Big news for the Penguins and their fans as Justin Schultz appeared and skated at the team’s gameday skate on Wednesday. He did so in a non-contact jersey but considering he’s returning from a broken ankle suffered three and a half months ago, it’s a very good sign. He’ll need a lot of time to get anywhere near game shape so don’t expect him back in the lineup in the immediate future, but he’s trending in that direction.
It’s quite the odd career Jenner has had so far. Through his first three seasons totalling 185 games, Jenner scored 0.82 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five, landing 8.28 shots per 60 minutes while shooting 9.94 percent. In the three seasons since totalling 205 games, he’s scoring just 0.68 goals per 60 minutes while landing 9.46 shots per 60 minutes, converting them at a 7.22 percent clip. Remember that this excludes the power play, so his early career PP usage isn’t relevant for this particular discussion.
Jenner’s expected goals have fluctuated season by season but that rate is actually higher over the last two and a half seasons (0.88) than his first three seasons (0.8, via Corsica). It’s not as if the manner in which he scores goals has changed much, it’s just that there are fewer of them.
I’m not going to dig deeper for today but it’s just weird to see this kind of production fluctuation over such large samples at this stage of a player’s career.
Before the season, I said it was kind of a make-or-break year for Denis Gurianov, the Dallas Stars prospect forward. He’s over a point-per-game in the AHL and has been able to crack the NHL lineup at times, including Wednesday night for Valeri Nichushkin. He still needs to shoot more but at least he’s showing the improvements needed to take that next step.
In other news, I’m throwing in the towel on Nichushkin. I fell in love with his skills years ago and was very high on him, but it just hasn’t translated since his rookie year. The hope is he can turn into a reliable two-way bottom-six forward, which I don’t think is what he wants to be. I’m interested to see how this all turns out.
I was watching a TSN segment on Tuesday night and Bob McKenzie discussed that the Sens could be looking to move Cody Ceci. This comes on the heels of seeing Jake Muzzin traded to Toronto, and Ottawa thinking they could get some sort of package in the neighbourhood of what Muzzin returned. Now, delusion aside, trading Ceci does make sense for this team. He’s an RFA probably looking for a long-term contract and that long-term contract, whatever he does get, will not look pretty. If they can get anything for him, they should.
Ceci is a guy who is coveted in multi-cat leagues because he can provide stout peripheral totals in both hits and blocks, while giving decent shot totals and a reasonable amount of points. All this, however, is a function of two things: ice time and playing on a bad team. That second part allows him to rack up hits and blocked shots at a higher rate than many of those d-men on good teams (your team can’t have the puck if you want to pile up the blocks and hits) and the first part allows him to boost his totals. If he’s traded somewhere like Columbus, the Islanders, or Minnesota where he’d be very unlikely to get top-pair minutes and where the teams are much better defensively, what do his peripheral stats look like? He won’t fall off the map but he won’t produce to the level he’s currently enjoying, either. Something Ceci owners need to keep in mind as the trade deadline approaches.
While on the topic of defencemen, let’s continue on with Mikhail Sergachev.
I was looking up Brent Burns’s stats for something unrelated and came across this: one guess as to which defenceman is second behind Burns in the NHL in primary assists/60 minutes at five-on-five (min. 600 minutes)? Given the topic of this section, it’s probably easy to guess it’s Tampa Bay’s 20-year old blue liner.
Before the season started, I was adamant in these Ramblings that Sergachev would be worth his ADP. A lot of it is league-dependent but he was often going between the 30th and 40th defenceman. That has not been the case this year as he’s outside the top-50 defencemen in standard Yahoo! leagues, and has found himself in the rotation of blue liners Tampa Bay healthy scratches on a nightly basis. Not great.
Sergachev is on pace for roughly the same amount of five-on-five points last year (22) as this year (23). His production drop, obviously, has come from the power play; he’s not even on pace to crack double-digit PPPs a year after producing 16. He doesn’t have a PP goal yet, his PPTOI per game has declined, as has the team’s shooting percentage with him on the ice for the man advantage. Without digging into the how this has happened, this is why his production has receded.
When we look into different metrics, it’s easy to see why his assist production is the way it is (from CJ Turtoro’s viz):
He’s shooting less but finding his teammates just as often with shot assists and is carrying the puck into the zone more often. It makes sense, then, that his goals have declined but his assists, particularly his primary helpers, have increased.
Sergachev is still a wildly talented defenceman. With the prominence of so many young blue liners like Thomas Chabot, Miro Heiskanen, and Rasmus Dahlin, it’s easy to forget that Sergachev already has a 40-point season under his belt, is just 20 years old, and is still doing very well by all accounts. It might be worth checking in with the Sergachev owner in dynasty leagues to see what his value is. He might not do much for the balance of 2018-19, but his future is still very bright for 2019-20 and beyond.
On the topic of Dahlin, it’s worth reading Cam’s Ramblings from yesterday for the history that the rookie defenceman could make this season. I just wanted to add a little context to it.
First, he isn’t shooting much. Among d-men at five-on-five, he’s in the 60th percentile. That isn’t a huge concern, though. We don’t expect 18-year old defencemen to shoot a lot, even the elite ones. Don’t read anything into it unless this persists for three seasons.
What worries me for the balance of 2018-19 is his secondary assists. At time of writing, he’s averaging 0.8 secondary assists per 60 minutes at 5v5. That’s the fourth-highest mark in the NHL. There are a lot of guys at the top of the leaderboard that we’d consider puck-movers like Morgan Rielly, Erik Karlsson, Mark Giordano, and Thomas Chabot. Even for elite guys with track records like Rielly, Karlsson, and Giordano, they’re exceptionally high marks. All three players are currently enjoying career highs, and in the case of Rielly, he’s over three times higher than his three-year average from 2015-18. We can talk about increased goal scoring all we want but that doesn’t explain such a jump. There’s a good bit of luck mixed in there.
I’m not trying to take anything away from the kid. His ability to drive the play, especially offensively, is already very obvious. He’s having a great year so far and has every look of a player who’ll be in the Norris conversation in the next three years, and then every year for 10 years after that. All I’m saying is that he’s a player whose fantasy value for 2018-19 is dependent on assists and plus/minus. Having such a high rate of secondary assists and a .937 save percentage at 5v5 behind him is cause for concern over the next couple of months. This has nothing to do with his long-term outlook, just the next nine weeks.
Kudos to NBC for having Olympian Kendall Coyne as an analyst for the Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay game Wednesday night, acting as a between-the-glass commentator alongside Pierre McGuire. Maybe she doesn't know that Matt Cullen once got detention for throwing a snowball when he was 11 years old like McGuire does, but she's more than qualified for this position. Hopefully it's a crack in the door for more women to be features of broadcasts down the road, rather than as a host or presenter.
Kris Letang chipped in a goal and an assist with a plus-3 rating in Pittsburgh’s 4-2 win over Tampa Bay. He had five total shots on goal, four blocked shots, three hits, and two takeaways in a fantasy performance that stuffed the stats across the board. That was his 12th goal of the year, the second-highest mark of his career, and four off his career-best 16 goals in 2015-16.
Phil Kessel also had a goal and an assist, bringing him to 55 points in 50 games this year. Remember people clamouring the Penguins should trade him earlier in the year? Yeah…
Ben Bishop stopped all 30 shots he faced in Dallas’s 1-0 win at home to Buffalo on Wednesday night. Very quietly, Bishop has put up a fantastic fantasy season with a .924 save percentage and 2.29 goals against average to this point. Those marks are both second in the league among goalies with 20 appearances this year. He is firmly in the Vezina conversation.
I got thinking about this. It’s something I think is definitely worth discussing and can have a significant impact on how we view defencemen in the fantasy game, how we value defencemen, and how we draft defencemen. I also started thinking that maybe this isn’t the best time to cover this. To really get a clear picture on blue line production it’s probably best to put this off until the regular season has finished. Using a two-thirds season sample really doesn’t make a lot of sense and figuring out why the upper-tier of defencemen are producing more points doesn’t really help fantasy owners for the next two months as opposed to the next two years or so. I’m going to shelf this until April (and I’ve set a reminder to do so just in case I forget).