Over the first month or two of each new NHL campaign, there are always a few performances that stand out as particularly perplexing or shocking. This year, perhaps no storyline has been less predictable than the absolute firestorm that is Jean-Gabriel Pageau in Ottawa.

Through 19 games, Pageau has 11 goals. That’s good for a 50-goal pace, and only seven goals off from JGP’s career high of 19 over 82 games in 2015-2016. If ever Pageau was going to be a 20-goal scorer, you’d have to imagine this would be the year.

As most fantasy owners likely realize, this torrid pace is impossible for the Ottawa veteran to maintain. Before Saturday night’s game, Pageau had accumulated his 11 goals on 42 shots, putting him at a 26 percent shooting rate. Of all players with 40 shots or more, he trails only Brayden Schenn for the league’s highest shooting percentage. It’s easy to identify Pageau as a regression candidate over the rest of the season.

In previous years, JGP has mostly lived on the waiver wire. But this season, he’s been single-handedly winning weeks for his owners. How high can Pageau’s stock get this year? Or is he due to regress back to waiver wire-levels?

2019-20 in review

Even beyond the unexpected box-score totals, there are positives in Pageau’s numbers. His 191-shot pace heading into Saturday night’s game would be a career high for the 27-year-old. He’s also maintaining a 132-hit pace, consistent with earlier seasons before the injury which knocked him out for a majority of last year. So if you’re in a multi-category league, Pageau’s productivity is doubly exciting.

Additionally, the Sens are playing their leading goal scorer a career-high 17:53 minutes per game. At 5 on 5, Pageau is the Sens’ fifth most used forward, indicating he’s playing in a top six role. If there are two things that lead to fantasy success, it’s high skill and good opportunity.

I have questions about how positive Pageau’s opportunities really are. While he’s playing nearly 18 minutes a game, three of those minutes are on the penalty kill. Pageau has two shorthanded points already, but I’m not counting on those rates to continue. In the three years previous to this one, he’s played similar shorthanded minutes, and only amassed five shorthanded points in three seasons. So those shorthanded points seem unsustainable.

Two other concerning stats for Pageau’s offensive numbers: He’s getting almost no power-play time (23 seconds per night), and out of 372 forwards who have skated 100+ minutes at 5 on 5, JGP ranks 342nd in offensive zone starts, with about one-third of his starts coming in the opponent’s zone. This goes to show Pageau is being leaned on to be a defensive specialist. It will be supremely difficult for him to produce at a fantasy relevant pace with such poor offensive deployment.

What we should expect rest of season

Even if Pageau’s shooting percentage crashes over the next 60 games, he seems likely to break 20 goals just by virtue of this scorching start. But what is the most likely pace we can expect from JGP over the rest of the year?

We’ll look at his usage through 19 games to project his likely deployment and long-term rates. Typically, we’d look at a player’s even-strength usage, and power-play usage to dictate what we might expect from their offensive totals. With JGP, there is very little power-play usage to look at. And so, what we’ll do is look at his usage and rates in all phases of the game, to help us establish likely benchmarks for the peripheral categories that he helps fill.

Since we already know what he’s done over the season’s first 19 games, we’ll project the last 63 games, and then combine those expectations with Pageau’s season totals to show what we expect to see after 82 games.
 

 

ATOI

GP

G

A

Pts

SOG

PIMS

Hits

Blks

ES

14:03

63

13

12

25

131

17

98

47

PK

3:03

63

2

0

2

19

3

8

17

PP

0:28

63

0

0

0

4

6

1

0

82 Pace

17:34

82

26

15

41

196

39

136

82


Analysis

It’s nice to see Pageau pacing for a career-high 26 goals, though it is disheartening to see that he’s already potted over 40 percent of his full-season projection in the first 25 percent of the year. I’m sure Pageau owners were hopeful they’d found a guy more likely to pace in the 50-60-point range. On the plus side, those hits, blocks, and shots are all very useful when it comes to peripherals from a forward.

My biggest message to those who are holding Pageau: sell, sell, sell!!! I would take this tact: start with anyone in the 60-70-point range. If you can flip him for an Alex Radulov or Mika Zibanejad type, I’d be very happy to make that swap.

But even beyond those obvious victories, I would sell Pageau for a 50-point player. Tomas Tatar, Kevin Labanc, or Brayden Schenn would all be players I’d be happy to make a move for, and I bet those offers would be much more realistic.

If you can’t move Pageau for anyone, hopefully his excellent peripherals give you a hand. He also has a decent schedule over the next few weeks. So I’m happy to hold while the hot streak is on, but don’t let the early season scorcher fool you: be ready to move on once he goes cold.

Follow me on Twitter @burnett_hockey, and check out my podcast work with my colleagues @avgtimeonice.