Thoughts on Anders Lee and Jeff Skinner, Kevin Hayes, and the Mark Stone/Mike Hoffman debate.
Yesterday I posed the following question on Twitter, and got varied responses. It is a situation I’m facing in a home keeper league (keep forever, no rounds/dollars) that I am a part of. I thought it would be fun to lay out the case, and see where the readers stand:
It is a roto league with 10 keepers. I am keeping Henrik Lundqvist/Roberto Luongo in net, P.K. Subban/ Brent Burns on the blue line, and Gabriel Landeskog, Evander Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko, Chris Kreider, and Valeri Nichushkin up front. I have irrational man-crushes on Kane/Nichushkin, so I can’t be talked out of keeping them. My last spot is down to Jeff Skinner or Anders Lee. Who would you keep?
This is the case for each player that I have in mind:
There is no mistake to be made here, Jeff Skinner has been one of the best even strength goal scorers in the NHL since he stepped into the league. He is in the top-20 for total five-on-five goals since the start of his rookie year in 2010, and is the youngest in said top-20. Since he came into the league, he has as many five-on-five goals as Jeff Carter.
I am a huge believer in his talent. The problem is it doesn’t seem like the coaching staff is. Anyone that owned him last year can tell you this much. He spent two-thirds of the season playing with Victor Rask or Riley Nash. He also saw the fewest minutes per game of his career. That is disconcerting.
This is obviously health-related, and that is something that has to be taken into account here. Skinner has a long history of injury issues, particularly concussions.
Not only are the injuries an issue, but as I kind of alluded, he doesn’t really have anyone to play with. He and Eric Staal have seemed to have good chemistry over the years, but he’s played under 25-percent of his time with Staal since coming into the league. Maybe he develops something with Elias Lindholm, but is there a guarantee that the two of them play together? I don’t see it.
There have been just 24 players to have two separate 30-goal seasons over the last five years, and Skinner is one of them. He is also going into just his Age 23 year next year, and is locked up for the next three years. There is no doubting his goal scoring talent, but does his health hold up, does Carolina get some offensive help, and do the coaches consistently use that help alongside Skinner? Those three questions will ultimately determine his value, and none have a clear answer.
One of the popular responses I got with regard to Lee was “well it matters if he’s alongside John Tavares.” Let me put that to rest for a minute. Here is Lee with and without the star centre:
With John Tavares (over 306 minutes): NYI has a goals for per 60 minutes at 5v5 of 3.33
Without John Tavares (nearly 888 minutes): NYI has a goals for per 60 minutes at 5v5 of 3.04.
While the goal and shot attempt rates go down, it’s not a plummet situation like Matt Beleskey without Ryan Getzlaf over the last few years. The Islanders still score quite a bit when Lee is playing away from Tavares. In fact, that mark of 3.04 goals for per 60 minutes would have been top-15 among regular NHL forwards, and neck-and-neck with Getzlaf (3.03).
There are two issues with Lee.
The first is there is no pedigree here. He was a sixth round pick in 2009, and stayed in the college system until the end of his 2013 season. He does have 25 goals in 59 career AHL games, though.
The second issue relates to the first, and that there is no real track record at the NHL level. Before this past season, he had played 24 regular season games. On the whole, he has 100 NHL regular season games.
So I pose this to the readers, Lee or Skinner in a keeper league moving forward? Let me know in the comments!
The splits for Hayes last year are kind of hilarious:
First 44 games: 17 points (0.39 points/game)
Last 35 games: 28 points (0.8 points/game)
The splits were so exaggerated, he doubled his output. He was playing a couple minutes more per game, but that accounts for only a fraction of the jump in points.
The question then becomes, what does he do this year?
A lot depends where they use him. Hayes did take 681 face-offs last year, but if he’s a centre for this team, that kills his value. He would certainly be used behind Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard, and that means playing with the likes of Emerson Etem, or Viktor Stalberg, or Jesper Fast, or… you know what, it wouldn’t matter.
He also could end up as a winger for them. The Rangers have a need for a fourth top-six winger besides Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, and Mats Zuccarello. Hayes has essentially played all three forward positions in recent memory, so he can fit anywhere.
As with a lot of players in fantasy hockey, the opportunity will determine Hayes’ value. If he is counted on as a third line centre, he won’t have the support to contribute. With that said, Dominic Moore is still around (and he’s proficient), and Jarret Stoll was brought in. It would appear to me that Hayes is destined for top-six winger minutes. If he can get to 15-16 minutes a game, 20 goals and 50 points is within reach.
Of the Ottawa wingers not named Bobby Ryan, it seems Mark Stone is getting the love. He finished the season with 25 points in his final 22 regular season games (including 11 goals). He is also three years younger than Hoffman.
Does anyone realize Hoffman had more goals last year? Well, one more goal anyway.
Sure it’s easy to say Hoffman came out of nowhere to score 27 goals, especially consider he was a 25-year old with just 34 goals in his previous 117 AHL games. All the same, Stone scored just 15 goals in 55 games as a 20-year old in the AHL himself. He was also a sixth round pick.
Here is another one: In Hoffman’s last two years of junior, he scored 98 goals in his last 118 regular season games in Drummondville. That is a lot, even if they were his Age 19 and 20 seasons. That was a while ago (2008-2010), but that history of goal scoring is still there.
One thing Hoffman showed in his season is that he wasn’t necessarily reliant on percentages even though he shot 13.6-percent overall. He averaged over 10 shots on goal per 60 minutes at five-on-five, a number that led the Senators, and had him in a virtual dead heat with Tyler Seguin (10.05). It was also more than noted shooters Phil Kessel (9.71) and Zach Parise (10.02). For comparison, Stone was at 6.63, less than Dwight King (6.77).
One way to mitigate full season slumps is through volume. That is why Alex Ovechkin has never scored fewer than 32 goals, including the lockout season; he takes so many shots that he’s going to score his fair share.
Ice time and line mates will factor in, but if I had to pick one to repeat 25 goals next year, it’s Hoffman, and not Stone. Stone was too reliant on his percentages to jack his scoring rate. He is young enough that his shooting rate can jump and this is moot, but until we see that, we have just the one year to go off of, and I’ll take volume over quality in fantasy.
*Most stats taken from Hockey Abstract. Others from Hockey Reference or Hockey Analysis.