Who is the better fantasy own – Conor Sheary or Viktor Arvidsson?

by Rick Roos on March 29, 2017

Big things can come in small – and unexpected – packages. Cases in point for 2016-17 are Conor Sheary and Viktor Arvidsson; neither stands 5’10”, but they’ve been two of the season’s most significant fantasy surprises. Are they flashes in the pan, or for real? Let’s find out – Cage Match starts now!

 

Career Path and Contract Status

Sheary, 24, was undrafted but caught on with Pittsburgh for an AHL cameo in 2013-14, then logged 58 AHL games in 2014-15 (posting 45 points). That earned him a two-year ELC; but only after more AHL success (36 points in 30 games) did Sheary taste NHL action, where he showed growing pains (ten points in 44 games). This season started with him being a frequent scratch; but after back-to-back multi-point games in early November he became a mainstay in the line-up, and has been a point per game player since the start of December, mainly due to great chemistry with Sidney Crosby.

Arvidsson, who turns 24 in April, was drafted 112th overall in 2014 at age 21 and came stateside for the 2014-15 campaign. He opened eyes right away, with 55 points in 70 AHL games (but none in a six game NHL cameo). Last season saw Arvidsson dominate the AHL (18 points in 17 games) to cement a spot in Nashville, where he struggled (16 points in 56 contests). This season he started well and has only gotten better, with his own point per game hockey scoring stretch dating back to mid-January.

Both players are arbitration-eligible RFAs this summer, with Sheary having made $0.667M for 2016-17 versus Arvidsson’s $0.631M.

Ice Time

Season

Total Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)

PP Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)

SH Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)

2016-17

15:43 (C.S.) – 7th

17:02 (V.A.) – 4th

1:42 (C.S.) – 6th

1:51 (V.A.) – 7th

0:00 (C.S.)

1:06 (V.A.) – 6th (tied)

2015-16

9:45 (C.S.) – 18th

12:24 (V.A.) – 9th

0:45 (C.S.) – 10th

0:20 (V.A.) – 9th

0:00 (C.S.)

0:06 (V.A.) – 11th

 

There are question marks for both players. For Arvidsson, it’s whether his two-way skill (highlighted by seven SHPts – tied for the NHL lead) might limit his offensive deployment, while for Sheary it’s whether he’ll be able to stick with Sidney Crosby.

 

Look no further than Brad Marchand to see what can happen when an undersized player is skilled at both ends of the ice. For years Marchand received top line billing at 5×5 but was saddled with lots of SH Time and virtually no PP Time, and his production stalled in the 50s. This season his PP Time is way up and his SH Time has dipped under 2:00, and he’s a top NHL forward. Marchand’s explosion could result in teams being less inclined to pigeonhole players, like Arvidsson, who are smaller and skilled at both ends of the ice. Also, Arvidsson’s Ice Time trends are better than his season-long data. In his first 14 games, he had above 14:07 only four times, while since February he’s taken the ice for 17:55 per game in 15 of 24 games. Plus, his PP usage has been over 50% in more than three-quarters of Nashville’s games within the last month, despite his 36.7% PP usage over the entire season.

 

For Sheary, the reflex is to foretell him for glory since he’s an up-and-comer displaying superb chemistry with Crosby. But 2007-08 was the last time Crosby played over 50% of even strength shifts in a season with anyone younger than 28 (Colby Armstrong and Ryan Malone). Since then, he only played over 50% in a season with Pascal Dupuis (now retired) and/or Chris Kunitz (age 38 and an upcoming UFA). Thus, the door is wide open for Sheary to stay paired with Crosby in 2017-18 and beyond.

 

Although we lack a comparison of a young, talented forward flanking Crosby, Kunitz and Dupuis showed us merely lining up with him at 5×5 apparently isn’t enough to elevate players into elite fantasy territory. With virtually no PP Time, Dupuis topped at 59 points, but otherwise was mainly a point per every other game player. Kunitz had a three season stretch that featured 52 points in lockout-shortened 2012-13, sandwiched between campaigns of 61 and 68 points. Yet in those years Kunitz was buoyed by better than one PPPt per every four games and 3:31+ per game in PP Time, or well above where Sheary is now. That being said, since Evgeni Malkin got hurt – and before he himself was injured Sunday – Sheary had slid onto PP1 (instead of the likes of Matt Cullen or Nick Bonino), which reinforces that the Pens see Sheary as the real deal.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2016-17

0.36 (C.S.)

0.29 (V.A.)

0.49 (C.S.)

0.30 (V.A.)

0.34 (C.S.)

0.55 (V.A.)

2.52 (C.S.)

3.09 (V.A.)

0.07 (C.S.)

0.11 (V.A.)

2015-16

0.18 (C.S.)

0.62 (V.A.)

0.34 (C.S.)

0.48 (V.A.)

0.11 (C.S.)

0.62 (V.A.)

1.16 (C.S.)

2.48 (V.A.)

0.00 (C.S.)

0.01 (V.A.)

 

Neither brings a lot to the table in multi-cat leagues, although Arvidsson’s SOG rate is very impressive. Not only is he 18th in SOG among forwards, but his Ice Time per game is at least 0:38 lower than anyone above him. Plus, although a very high SOG rate doesn’t guarantee huge point totals, higher scorers do shoot more. This season, 21 forwards have played 65+ games while averaging 3.0+ SOG per game; 11 have 30+ goals, representing all but six of the NHL’s 17 forwards with 30+ tallies.

 

As for Sheary, 2.5 SOG per game is quite good, especially for a rookie; however, as was the case to some degree with Arvidsson’s Ice Time, Sheary’s season-long SOG data masks his trends. Specifically, Sheary’s SOG rate is weighed down by his early season output as well as his low Ice Time. Through November, Sheary had 32 SOG in 16 games (i.e., exactly 2 SOG per game). That means he had 106 SOG in his next 38 games (i.e., 2.79 per game). And let’s not forget that’s with only 15:43 per game of Ice Time, which means had he taken the ice – in his 55 games – for the same amount of time per game as Arvidsson, that would’ve translated to an extra 4.7 games worth of Ice Time, or roughly another 13 SOG at his post-November SOG rate. Thus, he could’ve been at 119 SOG in 38 games, or an average of 3.13 SOG per game, i.e., right at Arvidsson’s rate. Long story short – Sheary’s SOG trends bode better than what we can see just from his yearlong totals.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

 

Season

Personal Shooting Percentage

Team Shooting % (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

2016-17

15.1% (C.S.)

12.6% (V.A.)

10.29% (C.S.)

9.25% (V.A.)

81.6% (C.S.)

69.8% (V.A.)

57.1% (C.S.)

50.0% (V.A.)

63.9% (C.S.)

55.8% (V.A.)

2015-16

13.7% (C.S.)

5.8% (V.A.)

6.00% (C.S.)

5.32% (V.A.)

76.9% (C.S.)

68.4% (V.A.)

N/A (C.S.)

100% (V.A.)

62.0% (C.S.)

51.3% (V.A.)

 

For Sheary, the combination of a very favorable OZ% and an elevated 5×5 team shooting % helps explain why he’s producing so well despite almost no PP scoring. The good news is if he sticks with Crosby, his team shooting % shouldn’t drop too much (Kunitz’s was 9.43%+ for a stretch of five out of six years with Crosby) and neither will his OZ% (Crosby’s has averaged roughly 55% over the past several seasons). Plus, even if the overall effect of those drops was something on the order of ten fewer points per year, were Sheary to indeed get PP1 Ice Time, he could easily offset those drops.

 

It’s also reassuring that Sheary had a very high IPP even in his non-productive 2015-16. It shows he’s the type of player who finds a way to be involved in scoring. And the fact that he’s been able to improve upon his 5×5 IPP in 2016-17 lends support to the idea that Sheary is actually helping to make Crosby even better, as opposed to being merely along for the ride. And in turn, it should make poolies even more confident that Sheary will remain one of Crosby’s wingers going forward.

 

Nothing is out of line with Arvidsson’s 2016-17 numbers; in fact, if anything, they leave room for further growth. Also, even though he didn’t produce much in 2015-16, he did manage high IPPs at 5×5 and 5×4. What that means is he’s talented and can drive offense. But guess what – that’s not always 100% great news for fantasy. Why? Nashville could see him as a candidate to be moved to a lower line to bolster offense while still contributing to defensive responsibility. Again – it all comes back to concern about Arvidsson’s versatility possibly hurting him in fantasy.

 

Who Wins?

 

Before declaring a winner, there’s a key lesson in this week’s match, namely that we can no longer look to season-long totals for a clear indication of what to expect from a player in 2017-18. In fact, now’s the best time to take note of 20-30+ game trends, as once the offseason hits memories will fade and it’ll be much more difficult to recall which players were trending better than their totals would suggest.

 

It's tempting to shrug off Sheary because players paired with Crosby over the years either failed to stick or didn’t turn into huge points machines. Then again, we saw that no young players have truly been given a long look with Crosby in nearly a decade. And not only has Sheary managed to stick with Crosby, he’s doing his part to make the line succeed, rather than simply riding Sid’s coattails. Plus, even after Sheary earlier missed extended time due to injury he was right back with Crosby, which says a lot.

 

That all being said, it’s difficult to envision Sheary cracking the PP1 line-up for the Pens. Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel aren’t going anywhere; and more often than not in the past few years, the fourth PP1 spot – assuming they continue to run with just one defenseman – has gone to a larger forward, ala Kunitz or Patric Hornqvist. And without PP1 Time, Sheary simply won’t be able to keep up his current pace, which is bolstered by unsustainably high OZ% and team shooting %.

 

But before we use that uncertainty to declare Arvidsson the winner, let’s acknowledge Arvidsson has a few questions marks of his own. He too has failed to unquestionably crack his team’s PP1, although we saw that his PP usage percentage has been trending better in recent weeks. And despite the arguably analogous success of Marchand, Arvidsson remains at risk of being put into roles that focus on his combination of all-around talent and ability to generate offense, which is not a risk for Sheary. Then again, Arvidsson’s defensive skill could just as easily work to his benefit by keeping him with more offensively-focused players at even strength.

 

In the end, both have enough question marks to prevent one from being a true winner of this match. Thus, who wins will depend on your league and how its GMs value each player. Or, for cap leagues, what contracts they sign this summer.

 

If GMs are tripping over themselves to believe Sheary is the real deal, chances are he won’t be a good value vs. cost asset to acquire or draft, while if instead they’re skeptical because they think he’s a flash in the pan or won’t stick with Crosby, then that might give you an opportunity to snag him for what could prove to be a reasonable price. For Arvidsson, you’ll need to see if your fellow GMs think he’s done enough to be put in a position to continue to succeed or even improve, or if instead they aren’t quite sold on him. One key factor is that playing in Nashville makes Arvidsson more likely to be undervalued than Sheary, who instead skates for one of the most focused-upon teams in real-life and fantasy hockey.

 

 

One response to “Who is the better fantasy own – Conor Sheary or Viktor Arvidsson?”

  1. BeauRyker says:

    All things considered, give me Arvidsson every day. You gotta look at the teams and their situations. Nashville wouldn’t have made the playoffs, if they do, without him. Pittsburg would have made them without Sheary anyway.