Cage Match: Leon Draisaitl vs Sean Monahan

by Rick Roos on January 16, 2019

 

For our first Cage Match of the calendar year 2019, I wanted to focus on two players – Sean Monahan and Leon Drasisaitl – who’ve both scored at a 70+ point rate in the past but look to be making a big leap in production for 2018-19. Is what we’re seeing now what we should expect going forward, or might one or both see their scoring rate drop back down to previous levels or perhaps climb even higher? Never fear – Cage Match is on the case to get you the all-important answers.

 

Career Path and Contract Status

Monahan, 24, was selected sixth overall in the 2013 entry draft and skated for the Flames that same season, posting 34 points in 78 games. Following the arrival of Johnny Gaudreau in 2014-15, he and Monahan were immediately paired together and found excellent chemistry, leading to Monahan tallying 58-63 points in three straight seasons but seeing Gaudreau do much better (72 point cumulative scoring rate). Even still, poolies were optimistic that Monahan could take things to another level, especially since he tended to finish each season strong (30 points in his final 31 games in 2014-15, 34 in his final 33 games in 2015-16, 50 in his final 58 games in 2016-17). Finally last season he broke out, scoring at a 71 point pace; and he probably would have done even better had he not been derailed by injury. This season he was producing at or near a 100 point pace for most of the first half, seemingly putting him in elite fantasy territory.

 

Draisaitl, 23, was drafted third overall in 2014 following a 105 point WHL campaign, which was good for fourth overall in league scoring. During his draft season, he split time between the NHL (accumulating a mere nine points in 37 games) and the WHL (53 points in 32 games) before coming back to the NHL for good in 2015-16 and posting an impressive 51 points in 72 games. Draisaitl made a huge leap in scoring in 2016-17 to the tune of 77 points in 82 games, leading many to believe he and Connor McDavid would form a one-two elite scoring punch for years to come. Then, however, Draisaitl dipped slightly to 70 points in 78 games, making some question whether Draisaitl was a true fantasy star. But with a similar circa 100 point first half scoring pace for 2018-19, Draisaitl seems back on track to stardom.

 

Monahan’s contract runs through 2022-23 and dings the cap at $6.375M per season, while Draisaitl’s deal lasts for two additional seasons and carries a more than $2M higher yearly cap hit ($8.5M per season).

 

Ice Time (data in this and the other tables is current through January 13th)

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)

2018-19

19:40 (S.M.) – 3rd

21:56 (L.D.) – 2nd

3:24 (S.M.) – 2nd

3:28 (L.D.) – 2nd

0:04 (S.M.) – 10th

1:03 (L.D.) – 7th

2017-18

18:41 (S.M.) – 3rd

19:19 (L.D.) – 2nd

3:38 (S.M.) – 1st

2:50 (L.D.) – 2nd

0:17 (S.M.) – 10th

1:01 (L.D.) – 7th

2016-17

17:35 (S.M.) – 3rd

18:53 (L.D.) – 2nd

3:01 (S.M.) – 2nd

2:55 (L.D.) – 2nd

0:30 (S.M.) – 8th

0:25 (L.D.) – 9th

2015-16

18:04 (S.M.) – 4th

19:19 (L.D.) – 2nd

3:14 (S.M.) – 2nd

2:33 (L.D.) – 6th

0:48 (S.M.) – 8th

0:03 (L.D.) – 12th (tied)

 

I was a bit surprised to see significant jumps in ice time for both for 2018-19 since I figured they were already minute eaters. But is Monahan’s current, sub-20 minutes per game ice time enough to see him continue at a 95+ point scoring pace? Of 58 forwards who tallied 95+ points since 2000-01, 12 played under 20:00 per game, which is as many as did so while averaging 20:00 to 21:00 per game. Moreover, Monahan receiving near no SH Ice Time is significant. Of the 12 who did receive between 20 and 21 minutes per game, four had enough PK duty so as to end up with less non-shorthanded time per game than Monahan is currently averaging. Long story short, despite him receiving under 20 minutes of ice time per contest, past precedent suggests Monahan can still realistically put up 95+ points, especially in today’s higher-scoring NHL.

 

TOI limitations aren’t a consideration for Draisaitl, who’s getting nearly 21:00 of non-shorthanded time per game. As such, his jump comes with no question marks, except the extent he depends on playing with Connor McDavid. Of course Monahan is benefitting by playing with Johnny Gaudreau; however, those two have been on the same line so much and for so long that there’s no question of them being separated. The same cannot be said for Draisaitl and McDavid, which calls into question how reliant Draisaitl is – or has been – on McDavid being on his line. So let’s look at the numbers.

 

In 2016-17 Draisaitl had 50 ES points while playing a bit less than two-thirds of his ES shifts with McDavid and 31 of those points coming with McDavid on the ice. Draisaitl’s ES point total for 2017-18 was 55 but he only played about 50% of his ES shifts with McDavid, with 28 of those points coming while sharing the ice with McDavid. This data shows in past seasons the fraction of ES points Draisaitl scored has been in proportion to the percentage of time he shared the ice with McDavid, in turn, seemingly demonstrating he can produce equally well whether playing on the same ES line with McDavid or not.

 

But what about 2018-19? Thus far Draisaitl has been playing with McDavid for roughly 62% of his ES shifts. Of his 38 ES points, however, 29 have come playing with McDavid, for a 76% rate. So it looks like what transformed Draisaitl from a 70-75 point player to one poised to top 95 this season is clicking better with McDavid. Although that raises concerns should they stop playing together as regularly as they are now, the fact that they’re faring better than ever as a tandem makes it more likely they’ll stick together and perhaps even share the ice for a higher percentage of time than at present. And even if they don’t, Draisailt’s already produced at a 75 point pace over the past two seasons, and those were when he was 20 and 21 years old, i.e., before his prime.

 

Lastly, it wouldn’t be a Cage Match without seeing how the players compare to others in the past who put up similar numbers. In this case, both have past comparables that should put wide smiles on the faces of poolies who own them. For Monahan, he had – by age 23 – four separate seasons in which he posted 27+ goals and 31+ assists; and since 2000-01, only three other players also did so four times by age 23 – Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Alex Ovechkin. In terms of Draisaitl, he had two seasons of 25+ goals and 45+ assists by age 22, a feat accomplished – since 2000-01 – by only seven other players: also Crosby, Ovi, and Geno, plus Patrick Kane, Anze Kopitar, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Connor McDavid. Needless to say, that’s some mighty fine company in which both players find themselves.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots

(per game)

  Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2018-19

0.17 (S.M.)

0.40 (L.D.)

0.49 (S.M.)

0.69 (L.D.)

0.21 (S.M.)

0.24 (L.D.)

3.08 (S.M.)

2.53 (L.D.)

0.32 (S.M.)

0.35 (L.D.)

2017-18

0.32 (S.M.)

0.38 (L.D.)

0.47 (S.M.)

0.51 (L.D.)

0.23 (S.M.)

0.30 (L.D.)

2.73 (S.M.)

2.48 (L.D.)

0.25 (S.M.)

0.14 (L.D.)

2016-17

0.24 (S.M.)

0.24 (L.D.)

0.41 (S.M.)

0.50 (L.D.)

0.30 (S.M.)

0.44 (L.D.)

2.42 (S.M.)

2.09 (L.D.)

0.20 (S.M.)

0.31 (L.D.)

2015-16

0.22 (S.M.)

0.27 (L.D.)

0.47 (S.M.)

0.52 (L.D.)

0.45 (S.M.)

0.25 (L.D.)

2.43 (S.M.)

1.84 (L.D.)

0.24 (S.M.)

0.12 (L.D.)

 

 

Looking at this data, plus his numbers for 2013-14 (2.34 SOG per game; 0.23 PPPts per game), it’s not difficult to see why Monahan’s scoring was so consistent from 2014-15 through 2016-17 seasons, as there was almost no variation in his SOG or PPPt per game rates. Then last season his scoring saw an uptick, yet so too did his per game SOG rate and, slightly, his PPPts rate. And sure enough, this season his SOG and PPPt rates are both up by healthy amounts, which, when coupled this with his increased ice time plus the addition of an improved third linemate in Elias Lindholm, seemingly legitimizes Monahan’s scoring gains for 2018-19. As for Draisaitl, his previously most productive season came when he had his best PPPts per game rate to go along with a SOG rate that, while not great, was still above two per game. Fast forward to now, and his SOG and PPPt per game rates are both career bests, albeit not much higher than what we’ve seen from him in the past. Still, though, couple that with this being his “magical fourth year” plus his productive ice time being way up, and his numbers also seem legitimate.

 

In terms of their other data, both have been pretty consistent – and pretty lousy – in terms of their PIM and Hits. Draisaitl’s numbers for both are up for 2018-19 thus far, which could mean he’s changing his style of play under Ken Hitchcock or there’s still enough of 2018-19 left for the numbers to normalize. Monahan used to be decent in Blocked Shots, but his output his dropped with each passing season such that he’s on a par with Draisaitl now, with both faring poorly in this category as well.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

 

Season

Personal Shooting %

Team Shooting % (5×5)

Individual Points % (IPP)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

Average Shot Distance

Secondary Assists %

2018-19

16.9% (S.M.)

20.2% (L.D.)

11.34% (S.M.)

10.87% (L.D.)

66.3% (S.M.)

73.0% (L.D.)

59.3% (S.M.)

54.2% (L.D.)

24.1 (S.M.)

25.3 (L.D.)

43% (S.M.)

45% (L.D.)

2017-18

15.3% (S.M.)

12.9% (L.D.)

9.75% (S.M.)

8.90% (L.D.)

63.4% (S.M.)

76.1% (L.D.)

57.6% (S.M.)

54.3% (L.D.)

24.7 (S.M.)

24.3 (L.D.)

33% (S.M.)

24% (L.D.)

2016-17

13.6% (S.M.)

16.9% (L.D.)

8.18% (S.M.)

9.74% (L.D.)

70.7% (S.M.)

70.6% (L.D.)

60.9% (S.M.)

53.2% (L.D.)

23.9 (S.M.)

20.4 (L.D.)

51% (S.M.)

35% (L.D.)

2015-16

13.7% (S.M.)

14.3% (L.D.)

10.18% (S.M.)

8.03% (L.D.)

63.6% (S.M.)

73.9% (L.D.)

54.2% (S.M.)

53.8% (L.D.)

23.6 (S.M.)

23.5 (L.D.)

30% (S.M.)

50% (L.D.)

 

 

The first thing that jumps out is Draisaitl having an IPP above 70% in each of his three full seasons, plus this season thus far. That’s difficult enough to accomplish in general, but when playing 50% or more of one’s shifts with Connor McDavid it shows Draisaitl is a true scorer. Everyone assumes playing with a superstar like McDavid is like hitting the scoring lottery, overlooking that players of McDavid’s calibre are top scorers because they have very high IPPs, sometimes 80-85%+. As such, that means when a goal is scored while McDavid is on the ice usually the other four players are left to fight over the other at most two points. That’s why often Sidney Crosby’s linemates in the past have scored only 40 or maybe 50 points – Crosby gets a point and the others get scraps. The fact that Draisaitl has had a 70%+ IPP in all his full seasons while playing as much as he has with McDavid shows he has a true nose for scoring and paves an easier road for him to be an elite producer as well like we’re seeing this season.

 

Yes, Draisaitl’s personal and team shooting percentages are a bit high to likely be sustainable, but not by much, as in this higher scoring era in the NHL a 10%+ team shooting percentage at 5×5 is almost like the new 9.0%, which used to be considered a very good but sustainable number for scorers. Thus, there are no big alarm bells in terms of Draisaitl’s scoring being unsustainable. Quite the opposite – he strikes me as having the make-up of a player who can be a 90-95+ point producer now and for years to come.

 

With respect to Monahan, his data seems to support the idea that he’s playing pretty much the same hockey as always, but his line is doing much better now that it has a capable third player in Lindholm. In other words, while Monahan’s IPP is not on the same level as Draisaitl’s, it isn’t much lower and his personal shooting percentage is akin to past seasons. And although his team shooting percentage number is running much higher than in past seasons, that’s reflective of him playing on what is truly one of the most talented and potent lines in all of the NHL. Overall, there are no serious concerns with his luck metrics either.

 

Who Wins?

 

This one is tricky. I feel that Monahan doesn’t receive the fanfare and attention that Draisaitl does, in part because this is his first elite season. Also. Monahan’s “spot” with Gaudreau seems safer than Draisaitl’s with McDavid. In the end, though, I’m going with Draisaitl in all but cap leagues. His 70+ point IPP in each season – especially when playing so much with McDavid – is very telling. Plus, he showed in previous seasons that he can score at a healthy rate without playing on the same line as McDavid. He also is a year younger than Monahan, making it more likely he has still another scoring gear. But let me emphasize this is not a knock against Monahan; he’s genuinely great – just not quite great enough to win this match.