Ramblings: Looking at benchmarks for Bjorkstrand, Hischier, Arvidsson, and more – April 2
There are benchmarks in any type of fantasy league that people strive for. In football, it's usually something like 1000 yards from scrimmage or double-digit touchdowns. In baseball, it can be something like a .300 season, or a 20/20 home run/steal season. In hockey, we have things like 20-goal campaigns, 30-win seasons, and the like.
Of course, just aiming for such goals is kind of pointless unless we figure out how to get there; the destination doesn't really matter without a plan for the journey.
I have a benchmark of my own that I look for in forwards: 2.00 points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. It's of course kind of arbitrary, but if a guy getting top-line minutes can post 2.00 per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 for a full season, he'll be around 40 points. In the modern NHL, that's about enough to get a player to the top-50 in scoring among forwards at 5-on-5, which is a very good start to having significant fantasy value. They need to do more beyond that, obviously, like provide peripherals and power-play points, but every fantasy player is a house and houses need a foundation. Being able to put up 5-on-5 points as a forward is the foundation of any fantasy season. (There are obviously forwards who can put up great fantasy seasons in multi-cat leagues with like 25 total points, but those are the exceptions.)
Using this benchmark, here are some players who've achieved the 2.00 points/60 mark in aggregate over the last three seasons. We're talking only forwards, and those with at least 2000 minutes played, with all data from Natural Stat Trick. We will ignore the obvious names and focus on players that won't be drafted in the first few rounds of fantasy drafts.
In my bones I felt that the 2019-20 season would be the year Hischier had his full-fledged breakout. His rookie season saw 20 goals and 52 points, a very solid season for a 19-year-old rookie centre. He followed that up with 47 points in 69 games in 2018-19, which actually represented an increase in points/game. Even with Jack Hughes in the fold for 2019-20, I assumed Hischier would play 18-19 minutes a night on the top line with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri, eating top PP minutes as well.
It's not that 2019-20 was horrible, but his points/game declined slightly, he missed time due to injury, and the Devils as a whole basically floundered. Hall was traded, the team restarted the rebuild, and Hischier's season was basically lost.
I still think he's an excellent player but the void of offensive talent, particularly on the wings, is an issue for his fantasy value. I'm also nervous that Hischier will be used mostly in a defensive role with similarly-inclined wingers while Hughes gets the cushy offensive slotting and better wingers. Hischier is a very good player, but it seems like his real-world value will exceed his fantasy value for the foreseeable future.
It was a bad year for basically any Nashville forward. Not a single player cracked 50 points and Filip Forsberg was the only one with at least 20 goals. When considering the wealth of talent they have, including Arvidsson, it's definitely a gross under-performance by all involved.
As to why Arvidsson was particularly bad this year, it's a confluence of events. There are rumours that he largely played through an injury, which would obviously explain his lack of shooting and general lack of general offensive prowess. With the talent that they have, he also lost a lot of ice time – nearly three minutes per game shaved off his 2018-19 mark, and the lowest for him since 2015-16. His ice time declined severely after returning from injury in late December, so maybe there is truth to those injury rumours.
Regardless, this is a 26-year-old (27 next week) who has a proven history of scoring and shooting with volume. We'd be fools to assume one season where he only played two-thirds of the games and may have been injured is the new norm, rather than the three years and over 210 games that came before it being his established norm. I'll buy the incoming rebound.
This one kind of took me by surprise, I'll be honest. Bjorkstrand has precisely zero seasons of more than 40 points, and yet he has the same points/60 mark over the last three years as Jaden Schwartz, and higher than names like J.T. Miller, Mika Zibanejad, Dylan Larkin, Matthew Tkachuk, and Logan Couture. This is why it's always important to always look at rate stats; they help identify undervalued assets that could increase in value should they ever get more ice time.
The ice time jump is a big reason why Bjorkstrand's shots/game rate jumped by way over a full shot in 2019-20 (3.30) compared to his first two full seasons in the league (2.04). That was why his 82-game pace for goals this year was 35, and why he managed 21 goals in just 49 games.
There are the making of an excellent fantasy asset here. His hits per game have jumped along with his ice time, and in a full season he may have put up over 70 hits. That's not some overwhelmingly large number, but it's one of those marks where it'll at least help, and not hurt, fantasy value. We'd be concerned if he was at 30-35 rather than 70-75. (For the record, he had 43 in 49 games this year.) Combine that with a guy who can threaten 30 goals and cruise past 250 shots, and yeah, there are the makings of an excellent fantasy asset.
The concern would be his raw point totals. There are legitimate issues with Columbus's offensive ability as a team, be it a lack of upper-tier forwards or even a consistently decent power play. Those things will help depress Bjorkstrand's point totals. All the same, he brings enough on his own that as long as he's getting 17-18 minutes a night, there's a very good goal scorer here waiting for fantasy owners.
I write about Ehlers perhaps more than any other player, which probably shows some bias, but I really just want this guy to finally get some top PP minutes. It's the only thing holding him from fantasy stardom, at least in points-only leagues; he has the same points/60 mark over the last three years as John Tavares and Taylor Hall, and higher than names like Sebastian Aho, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jack Eichel, and Mikko Rantanen. He was on pace for his third 60-point season in four years – last year he missed 20 games – and has never had more than 13 PPPs in any campaign. We should start our own EHLERS 4 PP1 campaign.
I wasn't going to bring up Gourde because of his role in Tampa, and the unlikelihood he ever gets enough minutes to be fantasy-relevant again, but he could be a cap casualty given they have to re-sign Anthony Cirelli, need to replenish the blue line, and will only have a few million in cap space assuming it doesn't increase next year. Someone will have to go, much like J.T. Miller a year ago, and Gourde makes sense given he's way overpaid for a third/fourth liner on this team.
Three reasons for Gourde's poor 2019-20 season: he played 14 minutes a night, he shot nearly half (9.1 percent) his career rate (17.9 percent), and the team shot just 7.2 percent with him on the ice, like three percent lower than the team average. Despite all this, even if he just shot around his career average, which would only solve one of our three problems, he'd be very close to 2.00 points/60 at 5-on-5. That's the fine line most fantasy assets walk every season.
It's also why I'd be encouraged for Gourde to land somewhere he can grow with the team. Somewhere like New Jersey would make a lot of sense. I'm already picturing him on the top line with Hischier, and it's putting a little smile on my face.
Whether he actually gets traded, well, we have no idea what the hockey gods have in store for us at the moment. I just think it makes a lot of sense that he gets moved, and if he can get 17 minutes a night somewhere, 50-60 points is within reach again.
No data at this moment.