Cage Match! Mike Hoffman vs. Artemi Panarin

Rick Roos

2016-01-06

Cage Match – Mike Hoffman vs. Artemi Panarin! Who is the better fantasy hockey own? Rick Roos breaks it down…

Our first match for 2016 is a doozy, pitting one of last season’s unexpected surprises now enjoying a breakout year (Mike Hoffman) against this season’s most productive first year player (Artemi Panarin). Which one is the better own for the remainder of 2015-16; and who’s poised to put up better numbers in the coming years? Time to find out – Cage Match starts now!

 

Career Path and Contract Status

After two successful seasons in the QMJHL (130 points – 71 goals – in 105 games), the Sens selected Hoffman 130th overall in 2009. Following another campaign in the Q (85 points – 46 goals – in 56 games), Hoffman landed in the AHL, where he played 242 total games mixed with brief NHL cups of coffee during which he compiled just six points in 29 contests.

But Hoffman’s 67 AHL points (30 goals, 37 assists) in 51 games for 2013-14 all but ensured he’d get a long look with Ottawa’s big club in 2014-15. And sure enough he did, seizing upon his opportunity with 48 points (27 goals) in 79 games, finishing with 22 points in his final 34 games, including 13 points in 12 February contests. This season, Hoffman, now 26, has truly broken out, and been a fixture in the top ten in goals and top 25 in points despite having missed four games.

The Russian-born Panarin began his career in 2008 at 17, but was never drafted. It wasn’t until 2013-14 that Panarin turned heads, posting 40 points in 51 KHL games. Last season Panarin tallied an even more impressive 62 points (26 goals) in 54 KHL contests, good enough to tie for fourth in points. In April 2015, Panarin inked a two year deal with the Blackhawks, then proceeded to post point per game numbers at the 2015 IIHF World Championships. The rest – namely his top output among first year players – has been history.

According to Cap Friendly, Hoffman is on a “prove yourself” one year, $2M deal and will be an RFA this summer. Panarin’s deal counts $0.812M against the salary cap this season and next (with bonuses and the like, its AAV is $3.3875M), after which he too will be an RFA.

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)

2015-16

18:57 (A.P.) – 3rd

18:20 (M.H.) – 3rd

2:50 (A.P.) – 2nd

2:23 (M.H.) – 6th

0:01 (A.P.) – 10th

0:02 (M.H.) – 10th

2014-15

14:33 (M.H.) – 7th

1:44 (M.H.) – 9th

0:03 (M.H.) – 13th

 

Hoffman’s Total Ice Time for 2014-15 looks worse than it was, due to being dragged down by October and November, when he’d yet to start producing. His other four full months featured Total Ice Times of 15:27, 14:55, 14:27 and 16:20. Among the 33 NHL forwards who scored 27+ goals last season, only Hoffman and Nikita Kucherov had less than 16:00 per game in Total Ice Time. But unlike Hoffman, Kucherov’s production hasn’t skyrocketed in 2015-16; thus, it might be Hoffman was lucky last season and into 2015-16. We’ll examine that below.

 

For this season, Hoffman’s only concerning number is his PP Ice Time ranking, which signifies he’s not on PP1. On the bright side, 2:23 per game and 6th among Sens forwards means he’s still getting a regular PP shift; but we’ll check his 5×4 IPP to see if he’s unsustainably producing more than expected.

 

Clearly Panarin has stepped directly into a major role with Chicago, trailing only Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in Total Ice Time per game among Blackhawk forwards and averaging less PP Ice Time per game than only Kane. On the surface, his Ice Times and rankings among Blackhawks forwards seem consistent with his top production thus far.

 

But what would happen to Panarin’s Ice Times if his production wanes? We gained some possible insight when Panarin had a stretch of only three points in nine games during December; and sure enough he had under 17:00 of Total Ice Time in three of those nine games plus his next game, which is significant since he hadn’t received Total Ice Time that low in any game since the season’s first contest.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2015-16

0.25 (A.P.)

0.11 (M.H.)

0.70 (A.P.)

0.34 (M.H.)

0.20 (A.P.)

0.45 (M.H.)

2.35 (A.P.)

2.91 (M.H.)

0.25 (A.P.)

0.20 (M.H.)

2014-15

0.17 (M.H.)

0.50 (M.H.)

0.41 (M.H.)

2.52 (M.H.)

0.03 (M.H.)

 

Neither player is a multi-cat stud; they’re light on PIM, and don’t even average a combined one Hit plus Blocked Shot per game. Both have solid SOG rates, particularly Hoffman, which should come as little surprise in view of his goal scoring proclivities. Hoffman’s lower PPP rate is attributable to his somewhat lower PP Ice Time per game as well as him not being on Ottawa’s PP1.

 

Overall, there doesn’t appear to be deeper meaning behind these numbers than what meets the eye, other than perhaps that Hoffman might have more room to improve in the future if he gets more and/or better PP Ice Time, which in turn could translate to a higher PP scoring rate.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

 

Season

Personal Shooting Percentage

PDO/SPSV (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

2015-16

11.7% (A.P.)

17.6% (M.H.)

1010 (A.P.)

1052 (M.H.)

76.0% (A.P.)

82.8% (M.H.)

50.0% (A.P.)

70.0% (M.H.)

73.2% (A.P.)

58.9% (M.H.)

2014-15

13.6% (M.H.)

1037 (M.H.)

76.5% (M.H.)

30.0% (M.H.)

59.5% (M.H.)

 

Both players have benefitted from good luck this season. For Hoffman, it’s come mainly in the form of Shooting % and PDO/SPSV, while for Panarin it’s been OZ%.

 

At first, I figured Panarin’s OZ% (2nd highest among the 282 NHL forwards who’ve appeared in 30+ games) was so high because he skates with Kane; but Kane’s is 65.3%, so pretty much every time Panarin takes the ice at 5×5 it’s either with Kane or, if not, then in the offensive zone. And considering that last season the highest OZ% for any scoring player was 69.2%, the reality is Panarin will eventually see his lowered, although it still should be high enough to enable him to maintain his current production level. The question is what might happen in future seasons, especially if he stops skating with Kane.

 

Hoffman’s good luck can be more directly linked to his production. Certainly a PDO/SPSV of 1052 is very high; and if Hoffman was shooting 13.6% (like last season) instead of 17.6% thus far, his goal total would be four fewer, making him a 70 point player. Although at first glance Hoffman’s combined 5×5 and 5×4 IPP being above 150 is extremely high, it’s not unheard of and can be a reflection of his talent. Plus, him having a 76.5% 5×5 IPP in 2014-15 goes a long way toward validating his 82.8% 5×5 for this season. But still – the takeaway is Hoffman’s point per game production is not sustainable given his current Ice Time.

 

Other Factors and Comparable Players

 

Panarin has never played more than 54 games in a pro campaign, although last season he did technically play 54 plus ten World Championship games. With added games and travel rigors of the NHL, Panarin could tire as the season wears on. And if the Blackhawks go deep into the playoffs, Panarin could log close to 100 total games in 2015-16, which in turn could lead to a hangover next season.

 

There’s also the reality that only three of Panarin’s 34 points through January 4th have come without Patrick Kane on the ice. And Kane has an assist on each of Panarin’s eleven goals, including the primary assist on all but four. The question becomes whether Panarin is simply riding Kane’s coattails, or helping make Kane better. If it’s the former, and they get separated at some point, or Kane gets hurt, then who knows whether Panarin will continue producing comparable numbers.

 

To forecast the future for Panarin, we have to factor in that by debuting at age 24 and producing top stats, Panarin is anomaly among anomalies. Since 1990-91, just nine forwards played 70+ games at age 24 in their first NHL season, with the number rising to 21 if we include players older than 24. And only three of the 21 exceeded 55 points (Sergei Nemchinov, Dmitri Kvartalnov, and Nikolai Borschevsky), with each doing so more than 20 years ago. What’s more – none of the three equaled their first year output in another NHL season. While this alone doesn’t signify that Panarin will follow the same downward path, it is worth noting.

 

In contrast, Hoffman is a sniper who’s scored goals despite a variety of line configurations. In fact, through January 4th no single player had been on the ice for even half of Hoffman’s 34 points, impressively suggesting it’s largely Hoffman who’s creating offense for the team, and, in turn, making that offense sustainable regardless of who’s on the same line as him.

 

If we look at past player comparisons for Hoffman, we see he’s also somewhat of an anomaly. Ignoring his one and three game call ups in 2011-12 and 2012-13, Hoffman is on pace for 70 career goals and 182 career games played by the end of 2015-16, translating to 0.384 goals per game over what’s essentially been his first three seasons. Since 2000-01, only ten forwards played 182+ games over their first three seasons while averaging 0.384+ goals per game. Most are/were sustained superstars (Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Sidney Crosby, and Dany Heatley), two had several solid seasons but ultimately didn’t fully live up to early expectations (Thomas Vanek, Rick Nash), while the other two faded after early success (Alex Semin, Jonathan Cheechoo).

 

What’s interesting is only one of the ten was as old as Hoffman by his third season — Cheechoo, the “worst” of the bunch. Is Hoffman at risk of being Cheechoo 2.0? Probably not, since he’s found success with a variety of linemates, while Cheechoo only produced while tethered to Joe Thornton during the absolute prime of Jumbo Joe’s career. Even still, this does have to be labeled a question mark.

 

Who Wins?

 

Picking a winner mostly boils down to deciding whose story checks out better, since both players have some question marks. I give the slight edge to Hoffman, mainly because he’s produced well not just this season but nearly half of last season, plus he’s been able to score no matter who plays alongside him and without top PP Ice Time thus far. With Panarin, beyond the Kane factor and lack of successful player comparisons, there’s also short term concern about the rigors of the 82+ game NHL season catching up to him, whereas there are no such question marks with Hoffman, who improved as he went along in the 2014-15 campaign.

 

What should you do if you own either player? I think a strong case can be made to cash in on Panarin mania by trading him now. In one-year leagues, a case could be made that the best to hope for is he maintains his current pace; however, there’s viable concern his production might slide, which already occurred in December. In keepers, the “will he stay with Kane” factor looms, as do past player comparisons. Plus, him playing for a high profile team like Chicago helps raise his value; but by the same token, if he slumps as the season goes on, then folks could see him as a fluke, and his value could drop like a stone. To me, this all sounds like he’s a strong sell high candidate.

 

Hoffman also could qualify as a sell high in one-year leagues due to metrics suggesting he should be closer to a 70-point player. But he’s a hold or even a soft buy in keepers due to his goal scoring and sustained top production despite lack of PP1 Ice Time as well as past player comparisons, which trump concerns that he’s only doing this for a pay day or that he’ll morph into Cheechoo 2.0.

 

 

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
EVGENI MALKIN PIT 5 4 7 11
ADAM FOX NYR 4 1 6 7
JAKUB VORACEK PHI 6 0 10 10
NATHAN MACKINNON COL 5 2 6 8
MIKA ZIBANEJAD NYR 29 25 19 44
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 24 16 20 36
KEVIN FIALA MIN 11 9 7 16
EVANDER KANE S.J 7 5 5 10
KYLE CONNOR WPG 7 8 2 10
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS EDM 17 8 16 24

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency MTL Players
20.8% MAX DOMI BRENDAN GALLAGHER CHARLES HUDON
20.8% ARTTURI LEHKONEN NICK SUZUKI JORDAN WEAL
19.5% JOEL ARMIA PAUL BYRON PHILLIP DANAULT

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