Cage Match: Jaden Schwartz vs. Filip Forsberg

by Rick Roos on April 27, 2016

Who is the better fantasy own: Schwartz or Forsberg? Roos investigates – with a conclusion you might not expect

 

One of the keys to winning fantasy leagues is determining the difference between players who’ve peaked early, versus those who’ll continue to improve. With that in mind this week’s battle is between Jaden Schwartz and Filip Forsberg. Both hit the 63 point mark by age 22, but can they become 70 or even 80 point players? Or is either at risk of already being close to maxed out points-wise? Time to find out – Cage Match starts now!

 

Career Path and Contract Status

 

Schwartz was selected 14th overall in 2010, then starred in college (88 points in 60 games) before signing in March 2012. Following 19 points in 33 AHL games during the 2012-13 lockout, Schwartz managed an okay 19 in 45 games for St. Louis once the NHL resumed.

Things quickly improved from there for Schwartz, to the tune of 56 points in 2013-14 and then 63 points in only 75 games in 2014-15 (0.84 points per game – 20th best among NHLers who played 75+ games in 2014-15). This season saw Schwartz miss nearly four months due to injury; and although his 22 points in 33 games was seemingly a step down, he had a stretch of 17 points in 17 games along the way, giving astute poolies reason for continued optimism.

Forsberg was selected 11th overall in 2012 by Washington, and, after posting 33 points in 38 games in Sweden, seemed poised for success with the Caps. But then he was dealt to Nashville in exchange for Martin Erat and Michael Latta, to the shock of nearly everyone who followed hockey – real or fantasy.

By the end of 2013-14 Forsberg had played only 18 NHL games (six points) versus 47 AHL contests (34 points). But once 2014-15 rolled around, any doubt Forsberg was in the NHL to stay was erased, what with 35 points in his first 36 games on his way to 63 for the season. In 2015-16, he not only dodged a sophomore slump, but tallied 64 points and hit the 30 goal mark. And with 26+ goals, 63+ points and 237+ SOG in each of his first two campaigns, Forsberg joined Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, and John Tavares as the only players since 1995-96 to hit each of those marks in two separate seasons by age 21.

Both players are RFAs this summer. Forsberg’s just completed ELC counted $0.894M against the cap per season and had a $1.46M AAV, while Schwartz is coming off a two year bridge deal that had a $2.35M cap hit and AAV per season.

 

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

17:12 (J.S.) – 5th

19:03 (F.F.) – 2nd

2:11 (J.S.) – 5th

2:38 (F.F.) – 4th

0:51 (J.S.) – 9th

1:46 (F.F.) – 3rd (tied)

2014-15

18:14 (J.S.) – 4th

17:19 (F.F.) – 4th

2:20 (J.S.) – 6th

2:49 (F.F.) – 3rd

1:07 (J.S.) – 7th

0:01 (F.F.) – 11th (tied)

2013-14

17:31 (J.S.) – 4th

1:46 (J.S.) – 6th

1:32 (J.S.) – 5th

 

There’s a lot to like if you own Forsberg, as although nearly all his added Ice Time for 2015-16 came in the form of undesirable SH duty, he still managed to post slightly better stats than 2014-15. The caveat is his 2015-16 Ice Time already puts him barely outside the top 40 among all NHL forwards, with fewer than 25 receiving more than 19:30 per game and only ten averaging above 20:01, so there’s not much room for further gains in this area.

 

Nevertheless, there is room for realistic optimism, since greater than half the forwards who received more Ice Time than Forsberg in 2015-16 averaged 3:00+ per game on the PP, while only six averaged more than 1:46 of SH Ice Time. Thus, if (when?) Forsberg does end up getting even slightly more Total Ice Time in future seasons, it stands to reason most of his gains would be on the PP.

 

For Schwartz, one clear positive is his SH Ice Time shrinking each season. And his drop of 1:02 in Ice Time from 2014-15 is less concerning in view of his PP Time remaining essentially unchanged. Moreover, if we disregard when Schwartz was being eased back after returning from injury, his average Ice Time in his other 29 contests was 17:58, which would’ve been down only 0:14 from 2014-15. Going even further – if we then remove the 0:16 seconds per game of SH Ice Time he shed from 2014-15, then in those 29 contests his non-SH Ice Time per game versus 2014-15 actually would’ve been up by two seconds.

 

And of course, Schwartz being under 18:00 per game of Total Ice time (and only 2:11 on the PP) leaves more realistic room for improved Ice Time than Forsberg, especially in view of the UFA status of David Backes (19:13 Ice Time, 2:29 on the PP per game in 2015-16) and Troy Brouwer (16:59 Ice Time, 1:48 PP in 2015-16), at least one of whom figures to not be returning, thus freeing up Ice Time for Schwartz. In contrast, the Preds have no top six UFAs.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2015-16

0.24 (J.S.)

0.57 (F.F.)

0.78 (J.S.)

1.39 (F.F.)

0.63 (J.S.)

0.50 (F.F.)

1.91 (J.S.)

3.01 (F.F.)

0.15 (J.S.)

0.28 (F.F.)

2014-15

0.21 (J.S.)

0.29 (F.F.)

0.72 (J.S.)

1.31 (F.F.)

0.61 (J.S.)

0.34 (F.F.)

2.45 (J.S.)

2.89 (F.F.)

0.21 (J.S.)

0.23 (F.F.)

2013-14

0.33 (J.S.)

0.67 (J.S.)

0.40 (J.S.)

2.35 (J.S.)

0.12 (J.S.)

 

Forsberg’s numbers are solid — too solid actually. By that I mean he already posted 247 SOG and 23 PPP in 2015-16, and the only players to post 250+ SOG and 24+ PPP this season were Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Ovechkin, and Patrice Bergeron. And guess what all four have in common as well – they had posted 70+ points by their second full season, unlike Forsberg. And lest anyone be convinced it’s an anemic Preds offense that’s holding Forsberg back, the team finished tied for 12th in goals scored in 2015-16, and was only ten goals away from 6th. Thus, Forsberg might have less room to improve than one might think.

 

On the other hand, Schwartz’s SOG and PPP averages are modest enough that they could realistically improve, and, in turn, help boost his production. Of course saying they could improve versus them actually improving are two different things. Also, Schwartz’s SOG and PPP totals for 2014-15 don’t seem to be consistent with the 20th best points per game output of all NHL forwards, begging the question of whether he was unsustainably lucky. We’ll check on that below, and look at Forsberg’s luck numbers while we’re at it.

 

In terms of other categories, Forsberg’s Hits, when coupled with his scoring, are very solid. Yet although his PIM nearly doubled this season, that might’ve been a blip in the radar. As for Schwartz, it was nice to see his Hits and Blocked Shots both inch upward in 2015-16, since often when a player returns from prolonged injury he’ll play a more tentative style. From this, it’s safe to figure Schwartz for at least as many per game Hits and Blocked Shots next season.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

 

Season

Personal Shooting Percentage

PDO/SPSV (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

2015-16

12.7% (J.S.)

13.4% (F.F.)

1034 (J.S.)

988 (F.F.)

72.2% (J.S.)

63.0% (F.F.)

45.5% (J.S.)

75.9% (F.F.)

61.7% (J.S.)

77.0% (F.F.)

2014-15

15.2% (J.S.)

11.0% (F.F.)

1007 (J.S.)

997 (F.F.)

86.7% (J.S.)

68.3% (F.F.)

65.2% (J.S.)

72.7% (F.F.)

57.1% (J.S.)

69.6% (F.F.)

2013-14

13.3% (J.S.)

1035 (J.S.)

72.2% (J.S.)

55.6% (J.S.)

52.2% (J.S.)

 

I’ll answer the question you’re all thinking– no, Forsberg’s 2015-16 OZ% isn’t a typo. He really did start 77.0% of his 5×5 shifts in the offensive zone. This was likely due to Forsberg’s most common linemates being Mike Ribeiro (85.9% OZ%) and Craig Smith (77.4). Ribeiro is as one-dimensional of a player as can be, so Forsberg’s high OZ% is likely due to accommodating Ribeiro more so than Forsberg being a player who couldn’t function (or, for that matter, produce) with an OZ% closer to – say – Schwartz’s.

 

Even still – this provides more reason for concern (in addition to SOG and PPP rates, Ice Times and no departing Preds top six players) that it will be difficult for Forsberg to up his production from what it already is now. After all, what could realistically improve? Sure – he’s only 21, so conventional wisdom would suggest that his natural talent has yet to peak. But it would be easier to envision Forsberg on the fast track to better production if his SOG, PPP, Ice Times and OZ% had more room to improve.

 

This reminds me of Vladimir Tarasenko, who, after his 73 points in 2014-15, poolies had pegged for 80+ this season. But guess what – he only ended up tallying 74, and it’s likely because in 2014-15 he’d already fired 264 SOG, amassed 18 PPP, and had a 59.7% OZ%. Fast forward to 2015-16, and despite 28 more SOG, 6 more PPP, and his OZ% rising to 65.4%, Tarasenko’s production essentially held steady. This does not bode well for Forsberg, especially since, unlike Forsberg, Tarasenko actually had room for his Ice Time to grow, which it did – from 17:37 per game (2:38 on the PP) to 18:38 (2:48 on the PP).

 

Meanwhile, Schwartz has posted a 5×5 IPP above 72% in each of his three seasons, which, based on data from other Cage Matches, shows he’s a skilled player who’s certainly capable of 70+ point production. Although Schwartz’s PDO/SPSV has been over 1030 (i.e., the upper end of “normal”), the fact that it happened twice in three seasons shows he “runs high.” Beyond that, his 5×4 IPP and Ice Time leave considerably more room to grow than Forsberg’s.

 

 

Who Wins?

 

This is one of those Cage Matches where we learn (or are reminded) of something that goes behind just deciding a specific winner. What we have is a reminder that just because one player – in this case, Forsberg – has stormed out of the gates with production that seemingly puts him on the fast track to stardom, it doesn’t make him better than another player – in this case, Schwartz – who’s done well, but in a less attention-getting manner, and thus doesn’t bring with him as much fantasy fanfare.

 

In fantasy, hype is only beneficial for one purpose – if you’re trying to sell high on a player. Otherwise, it generally causes the price to obtain a player, whether by drafting or trading, to grow higher than his true value would justify. In this case, poolies can see how well Forsberg has done, and might even sniff out the same 26+ goal, 63+ point, and 237+ SOG comparables I noted above. In doing so, they’ll give Forsberg a value s too far beyond what it should be, especially since he might not have realistic potential to see his numbers grow, what with such a high OZ% plus already fairly high PPP, SOG, and Ice Time.

 

Meanwhile, Schwartz (and his 0.78 points per game in 2014-15 and 2015-16) is already every bit the equal of Forsberg (0.77) in points-only leagues, and might even surpass Forsberg’s future output in view of Schwartz still having room to see his production grow in view of his SOG, PPP, and Ice Time, plus added Ice Time based on departures within the Blues top six. Moreover, it’s not like Schwartz hasn’t already shown he can produce at a level higher than Forsberg – he did just that in 2014-15.

 

I’m giving this match to Schwartz, who strikes me as a superb candidate for buying low in keepers and to provide sound value in one-year leagues. Meanwhile, if you can flip Forsberg in a keeper for a 70+ point proven scorer with more realistic “room to grow” potential, that might be the right move.