So we have finally concluded our summer series and now our focus turns to the draft table in earnest. Our summer series highlighted players who were excellent value, or extreme disappointments on draft day in 2018-19, but as we turn to 2019-20 our goal is to grab the draft steals and avoid the busts. One way we can accomplish this is to analyze the standard projections that platforms are putting out as these default lists can be highly influential in dictating when players are taken. By taking a look at those projections we can guess which players might be drafted too high by your opponents, or who might fall to later rounds, which can help us figure out which players might be good value, and those we may want to avoid.
For the purposes of this article we are going to look at points only. League configurations vary dramatically so it is hard to create a list that works for everyone. Almost all leagues use goals and assists though so we should have a solid baseline for consideration.
Draft Day Deals (players who are projected too low)
Erik Gustafsson – D – Chicago
Gustafsson had a career year in 2018-19. His 60 points in 79 games was a massive improvement over his 15 points in 34 games from 2017-18. Yahoo has him pegged for 51 points, and Gustafsson could be excellent value at that projection.
The explosion in points that Gustafsson saw was due to him ascending to Chicago’s top power play. That deployment is very likely to continue in 2018-19. Yahoo’s projection takes that into account, but is regressing him a touch too hard. His personal, and team five-on-five shooting percentages were a bit high over the course of the season so it is possible he puts up closer to a 55 point pace. One thing in his favor though is that he put up a 60 point pace when he only had the top power-play deployment for three quarters of the season. During the first chunk of the year Duncan Keith and Henri Jokiharju were still getting turns.
51 points seems a reasonable floor, but there is certainly upside for more, particularly if other managers are considering him in the same class as 50 point upside defensemen.
This one is a bit of a combo as part of the optimism comes from the fact that they are playing together and playing with Mark Stone. They are projected for 47 (Pacioretty) and 50 (Stastny) points apiece and their value is potentially greater than that.
I mentioned the work done by this trio in the Vegas installment, and I fully expect it to continue in 2019-20. I am looking for a bounce back from Pacioretty with his new line and Stastny put up a 69 point pace with only a partial season with Stone. Stastny does have the injury concern, but played 82 games in 2017-18. 2018-19 represents the second lowest games played of his career, but he still finished with 42 points. Overall I am about 10 points higher on these two than Yahoo.
Draft Day Busts (players who are projected too high)
William Karlsson – C – Las Vegas
Karlsson makes this list for a wide variety of reasons. First off he is a center, so his value is diluted by the fact that there are a lot of centers who can provide around his number of points. The second is the arrival of the new second line in Vegas. I have Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, and Paul Stastny due for solid seasons, and that doesn’t bode well for Karlsson repeating his 70+ point pace. To be fair Yahoo doesn’t have him over 70, they are expecting 33 goals and 34 assists for 67 points, but that is too rich for me.
Karlsson exploded in 2017-18 for 78 points (but in a very unsustainable fashion) and that seems to be on the mind of the Yahoo projections. Smart money was on a significant regression in 2018-19 and it came to fruition with Karlsson managing 56 points in 82 games. He kept up a similar shot pace, similar time on ice (even strength and power play), in 2018-19 but all of his underlying numbers came crashing back to earth. Frankly they look to be about right going forward, and sustainable for 2019-20. That means 56 points is a reasonable expectation. Some projections suggest a modest improvement, but I can’t get behind anything higher than 60.
Tomas Hertl – C/LW – San Jose
Hertl had an incredible year in 2018-19. His 74 points represents the high water mark of his career thus far. Yahoo clearly has him continuing to progress with an expected point total of 78 points. Herlt is still on the youngish side, entering his age 26 season.
Unfortunately Hertl’s career season came with a sky high personal shooting percentage and a five on five shooting percentage. He had just about the same number of shots as in 2017-18, but 13 more goals. To put another damper on things, he is already just about maxed out with 19 minutes of time on ice a night and around three minutes of power-play time. With Joe Pavelski leaving we could be optimistic about Hertl adding some minutes to make up for those percentages evening out, but unfortunately there just isn’t that much more ice time to tack on for him.
Losing those 13 goals puts him around 61 points, well shy of the 78 Yahoo has him projected for. Even if regression doesn’t hit him as hard as that 65 seems a pretty reasonable projection, but 78? Someone else can have him as a 78 point player.
Phil Kessel – RW – Arizona
Let’s start of by saying that Kessel is still a great player, and probably the first player you want to draft on Arizona. Let’s follow that up by saying don’t draft Kessel assuming his projected 84 points. That projection represents an increase from his 2018-19 season with Pittsburgh.
For the last three season’s Kessel’s bread and butter has been the power play. He has ranged from 30-42 points (36 averaged) on that stacked Pittsburgh unit. Much of the play ran through him and it clearly agrees with him. Kessel was a big part of that unit’s success, but we can’t forget that this unit also contained Sidney Crosy, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang. Unfortunately by moving to Arizona he loses that cast and likely a good chunk of his power play production. The last time he manned a top power play without that Pittsburg cast was on Toronto and he averaged about 22 power-play points over his last three seasons there.
Kessel certainly makes Arizona’s power play better, but we could realistically be looking at a 10-15 point drop in power play points. In order to meet Yahoo’s projection, Kessel is going to have to make that up with 10-15 extra even strength points, plus a couple. That is going to be exceedingly difficult. Over the last several years Kessel was already averaging 18-19 minutes a night, often playing with Evgeni Malkin. It is going to be hard for Arizona to put him in a situation where he is either playing significantly more, or playing with significantly better linemates. Clayton Keller is great, but he isn’t Malkin (yet?). And that assumes that the coaching staff even want to line up Keller and Kessel.
The moral of this story is that Kessel is projected at least 10 points too high so if your league is into him at that value, skip him.