With the turning of the calendar to 2019, enough of the season has passed for me to resume my series of periodic columns I refer to as “Goldipucks and the Three Skaters.” For first time readers, or those who are in need of a refresher, it’s a play on the Goldilocks and the Three Bears story, except instead of three bowls of porridge I’m covering three skaters and declaring one too hot (i.e., doing unsustainably better than he should), another too cold (i.e., doing unsustainably worse), and a third “just right” (i.e., producing where he should). I also assign each skater a 1-10 rating, indicating, on a relative scale, just how hot (rated 7-10, where 10 is the most unsustainably hot), how cold (rated 1-3, where 1 is the most unsustainably cold), or how “just right” (rated 4-6, where 5 is the most “just right”) he is.
Let’s dive right in! Our three skaters this week are Elias Lindholm, Sam Reinhart, and Drew Doughty. Before reading any further, see if you can guess which one is too hot, which is too cold, and which is just right? Take a stab and see if you’re right after you read on.
The former top-five selection has shown flashes of solid play in parts of his campaigns with Carolina, but never could put together a solid 82 game season. So when he was dished to Calgary this past summer much was expected of him, presuming he could lock down a top line gig over James Neal who’d signed there as a UFA. Fast forward to now, and Neal has played an injury-filled, poor first half while Lindholm has looked superb alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. But the question is whether Lindholm can keep up his blistering first-half pace. And to that, the answer is yes.
A major key is Lindholm, in addition to playing on Calgary’s top line at ES, has all but locked down a spot on the PP1 of a team converting over 20% of the PP opportunities, has thus far skated for over 60% of the team’s PP minutes (having never previously seen his percentage rise above 53%), and has responded with more PPPts already this season than any of his previous campaigns. And it’s not just his PP Time that’s up – he’s skating above 20:30 per game, which is easily over two minutes more per contest than he’d averaged in any past season. That, in turn, has helped him raise his SOG per game to a career best, which can only continue to help his scoring.
And although it’s true that Lindholm’s shooting percentage is much higher than his previous best, his IPP (i.e., the percentage of points he receives on goals scored while he’s on the ice) stands at 57%, which would mark only the second time in the last four seasons he was below 66%. While to some degree that’s a function of playing with skilled linemates, odds are that number will climb enough to prevent a drop in scoring rate if/when his shooting percentage falls. What’s more, his over 11% team shooting percentage at 5×5 might be high for him, but is not too far above the norm for his linemates Gaudreau and Monahan, who previously had to settle for far worse than Lindholm to complete their trio, meaning, in turn, a higher team shooting percentage is entirely reasonable.
Let’s also not overlook the likely “take that” factor, where Lindholm is probably playing even harder to show Carolina what a mistake it made in trading him. Overall, I’d say Lindholm's current output is JUST RIGHT. As such, he gets a rating of rating of 5.25 (a tick higher than 5.0 due to his 5×5 team shooting percentage), suggesting he should score at or very close to his current pace over the rest of the season, which in turn it good news for poolies who own him and get to continue enjoying the ride.
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Looking at Reinhart’s 50 point output from 2017-18 is deceiving, as 37 of those points came in his final 41 contests following only 13 points in the first half. For 2018-19 he’s picked up where he left off, with a just under a point per game in the first half (40 points in 41 games). But can he continue at that pace? The answer is no……………because he’s poised to do even better!
Once again for 2018-19 Reinhart’s point total is misleading at first glance, as it took until the second quarter for the team to not only give him more ice time per contest (upping it by a full two minutes) but also reunite him with Jack Eichel, with whom he skated side-by-side for nearly all of the second half of 2017-18. The result was 25 points (43 SOG) in his most recent 20 games as compared to 13 points (38 SOG) in his first 20 contests for 2018-19. That alone explains why, when looking at season-long totals, Reinhart is “too cold;” but wait, there’s even more.
Last season Reinhart had 59 SOG in his last 20 contests when, as now, he was receiving 19 minutes of ice time per game, so there is a track record of him firing 3 SOG per game. Accordingly, despite sharing a line at even strength with Jeff Skinner and Jack Eichel, who both fire pucks on net at some of the highest rates per game (Eichel is ranked 5th among forwards; Skinner 19th), Reinhart should see further SOG gains, and, with that, even more points.
And even if added SOGs somehow don’t materialize, that should mean Reinhart is taking on more of a playmaking role, and, in turn, should see his rate of secondary assists rate rise from the barely one per three assists it is now. In other words, Reinhart is all but assured to see further scoring gains, either in the form of goals due to him shooting more or in the form of secondary assists from playing on the same line as Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner.
Moreover, Reinhart ended 2017-18 with 15 PPPts in those final 41 games, yet only had ten in the first half of 2018-19. As Reinhart is taking the ice for a slightly higher percentage of PP time this season versus last, his PP scoring rate should likewise grow. And in looking at his luck metrics, his IPP is rising for the second straight season, which is consistent with a player’s development and growth, plus his offensive zone starting percentage is over 60% after never having been even 54% in a past season, which should help his scoring continue to climb.
Yes, Reinhart’s 5×5 team shooting percentage (9.8%) is by far the highest it’s been during his still brief career; however, it’s below 10%, which is a reasonable number for one of the NHL’s top lines. In fact, it trails the rates we’re seeing among the top players on the top producing lines in Toronto (over 12%) as well as Tampa Bay (over 11%) and is even a bit below the 10-10.5% rates sported by top line players in Colorado, Boston, and, as noted above, Calgary.
All things considered, we should expect Reinhart to continue to score at better than a point per game rate ala what he did in the second quarter of this season. Accordingly, Reinhart is TOO COLD. He gets a rating of rating of 2.25, signifying that an 85-90+ point season should be well within reach when all is said and done for 2018-19.
It’s no secret that Kings skaters are disappointing the poolies who own them. This includes Doughty, who set a career high in points in 2018-19. Things can only improve for LA and Doughty in the second half though, right? I hate to break it to the Doughty owners out there, but despite being well below his scoring pace from last season, if anything he’s scoring at a higher rate than may be sustainable.
Since Doughty’s breakout 2009-10 second campaign, LA has scored under 200 goals in three seasons (2011-12, 2013-14 and 2016-17) and Doughty’s 82 game respective scoring rates in those seasons were, 38, 39, and 44 points, for a cumulative average of less than a point per every other game. What’s more, in those same seasons the team tallied 49, 43, and 46 PPGs, with Doughty accumulating 13, 16, and 19 PPPts, for a rate of roughly one PPPt per each of his team’s PPGs (48/138 = 34%) and a single season high of 44%.
All this is relevant because for 2018-19 thus far LA is on pace to score a mere 185 goals and 34 PPGs, yet Doughty is on pace for 47 points (i.e., about 17% higher than his average in the team’s other three seasons with fewer than 200 goals) and 23 PPPts (i.e., for a far higher rate of PPPts per team PPGs than he had in those three past seasons). With the way things have unfolded in past comparable sub-200 goal seasons, Doughty is overperforming and should see his stats worsen, perhaps even if the team improves somewhat in the second half.
The theory that Doughty overproducing is also supported by his IPP, which, at 58%, would mark a career high, having never previously bested 48% even in his 59 and 60 point seasons. Chances are that drops and, in turn, his scoring as well. Also, while at first glance a 5.85% team shooting percentage at 5×5 seems too low to be sustainable, keep in mind prior to last season Doughty saw his percentage in this statistic drop a remarkable four straight seasons (7.58% to 7.45% to 7.03% to 6.58% to 6.46%) so chances are even if this number does rise it wouldn’t be by enough to offset points he figures to lose from his IPP also dropping.
Lastly, Doughty is on pace to average fewer than two SOG per game for the first time in eight seasons; and although one of his two best seasons also saw him fire fewer than two pucks on net per contest, that was when LA scored 241 goals. Doughty’s drop in SOG rate also likely signifies him slowing down as a player, which is something else to keep in mind, as although he’s only 29 he’s played over 900 career games (including the playoffs) already and over 21,000 regular season minutes, making him one of only three players to exceed even 19,000 minutes over the same time span. In other words, Doughty is due to hit a wall, and when he does he might hit it harder than poolies would expect/want.
These factors all combine to strongly suggest that Doughty is TOO HOT. I’d expect him to score a fair bit below a point per every other game rate over the rest of 2018-19, so I’m assigning him a too hot rating of 8.75 and encouraging those of you who can sell in one-year leagues to do so, lest you get stuck with him as his production wanes.
I hope you enjoyed the return of the Goldipucks feature. Look for it to appear again a few more times before the season is done. Next week though, it’s back to your regularly scheduled Cage Match column.