Cage Match: Evander Kane vs. Boone Jenner

by Rick Roos on May 18, 2016

Who is the better fantasy hockey option – Evander Kane or Boone Jenner? Breaking it all down for you…

 

Battling this week are two coveted young multi-cat forwards: Evander Kane and Boone Jenner. Should we expect either to hit 60 points – health permitting – in the near future; and which one might have the higher points ceiling? Let’s find out – Cage Match starts now!

 

Career Path and Contract Status

 

Kane, 24, was drafted 4th overall in 2009, after a 48 goal, 96 point, 89 PIM juniors season. Needing grit and offense, the Jets (then Thrashers) inserted Kane directly into the NHL, where, with 79 points (130 PIM) in 138 games in his first two campaigns, he didn’t take things by storm but also didn’t look out of place. In his third and fourth seasons, Kane jumped to 47 goals (90 points) in 122 games, giving NHL fans and poolies alike visions of him becoming the next great young NHL power forward.

Unfortunately, Kane’s 2013-2015 was marked by a step back in production (64 points in 100 games) and lowlighted by off ice issues, which weren’t helped by 64 missed games. Once Kane was dealt to Buffalo in the 2015 offseason, the main question became whether that would revitalize his young career. Early returns are unclear, as Kane reached the 20 goal mark in 65 games (more injury issues) in 2015-16; however, his 35 points translated to his lowest per season scoring rate since his sophomore campaign.

Jenner, 22, was selected 37th overall in 2011 after posting 115 points (148 PIM) in 128 games in juniors. After more OHL seasoning (131 points in 99 games), it seemed clear he was NHL ready. But Jenner’s first two Blue Jacket campaigns saw him post only 46 points in 103 games, while, like Kane, he struggled to stay healthy. In 2015-16, however, Jenner posted more goals (30), points (49), and PIM (77) than in his first two seasons combined, placing him squarely on the radar of all poolies.

Kane’s current deal has two more seasons and dings the cap at $5.25M per season, plus will leave him a 26 year old UFA at its completion. Jenner starts a two-year deal next season that brings with it a $2.9M yearly cap hit, after which he’ll be an RFA.

 

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)

2015-16

21:02 (E.K.) – 2nd

16:24 (B.J.) – 6th

2:33 (E.K.) – 5th

2:04 (B.J.) – 8th (tied)

1:06 (E.K.) – 5th

0:15 (B.J.) – 10th

2014-15

19:18 (E.K.) – 4th

18:16 (B.J.) – 3rd

2:09 (E.K.) – 7th

2:12 (B.J.) – 5th

1:46 (E.K.) – 5th

1:17 (B.J.) – 9th

2013-14

20:17 (E.K.) – 1st

14:04 (B.J.) – 11th

2:13 (E.K.) – 4th

0:55 (B.J.) – 11th

1:50 (E.K.) – 5th

0:01 (B.J.) – 13th (tied)

2012-13

20:27 (E.K.) – 1st

2:25 (E.K.) – 4th

0:59 (E.K.) – 6th

 

I’ve said before – including recently regarding Filip Forsberg – that we have to consider a player’s Ice Time not just in terms of how it fluctuates year-to-year, but also how much room it provides for realistic improvement. Care to guess where Kane’s 21:02 ranked among forwards for 2015-16? Second in the entire NHL, behind only teammate Ryan O’Reilly! And it wasn’t like he squeaked by other players, as only Anze Kopitar finished within 30 seconds of Kane’s 21:02 average.

 

Even subtracting Kane’s 1:06 of SH Time per game, the resulting 19:56 of non-shorthanded Ice Time put him barely behind Patrick Kane (20:22), Alex Ovechkin (20:18), Sidney Crosby (20:04), and John Tavares (19:57), which begs the question of why Kane was unable to even approach their levels of production. Granted, his 2:33 per game of PP Ice Time lagged at least 30 seconds behind each of them; however, that’s seemingly no excuse for Kane’s woeful 0.54 points per game last season.

 

As for Jenner, red flags immediately are raised because his points increase occurred despite shedding 1:52 of Ice Time from 2014-15 to 2015-16. And although 1:02 was in the form of SH Time, his PP Time essentially held steady and his profile page shows that, if anything, his linemate quality was somewhat better in 2014-15 versus last season. Even accounting for Jenner’s maturation as a player, the scoring gains he made in the face of these Ice Time changes appear somewhat suspect.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2015-16

1.40 (E.K.)

0.94 (B.J.)

2.63 (E.K.)

2.59 (B.J.)

0.35 (E.K.)

0.86 (B.J.)

4.17 (E.K.)

2.74 (B.J.)

0.09 (E.K.)

0.17 (B.J.)

2014-15

1.51 (E.K.)

0.38 (B.J.)

3.21 (E.K.)

3.29 (B.J.)

0.38 (E.K.)

0.80 (B.J.)

3.40 (E.K.)

2.67 (B.J.)

0.16 (E.K.)

0.16 (B.J.)

2013-14

1.04 (E.K.)

0.62 (B.J.)

2.74 (E.K.)

2.94 (B.J.)

0.57 (E.K.)

0.51 (B.J.)

3.97 (E.K.)

1.76 (B.J.)

0.08 (E.K.)

0.09 (B.J.)

2012-13

1.66 (E.K.)

3.06 (E.K.)

0.46 (E.K.)

3.96 (E.K.)

0.08 (E.K.)

 

If Kane’s superb PIM, Hits or SOG numbers surprise you, then let me know if your league has an opening for next season. Toward the other end of the spectrum, however, is his PPP output, which, other than one season, has been lousy despite averaging 2:09+ per game each campaign. Yet his PPP struggles alone can’t explain his poor production, especially in the face of his Ice Time for 2015-16 plus his SOG rate, which marked the highest average of anyone not named Ovechkin since 2011-12.

 

To get a better idea of just how disconnected Kane’s SOG rate is from his production, consider that since 1995-96 there have been 26 other instances where a player age 25 or younger averaged 4.1+ SOG in 65+ games. Of those 26, only five averaged fewer than a point per game that season, with none averaging less than 0.79 points per game. Beyond that – each of the five (Eric Staal, Jarome Iginla, Rick Nash, Jeff Carter, Phil Kessel) has scored 79+ points at least once. Moreover, Kane is also one of only five players (Steven Stamkos, Patrice Bergeron, Ilya Kovalchuk, Ovechkin) since 1995-96 to produce 30+ goals and 285+ SOG in a season by age 20, with the rest having scored 70+ points at least twice and three of the four having hit the 90+ point mark at least once.

 

Turning to Jenner, there has to be further concern about his 2014-15 to 2015-16 scoring jump, since his SOG and PPP rates were virtually unchanged. Meanwhile, his PIM and Blocks climbed to their highest levels, but at the same time his bread and butter Hits dropped quite a bit. Even still – if his point gains were legitimate, then shedding 20% of his Hits output would be a small price to pay for poolies.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

 

Season

Personal Shooting Percentage

PDO/SPSV (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

2015-16

7.4% (E.K.)

13.3% (B.J.)

968 (E.K.)

988 (B.J.)

80.8% (E.K.)

75.6% (B.J.)

75.0% (E.K.)

85.7% (B.J.)

52.4% (E.K.)

44.7% (B.J.)

2014-15

7.9% (E.K.)

10.8% (B.J.)

980 (E.K.)

985 (B.J.)

45.0% (E.K.)

47.4% (B.J.)

75.0% (E.K.)

50.0% (B.J.)

49.4% (E.K.)

44.8% (B.J.)

2013-14

7.6% (E.K.)

12.6% (B.J.)

986 (E.K.)

1009 (B.J.)

68.3% (E.K.)

64.5% (B.J.)

40.0% (E.K.)

70.0% (B.J.)

54.0% (E.K.)

49.5% (B.J.)

2012-13

8.9% (E.K.)

996 (E.K.)

70.6% (E.K.)

50.0% (E.K.)

53.9% (E.K.)

 

For Jenner, we see at best a mixed message, which, in turn, is not enough to allay concerns regarding his 2015-16 production jump. One notable negative is that his 85.7% 5×4 IPP was the highest of any forward who played 142+ minutes at 5×4 in 2015-16, while his 5×5 IPP not only ranked him just outside the top 20% among 260 forwards who played 750+ minutes at 5×5, but his lack of a prior season of a 70%+ 5×5 IPP further calls into question his scoring jump.

 

On the other hand, although Jenner’s 13.3% Shooting % may seem high, it’s close to his prior averages and 13 of the 18 players who scored more goals in 2015-16 had a higher Shooting %, meaning it could be sustainable or perhaps further improved. Also, Jenner was able to produce well despite an OZ% of 44.7%, which was lower than every player who scored more than his 30 goals. Yet once again on the flip side, his OZ% was nearly the same in 2014-15 when the Blue Jackets were a better team, Jenner had more Ice Time, and didn’t produce nearly as well.

 

Interestingly, since 1995-96, nine other players had a season of 30+ goals, 75+ PIM and 225+ SOG (as Jenner did in 2015-16). Each of the nine tallied at least 62 points once in their career, with only two (Chris Gratton and, thus far, Bobby Ryan) failing to reach 70+ points at least once. Unfortunately, there’s a flip side as well, in that if we look at forwards who, by age 27, scored 30+ goals but fewer than 20 assists in a season, other than Jenner eight have accomplished the feat since 1995-96: Matt Moulson, David Clarkson, Eric Daze, Rick Nash, Richard Zednik, Marek Svatos, Petr Prucha, and Michael Grabner. Nash did go on to success, and Daze showed promise before injuries derailed his career; but the others weren’t fantasy assets beyond just a season or two. Thus, looking at comparable situations gives us mixed messages for Jenner’s fantasy future.

 

For Kane, until I saw these numbers, and despite the above-noted data from comparable players, I was essentially convinced he’d disappointed thus far due to a lack of effort or failing to translate talent into actual production. But now I’m not so sure. After all, Kane has posted an IPP of 68.3%+ in three of his past four seasons, which is consistent with a player who can drive offense. But where is the offense!?

 

We also don’t see any overt signs of bad luck. Kane’s PDO/SPSV and OZ% both are neither high nor low. Also odd is that his 5×4 IPP was the same this season as last, despite his PPP rate dropping by nearly 50%. In fairness, that can be explained by the fact he changed teams, as well as Kane being only 7th among forwards in PP Ice Time in 2014-15 versus 4th in 2015-16, meaning he had comparatively less talented linemates with the man advantage last season as he did this year. Plus there was a smaller sample size of only 37 games in 2014-15, versus 65 this season.

 

Who Wins?

 

Despite past data strongly suggesting they should’ve translated into overwhelming production, Kane’s high Ice Time and SOG volume over several seasons resulted in merely decent numbers. Between this and questions about his attitude and commitment, and despite him being only 24 years old, it’s hard to foresee him departing from his current pattern to suddenly achieve greater fantasy success.

 

Of course, those with a glass half full mentality could counter by pointing to the fact that over the past 20 years literally no one who’s done what Kane routinely does has ever failed to produce extremely well at some point in their career. Plus, they could cite the fact that in two seasons Kane will be a UFA, which means he’ll finally have added motivation to succeed.

 

What’s my take? Kane has underachieved so significantly and for so long, he’s basically a risk/reward gamble now.

 

So where does that put him vis-à-vis Jenner? The combination of Jenner breaking out last season and there being more than a few questions about him sustaining, let alone improving upon, his output makes him a poor cost vs. value investment for those who don’t already own him. Thus, all things considered I’m giving Kane a narrow win, mostly based on his looming UFA status finally lighting a fire under him.

 

If you own Jenner in a keeper, best to hold and hope, although if you get an enticing offer to sell it’s probably worth considering. Meanwhile, if you can cheaply acquire Kane, that too would be worth considering. In one year leagues, resist the urge to snatch Kane too early, as he only makes sense to grab if you can get him among 45-50 point players and his UFA status doesn’t kick in until 2018. As for Jenner, there’s little chance he lasts that long enough to be a good value pick, due to at least one GM in your league likely reaching for him too early.