Ramblings: NHL RTP and testing; different methods of drafting; IPP on the power play – July 7

Michael Clifford

2020-07-07

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There was an article on Gold drafting from Micah Blake McCurdy that I think everyone should read. Basically, it's a way of ensuring teams stay competitive throughout the season while removing the incentive for tanking. It's an interesting take on draft positions and the lottery as we know it.

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The NHL announced 23 total players have tested positive for COVID-19 as part of the Phase 2 RTP, out of 396 players tested. There have also been an additional 12 cases outside of Phase 2 RTP. If all goes well, teams are expected to start camp in a week, travel to the hub cities late July, and start the play-ins on August 1st. This is all very, very tentative.

It was also announced that a new CBA has been reached, it just needs to be voted on by the players and approved by the Board of Governors. The results of that player vote should be very interesting.

Finally, no media will be allowed inside the bubble, save for one social media person per team. For those that play DFS, that would indicate it’s pretty unlikely we get lines at morning skates or warmups. That’s going to be a big, big problem in the DFS realm. (I realize that of all the big problems we have at this particular juncture in history, this is a very minor one.)

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MLB is running into testing problems. Namely, the Astros and Nationals had to close camp because they weren't getting coronavirus test results back fast enough. The Angels and Athletics had their testers not even show up. We're seeing the problems the NHL may run into once everyone is finally together.

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There is a report out of Finland that Kaapo Kakko is not returning to the Rangers for the play-ins. To this point, I haven't seen it confirmed by the usual Rangers beat writers, but this being published in one of Finland's largest newspapers would indicate to me that there is something to this. We'll post more once we know more.

Remember that part of the new CBA (that has yet to be ratified by both sides, but could happen later this week) is that players with pre-existing conditions may be outright excluded from play. Kakko has type 1 diabetes. There's still more clarity that needs to come in this area, obviously.

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In my latest Ramblings, I discussed Individual Points Percentage (IPP) as it related to forwards and the power play. Today, we're going to focus on defencemen and IPP on the power play.

As a quick refresher, IPP simply is the rate at which a player tallies a point when he's on the ice for a goal scored by his team. If Brayden Point is on the ice for 100 Tampa Bay goals, and he manages a point on 70 of them, then he has a 70 percent IPP. Obviously, we want guys to get in on as many goals as possible, but as explained in that other Ramblings, there is a reasonable limit of what we can expect for a players' IPP.

Today's Ramblings will discuss IPP among blue liners this year, and again we're going to focus on just the power play. There is certainly cause for investigating 5-on-5 rates as well, but for now, we'll remain with the man advantage. Most stats from Natural Stat Trick or Dobber Tools.

Remember: we're looking for anyone far above 70 percent, and this is for 5-on-4 power plays only. It's a rough cut-off and doesn't apply equally to everyone – some guys spend most seasons around 70 percent, others around 60. But we just want to deal with the extreme outliers for now. Let's get to them.

 

Josh Morrissey and Neal Pionk

Maybe I have to go back and listen to the Keeping Karlsson podcast from last week with Murat Ates, who covers the Jets, because I have questions. Out of 50 defencemen with at least 100 minutes at 5-on-4 this year, Morrissey was second in IPP (91.7 percent) and Pionk was third (86.2 percent). Both guys spent time on the top unit, but it was mostly Pionk's role, especially as the season wore on.

It certainly seems plausible that this is just a random occurrence, but I do wonder if this was intentional. And if it was intentional, do you really want one of Pionk or Morrissey handling the puck that much more than names like Blake Wheeler or Mark Scheifele?

Back in 2017-18, Winnipeg had Tyler Myers come in at an even 80 percent for his IPP. In 2018-19, they had both Morrissey and Dustin Byfuglien come in at 71 percent, which is much lower than other seasons, but remember that 70 percent is still very high league-wide. In that sense, this is three years running now that the Winnipeg defencemen have had not only considerably higher IPPs than league average, but among the highest in the league. I should probably write that down somewhere.

We have an interesting dichotomy here. If Pionk can maintain anywhere in that 70-80 percent range on the power play, he is a lock for 40 points every year. There are just too many PP minutes with good players to prevent him from reaching that plateau, and it would put 50 points within reach every season as well. When combined with his penchant for hitting and shooting, there's a perennial roto monster in the making here.

The problem is if that IPP falls off. Does he get replaced, as a drop in IPP would lead to a drop in production? What if they change the PP structure or priorities? He has a lot of value, but it's tied in to that one position of PP1QB. Without it, his value takes a huge hit.

 

Brent Burns

He was mentioned in the prior Ramblings, but it's worth discussing his entire season here.

Burns was undoubtedly a letdown for those who drafted him, which is funny considering he was on pace for over 50 points, over 250 shots, over 200 combined hits+blocks, and 20 PPPs. That's a very bad season for him, but would be a phenomenal season for 99 percent of NHL defencemen. Such is the nature of expectations.

One reason, I believe, that Burns's IPP is so high was how much time he spent on the second PP unit. There were times when Karlsson ran the top unit by himself and Burns is a guy who commands the puck a lot anyway. But they both spent time on both units, so it may stand to reason that they just wanted to run the power play through Burns or Karlsson.

Even with the secondary PP usage, there's no reason Burns' IPP should be that high. If it were closer to 70 percent, he loses four PPPs. Which doesn't sound like at on, but if brings his 82-game pace under 50 total points and under 20 power-play points.

Before we bury Burns' fantasy value, his on-ice goal rate at 5-on-4 this year was 5.4. Four of his previous five seasons produced goal rates of 7.5 or higher at 5-on-4. A rate of 7.5 this year would add about six goals to his on-ice total, bringing him to 22, and 70 percent of 22 is 15.4, or not far off the 17 he actually posted. Burns could see his IPP crater next year by 20 percent or more, and if the team simply performs as they have in recent memory on the power play, his situation would effectively remain static.

Of course, these are all arguments for Burns being a 50-point defenceman again next year, and not the 70-point guy we had come to know. For that to happen again, this team would need to right the ship, scoring-wise. It's hard to be a 70-point defenceman for a team that finished 27th in scoring, so Burns being a 70-point guy will hinge in big seasons from Couture, Kane, Hertl, and the like.

I still think there's some safety in drafting Burns, because of everything else he brings besides points. With that said, unless the team fixes its scoring problems, the days of Burns being a reliable top option are over, power-play IPP cratering or not. He needs help.

 

John Carlson

I only want to mention Carlson because I think a lot of people will look at his season and assume it was just some massive power-play binge that got him to 75 points in 69 games. That's part of it, but there's nothing sinister here, I think. This is what I mean.

Carlson came in seventh by IPP at 5-on-4 in 2019-20 at 77.8 percent. That is undoubtedly high, as we've demonstrated. But the fact is he posted 70.7 percent last year, 73.7 percent two years before that, 80 percent in 2014-15, and 77.8 percent way back in 2011-12. Yes, the 77.8 percent this year was high, but it wasn't even the highest of his career, and he has several instances over 70 percent. He's a good puckhandler, and the Caps trust him to do just that.

Had he played 82 games this year, Carlson was on pace for 31 PPPs. Last year, he finished with 33 in 80 games, and 32 in 82 games the year before. Yes, Carlson's IPP and all that was high, but the end result was basically the same. The Caps actually scored a three-year low in goals/60 minutes at 5-on-4 with Carlson on the ice this year, so if that rebounds, it could be a situation like Burns: the IPP declines, but the rising goal largely rate offsets any production losses.

Carlson's production will decline next year, but it won't be largely due to the power play.

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 EDM Players
22% JOSH ARCHIBALD CONNOR MCDAVID RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS
17.9% ANDREAS ATHANASIOU LEON DRAISAITL KAILER YAMAMOTO
13% ALEX CHIASSON GAETAN HAAS JAMES NEAL

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