Western Conference Playoff Heroes

Chris Kane


Last year around playoff time we took a break to look back and examine what we called “unlikely playoff heroes.” The idea is that every year a couple of very surprising players emerge as key players for their team’s playoff runs. As a fantasy drafter you don’t really need me to tell you who are the best players to target on each team. What you might be interested in though is which depth players have the best shot at producing.

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Rick Roos started off this train with his research on unlikely playoff heroes, and then attempted to figure out if it was predictive of future performance. I went the other way and attempted to look at if there was anything in the season data that we could use to predict which players might be poised to be this year’s playoff hero. That way we could grab them ahead of time for our playoff pools. The below paragraph is an excerpt from that article and basically sums up what all of the playoff heroes had in common.


“So what was the prototypical unlikely playoff hero profile from 2014-18? An unlikely playoff hero, according to the above data, should have played 60+ games in the regular season (though Drouin and Guentzel show us that is might not always be required). The player should be averaging between .4 and .7 points per game, should be shooting around two shots a game, with a least a shoot percentage of 9%, be getting somewhere between 1:00 and 2:15 minutes on the power play, and skating between 13:00 and 17:00 minutes of total time on ice. The data points can fluctuate slightly depending on situation, and players might miss one point by a little, but this is the general target. Perhaps the single most important factor though is that they play for a team that is likely to get about 17 games during the playoffs.”


The idea is that an unlikely hero is a player that is already doing something with the opportunity they are being given, but has room for growth. That growth could be either in deployment (power play time, or total time on ice), or in favorable spikes of luck (team/personal shooting percentage, IPP etc.). A player who is already spiking a high shooting percentage or getting massive deployment isn’t likely to see a sudden, unanticipated increase in value. The most important factor though is that the player plays for a team that at least reaches the conference finals.


Last year there were 35 players who met the season criteria listed above and were on a playoff team. Four players on that list of 35 met the criteria Rick initially set out for playoff heros by the end of the playoffs. That means just picking randomly off of that list gave you an 11% chance of picking the hero. If you correctly guessed the final four teams, you had a 40% chance of picking last year’s unlikely hero. If you used the Dobber’s Expert panel predictions to give you the final four teams you had a 31%.


This season it looks like the potential pool of candidates is going to be quite a bit smaller. In the entire league we are looking at a p