Ramblings: Makar Clicking at Historic Rates, Road Warriors, Sorokin & Podkolzin (Jan 29)
With a light NHL lineup on Tuesday evening, let's dive into a few other topics.
First up is just how dominant offensively Cale Makar has been as a first-year player. We're talking historically good. Digging through 30 years of stats, here are the most productive first 40-career games by a blueliner:
Niklas Lidstrom – 37 points
Cale Makar – 35 points
Shayne Gostisbehere – 32 points
John Klingberg – 29 points
Vladimir Malakhov – 27 points
Quinn Hughes – 26 points
Makar's 11 goals over that span are tied with Ghost for the lead, and he's now up to 37 points in 41 games on the season. The top dog after 50 games is Lidstrom with 41. Is anyone betting that Makar doesn't own that spot in a week or two?
He's been accomplishing this rate in the best way possible for fantasy owners – by playing monster minutes in offensive situations while being sheltered on the defensive end. He's skating 3:40 per game on the top power-play in Colorado. A unit that currently sits 21st in the league for efficiency but should be much much higher. 41 percent of his production has come from the man-advantage and one could reasonably argue that percentage and the overall efficiency of the Avs PP unit is due to ramp up. Additionally, his 65.6 percent offensive zone start rate is near the top of the pile for blueliners.
It's as juicy as can be.
Now, his on-ice shooting percentage – both personal (12.8) and at even-strength (11.8) is due for a significant dip. Erik Gustafsson led all regular blueliners by clicking at 10.6 percent last season and as expected, he's fallen right back to earth this year. The year before that is was Kevin Connaughton (10.8), Alex Goligoski (10.1), and Hampus Lindholm (9.8) who led the way. Once again, they all came crashing back down.
Now, Makar is a rare breed of shooter from the backend. It's not insane to think he could be the type of player to consistently hit around eight percent – ala John Carlson. But that still means he's due to see 25 percent fewer shots go in over the long haul.
All this is to say, if you're looking to sell high on the player, you could justify it. On the other side of the spectrum, he's hitting marks we've seldom seen from rookie blueliners and there is little reason to expect his game will slow in its development. Maybe fewer goals, but the orchard will still fill up with apples.
And watch out when the Avs PP goes on a 30 percent bender for a long stretch – something it is fully capable of doing.
Speaking of young defenders, I maintain my ranking of their keeper league value as such:
As we inch closer to fantasy playoffs, finding players with big weeks during playoff matchups is key. It's all fine and well to run Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser all season, but then to discover they have a slim schedule when you need them most is devastating. But digging even deeper, I like to find the games, find the locations and see who thrives where and when while eyeing potential trade targets.
For instance, the first two-week playoff match in my deep keeper runs Feb. 17 – Mar. 1. Calgary plays seven games over that stretch – the second most in the league. However, five of them are on the road. Johnny Gaudreau has been less than his usual dominant self this season – but it's mostly been road woes. After two points at home on Tuesday evening, he's just a hair over a point-per-game player in 24 home contests. But he has just 15 points in 27 games away from the Saddledome.
Ditto for Sean Monahan.
Here are some players who are kicking at equal or better rates on the road this season:
John Carlson – this guy is an animal with 10 goals and 35 points in 26 road games
Patty Kane – We might as well call him even-steven. Kane almost always ends up splitting his points equally throughout the year. This season is no different.
Nikolaj Ehlers – 27 points in 27 road games. He has just 11 points in 24 home tilts
Bo Horvat – 26 in 25 on the road. 17 in 25 at home.
I think it's time for Nikolaj Ehlers to move into a hotel even when the Jets are at home. His splits this year are nuts
Home: 5 goals, 11 points in 24 games
Road: 13 goals, 27 points in 27 games
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) January 29, 2020
The moral of the story here is to try and do your research ahead of locking in your playoff roster. Target players with favourable schedules, but also those who can show up on the road. Conversely, use that intel to try and mine value by trading guys with road-heavy playoff schedules who have been struggling while racking up the PPV at the hotels.
It's not too late to get your hands on a copy of Dobber's Midseason Guide. This puppy is chalked full of goodies to help you take home a title.
We've been trumpeting Igor Shestyorkin for a long while now. It's been supercharged in the last 18 months with the Rangers clearing rebuilding, his commitment to crossing the pond all while bring the clear heir apparent. Now, it's time to pump up another Russian netminder.
Ilya Sorokin is coming.
The Islanders' prospect has been chewing up and spitting out the KHL competition for perennial powerhouse, CSKA for parts of eight seasons. The result has been a ridiculous 176-79-22 record with a sparkling 0.932 save percentage and 56 shutouts. You read that right. 56 shutouts!
Word around the campfire is CSKA offered him a major contract – one that would make him the richest netminder in KHL history. So far, he's resisted. If he maintains that stance and holds strong, he'll be 25 when training camps open next fall and will be stepping into an interesting situation on Long Island. Thomas Greiss is a pending UFA and Semyon Varlamov will be entering the second year of a four-year pact. He's been about league-average in 31 starts this year.
Good, but not amazing. That's a job that is ripe for the picking in the next 18 months.
There's a better than average chance that Sorokin comes in and immediately takes the backup role. If that happens, there's a reasonable chance he's the starter by midseason. If he begins the season in AHL – as Shestyorkin and Ilya Samsonov did when they crossed, then look for him to dominate and climb up around the New Year – just as Shesty has.
If you're in a deep keeper, he's likely been on your radar for some time. But if not, maybe a late add or a careful eye towards his situation next year could pay immediate dividends.
Vasily Podkolzin has busted down the door and the points are flowing in freely. After going pointless through his first 20 career KHL games – while often seeing incredibly limited minutes, the 18-year-old is riding a four-game point streak (2+2). On Tuesday, he made a nice play to steal the puck which led to a goal. But even more indicative of his confidence (and his potential as a multicar monster) was a tilt against 27-year-old, former NHLer, Shane Prince.
The kid more than held his own.
Vasily Podkolzin chucking the knucks https://t.co/kBiKLdExB0
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) January 28, 2020
Podkolzin is the first U20 player for SKA to record a four-game streak. He's also forming an exciting youth line on the contending squad with Vegas' Ivan Morozov, and CBJ prospect, Kirill Marchenko. Their ice time is up and each looks invigorated after a successful World Junior Experience.
I like all three of these players, but it's Podkolzin who has the biggest upside. Pencil him next to Bo Horvat for 2021.
Follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson
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