Wild West: Top Western Conference Right Wings 2017-18
With the playoffs well underway, we will shift gears for a few weeks and take a look at the most valuable players in the west at their position this year. Using the Fantasy Hockey Geek ranking tool, we are able to get a ranking that combines all of a player’s stats for the searched categories. For the purposes of this series, the ranks are based on a 12 team, head-to-head league, using the categories of goals (G), assists (A), power play points (PPP), shots (S), hits (HT) and blocks (BLK) for forwards/defensemen and wins (W), saves (SV), save percentage (S%) and goals against average (GAA) for goalies. Player eligibility for this series is based on Yahoo, and any draft ranks are based on average draft positions compiled from Yahoo, ESPN and CBS by FantasyPros.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at our top right wings this year.
3. Patrik Laine (42)
Rounding out our top three right wings is Patrik Laine with an overall rank of 42. Simply put, this means that while he is the third most valuable right wing in the West, he was the 42nd most valuable player in the league last year, based on the above categories. Laine played in all 82 games in his second season and put together nice stat line of 44G, 26 A and 241 shots.
Laine rises to the top three largely because of the number of goals he scored this year. His 44 goals was second in the league, behind only Alex Ovechkin. His 2017-28 goal total is up from 36 last year, but was also accompanied by a rise in shots (from 204 to 241). That rise is slightly surprising since his over all time on ice (TOI) is down from last year, but because of it his personal shooting percentage (18.3) only changes slightly(from 17.6). That relative consistency means he is more likely to be able to keep up that high shooting percentage, but another season or two will help us figure out exactly how high it can be.
The second reason for Laine’s value this year is his power play numbers. He has more doubled his PPP (31) over last year (14). Part of this is likely due to Laine spending more time on the power play this year, and receiving a larger share of his team’s power play minutes, but a large part of the power play success will be described below in reference for another player, so hang tight for just one moment. Given his shooting and scoring seems to relatively consistent, the power play question will be a very important one to consider for his value next year.
2. Tyler Seguin (30)
Tyler Seguin ranks as the second most productive right wing in the Western Conference, and the 30th most valuable player overall. Seguin produced 40G, 38A for 78 points, and capped it off with 335 shots.
Seguin has been a valuable wing for several years, and while many of his numbers are consistent with those recent seasons, he did kick it up a notch in a couple of categories. His career high goals this season are big jump from last year’s 26, though he has hit 37 several times. A big reason for this was his shot count for the year. While Seguin has been a good shooter for many years, he increased his previous career mark of 301 last year to 335. That means his overall shooting percentage is very much in line with recent years, and in fact is the second lowest over the last five years. His power play numbers all look pretty consistent over the last few years, but he did see an increase of about a minute and a half of TOI from his previous high, and almost two minutes per game over last year. That increase in TOI could support the increase in shots, which certainly supports his increase in goals this year. The big question mark for Seguin, and indeed for Dallas is what impact a new coach will have for next year.
1. Blake Wheeler (8)
Blake Wheeler tops the class with an overall rank of 8 based on the stats described above. He managed his highest point (91), point per game totals (1.12) and power play point (40) totals of any season thus far. He also finished just shy of 100 hits, which is actually down slightly for him, though is still a great contribution for someone putting up points like Wheeler did.
So how did Wheeler do it? His shot count (246) was actually slightly lower this year as was his shooting percentage (9.3), which predictably lead to a slightly lower goal total (23 v 26 for the past three seasons). His shot count was the lowest it has been in three years, even though he has been seeing a slight increase in TOI each year. It is clear that his value this year was not because of his goals or his shots, if anything he could be marginally better in those categories based on his recent history.
The real value was on the power play. His power play point totals this year are double his highest previous (21), sound familiar? This is pretty curious considering his power play time on ice and his share of the team’s power play have essentially not changed through the past four seasons. As a team, Winnipeg even saw essentially the same amount of time on the power play (431 minutes vs 435) this year to last year. So what gives? It turns out that Winnipeg’s production on the power play is quite different. They managed to score 64 goals this year while scoring only 48 last year. Wheeler specifically was on the ice for 46 goals this year on the power play, up from 29 last year. The team scored on 17.75% of the power play shots taken when Wheeler was on the ice this year, but only 12.25% last year. The moral of this story? Winnipeg as a team had a more productive power play this year than last, and Wheeler’s unit in particular was significantly more effective. There were more goals to be a part of and Wheeler took full advantage. Repeating that feat is the question, and perhaps we will look further into the Winnipeg’s power play in a future article.
Bubble Players (just missed a top ranking)
Joe Pavelski (46) had a strong second half of the season, which helped make up for a bit of his lackluster beginnings. He formed a strong pairing with Evander Kane to finish the season and ended with a stat line of 22G, 44A for 66 points in 82 games.
Dustin Brown (50) surprised everyone this year. He was undrafted in essentially all leagues, but enjoyed a resurgence by spending over 80% of his even strength shifts, and essentially all of his power play time with Anze Kopitar. His stat line of 28G, 33A for 61 points in 81 games is an excellent rebound by itself, but his extra value comes in hits leagues where he also added 189 hits.
Mikko Rantanen (56) also provided incredible value this year. Unlike Brown, he was drafted in more leagues (though had an average draft position of 213 over the three sites), but clearly no one was expecting the offensive outburst this year. He managed it by complementing an incredible performance by Nathan MacKinnon. Rantanen is one of only two Western Conference right wings to pass the point per game threshold with a total of 29G and 55A for 84 points.
Alexander Radulov (65), Vladimir Tarasenko (67) and Patrick Kane (89) all missed the bubble this year. Adding the blocks and hit categories doesn’t help them, but our expectations were still higher for them. Radulov performed well in his first year in Dallas (27G, 45A for 72 points), but lower shot and peripheral numbers kept him off of the bubble. Tarasenko had the most shots of his career (306), but had his lowest goal (33) and assist (33) numbers of the last four years while essentially still playing a full season. Kane managed 75 points this year, which is great for most players, but is a 30 point drop from the 106 points he managed two years ago and a 14 point drop from the 89 he put up last year.
This section is typically reserved for those players who did not make the top few spots, but were more than worth their draft position, or for that player who was not drafted at all that provided value. In the case of the right wings though I must defer to the earlier summary of Dustin Brown and Mikko Rantanen. One player who was not drafted at all ends up being the fifth most valuable right wing, and the sixth was drafted 213 overall.
Thanks for reading. Next week, left wings.
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