Goldipucks and the Three Skaters: Playoff Edition (Part 3)

by Rick Roos on April 11, 2018

Continuing the theme from last week and the previous week, it’s a third installment of our Goldipucks and the Three Skaters series examining playoff-bound skaters to determine what you should expect from them not only in the second season but also the 2018-19 campaign. This time the focus is on skaters (Ondrej Palat, Jeff Carter, Kyle Palmieri) who each missed chunks of time during 2017-18, so it’s even more important to look closely at their data to see what you should expect them to produce in the second season and beyond.

As a reminder, or for first time readers, the concept of this column is a play on Goldilocks and the Three Bears, except instead of bowls of porridge I’m covering skaters and declaring one too hot (i.e., doing unsustainably better than he should), another too cold (i.e., doing unsustainably worse), and a third “just right” (i.e., producing where he should). Each skater also receives a 1-10 rating, indicating, on a relative scale, how hot (rated 7-10, where 10 is the most unsustainably hot), cold (rated 1-3, where 1 is the most unsustainably cold), or just right (rated 4-6, where 5 is the most “just right”) he is.

Before you read any further, be sure to guess which of Palat, Carter, and Palmieri is too cold, which is too hot, and which is just right. It’s an enjoyable exercise, but also important in that it confirms whether your “spidey senses” are correct, and, if they aren’t, allows you to determine what might have led your instincts astray and readjust your fantasy ratings system if necessary.

Ondrej Palat

It seems like not as long ago as 2013-14 and 2014-15 when Palat posted 122 points in 156 games, for a scoring rate in those seasons which was higher than the likes of Jaden Schwartz, Patrice Bergeron, Ryan O’Reilly and Wayne Simmonds. Even in the past two campaigns when his overall production dropped, Palat still would shine come fantasy playoffs, with 22 points in his final 23 games in 2015-16 and 22 in his final 21 contests last season. This season, however, Palat has mainly looked like waiver wire material. But is this simply a case of post-injury rust? Can he be a 60-point player again, especially on a potent team like Tampa? The Goldipucks magic eight ball says not likely.

First and foremost, Palat’s ice time and usage took a major hit this season, as he was down to a mere 37.7% PP usage (marking a four-season low) and an overall Ice Time of only 17:00 per game (a career low). Beyond that, when he did take the ice in 2017-18 it was less often in the offensive zone, as his 50.9% OZ% also represents a low among his four previous full seasons. It’s also notable that Palat finished with a 2.2 points per 60 minute rate for the third season in a row; however, unlike in 2016-17 when that ranked him fourth among team forwards or 2015-16 when it placed him third, this season it slotted him way down in eighth, behind only Alex Killorn among top-nine team forwards.

As if those factors weren’t concerning enough, Palat’s IPP dropped for a remarkable fourth season in a row, which is no easy task. And that occurred despite a plenty high 5×5 team shooting percentage of 10.2. Together those are damning numbers, as they mean scoring is occurring with Palat on the ice – or perhaps despite him being on the ice – but he just doesn’t have the nose for points he once did. Instead, he’s more of a stabilizing, defensively-focused presence for younger players with an upward fantasy trajectory, like frequent linemates Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde.

Moreover, after tallying 51 primary assists to only 32 secondary during his boon seasons, Palat finished with more secondary than primary assists for the second straight season. That reinforces he’s indeed becoming farther removed from the offense, and is not suggesting a bounce back any time soon.

The reality is Palat has morphed into being not much better than a point per every other game forward given his role and deployment. Still though, he’ll benefit enough from playing on an offensively potent team for him to likely score at closer to a 50 point rate, ala what he did this season.

Thus, Palat gets a rating of JUST RIGHT and a numerical value right at 5.0. In the future we should expect more of what we’ve seen from him this season, so rank him accordingly in your draft lists for next year. And only grab him in playoff pools if you think Tampa will reach the Cup finals, as that’s what it would take for Palat to score as much as many players who’ll exit after only round two.

Jeff Carter

Poolies were worried that when Carter returned to the line-up he’d not only be too rusty to score at his usual 60+ point pace, but also would put a dent in the torrid production of Anze Kopitar. Instead, both performed well and have poolies eager to own them in playoff pools. What the data shows, however, is you shouldn’t reach for Carter in your playoff drafts (or for next season), as although his scoring pace was similar to that of last season it’s simply not sustainable for the now 33 year old.

There’s no sugarcoating this either, as other than his always solid SOG rate still being top notch nearly all of Carter’s other metrics were tracking too high. For starters, his 9.29% 5×5 team shooting percentage, although not much above the 9.0% figure usually associated with scoring forwards, wasn’t just a high for him since 2010-11 but represented only his second time above 7.75% since then. At the same time, his offensive zone starting percentage was 48.5%, marking the first time it’s been under 50% since 2011-12 after being between 54% and 59% in each of the last five seasons. Over time, those factors – individually and collectively – are bound to bring his scoring down.

Carter also tallied 41% of his points on the PP (his previous best was 36%) due to a wholly unsustainable one PPPt per every three games (outpacing even his three per every ten games rate from his 2008-09 point per game season). This too was short term positive variance at play.

In fact, about the only thing not cutting against Carter’s elevated scoring rate is a lower than normal IPP; yet that too is balanced out by Carter producing this well despite, for the first time maybe ever, seeing less than 18 minutes of ice time per game, which is not normally enough to produce at the rate he’s been scoring. The result was a 2.7 point per 60 minute rate, which although it would mark the fourth season in a row for that number to either climb or hold steady, also strikes me as too high to be sustainable, especially for a forward of his age.

For all these reasons, Carter is TOO HOT, and gets a rating of 8.0. Clearly the new coaching regime in LA has allowed offensively skilled players like Carter and Kopitar to strut their stuff. However, Carter is several years older than Kopitar and gets far less ice time plus now is starting more shifts in the defensive zone, so expecting Carter to settle at anything above 60 points at this stage of his career would be a stretch.

Kyle Palmieri

After two solid but unspectacular seasons since coming to New Jersey in 2015, Palmieri’s production ticked upward for 2017-18, although poolies can’t be faulted for not noticing since he sputtered prior to his injury late in 2017, then only managed 12 points in the 19 games he played in the third quarter of the season. But he put up nearly point per game numbers in the last quarter of the season. As compared to his numbers for 2017-18 as a whole, poolies should expect even better output in the playoffs and likely into next season as well.

The main factors pointing toward Palmieri being able to continue his hot run of late are that many of his metrics don’t tell the real story. For starters, on the season his PP usage was 53.5%; however, he was above that rate in 18 of his final 22 regular season games and north of 60% in 15 of those contests. And once he received that extra time, he made the most of it, posting one PPPt per every other game from March onward. Although that rate is of course unsustainable, it should cement Palmieri’s spot on New Jersey’s PP1 going forward.

And even as Palmieri’s production ticked upward this season, and despite his torrid last quarter, his 5×5 team shooting percentage was 8.23%, marking his second lowest number since 2011-12. Moreover, his OZ% was 52.8%, marking a five-year high. Together, those suggest not only that his higher scoring level is legit but also that there’s realistic room for still more production when looking at his season output as a whole. And although his secondary assists outnumbered his primary ones, it was not by much. Cumulatively over the previous two seasons, he had barely more primary assists versus secondary (29 to 25), which is not a major departure from his norm that would suggest an unsustainable scoring benefit.

Another strong metric in Palmieri’s favor is his SOG rate being a hair under 3 per game this season, marking a personal best. And there too the trends have been better than his season-long numbers would indicate, with him having fired 71 SOG in only 22 fourth quarter games. There’s also the great chemistry that Palmieri has with possible league MVP Taylor Hall. Hall’s most frequent linemate for 2017-18 was Nico Hischier, and the third member of that line was mainly either Palmieri or Jesper Bratt. And although Bratt and Palmieri both skated roughly 40% of their even strength shifts with Hall, it was Palmieri and Hall who combined for more points (17) at even strength than Hall and Bratt (13). As such, expectations should be that Palmieri becomes the permanent fixture on that line in the playoffs and into next season.

All things considered, when looking at Palmeiri’s season-long stats he’s TOO COLD. While he probably is not the point-per-game player he’s been since March, he’s poised to be a 60-65+ point guy during the playoffs and into next season, so when looking at him as a whole he gets a rating of 1.75. The only issue now is where to draft him in playoff and 2018-19 pools, since you don’t want to reach in view of his value being disguised by his overall stats for 2017-18, yet at the same time you shouldn’t wait too long and risk missing out. For 2018-19, once consistent 55-60 point guys start being taken, that’s when you should consider pulling the trigger, and then get ready to reap the benefits.