Clifford (@SlimCliffy) September 18, 2016
He just needed prime minutes, he got them, and he produced.
This is what’s nice about Ehlers’ season: nothing was really out of line. It’s not as if he had a bunch of empty points (secondary assists or PP points); he had basically the same primary points per 60 minutes (goals and first assists at five-on-five, 1.67) as Laine (1.74), Scheifele (1.73), and was well above Blake Wheeler (1.47). He didn’t have an excessive individual shooting percentage, coming it at 12.3 percent after shooting nine percent in his rookie season. His on-ice shooting percentage was well below both Laine and Scheifele as well. This season wasn’t a product of sky-high percentages; it was a result of a talented player getting an opportunity to consistently play with other talented players.
Can he improve next year? Well, he’s just starting to enter his offensive prime, may (but is not guaranteed to) get more minutes, and can improve on the 12 power-play points. Expecting another 60-point season and hoping for 70, rather than expecting a 70-point season, is how I’ll draft him.
I wrote a few days ago why I think Trouba could be in for 40 points this year, and will not be drafted as such. I recommend going through that article to get my thoughts on the American defenceman.
For a team that didn’t make the playoffs, I could write 10 000 words on the fantasy performances from this team. From Blake Wheeler’s underrated consistency, to Dustin Byfuglien’s run as one of the elite fantasy defencemen in the last half-decade, to Josh Morrissey’s progression, to Bryan Little’s fourth season in five years with at least 20 goals and 20 assists (and he did it this year in 59 games!), there is so much to cover fantasy-wise that continuing would lead to a lot of, well, rambling. Keep an eye out in the future for Cam Robinson’s off-season Jets fantasy grade (and check out what he’s done so far). The Jets might not be Cup contenders in 2017-18, but they’ll be fun to watch on the ice, and will have several very solid fantasy options.
- Top 100 Keeper League Goaltenders - September 2017
- Ramblings: Training Camp Notes; Power Play Increase - September 21
- Ramblings: Preseason Check Ins, Colin White and more (Sept.20)
- Dobber's Offseason Fantasy Grades: Vancouver Canucks
- Dobber's Offseason Fantasy Grades: Vegas Golden Knights
- Capped: Thoughts on Contract Situations Around the League
- Cage Match: Jaccob Slavin vs. Nikita Zaitsev
- Ramblings: Torey Krug's out, and more preseason analysis (Sept. 22)