Forum Buzz: Ranking elite centres; Vrana, Fiala, and Konecny; Bjorkstrand; DeBrincat’s scoring
Welcome back to Forum Buzz, where I peruse the DobberHockey Forums and weigh in on very active, heavily debated, or otherwise relevant recent threads, reminding everyone how great of a resource the Forums are, especially now that the season is paused. Nearly anything might be covered here, other than trades and signings, which usually get separate write-ups on the main site and are also covered in the next day’s Ramblings, or questions specific to salary cap issues, which is the domain of Alex MacLean’s weekly Capped column.
As a reminder, you can access the forum thread on which the question is based by clicking on the “Topic” for each question.
Topic #1 – In a 12-team H2H league counting G, A, PPP, SOG, BLK, HIT, FOW, W, GAA, SV percent, SO, eight players can be kept once the season ends, but by the start of 2020-21 that eight has to be narrowed to five. Which eight/five make the cut from:
Brad Marchand – 2nd round
Artemi Panarin – 2nd round
Bo Horvat – 2nd round
Blake Wheeler – 2nd round
Neil Pionk – 3rd round
Sean Monahan – 6th round
Ben Bishop – 7th Round
Jacob Trouba – 8th round
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – 15th round
First off, let's assume multiple players can be kept in the same round, since if not that would allow us to trim the list more easily. Based on that assumption, Horvat, Pionk, Trouba, Forsberg and OEL are definite non-keeps because all of them either will be available at the same or later round and/or simply do not have the locked in value or the chance to explode as the others.
Trimming the remaining ten to eight, and then to five, is no easy task. With 60 total players being kept, I think Wheeler can be thrown back in the pool, as although he was a point-per-game player after his slow start, other GMs likely will worry that he's fading and thus he should end up being available at round two.
And although they have name value, which all but ensures they'd be off the board by round six, I think it's correct to trim one of Giroux or Monahan to get to eight. Which one? Giroux has bounced back from subpar years in the past; however, he's 32 now and his ice time dropped quite a bit in 2019-20, perhaps signaling a new normal. Monahan also shed ice time; however, he's younger and all his "puck luck" metrics suggest he can bounce back. All this having been said, I don't think either one makes the top five, so probably best to hold onto Giroux, as there's a better chance he can be traded him during the offseason as compared to Monahan.
If I had to decide now on five keeps, I'd say Marchand, Panarin, Hedman and Hamilton are locks, with the fifth either being Bishop or, if a trade can be made in the offseason, such as packaging Bishop and Giroux or one of the other forwards, another goalie. TT and Nylander are tempting to keep; but Marchand and Panarin are two of fewer than a dozen players who can realistically tally 100+ points, so although TT and Nylander are bargains given their draft rounds, they're not outstanding enough to keep over the second round studs, nor the d-men.
I've got Fiala and Konecny in the top echelon, trailed just barely by Vrana, and then Yamamoto. It could be that Yamamoto explodes; but of the four he's the most dependent on his line mates and he didn't – at least not yet – figure into his team's PP1 picture, and in fact wasn't getting any PP time in the last few games of the regular season. So, although he's not "last place" material by any means, someone has to be ranked at the bottom, and versus these guys it's him.
Vrana is intriguing because like Yamamoto he has a great supporting cast; however, he's done more to show he's the real deal, most notably his 1.54 goals per 60 minutes rate for this season, which puts him just outside the top ten for that stat among all forwards in any season since 2015-16. And although not probative, the only other forward since 2010-11 to average 0.75 points per game or higher despite receiving under 15 minutes per game was none other than Nikita Kucherov, back in 2014-15.
It also seems like Washington is slowly but steadily giving Vrana a larger role, starting first in 2018-19 by putting him in the top six and then this season giving him a taste of PP1. All Vrana has done is succeed along the way. This trend should continue, and, with that, his scoring should increase. The reason I have him lower than Fiala and Konecny is I feel like he won't become "the guy" for his team, thus likely preventing him from topping out at more than 80 points. Also, as good as the Caps are now, its stars will start to decline soon, which should hurt him somewhat.
In terms of Konecny, its stars too are set to decline; however, he showed his talent during his magical fourth year and did not appear to be dependent upon line mates to help his cause. Am I saying that the presence of the likes of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek didn't help him? No, that likely did. But it seemed Konecny was helping them as much as they were helping him. Plus, with Konecny finally getting a shot on PP1, he thrived, with 23 PPPts in a mere 66 games, for one of the best PP scoring rates among all NHL forwards. I think Konecny is a sure bet for 70+ points in 2020-21, with a shot at point per game numbers.
Fiala is also in the top tier, but for different reasons, which, in his case, were that he was literally carrying a team on his shoulders over the second half. Moreover, he has ice time to gain and wasn't a PP1 regular like Konecny. Fiala was always thought to possess top tier talent, and he showed it in 2019-20. Of the four, he has the best chance to hit 90+ points in the next three seasons, as although the Wild are not a top tier team their offense was quite a bit better than many thought it would be, with Fiala leading the way. So Fiala gets the tiny edge over Konecny.
There's something to like about all three. With Olofsson, his PPG pace over a full season was 26, which would have well exceeded the highest total by any rookie (Alex Ovechkin's 21) going back to the 2000-01 season. Kubalik had 30 goals in 68 games as a rookie, giving him the second-best goals per 60 rate dating back to 2015-16. And all Bjorkstrand did was post 30 points in his last 30 games while firing 128 SOG, for a team ranked 27th in team offense and PP conversion.
One key is, although Kubalik and Olofsson were rookies, they're both less than six months younger than Bjorkstrand. That's significant, as normally we look at a rookie's output and figure that he's only started to show his full potential. But with Kubalik and Olofsson being 24 years old, it's a different story. Moreover, if we look at rookies age 24+ who put up 30+ goals (ala Kubalik) as or who scored at a 0.75 points per game or higher scoring pace (ala Olofsson), we get a star like Artemi Panarin but also players who went on to have unspectacular careers like Ken Hodge Jr., Tony Granato and Joe Juneau. In other words, we have to view the outputs of older rookies with inherent skepticism.
On the other hand, it's difficult to poke holes in the accomplishments of Bjorkstrand this season. With nearly no supporting cast and skating for a defense-oriented team, he played at a point-per-game level and averaged over four SOG per game for more than a third of a season. And as he did this, his ice time climbed, from 16:46 per game in Q1, to 17:53 per game in Q2, to 19:42 per game in Q3. And only five of those 30 points came via the PP, of which Bjorkstrand still was not a major piece, suggesting he could do even better in the normal course.
I happen to think Kubalik and Olofsson are unlikely to flame out; however, Bjorkstrand belongs in another echelon. I'd put his ceiling at 90+ points, versus likely in the 60s for the other two.
At the top of the list is MacKinnon. He's still only 24 and all he's now averaged 1.21 points per game in each of the last three seasons. Moreover, he's a shooting center, allowing him to be all the more likely to factor into scoring. His downside is 95-100 points per season but he has it in him to hit 110 points.
The next spot is a toughie. Eichel and Matthews have comparable raw skill; however, Eichel is on a team where he'll have to do more himself whereas Matthews is on a Toronto squad that is a goal-scoring powerhouse. But Toronto's depth of scoring could actually hurt Matthews, as there are other skilled players who can syphon away points. Also, Matthews was receiving just under 21 minutes per game and taking the ice for 70 percent of Toronto's PP minutes, yet that only resulted in a point per game scoring rate of 1.14. Granted, his points per game rate has improved with each passing season; however, with his ice times where they are now and the Leafs unlikely to get even better at scoring, I could see Matthews topping out at 90-95 points.
In contrast, Eichel, although not surrounded by anything close to the crop of talent on the Leafs, still managed a higher points per game rate than Matthews this season, and his points per game has risen in each of his seasons too. What's key is as the Sabres get better Eichel figures to benefit directly, whereas Matthews is already getting that benefit and maybe even being hurt by all the offensive talent surrounding him. I favor Eichel over Matthews, but only barely.
For the next spot, give me Barkov over Pettersson. Barkov's ice time and scoring were down this season but he'll be leaned on even more in 2020-21 and beyond as the Panthers try to build for a Stanley Cup run over these same three seasons. He's the unquestioned #1 center plus has a 96-point season to his credit at age 23; and the only two NHLers to score that many points by age 23 since 2000-01 are Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, each of whom had at least three seasons of 100+ points. In other words, you don't fluke into scoring 96 points by age 23 and then never hit that number again. But his dip in scoring this season puts him a notch below Eichel and Matthews.
As for Pettersson, his future looks very bright; however, he most likely won't completely come into his own for a few seasons. And the Canucks likewise look to have a promising future, but also one which might not fully take hold for a few more years as well. Can Pettersson score 100 points down the road? I would not put it past him; however, when looking at the next three years he's the one who unfortunately has to be ranked last among this impressive group.
It looks like Philly is growing more comfortable with Provorov being "the guy" on defense in every sense of the word. Most importantly, that meant ample PP time this season, to which he responded with 16 PPPts, likely ensuring he keeps his role as PP1 QB. What concerns me about his future potential, however, are his SOG rate and his IPP, which is defined as the rate at which he scores a point on goals tallied while he's on the ice.
Although at age 21 he averaged just a tad under 2.5 SOG per game, that was in over 1900 minutes, making the feat less impressive. This season he logged just under 25 minutes per game yet was averaging 2.17 SOG per game. That's not a lot, all things considered. Then there's his IPP, which was 28.9 percent last season and 34.6 percent this season. Granted, defensemen shouldn't have very high IPPs, but ones who are – or likely to become – scorers tend to have higher ones than that. Take the somewhat late blooming Victor Hedman – before scoring 55 points in his fifth season, he had IPPs of 34.7 percent, 35.9 percent, 38.5 percent, then 68.9 percent, and since then has been in the 45-50 percent range nearly every season. Provorov isn't on that trajectory, or so it appears.
Even someone like Rasmus Ristolainen, someone to whom I've seen Provorov compared, has had IPPs in the 39.8 percent to 45.6 percent range in all but one of his six full seasons. And we've seen that he's yet to get past the 45-point threshold. There's also Philly's core starting to age, such that its offense might be due to slow, which may have already started with 2019-20. That won't help Provorov, especially with him having a low IPP.
I think expecting more than 45 points from Provorov might be a stretch. Instead he should be looked upon as a solid multi-cat defenseman who can score but more likely than not won't become a major point producer. Or to put it another way, his floor is Jake Muzzin, his likely trajectory is Ristolainen, and if all somehow goes perfectly right, maybe he can turn out to be like Shea Weber except with fewer SOG.
As was pointed out in the Forum thread, DeBrincat has a big time age advantage; however, when we're looking at solely the next few seasons I'm not sure that's as much of a factor as it would be if, let's say, we were talking about a dynasty league. Still though, this is a keeper, so for certain if all things are otherwise equal, the much younger DeBrincat gets the edge.
As it turns out, both players have deceptive stats, as for DeBrincat, his SOG and ice time rates were almost identical in 2019-20 to what they were in 2018-19. What, then, was the difference for DeBrincat? His personal shooting percentage, which was about half his rate over his first two NHL seasons. And it was not a question of shot selection, as in 2019-20, 43 of his SOG were from 1-15 feet, 72 from 16-30, and 68 from 31+, versus 33, 93, and 70 for 2018-19. If anything, his shot selection this season should have resulted in more goals, yet instead his shooting percentage cratered. Had he shot at his career percentage, his goal total would've been at least 36, and voilà, he'd have scored at a 74-point pace. It's fairly safe to say he should rebound to 70+ points next season, with a chance at a big jump what with it being his magical fourth year.
Tarasenko had ten points in ten games before getting hurt this season; but it's what he did in 2018-19 after Craig Berube was installed as coach that is most relevant. In the first half of last season, Tarasenko had 23 points in 38 games; however he rose to 45 in 38 contests in the second half, giving him 55 points in his last 48 games counting his abbreviated 2019-20, for a 94 point full season pace. With Tarasenko, there was always the belief that he had another gear; and sure enough under Berube, it emerged.
In a perfect world the solution would be to trade one of them or keep them both; however, the market for each is low due to DeBrincat's subpar 2019-20 and Tarasenko's injury. If only one can be kept, then I'd say Tarasenko is the safer bet, with DeBrincat being the risk/reward guy.
Topic #7 – In a 14-team, H2H weekly match up league where starting line-ups are 2C, 2RW, 2LW, 4D, 1F, 1W, 1Util, and skater categories are G, A, Pts, +/-, PPP, PIM and SOG, a team has two first round a two second round picks and gets to keep eight players, four of which are planned to be Nikita Kucherov (RW), Mikko Rantanen (RW), Johnny Gaudreau (LW, RW), and Aleksander Barkov (C). Who should be the other four keepers from among the following: Mark Giordano (D), Matt Dumba (D), Jacob Trouba (D), Kevin Shattenkirk (D), Duncan Keith (D), Tomas Hertl (C, LW), Jamie Benn (C, LW), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C, LW), Dylan Strome (C, RW), and Oliver Bjorkstrand (LW, RW)?
To me, RNH is a lock. He was scoring at roughly a 100-point clip toward the end of the season and has done more than enough to earn a permanent spot not only beside Leon Draisaitl but also on Edmonton's PP1.
I also think you have to keep a defenseman; and I'm retaining Dumba. Both he and Giordano had poor seasons; however, Dumba is only starting to enter his prime and prior to 2020-21 had 41 points in his last 66 games. Yes, Giordano is only a season removed from posting 74 points and had an unsustainably low personal shooting percentage in 2019-20; but his SOG rate was down (Dumba's wasn't) plus he turns 37 in October. Moreover, going back to 2011-12 only one rearguard Giordano's age or older has scored 50+ points, so the odds are he doesn't rebound.
With SOG, and given my explanation above, I'm also keeping Bjorkstrand. And for the last spot give me Hertl, who, through Q1 of this season, had 95 points in his previous 98 games. That's too long of a stretch to be a fluke. Yes, he's an injury risk and plays for a team on the decline; but he will be looked upon as a major source of offense and should produce well.
Another option would be to trade Gaudreau and either Dumba or Giordano to try and get an upgrade at defense, as Gaudreau is a winger, a position you have covered well. Plus, Gaudreau is not a stat stuffer and might not reach the 99 point level again, yet other GMs will remember that output and likely pay top dollar for him.
Questions for Mailbag column needed
Unlike the past few months, there's still space left in the mailbag, so if you have a question about your fantasy team or fantasy hockey in general, send it to me and I'll be able to answer it in a couple of weeks. To get questions to me, either private message “rizzeedizzee” via the DobberHockey Forums or, instead, send an email to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line.
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