Capped: Searching for, and avoiding, sophomore slumps

Alexander MacLean

2020-08-06

Welcome back, I hope you've all been enjoying the non-stop hockey as much as I have. Who am I kidding, no one is enjoying this as much as I am! While you take a break either before the early start games, or in an intermission, here's some reading material aimed at getting you to think about your expectations for your rookies that won't be rookies much longer.

The sophomore slump is a very common phrase in fantasy hockey, as it does seem that a lot of rookies disappoint. Is it really more common though for a player to take a step back rather than forward in their second year? The bottom line is no, but it's more common in forwards.

Parsing through some data and breaking it down by position, relevant goaltenders over the last ten years who hit 20 games and a save percentage over .905 percent managed to put up similar or better stats in a large majority of cases. Some of the outliers were lower upside players such as Anton Forsberg, but for every Forsberg there were four or five success stories.

Looking at the blue line, there is an increased frequency of cases where a player takes a big (sometimes permanent) step back in year two. This includes players like Will Butcher, Nikita Zaitsev, Brady Skjei, Ben Hutton, Eric Gelinas, and others. However, the ratio is similar to the goalies overall, and probably only about one in five that disappointed in year two after shining in year one. Most defencemen that hit 20 points in year one managed to put up similar and/or better stats the following year. Thus far it seems to be about one in five that struggle to keep pace in year two.

Moving forward to the wingers and centres, it seems that there is more of an adjustment period up front. Over the last ten years, the fantasy relevant first year forwards (40+ points) have managed to keep up that pace about half of the time. For every breakout and disappointing follow up from a Jeff Skinner, there are just as many players that show consistent growth like fellow Sabre Sam Reinhart.

If anyone wants to see the research, I can put that together for next week, but it would just be a whole bunch of numbers to say what I've generally outlined above.

 

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One of my league mates was musing about what Kirby Dach's sophomore season may look like, so let's check in on him and a few others since the performance of youngsters on cheap contracts is key to putting together a solid fantasy team.

 

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The Skaters:

The Calder nominees Quinn Hughes, Cale Makar, and Dominik Kubalik we can expect to see continued growth from. All three players succeeded with only a moderately inflated shooting percentage for Kubalik, and skewed offensive deployment for the duo on the blueline as outlying underlying numbers. They should