Playoff Heroes

Rick Roos

2017-06-07

Is there a way to determine which playoff success stories will continue into next season?

With the added spotlight that’s focused on players and their achievements, the Stanley Cup playoffs provide the perfect recipe for fantasy hype. Who among us hasn’t reached for a skater that shined in May and June, only to see him come back to earth with a crashing thud once the next regular season rolled around? But that got me wondering – how do playoff breakout skaters fare, beyond just the high-profile misses? Are we, as poolies, perhaps too hesitant to embrace skaters who break out while on the NHL’s biggest stage?

I figure this is an area ripe for analysis. While the past data I uncover won’t be determinative, it could provide us with a better/clearer picture that, in turn, can help us decide which playoff breakouts to perhaps trust more and which ones we should view with added skepticism.

Year-by-Year Playoff Breakout Data for Skaters

The table below shows data for the past 11 playoffs, plus 2017 thus far. For each Playoff Year, I listed Total Forwards to refer to forwards who appeared in 10+ playoff games (to ensure a large enough sample size) while averaging 0.75+ points per game (translating to just above a 61+ point full season scoring pace) and Total D-men to refer to defensemen who appeared in 10+ playoff games while averaging 0.50+ points per game (translating to a 41+ point full season scoring pace).

The Total Breakout Forwards data consists of the subset of Total Forwards who’d never previously scored 50 points in a full season, while Total Breakout D-Men corresponds to the subset of the Total D-Men who’d never previously scored 30+ points in a full season. Thus, at least on paper, these were true breakouts.

 

Playoff Year

Total Forwards

Total Breakout Forwards

Total

D-men

Total Breakout D-men

2006

17

2 (Derek Roy, Fernando Pisani)

8

2 (Henrik Tallinder, Christian Ehrhoff)

2007

16

None

9

1 (Fedor Tyutin)

2008

23

2 (Johan Franzen, Brandon Dubinsky)

12

1 (Stephane Robidas)

2009

19

1 (Milan Lucic)

15

None

2010

29

3 (Ville Leino, Claude Giroux, Valtteri Filppula)

19

1 (P.K. Subban)

2011

20

3 (Brad Marchand, Steve Downie, Joel Ward)

9

1 (Cody Franson)

2012

10

1 (Brayden Schenn)

7

2 (Bryce Salvador, Rostislav Klesla)

2013

15

2 (Kyle Turris, Derick Brassard)

9

1 (Marc Methot)

2014

15

3 (Brandon Saad, Lars Eller, Chris Krieder)

11

1 (Dougie Hamilton)

2015

11

1 (Jakob Silfverberg)

11

None

2016

20

5 (Nick Bonino, Colin Wilson, Alex Killorn, Robby Fabbri, Jonathan Drouin)

11

None

2017

17

2 (Jakob Silfverberg, Jake Guentzel)

10

2 (Shea Theodore, Joel Edmundson)

 

General Observations

There were more than twice as many playoff breakouts from forwards (25) as defensemen (12). But when you think about it that’s not surprising since winning in the playoffs is often more about playing tight defense, which in turn becomes a far higher priority for most rearguards than piling on points.

Something else that isn’t reflected here but was apparent when I gathered data — the adage that some skaters are playoff machines is seemingly true. Several forwards and defensemen appeared on the Total Forwards or Total D-men lists multiple times. So although of course the most important factor in determining who to choose in playoff pools is which teams you believe will go farthest, you should indeed factor past playoff scoring success into deciding whether (and, if so, where) to draft a skater.

Also, while of course it’s easy to remember flameouts/flukes like Pisani, Leino, Downie, Eller, Tallinder, Methot, Klesla, and Salvador, truth is there’ve been nearly as many huge successes as massive failures. Look no further than the likes of Roy, Giroux, and Marchand among forwards, each of whom went on to score 80+ points in one or more regular seasons, plus Ehrhoff, Subban, Hamilton, who all went on to post 50+ points at least once.

Let’s look more closely at what all these players did before and after their playoff breakouts, to try and draw some specific conclusions.

Additional Data

The tables below examine, for Total Breakout Forwards and D-men, the correlation between their career highs in points (to date) and (a) the age when they broke out, (b) their prior career high before breaking out, and (c) their entry draft spot. I made the cut off 2014 since that will have given each player at least three subsequent seasons to make his mark.

Two forwards were undrafted, so I didn’t factor them into the average for draft position although if I had then of course it would’ve raised the number considerably. The asterisk corresponds to a total that I projected upward to 49 due to corresponding to 29 points in 48 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign.

Forwards

Ultimate Career High in Points

Total Number Who Achieved That Career High

Prior Career High in Points

Age in Playoff Breakout Season

Entry Draft Selection

(Overall Pick)

80+

3

46, 47, 41

(Average = 44.6)

22, 23, 24

(Average = 23)

22, 32, 71

(Average = 41)

70-79

None

Not Applicable

Not Applicable

Not Applicable

60-69

4

40, 49*, 47, 42

(Average = 44.5)

20, 23, 25, 26

(Average = 23.5)

3, 6, 50, 95

(Average = 38.5)

50-59

6

38, 40, 11, 18, 47, 37

(Average = 31.8)

20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 28

(Average = 23.3)

5, 19, 43, 60, 97, Undrafted

(Average = 37.3)

40-49

2

46, 35

(Average = 40.5)

24, 30

(Average = 27)

29, Undrafted

30-39

2

37, 30

(Average = 33.5)

25, 29

(Average = 27)

13, 195

(Average = 104)

 

Defensemen

Ultimate Career High in Points

Total Number Who Achieved That Career High

Prior Career High in Points

Age in Playoff Breakout Season

Entry Draft Selection (Overall Pick)

60+

1

2 (but in only 2 total games)

21

43

50-59

3

25, 23

(Average = 24)

20, 23

(Average – 21.5)

9, 106

(Average = 57.5)

40-49

1

26

31

164

30-39

3

29, 25

(Average = 27)

23, 23

(Average = 23)

40, 79

(Average = 59.5)

20-29

3

21, 22, 17

(Average = 20)

27, 27, 30

(Average = 28)

4, 48, 168

(Average = 73.3)

10-19

1

16

36

138

 

Some specific conclusions drawn from this data are as follows:

Age

Age seems to matter to at least some extent in terms of whether a playoff breakout might ultimately lead to future fantasy success.

Four of the five forwards who were over age 25 when they broke out ended up not reaching the 60-point mark (or at least not yet), and the lone age 26+ forward who did ultimately reach 60+ (Valtteri Filppula) actually had 16 points in 23 playoff games at age 25, just missing out on qualifying at that age. Also, no forward who broke out at age 23 or younger failed to eventually score at least 50+ points.

For defensemen, the two (P.K. Subban and Dougie Hamilton) who broke out while they were under age 23 went on to major success, and each defenseman who was younger than 27 managed 30+ points at least once. The only odd apple was Stephane Robidas, who broke out at 31 and later went on to post 41 points, although for what it’s worth his high among his other full seasons was only 30.

Draft Spot

As far as draft spot correlating to success rate, the data was far from clear cut.

For forwards, the success rate actually increased as average draft position dropped. But as you can see, the overall data was very close. It is notable that among the seven forwards who ultimately posted 60+ points, the five (Giroux, Roy, Turris, Brassard, Lucic) selected in the top 50 overall went on to establish their career high (to date) within two seasons of their playoff breakout. Thus, such players might pay dividends quicker, but also might be more at risk of peaking early.

For defensemen, the earlier – on average – they were drafted the more likely they ultimately found better fantasy success. But again, the data was pretty close.

Prior Career High

With respect to whether a skater’s prior career high was predictive of future success, no breakout forward went on to post 60+ points without having scored 40+ points prior to his playoff breakout. However, several players who didn’t ultimately reach the 60+ mark had hit 40+ before breaking out, so it’s apparently not a determinative factor. On the defenseman side, there was no clear-cut data.

What This Means for 2015, 2016, and 2017 Playoff Breakout Performers

For forwards, things look better for Jakob Silfverberg, Robby Fabbri, Alex Killorn, Jonathan Drouin, and Jake Guentzel (all were 25 or younger when breaking out) than for Colin Wilson (age 26) or Nick Bonino (age 28). It’s also notable that Drouin, Fabbri, and Silfverberg were drafted within the top 50. however, the only two who could still post 60+ points within two seasons of their playoff breakout are Drouin and Fabbri, who, along with Guentzel, were actually age 23 of younger when they broke out.

Lastly, none of Silfverberg, Fabbri, Drouin or Guentzel posted 40+ points in a regular season before breaking out, so that doesn’t bode well for them being huge home run successes, although for what it’s worth Guentzel did have his 33 points in only 40 games for a scoring pace well above 40. Overall, it’s Guentzel, Drouin, and Fabbri who seem to have the most factors working in their favor for translating a postseason breakout into fantasy success. But none has all factors working in his favor.

For defensemen, there’s only Shea Theodore and Joel Edmundson who broke out within the last three playoff campaigns. Fortunately for Theodore and poolies who own him, he meets the under-23 age criteria that has aligned with d-men who ultimately score 50+ points. Of course it’s not that simple, but nevertheless something to definitely keep in mind. As for Edmundson, he's 23 and based on the type of style he plays plus the depth chart in St. Louis he's unlikely to be a big time scorer. However, this run during the playoffs could be a preview of him ultimately becoming a 30+ point rearguard, which, when combined with his multi-cat prowess, could be a big asset in certain leagues.

UPCOMING GAMES

Mar 31 - 19:03 WSH vs TOR
Mar 31 - 19:03 CAR vs BOS
Mar 31 - 19:03 T.B vs OTT
Mar 31 - 19:03 PIT vs N.J
Mar 31 - 19:03 NYI vs MIN
Mar 31 - 20:03 STL vs DET
Mar 31 - 20:03 CHI vs MTL
Mar 31 - 21:03 CGY vs WPG
Mar 31 - 21:03 COL vs ARI
Mar 31 - 21:03 EDM vs VGK
Mar 31 - 22:03 L.A vs S.J

STARTING GOALIES

  • No data at this moment.

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
KYLE CONNOR WPG 7 8 2 10
EVANDER KANE S.J 7 5 5 10
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS EDM 17 8 16 24

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency EDM Players
32.7% LEON DRAISAITL TYLER ENNIS KAILER YAMAMOTO
27.3% ZACK KASSIAN CONNOR MCDAVID RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS
8.8% ALEX CHIASSON JUJHAR KHAIRA JAMES NEAL

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