Another month has passed, so that can only mean one thing – time for the return of “Goldipucks and the Three Skaters.” For first time readers, or those needing a refresher, this column is a play on the Goldilocks and the Three Bears story, except instead of there being 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 be). I also assign each a 1-10 rating, indicating just how hot (rated 7-10, where 10 is the most unsustainably hot), how cold (rated 1-4, where 1 is the most unsustainably cold), or how “just right” (rated 4-7, where 5.5 is the most “just right”) he is.
On tap for this week’s column are Evgenii Dadonov, Kevin Labanc, and Ryan Ellis. Before you continue any further, give your best guess as to which one was too hot, which was too cold, and who was “just right” for 2018-19. Lock in your choices, and then see if you’re correct after you read on.
Following his return to the NHL after a six-year stint playing overseas, Dadonov has two consecutive seasons of scoring at a 70+ point pace. Now 30 years old though, does he have what it takes to continue to produce well, or should we expect a downturn in production? Looking at the collective data, I think he’s poised to do even better in 2019-20 than either of his prior two seasons.
In tallying 70 points last season, Dadonov was remarkably consistent, with at least one point in 51 of his 82 games played. Looking at the other six NHLers who also hit the scoresheet in 51 contests last season, their average point total was 84, or 14 more than Dadonov; so his consistency should organically lead to him tallying more points next season. Also, Dadonov only had 17 PPPts (tied for 60th among forwards) despite receiving the 19th most PP Time among forwards. Moreover, he fired 43 SOG on the PP, or five more than Aleksander Barkov (who had 31 PPPts) and just 12 fewer than Jonathan Huberdeau (who had 34 PPPts, or double Dadonov’s 17).
Although it is true that Dadonov’s PP time (and overall ice time) per game dropped with each passing quarter, he responded to his lowest fourth-quarter ice times with point per game production, so him ending strong bodes well for him keeping his spot on a scoring line and PP1. There’s also the fact that Dadonov’s 5×5 team shooting percentage in two seasons since returning to the NHL were 9.83 and 10.19, which are very solid (and sustainable) numbers and should prompt the Panthers to keep putting him out there with their top talent.
Digging deeper, Dadonov’s IPP dropped from 67.0% to 56.0% despite him playing both seasons with similarly talented linemates. That likely helps explain why he didn’t have more points in the 51 games where he hit the scoresheet and reinforces his likelihood to tally more points in 2019-20 just in the normal course. Also, his offensive zone starting percentage rose from 43.6% in 2017-18 to 49.3% last season, likely due to him and his team improving. With him being able to score at a 72 point pace in 2017-18 despite the low OZ%, one would’ve expected more points in 2018-19, not less, so that’s yet another factor working in favor of his scoring rate rising in 2019-20.
Overall these numbers paint the picture of a player who should be able to score at a higher rate than his last two seasons, although point per game scoring is likely not in the cards unless the Florida offense really ignites. Accordingly, for 2018-19 Dadonov was TOO COLD, and I’m assigning him a rating of 2.75 to account for his totals likely to be closer to 80 points next season.
The former sixth-rounder surprised many by notching 40 points in 2017-18, but then really turned heads by upping that total to 56 this past season, with 32 of those 56 points coming in just his final 39 games. With 2019-20 being his “magical fourth year” and expectations sky high, should we lock him in for a jump into the 60s or even higher? On the contrary – the data suggest his scoring should decrease.
Labanc had outlying numbers in SOG to points ratio, as lost amid his fantasy hype is the fact that he went from 156 SOG in 77 games in 2017-18 to just 130 in 82 contests for 2018-19 for a 20% drop in per game SOG rate. Looking at wingers (according to nhl.com positional assignments) who scored more than 56 points this past season, none had fewer SOG than Labanc’s 130. In fact, the lowest SOG total for any winger (again, according to nhl.com position assignments) who tallied more than Labanc’s 56 points was 167, or nearly 30% higher than his output! And even looking at nhl.com wingers who scored between 40 and 56 points, only two had fewer than Labanc’s 130 SOG, with one (David Perron) doing so in 25 fewer games. So clearly the takeaway must be that Labanc overachieved in terms of his point total given the number of shots he took. Even if we focus on his final 39 games for 2018-19 (during which he tallied 32 points), Labanc’s SOG total was 58, which, if projected over an 82 game season, comes to 148, or still lower, on a per game basis, than all but three wingers who scored 40-56 points last season.
Labanc also had what is likely unsustainable production on the PP based on his man-advantage minutes, as he tied for the 45th most PPPts among forwards despite receiving the 91st most PP time. I realize using this argument against Labanc after I cited a similar argument in favor of Dadonov might seem inconsistent; but Labanc hadn’t previously scored 65 points in 73 games as Dadonov did, plus Labanc took only 30 SOG in getting those 20 PPPts; and of the 45 forwards who tallied more than his 20 PPPts last season, only three took fewer than even 40 SOG on the PP.
Additionally, Labanc had 21 secondary assists to only 18 primaries, making him the lone forward on the entire San Jose roster to have more secondary than primary assists. As such, he likely lucked into some of his points this season – points he stands not to get come 2019-20. Moreover, Labanc’s average shot distance was the second highest among all San Jose forwards, making his 13.1% personal shooting percentage even more suspect than it was, to begin with, and it was indeed suspect, what with being well higher than his 7.7% rate from 2017-18 and well surpassing the league-wide average of 9.5% from this past season.
For these reasons, Labanc was TOO HOT in 2018-19. If his projected output for 2019-20 was all about this data, I’d forecast him for roughly 45 points; however, he plays on a team that should score a lot of goals and he figures to still get favorable deployment (ala his 57.8% OZ% last season), so he’ll likely land closer to 50 points. Thus he gets a rating of 8.25.
After finishing 2016-17 with 18 points in his last 26 games then posting 32 points in 44 contests (59 point full season pace) in an injury-shortened 2017-18, much was expected of Ellis for 2018-19. Yet when the dust settled he finished with 41 points in 82 games. Can we expect him to reignite, or might he start to slow down at age 28? The answer is neither, as a point per every other game scoring seems just about right for Ellis.
Although Ellis is an eight-season veteran, he’s only played 70+ games in four; and 2018-19 was just the second time in those four where he hit the point per every other game mark. And if we look at his IPPs for those four 70+ game seasons, they barely varied, ranging from 38.0% to 41.3%. What was his IPP in his 59 point scoring pace 2017-18 season? A much higher 50.8%; so that sticks out as one explanation for him scoring so abnormally high in 2017-18. Ellis’ 2017-18 also happened to have featured his highest ever 5×5 team shooting percentage at 9.62, with his rates in three of his four 71+ game seasons being in the 8.06 to 8.77 range; and his 2017-18 points per 60 minutes mark of 1.9 was only the second time in his last four seasons it wasn’t either 1.2 or 1.3.
On top of all this evidence of his 2017-18 being an outlying season, Ellis’ SOG rate in 2017-18 was exactly 2.5 per game, marking the only time he ever even averaged two SOG per game. Furthermore, if we look at Ellis’ PP Time per game, it’s held quite steady over his last five seasons – even including the 2017-18 campaign – within a range of 2:05 to 2:12 per game. But digging deeper we see that whereas in three of those five seasons that PP time meant him being on the ice for less than 40% of his team’s PP minutes, in 2017-18 it meant him being out there for 45.3% of his team’s PP time.
Speaking of the man advantage, Ellis also has been consistent in how poorly he produces on the PP. In his four 71+ game seasons he has a total of 29 PPPts in 312 total games or not even one PPPt per every ten games. In 2017-18, however, he had five PPPts in 44 games, for a slightly higher rate. But the bigger meaning of Ellis’ PP scoring rate is it essentially puts a ceiling on his output. After all, over the past five seasons there’ve been a total of only nine instances (Ellis in 2018-19 makes ten) of defensemen who scored more than 40 points despite tallying fewer than ten PPPts (which is, at minimum, one PPPt per every eight games, i.e., higher than Ellis’ less than one in ten). Mind you, that’s out of 136 instances of 40+ defensemen scorers over those same five seasons. So in essence Ellis’ lack of PP scoring puts a de facto ceiling on his scoring. And at age 28 and with several seasons of PP struggles, we shouldn’t expect to see him suddenly start to produce well with the man advantage.
These things all being said, Ellis has taken the ice for 23+ minutes in each of the past three seasons, with an offensive zone starting percentage which, in those three seasons, has averaged over 51%. So he’s being deployed for enough time and in favorable enough circumstances that point per every other game scoring sounds about right, especially given his above-noted customary points per 60 minutes rate.
With 2017-18 clearly an anomalous season, and Ellis otherwise having fairly consistent numbers, he’s a good bet for roughly 40 points per season provided – as I’d expect – he continues to receive roughly the same ice time and zone deployment in the coming seasons. Thus, Ellis’ 2018-19 was JUST RIGHT and he gets assigned a down the middle rating of 5.5.
Mailbag questions needed
I’m always in need of questions about fantasy hockey for me to answer in my monthly mailbag column. There are two ways for you to get your questions to me – (1) email it to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” in the subject line, or (2) send me a private message at the DobberHockey Forums with your question (my username is “rizzeedizzee”.