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Well, it’s not long now as the season starts in just under a month. With Labour Day weekend behind us, everyone is presumably done their fantasy football drafts at this point. That means those who play multiple fantasy sports should be locked in on their hockey drafts by now.
I’ve been slow finishing them – that seems to happen every year – but I’m starting to put the finishing touches on my projections. I will be doing both points-only, standard Yahoo, and real-time stats leagues. For those that still use ATOI, I don’t know what to tell you other than please don’t.
To that end, the roll out of my projections will start today in these Ramblings and likely continue for the bulk of the next two weeks. Today the focus will be on points-only formats. Here are a few conditions about the rankings below:
- Everyone here has the assumption of 82 games played. That won’t be the case when projections are finalized, but over the years I’ve found the best way to start projections is by seeing where everyone would rank of all was equal. We could go a step further and use context-neutral rankings where everyone is given equal ice time and shot-creation numbers. The problem there is nothing in sports exists in a vacuum and it can obfuscate the goal, which is to seek out value within a given context, not absent of it. These also aren’t adjusted for age yet.
- These are weighted three-year averages. Connor McDavid, for example, has 20 power-play points underlying his total production. That’s because the most recent season is most heavily weighted, and the Oilers PP last year was a disaster. It’s easily conceivable that with the talent available for a PP1 in Edmonton, McDavid could exceed that projection in 2018-19 by 50 percent. Such is one of the blind spots of simply using three-year weighted averages.
- Corsica’s individual expected goals are being used. Guys who play tight to the net in the offensive zone like Patric Hornqvist or Brendan Gallagher will grade out well, while guys who are neither volume shooters nor net-front guys won’t. For example, these (still unrefined) projections have Mark Scheifele good for 21.4 expected goals this year. His 82-game average over the last three years by actual goals is 32.8. If we were to use his three-year 82-game actual goal average instead of his three-year 82-game expected goal average, his overall points ranking here would jump from just outside the top-20 to just inside the top-10.
- I haven’t added true rookies yet, so guys like Rasmus Dahlin or Andrei Svechnikov aren’t on the list.
With those caveats out of the way, let’s get to it.
To start us off, here’s the top-20 by total points:
Seeing McDavid number-1 is not a shock, though most people are going to have him projected for more points. Once I adjust these, I will as well. Don’t forget: a top-notch PP would have him at well over 100.
I would assume that seeing Ryan Getzlaf at number-2 is a shock to some. No, I’m not saying he’ll put up 86 points, but with 2017-18 being heavily weighted here, and he did have 61 points in 56 games last year, it does make sense. Remember that he was well over a point per game and did so without scoring a power play goal. (I discussed this last month here.) Should Ryan Kesler not be ready to start the year, or play at all for that matter, Getzlaf is going to probably be over 21 minutes a game again. There are reasons to be low on the Ducks, but in a points-only format, taking a gamble on getting 75 games from Getzlaf seems like a good one to take.
Johnny Gaudreau fell just outside the top-10. Now, widespread fantasy hockey chatter is really only going to start kicking up now, but it does seem he’s kind of going under the radar. It depends on the type of league because his peripheral stats won’t be strong but in points-only leagues, he can easily sneak into the top-5 producers. Gaudreau managed 84 points in 80 games last year and did so without a Calgary PP firing on all cylinders, a rotating cast at right wing, and Sean Monahan being cobbled together with Band-Aids and chicken wire. If that power play can be consistent all year and someone like James Neal or Elias Lindholm providing a legitimate threat on the right side for the first time since Jiri Hudler, the sky is the limit points-wise for Johnny Hockey.
You might wonder why only 76 points for Barzal after the 85 points last year. It’s mostly just a handful of goals difference at even strength and power play because of the way it’s calculated. That’s all.
Back to the original point, I’m not sure how many people realize this but Barzal had one more point than Tavares did last year, and Barzal accomplished this without about 40 fewer minutes at even strength and no time on the penalty kill. (Tavares had a few SHPs last year.) There’s a whole argument to be had about Barzal now having to play top competition but with that will come a lot more ice time as well. Tavares’s ice time will likely decline given his new team has two other legitimate first-line centres. There’s also the power-play issue; the Leafs split across two units whereas the Islanders had a heavily-used top unit last year. James van Riemsdyk led the Leafs in PP minutes last year with 185, and Tavares had 259 with the Islanders. Assuming a constant point rate on the PP, the loss in PP ice time alone would knock nearly 10 PPPs off Tavares’s 2017-18 total.
Anyway, I’m not saying I would draft Barzal over Tavares. At least, I’m not saying that yet. But don’t discount the possibility that Barzal out-points Tavares this year. Key word: possibility.
Yes, I do think Barzal is that good.
Mark Stone is a wild player to try and project this year. We all expect the Senators to be bad, and they very likely will be. However, if he skates on the top line with Matt Duchene, has Erik Karlsson behind him, and get heavy usage on the top PP unit, he can still have a good year fantasy-wise. The problem is all three guys mentioned are pending UFAs and there’s a possibility all three are in different uniforms by March. There are a wide range of outcomes here. If he finished with 70 points, I would not be surprised. If he finished with 50 points, I would also not be surprised.
Klingberg’s 82-game average for his career is 58 points, and that includes a poor (for him) 2016-17 season where he failed to crack 50 points. There’s a new coach in town who, hopefully, won’t stifle this team offensively like Ken Hitchcock did. There is enough talent to have an elite power-play unit. Klingberg repeating something close to his 2017-18 season doesn’t seem impossible.
Moving a bit further down the list, there was quite the eclectic mix just inside the top-50 all within a couple points of each other:
A few words on these.
Don’t read anything into Josh Bailey’s projection just yet. These are assuming he’ll skate with Barzal but I do think he ends up skating on the second line, so his point totals are going to be nerfed hard.
Before Oilers fans get mad, I can’t reiterate often enough that these point projections are not refined yet and are just a starting point, not the finish line. Also, Draisaitl has usually outscored his expected goal totals, which explains part of the differential.
With all that said, Leon The Professional is likely locked into the second-line role this year, away from McDavid. How much is that going to impact his scoring? On the flipside, he should be a lot better on the power play, so that could mitigate part of the decline. It’ll be an interesting year to see how he fares as the go-to second-line centre.
Sabres fans: same as Draisaitl. Eichel is pretty good at outscoring his expected goal totals. If he scores at even strength this year at roughly the same rate he has for his career, you can easily add 10 points to his total here, which would push him into the top-20 scorers, in the same range as centres like Barzal and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Let’s get to a few surprises.
Kailer Yamamoto’s projections are through the roof:
The thing is, I don’t think it’s really that crazy. This team is starved for talented right wingers and it comes down to Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi. In a just world, in some combination, those two will be the top-six right wingers. If Ty Rattie is on the top line come November, I’ll be bald by December.
Anyway, on a per-minute basis, Yamamoto’s shot rates were enormous in his brief nine-game showcase last year. He was snake-bit, but his expected goal rates are very high. Add that to the potential of skating alongside McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at five-on-five, and no, 60 points is not unrealistic. I wouldn’t draft him at a spot expecting 60 points, but he should be a target outside the top-150 picks.
Another rookie who ranks highly is Dylan Sikura. If all goes right in training camp, he could emerge as the left winger with Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane. He’ll be available even later than Yamamoto, and both guys could crack 50 points for cheap.
Evander Kane and Corey Perry, more or less, graded out for similar point production, though Kane’s goal scoring is expected to be much higher. I don’t feel very confident in Perry’s projection, considering it’s just under 58 points and he’s failed to clear that mark in each of the last two seasons. I guess if Carlyle is stubborn and sticks him on the top line all year, he could.
The last guy I will mention is Josh Anderson. Anyone who reads my work knows that I’ve really come around on him over the last year and he grades out very highly for goals scored at even strength. His issue is two-fold: will he get top PP minutes, and will his line mates score enough to boost his assist totals? As it is, I have him as one of 10 players to score 20 even strength goals (for the last time, I will state that these projections will change over the next week or so), but very little in the way of PP production or assists. But if his circumstances in these issues were to change, there is a lot of upside here. For now, though, I have him at 20.8 even-strength goals and at just 37.4 total points.
That’s it for today. Anyone that was mentioned that you guys want me to discuss briefly, hit up the comments. More on this Thursday.