Last Thursday saw the end of my team by team review of relevant fantasy performances from the 2016-17 season. It’s an exercise that helps put the year in context, figure out what went right/wrong, and how it can help move forward. I hope that it helped some of you along the way.
To cap all of it off before moving on to previewing the 2017-18 season, I thought I might share some of my favourite stats and facts from the prior campaign. I’m going to split them between forwards and defencemen.
- Among all forwards with at least 700 minutes of five-on-five ice time, it was Ryan Getzlaf at the top of the leaderboard in primary assists per 60 minutes. In second place was Connor McDavid. Just behind McDavid was Chicago forward Nick Schmaltz. Seriously.
- Getzlaf was also sixth among all forwards in blocked shots per 60 minutes at five-on-five with the same TOI parameters.
- Artturi Lehkonen finished inside the top-25 forwards in individual shot attempts per 60 minutes at five-on-five last year, sandwiched between Jack Eichel and Jason Pominville. He probably won’t get feature minutes this year, but now might be the time to trade for him (somewhat) on the cheap in dynasty leagues.
- Conor Sheary led forwards by a significant margin in secondary assists per 60 minutes at five-on-five (1.16). In fact, the gap between Sheary and second (Anthony Mantha, 0.91) is bigger than the gap between Mantha and those tied for 14th (Sean Monahan and Scott Hartnell, 0.67). Given what we know about the randomness of second assists, and Sheary’s uncertain slotting in the Pittsburgh lineup, I might just let someone else draft him this year.
- Nikolaj Ehlers was sixth among forwards in penalties drawn per 60 minutes of five-on-five play, but unlike others in the top-10 like Matthew Tkachuk, Tom Wilson, and Antoine Roussel, he didn’t give them back by having a high PIM rate.
- Jarome Iginla was seventh in shots on goal per 60 minutes while on the power play, but finished with at 7.32 percent shooting. Could be worse: Jakub Voracek was just behind him in shots and finished at 5.68 percent.
- Pavel Zacha (6.18) finished ahead of names like Jamie Benn (6.17), Phil Kessel (6.08), and Claude Giroux (6.00) in points per 60 minutes on the power play. Caveat: Zacha shot over 40 percent.
- Nazem Kadri shot over 30 percent on the power play last year, leading to 12 power-play goals. The prior two seasons, he shots under 10 percent. Obviously, he’s playing on a more talented team than the prior two seasons, but that is still a gigantic deviation from what he had previously done. That goal total is going to take a hit next year when that 31.58 percent comes down. Even if he shoots 15 percent next year, on his volume of shots, it would mean about five PP goals instead of 12.
- Third among all forwards with at least 100 power-play minutes in shot attempts per minute, behind only Alex Ovechkin and Nikita Kucherov? Kris Versteeg. Versteeg also had the same point rate as Ovechkin (4.94). I’ll be very interested to see where he slots full-time with the Flames, both at five-on-five and on the PP.
- The league-leader in primary assists per 60 minutes at five-on-on-five last year wasn’t Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Victor Hedman, or Roman Josi. In fact, it was Tyson Barrie. Second place? A guy that the Canadiens wouldn’t sign to a one-year contract: Andrei Markov.
- To that end, the only thing that kept Barrie from another solid season (45-plus points) was a completely inept power play that saw Colorado with the lowest conversion percentage and total goals.
- Colton Parayko finished top-5 on that primary assist leaderboard as well, coming in at 0.59. That isn’t an aberration, as his rookie season saw him finish with 0.56, and in a tie for 8th. He’s showing to be a very good setup man from the back-end.
- Ryan Ellis fell just shy of shooting an astounding 12 percent at five-on-five. He shot 7.1 percent over the prior two seasons. Just 7.1 percent would still be a very solid mark, and he can still score near double-digits, but repeating close to 16 goals is asking way too much, especially considering the glut of high-end offensive defencemen on the Nashville blue line.
- Michael Matheson finished inside the top-25 in shot attempts per 60 minutes at five-on-five, and inside the top-10 in shots on goal per 60. He’s stuck behind Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle, but he’s a name to keep in mind in deeper leagues, or redraft leagues if either of those skaters suffers an injury.
- Stephen Johns finished both in the top-20 in individual shot attempts per minute and blocked shots per minute (where he finished near the top, actually). He may not be given an offensive role on the team, but with some more ice time could be useful in a multi-category league, depending on the depth of the rosters.
- Oscar Klefbom had two secondary assists at five-on-five last year despite being on the ice for 2.77 goals per 60 minutes of ice time. He was on the ice for 65 goals for at five-on-five and managed a secondary assist on two of them. For those wondering how he can improve on the sub-40 points he had last year, that is a good place to start.
- It wasn’t Brent Burns or Justin Faulk who led NHL blue liners in shots on goal per 60 minutes while on the power play. It was Aaron Ekblad. By a wide margin, too. After a disappointing season last year, and the Panthers hopefully healthier this year, he could have a Faulk-ish fantasy season. I’ll be interested to see where his ADP lands.
- Victor Hedman led all NHL defencemen in primary assists per 60 minutes of power-play time (minimum of 100 minutes). Second and third on that list were Markov and Nathan Beaulieu, neither of whom are with the Montreal organization anymore.
- Shayne Gostisbehere led all defencemen in PP ice time per game. Those who read my Philadelphia Ramblings know how much that team relies on the power play, and I don’t see that changing this year. There may be concerns that Ivan Provorov can eventually supplant Ghost, but the latter should come at a much better draft day value than he did in 2016.
Those are a lot of facts/stats to digest, and there a lot of quirks in a single season. Hopefully, though, it helped illuminate a bit with what happened last year and why it could be important for this year.
When I did my Bruins Ramblings back in April (man, time flies), I purposely skipped Marchand because he’s an incredible case study. Let’s get to it.
When Marchand reached 37 goals in 2015-16, at first glance, it seemed like an aberration. A 27-year old never having surpassed 30 goals, and only managed more than 25 goals once, suddenly knocking on the door of 40 goals. Was this a one-time thing, or the next Joe Pavelski? I was skeptical, and basically wrote off Marchand at his ADP for the 2016-17 season.
And then he scored 39 goals and managed over a point-per-game.
To be clear, this was never about Marchand’s talent. The problem was that he was never, ever, given a chance to shine on the power play. Over the five seasons from 2010-2015, Marchand was 34th in the NHL in goals scored with 116. Of all the players in the top-50, he had the fewest power-play goals (14), and only he, Anze Kopitar (17), and Blake Wheeler (18) had fewer than 20. He also had the highest goal total of any player given fewer than 17 minutes a game.
Over that same span, he earned 1:07 of power-play time per game. As far as fellow Bruins go, guys like Ryan Spooner (2:07), Carl Soderberg (1:55), and Reilly Smith (1:42) were all given considerably more ice time. Even in 2015-16, his breakout year, he was still just at 1:28, nearly 1:20 less than Spooner, and stuck on the second power-play unit. That was a big reason why I was very bearish on Marchand’s prospects. Maybe he could crack 30 goals again, but his points upside was likely reached because for whatever reason, over the span of six years, Boston did not want to give him much power-play time, and when they did, it was on the second unit.
That changed in 2016-17 when Marchand was a staple of the top PP unit, finishing second among the team’s forward in PP TOI per game. This helped him manage 15 power-play assists, tripling his career number (seriously, he had five career power-play assists going into 2016-17). Not all of his 24-point increase from his previous career-best of 61 is due to the power-play assists (he had just 13 more than in 2015-16), but it was a huge chunk of it, and it came out of nowhere.
Some people may be worried that he saw a decline in shots from the previous year, and that is a genuine concern, but his individual shot attempt rate was pretty stable, it was just a decline in five-on-five time that was lost. On the flipside, the extra ice time he earned mostly went to additional power-play time, so a decline in raw shot totals was buoyed by those PP minutes. I’m sure fantasy owners will take that trade-off.
None of this is meant to disparage Marchand. He and Patrice Bergeron are legitimately one of the top duos in the league at both ends of the ice. They had been at five-on-five for a few years, and finally got to show their chemistry with the man advantage as well. The point of all this is to keep in mind that we’re all at the mercy of whims of each team’s coach. Betting on talent in fantasy drafts is usually not a bad idea, but it’s all for naught if the coach doesn’t view the player in the same way you do (Alex Galchenyuk and Brandon Saad are recent examples).
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