Geek of the Week: Armia of One

Ben Burnett

2020-02-02


In bangers leagues, Joel Armia has been one of the fastest risers of the 2019-20 campaign. In his first four seasons, the 26-year-old Canadiens forward had never surpassed a 35-point pace. He started his career in Winnipeg, where he fluctuated through the bottom-six. In those first three seasons he managed around 1.5 shots per game, and just over 1 hit per game. Since heading to Montreal as a sweetener for the Habs to take Steve Mason’s contract off the Jets’ books, Armia has seen more consistent ice time and now Montreal is reaping the rewards.

Since joining Montreal, Armia has seen consistent middle-six ice time and decent power-play deployment. While the 2019-20-point totals aren’t elite, he’s pacing for 27 goals and 51 points over 82 games. A 50-point player with strong category coverage would represent excellent late-round values for owners in peripheral leagues. So let’s examine whether Armia’s current run of success is sustainable.

What is particularly heartening about Armia’s start to the year is coach Claude Julien’s commitment to using him with regularity. He averages more than 17 minutes per night, and despite Montreal’s roster starting to get healthy, he’s still seeing ice time with good teammates. Brendan Gallagher’s return could have easily pushed Armia down to a third line, but instead Julien has relegated Max Domi to playing between Artturi Lehkonen and Jordan Weal. Armia remains on a line with surprise Calder darkhorse Nick Suzuki and bounceback player of the year candidate Ilya Kovalchuk. That’s a promising sign of trust from the veteran coach.

Armia also has continued to see decent power-play time. He’s on a unit with Kovalchuk, Domi, Weal, and Shea Weber. The primary purpose of this unit may be to pump Kovy’s numbers ahead of the trade deadline, but hey. That’s a decent group of players, and they’re acting more as a 1B to the top unit than a full-on PP2 unit.

However, the power play has been a weak spot to Armia’s game so far, with only four power-play points to his name through 40 games. Despite playing nearly 50 percent of the team’s power-play minutes, the Finnish forward is still pacing for just eight power-play points over a full season. Modest gains could be expected based on a low IPP, which shows the percentage of PP goals that Armia registers a point on when he is on the ice. His rate is 33 percent in 2019-20, and I think that should regress to around 50 percent as time goes on. I think it would be reasonable to expect a modest uptick in power-play production.

For the first time in his career, Armia is pacing for over three shots per game. That’s a strong sign for his fantasy owners as his shot rate has increased at 5 on 5, and the power play. He’s producing 11.6 shots every 60 minutes he’s on the ice, well above his previous career high of 9.44 last year. He’s shooting at the exact same clip on the power play, which is also well above his previous high-water mark. At this point, I think Armia is showing he is approximately a 250-shot player over 82 games.

If Armia can be a 250-shot player I think this 25+ goal pace is sustainable. Look at his shooting percentages year over year:
 

 Season

 Shooting %

 82-Game Goal pace

 2019-20

 10.2%

 27

 2018-19

  9.7%

 19

 2017-18

  9.4%

 12

 2016-17

  9.0%

 14

 2015-16

  7.7%

  8


That shooting percentage is just a touch high, but nothing remarkable. The increase in Armia’s goal pace looks sustainable so long as the shot rates continue.

One warning sign in Armia’s numbers is a high on-ice shooting percentage at even strength. It’s reasonable to expect players to see pucks go in on around 9.5 percent of all shots. Armia has been quite fortunate at even strength with just over 11 percent of pucks finding the back of the net. However, his shooting percentage is still in line with his career average, as is his IPP. Currently, he’s pacing for 41 even-strength points. Given the high on-ice shooting I would imagine that number should be closer to 36 over a full season.

While Armia’s power-play points are a little low, it seems he’s getting a touch lucky at even strength. I imagine those numbers even out, and he is a 50-point player moving forward. Given his strong shot totals this season, at the very least he can be a serviceable depth option in points-only leagues. What really makes him stand out from the pack are his hit totals. Through 40 games, Armia has nearly surpassed his 2018-19 hit totals, which he accumulated over 57 games. He’s currently on pace for 209 hits over an 82-game sample.

In all, I think Armia is roughly playing to expectations. A 25+ goal, 50-point player with 250 shots and 200 hits is very valuable. Think 2015-16 Patric Hornqvist with fewer power-play points. Those who were able to pluck Armia off the waiver wire were fortunate to do so. Anyone who still sees him available in a deep league should try to find a way to fit him on the roster.

Questions about Joel Armia? You can find me @burnett_hockey, or check out my podcast work @avgtimeonice.

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
EVGENI MALKIN PIT 5 4 7 11
ADAM FOX NYR 4 1 6 7
JAKUB VORACEK PHI 6 0 10 10
NATHAN MACKINNON COL 5 2 6 8
MIKA ZIBANEJAD NYR 29 25 19 44
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 24 16 20 36
KEVIN FIALA MIN 11 9 7 16
EVANDER KANE S.J 7 5 5 10
KYLE CONNOR WPG 7 8 2 10
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS EDM 17 8 16 24

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency STL Players
23.2% BRAYDEN SCHENN JADEN SCHWARTZ ALEXANDER STEEN
22.8% SAMMY BLAIS RYAN O'REILLY DAVID PERRON
18.6% IVAN BARBASHEV MACKENZIE MACEACHERN OSKAR SUNDQVIST

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