Ramblings: Facing Off With O’Reilly, Miller, Danault, J. Staal (Apr 17)

Ian Gooding

2020-04-17

NHL hockey might be paused just like every other sport, but that hasn't stopped the St. Louis Blues from locking up two regulars. A day after signing Sammy Blais to a two-year, $3 million extension (AAV $1.5 million), the Blues have inked Marco Scandella to a four-year, $13.1 million contact (AAV $3.275 million). If you were like me, you had forgotten that Scandella is now with the Blues. That's because he's played only 11 games with the Blues, recording just a single assist. However, he had impressed enough defensively during his brief time with the Blues to receive this extension.

If you believe that the Scandella signing means that Alex Pietrangelo is all but done in St. Lou, remember that Jay Bouwmeester and his similar cap hit are very likely to come off the books this summer, particularly because of J-Bo's health situation. An Alexander Steen buyout is another possibility, particularly if teams are given amnesty buyouts to aid with the salary cap not increasing much (if at all) because of the current COVID-19 situation. It will also be interesting to see what happens with upcoming RFA Vince Dunn, who was second only to Pietrangelo in power-play minutes among Blues' d-men.

Feel free to weigh in on the Scandella signing and what it means on the Forum.

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You may have assumed Andrei Markov was retired from hockey, since you haven't seen him in the NHL for a while. However, the official announcement came on Thursday. Markov had spent the last three seasons playing in the KHL, a league that has shut down until next season.

Markov's NHL career ended just 10 games shy of the 1000-game mark with only one team (Montreal). He finished his NHL career tied for second in points (572) among Canadiens' blueliners, which is a remarkable feat considering the long, successful history of the team.

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Soliciting feedback from the Dobber community, I recently received this question from loyal Dobber visitor Paul Logan: Who are the top 10 faceoff leaders who also contribute in other categories?

As a confession, I don't participate in any leagues that count faceoffs, although I did at one time. My very basic strategy was to load up on as many centers as I could, usually filling them up with the two utility (flex) positions that were on my roster.

Let's fire up Frozen Tools and look for the top 10 faceoff leaders from the 2019-20 season. Now I'm not clear on whether this means top 10 in overall faceoffs or faceoffs won, so I'll include both. I suppose it could even be faceoff winning percentage, although I'll assume it won't get that complicated. Although it's fair to say that the more faceoffs a player wins, the more faceoffs they will probably get to take within a game.

Top 10 in overall faceoffs (FO), 2019-20

Name GP FOW FOL FO FO%
RYAN O’REILLY 71 880 676 1556 56.6
 JONATHAN TOEWS 70 856 638 1494 57.3
BO HORVAT 69 850 633 1483 57.3
ANZE KOPITAR 70 776 631 1407 55.2
 DYLAN LARKIN 71 714 648 1362 52.4
PHILLIP DANAULT 71 728 608 1336 54.5
PATRICE BERGERON 61 759 552 1311 57.9
JACK EICHEL 68 614 697 1311 46.8
MARK SCHEIFELE 71 605 684 1289 46.9
 JORDAN STAAL 68 699 585 1284 54.4

Top 10 in faceoffs won (FOW), 2019-20

Name GP FOW FOL FO FO%
RYAN O’REILLY 71 880 676 1556 56.6
 JONATHAN TOEWS 70 856 638 1494 57.3
BO HORVAT 69 850 633 1483 57.3
ANZE KOPITAR 70 776 631 1407 55.2
PATRICE BERGERON 61 759 552 1311 57.9
PHILLIP DANAULT 71 728 608 1336 54.5
 DYLAN LARKIN 71 714 648 1362 52.4
 JORDAN STAAL 68 699 585 1284 54.4
 CLAUDE GIROUX 69 663 460 1123 59.0
LEON DRAISAITL 71 661 608 1269 52.1

Need faceoffs? Then Ryan O'Reilly is your guy. O'Reilly has led the league in faceoffs won in each of the previous three seasons with 1086 in 2018-19 and 1274 in 2017-18. He also took the highest number of faceoffs in 2017-18 (2124) while finishing third in 2018-19 (1910). I wrote about O'Reilly here when covering assist-heavy forwards, so you should now have a pretty good idea of what ROR is all about for fantasy purposes.

The top four players in overall faceoffs taken (O'Reilly, Jonathan Toews, Bo Horvat, Anze Kopitar) are also the top four in faceoffs won. So again, the more faceoffs a player wins, the more faceoffs they get to take. All four provide enough scoring to make them rosterable in most fantasy leagues, although none should be considered elite options at the center position. Only one of these players (Toews) has an offensive zone start percentage (OZ%) of above 50% over each of the past three seasons. The other three have OZ% of below 50% over each of the past three seasons. In fact, Horvat has only a 39.4 OZ% for a reason that you may be able to figure out in the next paragraph.

Not surprisingly, the top 30 in all of faceoffs won, faceoffs lost, and overall faceoffs are all listed as centers. That doesn't necessarily mean that just because a player is listed as a center, he will take a lot of faceoffs. For example, Elias Pettersson is listed as a center and usually plays that position, yet he has taken only 141 faceoffs all season (sixth on the Canucks). On the Canucks' top line, J.T. Miller usually takes the faceoffs (718 total). (By the way, Pettersson and Miller both have an OZ% of over 60%. In fact, Pettersson's 71.4% OZ% led the league among players who played at least 10 games.)

The reason for Miller taking most of the faceoffs checks out, as Miller has a 59.2 FO% (faceoff winning percentage), while Pettersson has only a 41.8 FO%. So Pettersson's value might actually decline in leagues that count faceoffs, particularly those that count faceoffs won. Meanwhile, Miller finds another way to provide multicategory goodness (Geek of the Week – Miller Time), even with being listed as a LW/RW in Yahoo leagues.

Only two of the players listed in the top 10 in overall faceoffs (Jack Eichel and Mark Scheifele) have a faceoff winning percentage of below 50 percent. Eichel has never had a FO% of 50% or higher in any one season, yet he is currently 17th in faceoffs won (614) simply based on the volume of faceoffs he takes. Scheifele is right behind him in 18th (605) for the same reason. In his seven full NHL seasons, Scheifele has only had a FO% of at least 50% once, which was his 51.3 FO% in 2017-18. Unless your league actually counts faceoff winning percentage, then it's quantity over quality. (In my opinion, leagues that count faceoff winning percentage should set a minimum number of faceoffs per period.)

Most of the names that you see in the top 10 in overall faceoffs and faceoffs won are owned in most fantasy leagues. I'll concentrate on two players that are owned in less than half of Yahoo leagues and what value they bring to the table. 

Phillip Danault

The Canadiens' center surfaced when I was pulling stats on assists, mainly because of his high assist-to-goal totals and high proportion of primary assists to secondary assists in 2018-19. If the regular season has in fact ended, Danault will have averaged 50 points (but only 12.5 goals) over the past two seasons with a 54-point pace both seasons. Adding Danault (second on the Habs in assists in both 2019-20 and 2018-19) should help your faceoffs and assists, but he'll leave you wanting more in goals and shots (average 131.5 SOG over the past two seasons).

Are there any other categories in which he might be useful? A further look shows two more categories in which he won't hurt. Danault led the Habs in plus-minus with a plus-18 while posting a similar total (plus-17) last season. Also, Danault might strike the casual observer as a non-physical playmaker, but his 119 hits were fifth on the team, which should allow him to hold his own in the hits department.

Going forward, Danault is in a fairly stable situation on the Habs. Over half of his even-strength minutes both this season and last have been centering a line with Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher, both of whom have been good for at least 20 goals the past few seasons. These three have been three of the four leading scorers on the Habs this season. Most of Danault's scoring comes as even-strength, however, as he has been held to just four power-play points in each of the past two seasons while primarily playing on the second unit.

Jordan Staal

At age 31, Staal isn't going to surprise anyone at this point in his career. In fact, he was only on pace for 33 points. At a deep center position, that isn't going to cut it. That means you probably shouldn't go out of your way to add Staal to your team, unless your league counts maybe only four other categories beyond faceoffs. For what it's worth, Staal recorded four points (all assists) in the last five games before the break.

Like Danault, Staal also provides value in hits. He leads the Hurricanes in hits this season (149). Although his hit total was down last season, Staal has been good for over 100 hits for each of the last five seasons. The former second overall pick (2006) has recorded just one 50-point season in his career, so the value he brings to fantasy teams tends to fall under non-scoring categories. You could check Frozen Tools to see who his linemates are if you're considering adding him. He finished 2018-19 with 16 points in 20 games while primarily lining up with Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen.

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Old friend Steve Laidlaw has a new podcast that might be worth a listen, especially if you enjoy redrafts. He has two in the books already, including one that I helped out with. The 1999 draft wasn't a particularly deep one (in fact, it really sucked), but it featured Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin and the three crazy trades that Brian Burke made to draft the twins together. It's nearly two hours long, so there's a lot that we cover from the players drafted that year. 

That's a solid lineup of contributors, including Peter Harling from Dobber Prospects Radio and Brian Kom from Keeping Karlsson. Check it out – you probably have some time to kill. Or like me, you like to have something on in the background while working. I'm hoping to get back on the podcast at some point, and I've given him one particular year that I'd like to discuss further.

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Oh, and don't forget that the Top 100 Roto Rankings have been updated for April. If you have some time on your hands, go and have a look. Leave some feedback too. For example, if Player X is ranked higher than Player Y, but you believe the opposite is true, let me know and I'll examine it further.

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For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.

UPCOMING GAMES

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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 CBJ Players
12.5% CAM ATKINSON NICK FOLIGNO ALEXANDER WENNBERG
10.9% OLIVER BJORKSTRAND PIERRE-LUC DUBOIS ALEXANDRE TEXIER
10.9% LIAM FOUDY BOONE JENNER GUSTAV NYQUIST

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