Goldipucks and the Three Skaters: Yandle, Oshie, & Nylander
Welcome back to Goldipucks and the Three Skaters, a play on words of the Goldilocks and the Three Bears story. Here though, instead of there being three bowls of porridge I’m covering three skaters and declaring one too hot (i.e., doing unsustainably better than he should), another too cold (i.e., doing unsustainably worse), and a third “just right” (i.e., producing where he should be). I also assign each a rating of 1-10, indicating just how hot (rated 7-10, where 10 is the most unsustainably hot), or how cold (rated 1-4, where 1 is the most unsustainably cold), or how “just right” (rated 4-7, where 5.5 is the most “just right”) he is.
Although there might ultimately be more hockey left to play this season, it's also possible the stats we're seeing now will be all she wrote for 2019-20, in which case what you read here becomes even more important. Why? Because I look beneath the surface to find out which players statistically aren't what they seem. Who gets the Goldipucks treatment this month? Keith Yandle, TJ Oshie, and William Nylander. Although I know hockey is less fresh in your mind than it normally would be, you should still try to guess which one was too hot, which was too cold, and who was "just right" going into the break. Then read on and see if your choices turned out to be correct.
For a while, Yandle was humming along, never missing a game and scoring at a 51-56 point pace in four of six seasons from 2012-18. Then last season he set a career-high with 62 points, at age 32. For 2019-20, he's back down to a 53 point pace; so does that mean he's too cold? Or just right? On the contrary, he might not be poised to post 50+ points again.
Yandle's 53 point pace seems like he's his old self; however, closer examination reveals he had 32 of his 45 points in his first 42 games, meaning he only had 13 in his last 27 contests. On top of that, while his PP time remained among the best of all NHL d-men, his PP scoring dropped from Q1 to Q2 to Q3, as did his overall ice time, which, by Q3, was below 19:00 per game. That's significant, as going back to 2010-11, the best point total of any defenseman who failed to average 19:00 per game was 44 points, with only two others managing to hit the 40 point mark.
Adding to the concern is that 47.8% of Yandle's points this season have come in the form of secondary assists (versus primary assists or goals). For perspective, that is the highest percentage among any NHLer with 35+ points. So not only was Yandle, at age 33, scoring less as the season wore on but with that many secondary assists, one has to worry about his ability to continue scoring at his season-long rate in the future. Yes, to some degree guys like him who log huge PP minutes are expected to get a good share of secondary assists; however, to lead the entire league in the category does not bode well for him to stay at this scoring pace in future campaigns.
Lastly, we can't overlook the play of Aaron Ekblad this season. For a while, it seemed like Ekblad would never leap into high scoring defenseman territory, but Ekblad had already established a career-high 41 points when the season pressed pause. And this was accomplished with him receiving an average of only 90 seconds of PP time per game. Yes, Yandle is highly paid and one-dimensional such that one would think his PP time should be safe; however, by the time next season rolls around, Ekblad could eat away at that PP time, in turn hurting Yandle's output even more.
It's pretty easy to see that Yandle is TOO HOT, as his scoring was front-loaded, his ice time had cratered, and he was getting a very high percentage of secondary assists. Beyond all those factors, he's also 33 years old, which is worth noting because even without the ice time issue, of the 87 instances of 50+ points by a d-man from 2010-11 to 2018-19, only seven were by ones who were age 34+ in the associated season. For 2010-11 I'd bank on Yandle still likely tallying 45-50 points if he holds onto his ample PP time. But if Ekblad eats into that precious commodity, Yandle's scoring likely would drop to closer to 40 points. As such, he gets an 8.75 rating.
Like Yandle, Oshie is now 33 and a somewhat under the radar player. But he's become one of the more consistent second-tier producers in the NHL, having scored at a 62 to 67 point pace in four of the past six seasons. For 2019-20, however, his scoring pace was only 49, which would mark the first time in his entire career he failed to score at a pace of at least 52 points. Is a bounce back in the cards? Probably not; but unlike Yandle, he should be able to maintain roughly the same scoring pace for the next few seasons.
Digging below the surface, Oshie had a remarkable 83.6% of his points this season in the form of goals or primary assists. Immediately the impulse is to figure him to be a shoo-in for more points in the normal course. But the issue is he's someone whose IPP this season was a meagre 51.0%. And lest we think that's too low to be sustained, it's been in the 57.4% to 51.6% in each of the past four seasons. What do these stats tell us? Oshie either looks to score himself or to set up a scorer – that is, when the puck comes to Oshie, it's either he tries to get a goal then and there or to set someone up via a pass from him. Or to put it another way, a very low secondary assists percentage and a very low IPP can logically go hand-in-hand, and, as such, we should not count on Oshie adding or subtracting points in view of these two related factors.
We saw above that Yandle's ice time was starting to drop. That is not the case with Oshie, who's on pace to see between 18 and 19 minutes per game for the sixth out of the last seven seasons. And although 2019-20 has witnessed the emergence of Jakub Vrana, Oshie still is a PP1 and top six staple. What's more, given his contract and still viable scoring ability, plus the fact that Washington doesn't have any players among the top 200 forward prospects, his "spot" should be safe for at least the next couple of seasons.
Touching more on his scoring ability, Oshie has scored 25+ goals while averaging .35 goals per game three times since turning 30. The others who met both criteria since the 2010-11 season were: Alex Ovechkin, Patrice Bergeron, Marian Hossa, Jarome Iginla, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Evgeni Malkin, and Patrick Marleau. Not too shabby! More importantly, of those who have played their age 34 (or older) seasons already, none suffered a drop in production at that age, and several stayed productive until and even beyond age 35. So on this added basis, Oshie should be able to continue at his current level of production in 2020-21 and perhaps even beyond.
Looking at other metrics, Oshie is still shooting at close to his normal rate. And although his 2019-20 shooting percentage was elevated, it's not so high as to likely negatively influence his scoring rate in future seasons. And his PP scoring rate is down, but only slightly.
In sum, Oshie is the type of player who should be able to keep his spot in the top six and on PP1, plus remain as productive for the near future due to the style he plays and what other solid goal scorers his age have done. As such, Oshie's 2019-20 production is JUST RIGHT and he gets a rating of 5.0, as he's more likely to score 50+ points in coming seasons than 45-50. As such, it might be wise to trade for Oshie in deep keeper leagues since his owner might see his lower point pace and his age and think he's poised to do worse.
After two full seasons of 61 and then 59 points, Nylander didn't re-sign with Toronto until well into the 2018-19 campaign, which led to him producing a very disappointing 27 points in 54 games, although on the bright side he did improve with each quarter. He parlayed that momentum into 2019-20, where he's upped his scoring pace to 71 points. With all the Maple Leaf scorers and only so many points to go around, should we expect this to be at or near Nylander's ceiling? Not from where I sit, as it looks like he could be a point per game player as early as 2020-21.
Just like last season, Nylander was getting better as more games were being played. In this case, it's not his scoring though, but rather his SOG rate, which had gone up each quarter and surpassed the three per game mark over the second half. Yes, his shooting percentage this season is higher than his average; but at 15.7% it could sustainable or even too low. That's because Nylander was on pace for 37 goals this season, and if we look at instances of forwards who scored 37+ goals in any of the previous five seasons, we get a total of 49, of which 23 had a shooting percentage of 16.0% or higher in the associated season(s) and only 15 were lower than 14.0%. So Nylander's rise in shooting percentage is in keeping with his sniper ways and should be sustainable or even capable of going higher.
Like Oshie, Nylander also has a very high percentage of goals plus primary assists, namely 81.36%; and not only does that rank as 11th best among players with 50+ points for the 2019-20 season, but five of the six players ahead of him who are age 25 or older have each reached the point per game mark at least once or were on track to do so for the first time this season, and four of the five have done so at least three times.
As alluded to above, there are a lot of talented players on the Leafs; and although they score goals in droves there seemingly is concern about only so many points to go around. But that should not affect Nylander, as he not only has an IPP this season that's over 70%, meaning he finds a way to factor into the scoring, but he also starts 62% of his shifts in the offensive zone, signifying although he's played both on lines with John Tavares and Auston Matthews, whichever line he's on has been one to which the Leafs look primarily for their scoring.
Then there's man-advantage time. Prior to this season, Nylander had never taken the ice for even 50% of his team's PP minutes, but for 2019-20 he's been a PP1 staple. And his 17 PPPts is plenty high enough to keep him on PP1, but also not so high as to prevent him from getting, even more, man-advantage points, as his IPP on the PP is 60.7%, which is only fourth-best among Leaf forwards this season. As for his TOI in general, it's 18:13, which would be low for a point per game scorer, except for the fact he's on the high-octane Leafs. And if anything there is room to see it grow in the normal course, since his most frequent linemates – Tavares and Matthews – both see at least a minute more ice time than he does.
All these factors point to Nylander being TOO COLD for 2019-20 and signify he could be a point per game player by as early as next season or by no later than 2021-22. As such, he gets a 2.25 rating. Normally I'd advise poolies to try and get Nylander in order to position their teams to benefit when he does improve; however, with Nylander's upward trajectory this season and him being on the high profile Leafs, chances are you would not be able to draft or trade for him at a discounted price. Even still, you might want to see about trying to land him, as you can always decline if the price isn't right.
Questions for Mailbag column
I already have enough questions for the next mailbag, but you can still send me yours to go in the queue for next month. To get them to me, you can either private message “rizzeedizzee” via the DobberHockey Forums or, instead, send an email to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line. Remember, with the season on pause this is the perfect time to ask a question about keepers, draft strategy, certain players, or just fantasy hockey in general.
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