We are going to start this offseason by doing a quick recap and reviewing some top performers at each position in the West. We will touch on what happened to make their seasons so successful and I will give a few thoughts on if I think it is going to be sustainable.
For this series we are going to be using the Fantasy Hockey Geek ranking tool 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, assists, power play points, shots, hits and blocks for forwards/defensemen and wins, saves, save percentage and goals against average 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.
This week, left wings.
3. Evander Kane (66)
After a big end of the season in 2017-18 playing with Joe Pavelski, Evander Kane put together his strongest season to date with the Sharks in 2018-19, ranking 66th overall and third among left wings. He did not continue to play with Pavelski, and even saw what might have been third line deployment at times, but it certainly helped to get some time on ice with a breaking out Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier. He put up a career high in goals (30), power play points (11), and hits (173) and his second highest career numbers in assists (26),total points (56), and point pace (61). Kane also saw his the highest shooting percentage of his career (11.2%).
Kane was undoubtedly on the best team he has ever played for which certainly helped his overall numbers, but his deployment was actually a bit worse than his previous seasons. He lost almost a minute on time on ice from 2017-18 and is down almost two and a half minutes from his first season in Buffalo. The worse news is almost all of that time lost is on the power play. Even with that time lost though he skated for almost 18.5 minutes a night on average with about two minutes on the power play. The sharks were deep enough this season that his most common linemates were still Joonas Donskoi and Tomas Hertl at evens and Timo Meier and Joe Thornton on the power play. It also helped that for much of the season either Brent Burns or Erik Karlsson was on the ice pretty much at all times. Because the Sharks were so deep, Kane’s IPP was actually his lowest in four seasons at 63%.
A big reason that Kanes makes the top three is the addition of hits to his solid (if not spectacular) offensive performance. He has historically been successful in this category so it looks as though it is sustainable. The question really has to come with the 30 goals he put up for the first time. Unfortunately his career high goals number did not come with a career high in shots. In fact he has his lowest shot pace in four seasons. Now that shot pace was still good for higher then 3.5 shots per game, but Kane is not a high percentage shooter so his 11.2% is a bit higher than the 9.2% he averaged over the prior three years. There are also some question marks when it comes to the Sharks lineup in general. What will happen to Erik Karlsson, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, and Gustav Nyquist? Are Hertl’s and Meier’s breakouts for real? Kane’s linemates and deployment could be dramatically altered depending on where everyone ends up signing.
The moral of this story comes down to Kane had a great season, playing on a great offensive team, with a series of linemates who had breakouts of their own. The shots, hits and a 55 point pace seem like a solid expectation for Kane’s 2019-20 season, beyond that though it all comes down to deployment and the team that surrounds him.
2. Johnny Gaudreau (54)
In 2017-18 Gaudreau missed out on the top three ranking because he doesn’t really contribute in hits and blocks. In 2018-19 he rectified the problem (not by hitting or blocking) by hitting a career high of 99 points. Unsurprisingly then, Gaudreau saw career highs in goals (36), assists (63), power play points (27), and shots (245). All in all it was an excellent season for Gaudreau, and more broadly for that Flames top line.
It is great to see a career high in goals accompanied by a career high in shots, but unfortunately it is still accompanied by a career high shooting percentage (14.7%). 14.7% is not a terribly high shooting percentage for a some players, but Gaudreau has typically been a lower percentage shooter, averaging 11.4% over the three season prior to this one. If he had hit that shooting percentage this season, he would have had eight fewer goals. Some of his other stats raise questions marks as well. He did see an additional 30 seconds or so a game, but his power play time did not improve overall. His team 5-on-5 shooting percentage is also high (10.58%) where he had been hovering around 9% (definitely average) for the last three years.
It seems clear that something about this season made for better scoring across the board. His percentages and underlying numbers seems to indicate he performed better than maybe he should have, which might indicate a regression is coming, or it could indicate something about his situation changed. What might have changed? Well Elias Lindholm joined the team and Gaudreau’s line. Lindholm was clearly a much better fit than Michael Ferland in that spot and Gaudreau, Lindholm, and Sean Monahan all had career years together. As exciting as Gaudeau was this season I have question marks about that line repeating their success in 2019-20. That coupled with those high percentage numbers will make me a little cautious at the draft table in 2019-10. To be clear, point-per game is definitely happening, I am just learning more toward a 90 point pace than a 100.
1. Gabriel Landeskog (24)
The only repeat offender on this list from 2017-18, Landeskog took his 2017-18 season and built on it. His goals (34), assists (41), points (75), point pace (1.03 pts/g), shots (243), and power play points (26) were all career highs, eclipsing many of the career highs he set in 2017-18.
Like with Gaudreau we see a career high in goals, accompanied with a career high in shots. His shooting percentage is still a touch high (14%), but he still has a 13.5% plus shooting percentage in two of his last three seasons. Unlike with Gaudreau, his increases in power play points and shots come with increases in power play time (up to over four minutes per game) and in time on ice (over 21 minutes a game). Those increases make the production seem more sustainable, as does his 5-on-5 shooting percentage, which was 8.58%, significantly normal.
Landeskog spent most of his ice time with Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon both at even strength and on the power play. It was worth paying attention to as Colorado split up the trio several times throughout the year to try and spread the offense, but at the end of the day the juggling did not seem to impact him as Landeskog stuck with either MacKinnon or Rantanen and had a career year.
If your league doesn’t value hits, then you clearly should be drafting Gaudreau before Landeskog, but if hits are included, I love what Landeskog has been doing. He provides a ton of value across the board and as long as he is getting some time with Mackinnon or Rantanen it looks like he can keep it up. Maybe that shooting percentage drops a bit and he misses out on a few goals, or on a few power play points but he appears to be completely worth the cost at this point.
Bubble Players (just missed a top ranking):
Matthew Tkachuk (68) had a career season in every single category. He saw increases in deployment both at even strength and on the power play and totaled 77 points in 80 games. His personal shooting percentage was a touch high, but as a long as he keeps getting that top deployment, particularly on the power play, it looks like he can keep up 2018-19’s pace.
Jamie Benn (102), and Jonathan Marchessault (92), 2017-18’s top two left wings certainly fell off the pace in 2018-19. Marchessault actually kept more value falling to only the 6th most valuable left wing, but Benn fell down to 10th. Marchessault had a bit of regression coming after Vegas’ wild inaugural season, but not this much. It looks like his 58 point season could be due for some positive regression in 2019-20. Benn is a slightly more complicated story. His 53 point season actually looks a lot more sustainable than we might like as his dip in point production comes with a loss of time on ice, power play time, and shots. He still should rebound, but without changes in deployment, he might be short of the point per game player he used to be.
Drafted an average of 216th overall (reminder: a standard 12 team, 16 player league drafts 192 players), Timo Meier provided a ton of value. He finished the season as the 96th ranked player, and 9th ranked left wing. Benn, who ranked just behind him as the 10th ranked wing was drafted 21st overall. Meier almost doubled his point production from 2017-18. He saw a great increase in deployment, but there are some warning signs. He has had a short career thus far, so we only have a small size to compare to, but it is possible we see a bit of a regression from Meier in 2019-20.
Thanks for reading. Next week, centermen.