Cage Match: Mark Stone vs. Mikael Granlund – who is the better fantasy own?

by Rick Roos on February 1, 2017
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  • Cage Match: Mark Stone vs. Mikael Granlund – who is the better fantasy own?

This week’s battle is between Mark Stone and Mikael Granlund. For Stone, 2016-17 could be his third straight 61-65 point season, while for Granlund it would represent the first time he’s bested even 44 points. Does Stone have another gear, or has he peaked? Is Granlund breaking out, or is his 2016-17 production entirely – or at least partially – the result of unsustainable good luck? Cage Match is here to give poolies the answers to these all-important questions.

 

Career Path and Contract Status

Stone, 24, was drafted 178th overall in 2010 after two unremarkable WHL seasons; but upon returning to juniors for his age 18 and 19 seasons, he exploded with 229 points in 137 games. Despite that success, Stone had to prove himself over the next two years in the AHL (79 points in 91 games) before finally landing with the Sens to stay in 2014-15. Since then, he’s been among the more consistent under 25 players, with 64 points in his first full season and 61 in 2015-16. He’s producing similarly well for 2016-17 (62 point pace), making poolies happy but also raising concern as to whether he’s capable of 65-70+ points.

Granlund, also 24, was selected 169 spots earlier in the same 2010 draft. Following two more seasons in Finland (84 games, 87 points) Granlund came stateside. After 28 points in 29 AHL games and a brief NHL stint in 2012-13, Granlund was a full time NHLer for 2013-14. He has since entered each campaign amid expectations that he’ll break out; yet his scoring pace has dropped each season – from 53 (2013-14), to 47 (2014-15), to 44 (2015-16), leaving many to wonder if he’d ever take that next step. Then, during the 2015 IIHF World Championships he lined up at wing alongside Mikko Koivu and produced better than point per game scoring. That opened the eyes of Minnesota to use him in a similar role, where he’s thrived and enters the all-star break with just two fewer points than his previous career high.

Stone is signed through 2017-18 for a $3.5M yearly cap hit, while Granlund’s emergence is particularly (or some might say, suspiciously) well timed since this is the last season of his $3M per year deal.

 

Ice Time

Stone’s 2013-14 data isn’t charted in this or other tables because he only played 19 games.

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

18:43 (M.S.) – 2nd

19:06 (M.G.) – 2nd

3:11 (M.S.) – 2nd

2:07 (M.G.) – 5th

0:04 (M.S.) – 9th

1:40 (M.G.) – 2nd

2015-16

20:06 (M.S.) – 1st

18:08 (M.G.) – 3rd

2:59 (M.S.) – 2nd

2:37 (M.G.) – 3rd

1:13 (M.S.) – 7th

0:34 (M.G.) – 7th

2014-15

17:01 (M.S.) – 3rd

17:53 (M.G.) – 4th

2:23 (M.S.) – 5th

2:09 (M.G.) – 5th

1:23 (M.S.) – 5th

0:26 (M.G.) – 10th

2013-14

17:19 (M.G.) – 4th

2:32 (M.G.) – 6th (tied)

0:28 (M.G.) – 10th

 

Granlund’s jump in Total Ice Time this season has come almost entirely from undesirable SH Time, while also shedding nearly 20% PP Time compared to 2015-16. Thus, Granlund’s huge leap in production rate has occurred despite him actually averaging less non-shorthanded Ice Time compared to 2015-16 (when he scored only 44 total points) and less PP Time than either last season or 2014-15 (when he had a 47 point full season scoring pace). Somewhat balancing out those concerns is the fact that Granlund is still only 24 years old and this being his magical fourth year; however, we’ll have to pay close attention to luck metrics to determine whether this is at all sustainable.

 

Stone’s SH Ice Time situation is essentially the opposite of Granlund’s, in that Stone’s drop in Total Ice Time from 2015-16 to 2016-17 has occurred due to shedding nearly all his previous SH Ice Time. The net result is Stone’s non-shorthanded Ice Time being barely changed from 2015-16, coupled with a small gain in PP Time. But the news might not be entirely good for Stone, as although of course poolies would be happy with the consistency of him being able to finish his third straight season with 60-65 points, it’s likely below what they’d hoped for by now.

 

So where can Stone realistically go from here? Maybe nowhere, as normally when a player has a fourth year breakout, he’s younger than 25 and has more of an upward trajectory. There’s also the fact that since 1990-91 only two forwards scored 60-70 points in three separate seasons while aged 21-25 (Geoff Sanderson, Jeff O’Neill) and neither tallied 70+ points in a season after age 25.

 

Of course there is another way for Stone’s stats to improve – he produces at the same rate but gets additional Ice Time. That’s not entirely unrealistic, since in the past three seasons there’ve been 51 instances of forwards posting 70+ points; Stone’s 18:43 per game for 2016-17 is less than the average Ice Time of all but 11, with 33 receiving 0:30+ per game more than what Stone averages now.

 

That, plus Stone’s newfound lack of SH duty, suggests there’s room for him to hit 70+ in the future; however, the big question is whether Ottawa coach Guy Boucher will actually play Stone more. We know Boucher played Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos 20:00+ per game each season he coached in Tampa. Therefore, although we can’t know for sure whether Boucher has rethought his past approach to allocating Ice Time, he was previously willing to play certain forwards enough to give them a better chance at 70+ points, as opposed to being a coach (like, say, Alain Vigneault or Claude Julien) who’s consistently spread Ice Time evenly among the top six/nine.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2016-17

0.37 (M.S.)

0.12 (M.G.)

0.58 (M.S.)

0.56 (M.G.)

0.82 (M.S.)

0.66 (M.G.)

1.82 (M.S.)

2.10 (M.G.)

0.24 (M.S.)

0.25 (M.G.)

2015-16

0.50 (M.S.)

0.24 (M.G.)

0.73 (M.S.)

1.05 (M.G.)

0.72 (M.S.)

0.69 (M.G.)

2.01 (M.S.)

1.95 (M.G.)

0.20 (M.S.)

0.13 (M.G.)

2014-15

0.17 (M.S.)

0.29 (M.G.)

0.61 (M.S.)

0.69 (M.G.)

0.66 (M.S.)

0.66 (M.G.)

1.96 (M.S.)

1.45 (M.G.)

0.16 (M.S.)

0.11 (M.G.)

2013-14

0.35 (M.G.)

0.60 (M.G.)

0.71 (M.G.)

1.60 (M.G.)

0.17 (M.G.)

 

Neither is a multi-cat asset, with only Stone having ever posted a combined two PIM+Hits+BS, and doing so just once (2015-16). Beyond that, both players aren’t high volume shooters; and before this season, neither had tallied more than one PPPt per every five games in any campaign.

 

What do their low SOG and PPPt rates mean for their production now, and down the road? While it’s reasonable to say that with rates this low there’s room for growth (which, in turn, should make it easier for them to increase production), these aren’t 20 year olds or NHL newbies. Their low SOG rates are particularly concerning. After all according to nhl.com in the past five full seasons there’ve been 43 instances of wingers who scored 70+ points in a season. Of those 43, only three had fewer than 2.3 SOG per game in their 70+ campaign – Loui Erkisson and Ray Whitney in 2011-12, and Jiri Hudler in 2015-16. Eriksson has only one campaign with more than 47 points since then, Whitney retired after his next full season (32 points in 69 games), and Hudler had a mere 46 points in 72 games last season.

 

Stone did enter the all-star break with 24 SOG in his last seven games (3.42 per game rate) and Granlund with 25 (i.e., 3.57 per game). But here’s the thing – both players had stretches of 23 SOG in seven games last season, so this isn’t uncharted territory. Long story short – unless Stone or Granlund finds a way to shoot more and on a consistent basis, neither one is seemingly a good bet to top 70 points in a season. Or if they somehow manage to do so, it could be a “one and done” situation ala what happened with Eriksson, Whitney, and Hudler.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

 

Season

Personal Shooting Percentage

Team Shooting % (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

2016-17

19.0% (M.S.)

11.9% (M.G.)

8.86% (M.S.)

11.64% (M.G.)

67.7% (M.S.)

62.2% (M.G.)

57.9% (M.S.)

75.0% (M.G.)

53.0% (M.S.)

36.9% (M.G.)

2015-16

15.2% (M.S.)

8.1% (M.G.)

8.0% (M.S.)

5.7% (M.G.)

73.9% (M.S.)

75.8% (M.G.)

57.7% (M.S.)

52.4% (M.G.)

51.9% (M.S.)

59.4% (M.G.)

2014-15

16.6% (M.S.)

8.1% (M.G.)

10.4% (M.S.)

9.0% (M.G.)

79.6% (M.S.)

58.0% (M.G.)

56.5% (M.S.)

54.5% (M.G.)

52.3% (M.S.)

60.1% (M.G.)

2013-14

7.9% (M.G.)

8.5% (M.G.)

83.3% (M.G.)

58.8% (M.G.)

53.1% (M.G.)

 

For Granlund, there are 2016-17 red flags nearly everywhere. First and foremost, his 36.9% OZ% is incredibly low. Of the 290 forwards who played 60+ games last season, only 12 had an OZ% lower than 38%. Care to guess what the highest point total among the 12 was? Try 43, by J.G. Pageau, with none of the other 11 besting even 34 points.

 

If that wasn’t concerning enough, there’s Granlund’s 11.64% Team Shooting Percentage. The normal average for forwards is about 9.00%; and Jaromir Jagr in 2015-16 is the only forward in either of the last two seasons to play more than 65 games and finish with a higher Team Shooting % than 11.5%. There’s also Granlund’s 5×4 IPP for 2016-17 being well above his normal rate of 50-55%, although, in fairness, his 5×5 IPP is only 62.2% after having been over 75% in two of the past three seasons, so chances are whatever benefit he’s receiving from his 5×4 IPP being unsustainably high is somewhat balanced out by his 5×5 IPP being a bit lower than normal. All in all, Granlund’s data paints a gloomy picture not only for his production during the remainder of 2016-17, but very much casts doubt upon him being more than 60-65 point player going forward.

 

The news for Stone is somewhat better. Sure – his Personal Shooting % is high; however, we can see from his past two seasons that he runs high in general. Plus, his Team Shooting % is right at average. So although he might be getting more goals than he deserves, the overall scoring at 5×5 while he’s on the ice isn’t unsustainably high.

 

Also, Stone’s 5×5 IPP is below 70% for the first time, so chances are that will be boosted before all is said and done for 2016-17. His history of 70%+ IPP at 5×5 also supports the idea that if he gets more Ice Time he’ll see his points total rise, since the kind of player who, year after year, can factor into 70%+ of points scored while he’s on the ice at 5×5 is exactly who can meaningfully benefit on the score sheet from more Ice Time.

 

Stone’s other two metrics – 5×5 IPP, OZ% – are stable, and further examples of areas which seemingly have room to improve enough to get him into 70+ point territory. Yet we still have to wonder if – due to how consistent all hisnumbers have been – he might be showing us his ceiling already, as opposed to room to grow further.

 

Who Wins?

 

It’s a clean sweep for Stone – he wins in one-year and keeper leagues. Not only are there more red flags with Granlund, but they’re serious ones. Plus, Granlund’s major jump in production has led to vastly increased fantasy attention; and with that comes inflated cost. In contrast, Stone’s “steady eddie” production has, if anything, caused perceived disappointment and his cost to stay lower than it should.

 

Granlund is a very tempting sell high. No need to panic and take the first deal you can get; however, you should look for an excuse to deal Granlund sooner rather than later. Stone is likely a hold; although he might not ultimately get to 70+ points this season or in the future, he’s still someone whom poolies can count on to produce. And in fantasy hockey, that’s exactly what you want for your team.