Cage Match: Matt Duchene vs. Ryan O’Reilly

by Rick Roos on March 9, 2016

Who is the better fantasy hockey own – Ryan O'Reilly or Matt Duchene? Rick Roos presents the cases for both of them.


Facing off are forwards who were teammates this time last season – Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly. Will Duchene keep producing the numbers he’s posted since O’Reilly left, or do even better? Can O’Reilly succeed at or above his current scoring level once a young Sabres squad comes into its own? Let’s find out – Cage Match starts now!


Career Path and Contract Status

The 3rd overall pick in 2009, Duchene, now 25, posted 132 points in 161 games as a teen in his first two seasons for the then struggling Avs. But then he limped – literally and figuratively – through 2011-12 (28 points in 58 games), before improving to 113 points in 118 games over the next two campaigns. His scoring dipped again in 2014-15 (55 points in 82 games), but his production rate is back up slightly this season (62 point pace) and he only needed 67 games to match his career best in goals.

O’Reilly –25 as well – had his name called 30 spots after Duchene in 2009, also by Colorado. O’Reilly was interested into the Avs line-up right away, but unlike Duchene he struggled, posting only a collective 52 points in his first two campaigns (fewer than Duchene had either season). But things clicked in 2011-12, with O’Reilly jumping to 55 points. Once the 2012-13 lockout ended, O’Reilly stayed in Russia before inking a two year, $10M offer sheet with Calgary, which Colorado begrudgingly matched. O’Reilly proved his worth, with 84 points in 109 games, only to be rewarded by being taken to arbitration. Thus, it wasn’t a big surprise when, after posting 55 points in 2014-15, O’Reilly was dealt in the 2015 offseason, landing in Buffalo, where so far he’s posting a career best single season scoring pace.

Per Cap Friendly, Duchene is signed through 2018-19 on a deal counting $6M annually against the cap, while O’Reilly is on year one of a contract that runs through 2022-23 and carries a $7.5M yearly cap hit.

Ice Time


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)


18:33 (M.D.) – 3rd

21:51 (R.O.) – 1st

2:46 (M.D.) – 3rd

3:15 (R.O.) – 1st

0:10 (M.D.) – 11th

2:06 (R.O.) – 2nd


19:43 (M.D.) – 1st

18:34 (R.O.) – 2nd

2:37 (M.D.) – 2nd

2:18 (R.O.) – 6th

0:09 (M.D.) – 9th

1:48 (R.O.) – 3rd


18:29 (M.D.) – 3rd

19:49 (R.O.) – 1st

2:43 (M.D.) – 2nd (tied)

2:39 (R.O.) – 4th

0:15 (M.D.) – 9th

1:09 (R.O.) – 5th


20:55 (M.D.) – 1st

18:30 (R.O.) – 5th

2:49 (M.D.) – 2nd

2:34 (R.O.) – 4th

2:14 (M.D.) – 1st

0:54 (R.O.) – 9th


O’Reilly’s Ice Times have bounced around except, unfortunately, his SH Ice Time per game, which has risen each of the past three seasons to more than double since 2012-13. But that was more of an issue in the past, as last season he netted just 16:46 per game of EV+PP Ice Time, versus 19:45 this season after landing in Buffalo. Also, it’s notable that although 52 NHL forwards are averaging 2:00+ of SH Ice Time per game this season, O’Reilly’s 3:15 of PP Ice Time per game is tops among them, with only Patrice Bergeron also above 3:00 per game with the man advantage.


Meanwhile, Duchene’s low Ice Time should be no surprise, since in each of Patrick Roy’s prior seasons coaching Colorado, only one forward averaged over 19:00 per game (this season Nathan MacKinnon is tops at 18:55). But the good news for Duchene is he went from 2:14 of SH Ice Time in 2012-13 to nearly none since then. Also, looking at Duchene’s data, the dots don’t connect for his production dropping last season, so the suspicion becomes he was victimized by unsustainable bad luck in 2014-15.


One caveat is that since the arrival of Mikkel Boedker, Duchene has been the odd man out when it comes to Colorado’s PP1 (now generally consisting of Boedker, MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Jarome Iginla). And although this might just be temporary, as Boedker likely will sign elsewhere as a UFA, it’s not comforting that Duchene doesn’t have a clear hold on a PP1 spot.


For O’Reilly, his two-way game and strength in the faceoff dot (more on that below) make it clear he’ll continue to get his share of key Ice Time. But Buffalo has two talented young center-trained players in Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, who’ll both be poised to receive more productive Ice Time with each passing season. The result might be O’Reilly sees less Ice Time, particularly on the PP. Then again, you can have three highly productive centermen all on the same PP1 unit, like the Bruins this season.


Secondary Categories




(per game)


(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)


(per game)

PP Points

(per game)


(per game)


0.35 (M.D.)

0.13 (R.O.)

0.54 (M.D.)

0.27 (R.O.)

0.47 (M.D.)

0.61 (R.O.)

2.66 (M.D.)

2.22 (R.O.)

0.20 (M.D.)

0.32 (R.O.)

5.22 (M.D.)

14.37 (R.O.)


0.19 (M.D.)

0.14 (R.O.)

0.52 (M.D.)

0.46 (R.O.)

0.90 (M.D.)

0.58 (R.O.)

2.52 (M.D.)

2.08 (R.O.)

0.08 (M.D.)

0.14 (R.O.)

7.74 (M.D.)

8.69 (R.O.)


0.26 (M.D.)

0.02 (R.O.)

0.74 (M.D.)

0.27 (R.O.)

0.62 (M.D.)

0.53 (R.O.)

3.05 (M.D.)

2.51 (R.O.)

0.24 (M.D.)

0.27 (R.O.)

7.49 (M.D.)

2.40 (R.O.)


0.25 (M.D.)

0.13 (R.O.)

1.02 (M.D.)

0.24 (R.O.)

1.00 (M.D.)

0.48 (R.O.

2.81 (M.D.)


0.19 (M.D.)

0.20 (R.O.)

10.38 (M.D.)



O’Reilly is a rare forward who generally produces twice as many Blocked Shots as Hits, which would be okay if his Hits were decent; but alas, they aren’t – far from it. And his PIM are even worse. This would be bearable if your league also counts FOW, where he’s right there with Bergeron for the overall league lead. Also, although his Ice Time benefits might be in danger of being cut back, his FOW should stay strong, as other Sabres pivots are weak in that area.


O’Reilly’s PPP rate has bounced around enough that his 5×4 IPP should be looked at closely, while his SOG rate has been more consistent (although not elite). Unless O’Reilly’s 5×4 IPP is sustainable, then between his just okay SOG rate and possible threats to his Ice Time, he might be in danger of his first season with Buffalo ending up his most productive.


Duchene’s multi-cat contributions have been dropping for the most part, with his outputs in 2015-16 on pace to be his lowest (Blocked Shots, FOW) or second lowest (Hits, SOG) of these four years. Only his PIM rate is on pace to be the highest, and even there he’s barely okay. The good news is his PPP rate has jumped back up from last season; and had his PPP rate last season been the average of the other three (i.e., 0.21 per game), that would’ve meant ten more PPP, and would’ve raised his overall production to a more respectable – and typical – 65 points in 82 games. Yet despite this, he’s been removed from PP1, so it’s a good news bad news situation.


Luck-Based Metrics



Personal Shooting Percentage

PDO/SPSV (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)


15.5% (M.D.)

13.0% (R.O.)

1004 (M.D.)

962 (R.O.)

84.6% (M.D.)

65.5% (R.O.)

52.4% (M.D.)

69.2% (R.O.)

59.0% (M.D.)

46.0% (R.O.)


10.1% (M.D.)

9.9% (R.O.)

1027 (M.D.)

1007 (R.O.)

77.6% (M.D.)

74.0% (R.O.)

71.4% (M.D.)

43.5% (R.O.)

47.4% (M.D.)

44.5% (R.O.)


10.6% (M.D.)

13.9% (R.O.)

1005 (M.D.)

998 (R.O.)

83.0% (M.D.)

73.1% (R.O.)

59.1% (M.D.)

76.0% (R.O.)

49.8% (M.D.)

48.8% (R.O.)


12.9% (M.D.)

9.1% (R.O.)

973 (M.D.)

963 (R.O.)

84.4% (M.D.)

81.2% (R.O.)

69.2% (M.D.)

55.6% (R.O.)

53.4% (M.D.)

50.7% (R.O.)


Seeing these numbers, O’Reilly’s 104 points in his last 141 games (60 point full season pace) is even more impressive. After all, his IPPs were on the low end for a top six forward, and his PDO/SPSV was reasonable last season but quite low this season. Beyond that, his OZ% are remarkably low – so low that only two of the 63 forwards who played 60+ games in 2014-15 and also had a lower OZ% than O’Reilly’s 44.5% managed to outpoint him (Bergeron, David Backes).


Also, although players like Eichel and Bennett could cut into O’Reilly’s productive Ice Times as they mature, they’ll also likely be saddled with more well-rounded roles in the process. So rather than having the highest (Eichel) and third highest (Bennett) OZ% among Sabres forwards like now, they might see that number drop, which, in turn, would mean O’Reilly’s might climb. It also should climb if/when Buffalo improves as a team. And if O’Reilly’s OZ% rises, that would likely neutralize any lost scoring if his productive Ice Time were to drop, or boost his output if his Ice Time stays similar.


The news is again mixed for Duchene. Clearly he drives offense, as for the third time in four seasons he’s posting a 5×5 IPP higher than 80%. But if we look at data for his subpar 2014-15, we don’t see evidence of unsustainable bad luck, as his 5×5 IPP was down but barely below his norm, and his PDO/SPSV was the highest among these four seasons. His 5×4 IPP was also higher than any of the three other seasons despite his PPP rate being his lowest and comparable PP Ice Time to these other campaigns. Also, fault doesn’t lie with the Avs, as although they stood 29th in PP% in 2014-15 (14.6%), they were in the middle of the pack in PP opportunities with 247. Also, those stats were similar to 2012-13, when the Avs PP% was 15.0% and they stood 28th with 140 PP opportunities (projecting to 270 in an 82 game season) and Duchene produced much better.


Although Duchene would’ve been in line for 65 points had his 2014-15 PP output been closer to normal, this season his scoring pace stands at only 62, which seems all the worse considering it’s with an OZ% that easily eclipses Duchene’s norm, and a Shooting % that also is atypically high. In fact, if Duchene was connecting on the same percentage of Shots as prior to this season (i.e., 11.7%), his goal total would drop by six, and, with that, his scoring pace would slip to 54, or right near where he finished last season.


Who Wins?


It looks like O’Reilly might be heading down a Patrice Bergeron path, complete with the FOW prowess and both high PP and SH Ice Times. For Duchene, he’s looking at two seasons in row of below expected production, which is troubling since he should be in the absolute prime of his career. Sure – Duchene isn’t being helped by the low Ice Times that Patrick Roy imposes to his entire top six, but that’s not new and, as such, we have to wonder – is the real Duchene a 60 point (30G, 30A) type of player like now, or the lock to tally 70+ points, with a possibility of 75-80+ that he had been?


In the end, O’Reilly wins this match because although his “perfect world” upside is likely is lower than Duchene’s, he also comes at a far lower price. Duchene was the 77th center-eligible player drafted for 2015-16 in Yahoo leagues and is owned in 94% of Yahoo leagues, versus to 160th and 67% for O’Reilly, although to some extent the 67% reflects his current injury. Also, Duchene has C and LW eligibility, while O’Reilly has the ultra-rare C, LW, RW trifecta.


In keepers, hold O’Reilly if you already own him, and consider making a pitch for him if you don’t; the price might be especially right due to his current injury. Duchene isn’t a buy right now, but you probably shouldn’t sell unless you can get better value in a trade, as 30G, 30A players are hard to come by (there were only ten last season). And if Duchene continues to underperform versus expectations, his value might take enough of a hit for him to become a legitimate buy before this time next year.