Frozen Tools Forensics: Playoffs Part II – Unlikely Heroes

chriskane

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.

NameGPGAPTSPTS/GPPPPPPTOITOISOGSHT %
TANNER PEARSON692124450.65101:3516:3116412.80%
KASPERI KAPANEN691323360.5231:1515:4712110.74%
JARED MCCANN661421350.5361:4115:151509.33%
JAMES VAN RIEMSDYK661921400.6192:3414:5415112.58%
PAVEL BUCHNEVICH681630460.6892:1816:5614810.81%
FILIP CHYTIL60149230.3831:1714:5011412.28%
MATT DUCHENE661329420.64112:3916:531369.56%
CALLE JARNKROK641519340.5391:4815:5613611.03%
VIKTOR ARVIDSSON571513280.4982:2816:1212711.81%
NICK SUZUKI711328410.58142:1015:591389.42%
FRANK VATRANO691618340.4921:2715:011629.88%
TYLER ENNIS701621370.53102:0914:4315910.06%
JAMIE BENN691920390.57142:2416:2616311.66%
ALEXANDER RADULOV601519340.57102:3216:4513211.36%
JOE PAVELSKI671417310.46112:3816:5612511.20%
CHARLIE COYLE701621370.5351:5216:4714511.03%
JAKE DEBRUSK651916350.54102:3416:0316111.80%
CARL SODERBERG701718350.5112:0915:5413512.59%

(I tweaked the games played requirement to 50 to be roughly proportionate with the 60-game limit of a full season)

The above list contains 18 players, though I think we might be able to whittle it down a little bit. Once we have the list what we are really looking for is players who might have a change: a bump in ice time, a swing in luck. Someone like Carl Soderberg is already seeing a career high shooting percentage, and guys like Matt Duchene, Joe Pavelski, Alex Radulov, James van Riemsdyk, and Jake DeBrusk are already seeing a pretty high amount of power-play time. Plus they are all bigger name players (as is Jamie Benn) who are on the downswing this season so might be more expensive in a playoff pool just because of higher name ID. 

If we take out those, we are left with eleven names.

NameGPGAPTSPTS/GPPPPPPTOITOISOGSHT %
TANNER PEARSON692124450.65101:3516:3116412.80%
KASPERI KAPANEN691323360.5231:1515:4712110.74%
JARED MCCANN661421350.5361:4115:151509.33%
PAVEL BUCHNEVICH681630460.6892:1816:5614810.81%
FILIP CHYTIL60149230.3831:1714:5011412.28%
CALLE JARNKROK641519340.5391:4815:5613611.03%
VIKTOR ARVIDSSON571513280.4982:2816:1212711.81%
NICK SUZUKI711328410.58142:1015:591389.42%
FRANK VATRANO691618340.4921:2715:011629.88%
TYLER ENNIS701621370.53102:0914:4315910.06%
CHARLIE COYLE701621370.5351:5216:4714511.03%

This is a really interesting mix of veterans who are either in a new position (Tyler Ennis) or have a history of good stretches when given a shot (Charlie Coyle, Viktor Arvidsson), and some young players just waiting for the right opportunity (Pavel Buchnevich, Nick Suzuki, Frank Vatrano, Filip Chytil). Overall, I am very intrigued by this list.

The final factor to consider is what teams are going to get the furthest. Obviously, anyone who plays the five-game playdown has the chance to play more games, but they have a higher risk of getting bounced. Teams like Boston and Dallas are ranked higher and have a bye in the play-down, but it is hard to consider counting out Pittsburgh and Toronto. At the end of the day, the teams that play the most give underrated players the best chance to shine. Pick your teams and target these guys first (well second, after the superstars).

That is all for this week. Thanks for reading.

Stay safe out there.

Want more tool talk? Check out these recent Frozen Tool Forensics Posts.

Frozen Tools Forensics: The Plan to Play

Frozen Tools Forensics: You down with IPP?

Frozen Tool Forensics: I'm Not Throwing Away My Shot

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 L.A Players
34% DUSTIN BROWN ALEX IAFALLO ANZE KOPITAR
22% ADRIAN KEMPE TREVOR LEWIS BLAKE LIZOTTE
18.8% MICHAEL AMADIO NIKOLAI PROKHORKIN AUSTIN WAGNER

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