Frozen Tools Forensics: Playoffs Part II – Unlikely Heroes

Chris Kane

2020-06-05

So the NHL has a plan. A plan to play. And a plan for the playoffs. Last week we took a look at how players have historically played well in the playoffs (looking at you Logan Couture). This week I wanted to return to an idea I had started with the Wild West column. The theme is "unlikely playoff heroes." The idea is that every year a couple of very surprising players emerge as key players for their team's playoff runs. As a fantasy drafter you don't really need me to tell you who are the best players to target on each team. What you might be interested in though is which depth players have the best shot at producing.

Rick Roos started off this train with his research on unlikely playoff heroes, and then attempted to figure out if it was predictive of future performance. I went the other way and attempted to look at if there was anything in the season data that we could use to predict which players might be poised to be this year's playoff hero. That way we could grab them ahead of time for our playoff pools. The below paragraph is an excerpt from that article and basically sums up what all of the playoff heroes had in common.

"An unlikely playoff hero should have played 60+ games in the regular season. The player should be averaging between .4 and .7 points per game, should be shooting around two shots a game, with a least a shoot percentage of 9%, be getting somewhere between 1:00 and 2:15 minutes on the power play, and skating between 13:00 and 17:00 minutes of total time on ice. The data points can fluctuate slightly depending on situation, and players might miss one point by a little, but this is the general target. Perhaps the single most important factor though is that they play for a team that is likely to get about 17 games during the playoffs."

The idea is that an unlikely hero is a player that is already doing something with the opportunity they are being given, but has room for growth. That growth could be either in deployment (power play time, or total time on ice), or in favorable spikes of luck (team/personal shooting percentage, IPP etc.). A player who is already spiking a high shooting percentage or getting massive deployment isn't likely to see a sudden, unanticipated increase in value. The most important factor though is that the player plays for a team that at least reaches the conference finals.

So with our expanded playoff format – who are we looking at for 2019-20?

Once again, we can use the Big Board Report for 19-20. Once we export the report and do a little column shuffling, we can filter by the above criteria and get a list of players who fit the bill.

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