Cage Match: Colton Parayko vs. Seth Jones

by Rick Roos on August 24, 2016

The better fantasy own: Colton Parayko or Seth Jones? (As well as last week's poll results)

 

Thanks again to everyone who voted in the summer Cage Match Tournaments. Participation and readership were far above 2015 levels; hopefully I can measure up when it comes time for the next tournament, which I have pegged for December. Here’s a link to the results last week’s Defensemen Decliners poll, where Brent Burns and Brent Seabrook tied as the “winners.” Go figure – a tie in the NHL shootout era!

Another great thing about the tournaments is they gave me a fresh source for Cage Matches, like this week, where the top vote getters among Defensemen Breakouts (Seth Jones and Colton Parayko) face off to see if indeed Jones deserved to narrowly beat Parayko. Let’s get down to business – Cage Match starts now!

 

Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications

 

Jones, who turns 22 in October, was an elite prospect who posted 31 points in successive USHL seasons before 56 in 61 games in his lone WHL campaign. After whispers of possibly being the top pick in the 2013 draft, he slid to 4th and, surprisingly, to defense-rich Nashville.

Despite a crowded Preds blueline, Jones played 77 games in 2013-14, posting 25 points. His production rate held flat (38 points in his next 112 games) until he was part of the blockbuster deal to bring Ryan Johansen to Nashville. With Columbus, Jones saw his scoring rise to just under point per every other game numbers notwithstanding its inferior offense.

Parayko, 23, was drafted 82nd in 2012 after two seasons in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He then played three years in college, where his performance (66 points in 104 games) led to a two-year ELC in March 2015 and seven points in 17 AHL games to close out 2014-15.

With his resume, it’s not surprising Parayko was invited to Blues camp in 2016; what did come as a shock was him posting six points in five preseason games while averaging over 20:00 per contest. Although that earned him a ticket to start the season with the team, it was ten points in his first 14 regular season games (including seven straight where he posted six total points while logging 21:00+ each game) that locked him into the top four and ignited talks of St. Louis dealing Kevin Shattenkirk.

This season Jones embarks upon the six year, $32.4M deal he signed this summer ($5.4M cap hit), while Parayko enters the last season of his ELC ($0.858M cap hit, $0.925M AAV). While that’s a huge salary gap, it should shrink substantially (if not disappear entirely) once Parayko inks his next deal.

 

Ice Time

Season

Total Ice Time per game (rank among team’s defensemen)

PP Ice Time per game (rank among team’s defensemen)

SH Ice Time per game (rank among team’s defensemen

2015-16

24:27 (S.J. – CBJ) – 1st

19:38 (S.J. – NSH) – 5th

19:23 (C.P.) – 4th

2:40 (S.J. – CBJ) – 1st

2:24 (S.J. – NSH) – 3rd

1:37 (C.P.) – 3rd

2:28 (S.J. – CBJ) – 3rd

1:37 (S.J. – NSH) – 4th

0:58 (C.P.) – 6th

2014-15

19:52 (S.J.) – 3rd

2:11 (S.J.) – 3rd (tied)

1:40 (S.J.) – 3rd

2013-14

19:37 (S.J.) – 3rd

1:58 (S.J.) – 3rd

1:39 (S.J.) – 4th

 

Jones’ Blue Jacket data surprised me, as I figured maybe he’d received a slight increase upon leaving Nashville. But his Ice Time genuinely skyrocketed — up nearly 25% from when he was a Pred. Moreover, in receiving this level of Ice Time, he not only leapfrogged all other Blue Jacket rearguards but also put himself in elite company, as only 17 NHL defensemen averaged more than 24:27 per game last season, with just 13 also receiving over 2:40 of PP Time. Of those 13, only one (Rasmus Ristolainen) has yet to score 50 or more points in his career.

 

Great news, right? Seemingly yes, although it begs one key question – since Jones received elite Ice Time in Columbus, shouldn’t he have produced at least a point per every other game? Some justification seemingly lies in Columbus’ offensive struggles, as well as Jones being only 21 and acclimating to a new team; however, the reality is he finished 2015-16 in the middle of the pack in points per 60 minutes at 5×5 with 0.76, not much above his 0.63 from 2014-15.

 

Of course half that P/60 figure is comprised of games Jones played while still with Nashville; however, it’s still low for a scoring d-man. After all, Jones played the 43rd most total 5×5 minutes last season, with 33 of the 42 defensemen who logged more 5×5 minutes – like Jones – posting 15 or more points at 5×5. Of the 33, however, only ten had a lower P/60 than Jones’ 0.76: Drew Doughty, Rasmus Ristolainen, Nick Holden, Ron Hainsey, Karl Alzner, Travis Hamonic, Brent Seabrook, Johnny Oduya, Paul Martin, and Danny DeKeyser. While some comfort is taken in seeing Doughty, Ristolainen, and Seabrook on the list, the seven others aren’t fine fantasy company to be in.

 

Turning to Parayko, his Ice Time aligned somewhat with Jones’ as a rookie, which makes Parayko’s 33 points (versus Jones’s 25 in his first season) seemingly more impressive. Then again, Parayko posted his total at age 22, while Jones was a 19 year-old rookie. Also, after an amazing start, Parayko scored more than four points in a month just once within the last four full months of the season.

 

But we also shouldn’t ignore the likelihood Shattenkirk will depart St. Louis in summer 2017, if not earlier. Although we can’t say for sure how that will affect Parayko, it’s safe to say he’ll benefit. For one, his Ice Time will almost assuredly jump, which is encouraging since Parayko had a P/60 rate at 5×5 of 1.14 – 10th highest among 124 defensemen and 36 spots higher than the next highest 1000+ minute rookie (Ben Hutton – 0.82).

 

Additionally, Parayko’s best production in 2015-16 occurred while Shattenkirk was out. From October 13th, when Shattenkirk left a game early, until November 4th (i.e., the game prior to Shattenkirk returning), Parayko posted nine points in 11 total games, receiving upwards of 21:00 per game in each of the final seven contests.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIM

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2015-16

0.29 (S.J. – CBJ)

0.25 (S.J. – NSH)

0.36 (C.P.)

1.29 (S.J. – CBJ)

0.82 (S.J. – NSH)

1.29 (C.P.)

1.85 (S.J. – CBJ)

1.05 (S.J. – NSH)

1.54 (C.P.)

2.02 (S.J. – CBJ)

1.85 (S.J. – NSH)

2.09 (C.P.)

0.22 (S.J. – CBJ)

0.10 (S.J. – NSH)

0.09 (C.P.)

2014-15

0.24 (S.J.)

0.88 (S.J.)

1.09 (S.J.)

1.50 (S.J.)

0.13 (S.J.)

2013-14

0.31 (S.J.)

0.71 (S.J.)

1.28 (S.J.)

1.30 (S.J.)

0.11 (S.J.)

 

Jones received a nice bump in Hits and Blocked Shots in Columbus, likely due to playing under John Tortorella, who notoriously likes defensemen to hit and, in particular, block shots. We can’t be certain Jones will retain these numbers if (when?) Tortorella is no longer coach; however, he should stay above his Nashville levels if only because of added minutes.

 

Also notable is Jones’ PPPt output with Columbus, which more than doubled his 2015-16 rate as a Pred and was well above his rate from either of his first two campaigns. Provided this jump wasn’t influenced by unsustainable good luck (we’ll check below), it’s encouraging for poolies, right? Or is it? It translates to 18 PPPts in an 82 game season; and among the 22 defensemen who had 18+ PPPts in 2015-16, only one (Mike Green) did so while not producing a point per every other game. Thus, does this mean Jones has room to improve; or is it that with a rate so high already, he’s close to maxed out for PPPts?

 

Parayko’s Hits and Blocked Shots rival those of Jones, as does his PIM. Moreover, their SOG rates are not only almost identical, but at two per game, they seemingly leave room for improvement (and, with that, bolstered production). PPPts is a different story, however, as Parayko’s rate as a rookie was lower than Jones’ output in any season. That can be spun either as a positive (room to grow, especially once Shattenkirk is gone) or negative (even with Shattenkirk around, that’s still very low).

 

Luck-Based Metrics

These metrics are only measured for cumulative seasons, so Jones’ 2015-16 data collectively reflects both his time in Nashville and Columbus.

Season

PDO/SPSV (5×5)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

2015-16

979 (S.J.)

1025 (C.P.)

52.8% (S.J.)

50.7% (C.P.)

40.5% (S.J.)

40.0% (C.P.)

75.0% (S.J.)

46.7% (C.P.)

2014-15

995 (S.J.)

54.8% (S.J.)

28.3% (S.J.)

78.6% (S.J.)

2013-14

954 (S.J.)

50.6% (S.J.)

38.2% (S.J.)

41.2% (S.J.)

 

As with Ice Time, here again Parayko’s rookie numbers (IPP, OZ%) align with Jones’, which further underscores how skilled Parayko was in putting up 33 points. One mild asterisk is Parayko’s 1025 PDO, which is the high end of normal. And not surprising given his PDO, St. Louis had a high team shooting percentage while Parayko was on the ice at 5×5, namely 8.94% (18th highest among 124 rearguards who skated 1000+ minutes at 5×5 last season).

 

Although Jones’ 75.0% IPP for 2015-16 at 5×4 seems high, it’s his second straight season at or above that percentage, easing concerns. Moreover, only two other defensemen had a 5×4 IPP at or above 75.0% in each of the last two seasons – Victor Hedman and Keith Yandle, which is pretty fine fantasy company.

 

Overall, this data paints a picture of two defensemen who didn’t luck into their 2015-16 production levels. Also, this further supports that they have room to soon grow into 40+ point scorers sooner rather than later.

 

Who Wins?

 

This match is tough to call for two main reasons – we’re only able to assess 41 games of Jones as a Blue Jacket, and we can’t tell what will happen to Parayko if (when?) Shattenkirk, who’s set to be a UFA next summer, leaves St. Louis.

 

Of course that doesn’t mean I won’t be picking a winner, and in this case I’m going with Parayko. He posted 33 points despite not very good IPPs and while demonstrating an excellent points per 60 minutes at 5×5. Even this season – before Shattenkirk leaves – Parayko is a solid bet to see his totals improve to 40 points. And although Parayko might seemingly lack the dynamic offensive talent of Jones, it stands to reason that with added minutes and experience, and more/better deployment on the PP, Parayko could be a better viable candidate for 45-50+ points within the next couple of seasons.

 

As for Jones, there are concerns in that he didn’t reach the point per every other game level with Columbus despite a high PPPts per game rate, huge minutes, and no overtly bad luck. Also, his P/60 rate didn’t put him in fine company; and although his high 5×4 IPP wasn’t a fluke, it also doesn’t leave room for much, if any, improvement. Of course, the caveat is this is based on just 41 games played while Jones was 21 years old. Also, it’s fair to say that just as Parayko should do better once Shattenkirk is out of the picture, Jones might benefit once Columbus generates more team offense.

 

Still, for 2016-17 one year leagues I’m taking Parayko over Jones, especially since the hype of Jones’ offseason deal will likely boost his cost. Both players are holds for keepers, as they figure to improve going forward.

 

If interested in acquiring either player in a keeper, the time to get Parayko is likely now, what with his less productive second half of 2015-16, the probability he’ll improve in 2016-17, plus not only the likely lack of Shattenkirk in 2017-18 but also the lack of offense-stifling Ken Hitchcock as coach. As for Jones, it might be best to wait and see, since if he doesn’t go out and score 40+ points this season, many of his owners might see that as a concerning sign and, as a result, he could be acquired for a cheaper price this time next year. Of course if you believe Jones is ready to explode, then although he’s likely to cost more now than he should it still might prove to be an ultimately fair price to pay considering the long run.