Cage Match: Mikkel Boedker vs. Craig Smith

by Rick Roos on October 8, 2014
MikkelBoedker

 

This week’s Cage Match pits Mikkel Boedker vs. Craig Smith.

 

Yet again this week’s Cage Match features a battle between players with identical point projections in the DobberHockey 2014 Fantasy Hockey Guide. But if you want to find out what their exact point projection is you’ll need to buy the Guide, which remains far and away the best fantasy hockey resource you can find and a great asset even if you’ve already drafted your teams for this season.

 

It’s a likely once in a lifetime Denmark vs. USA battle this week, as our combatants are Mikkel Boedker and Craig Smith. Both eclipsed the 50 point mark for the first time in their careers last season, leaving fantasy GMs to wonder if that was a sign of even better things to come, versus them hitting their peak or, even worse, being a one year fluke. As always, Cage Match is here to point you in the right direction.

 

Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications

 

Although Boedker, 24, was born later than Smith, he was drafted a year earlier (8th overall in 2008) and played 78 games in 2008-09. But 2009-10 and 2010-11 were setback campaigns for Boedker, as he toiled in the AHL for twice as many games (100) as he had NHL appearances (50). But he was in the NHL to stay by 2011-12, and has stepped up his game to the tune of 77 points in his last 130 games (48 point full season pace) in his last two campaigns.

 

Despite only having been drafted (98th overall) a year later than Boedker, Smith has played nearly 150 fewer games, thanks in part to college hockey. Smith had an eye opening rookie campaign in 2011-12, with 36 points in 72 NHL contests. But he followed that with a dreadful locked-shortened 2012-13, which saw him post only 12 points in 44 games, before rebounding with 52 points last season while also cracking the 20 goal mark, which is something Boedker has yet to do.

 

Both players enter 2014-15 on the final year of deals that will leave them RFAs, with Smith’s having a slightly better Cap Hit and AAV of $2M compared to Boedker’s $2.55M.

 

Ice Time

 

There’s only three years of data for Smith; but considering that Boedker played in just 34 NHL games during 2010-11 we should be able to get a good comparison.

 

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

2013-14

17:24 (M.B.) – 6th

16:23 (C.S.) – 4th

2:12 (M.B.) – 6th

2:03 (C.S.) – 5th

0:14 (M.B.) – 10th

0:01 (C.S.) – 15th

2012-13

18:28 (M.B.) – 2nd

13:51 (C.S.) – 11th

2:47 (M.B.) – 3rd

1:53 (C.S.) – 7th

1:04 (M.B.) – 5th

0:00 (C.S.)

2011-12

13:38 (M.B.) – 9th

14:11 (C.S.) – 10th

1:03 (M.B.) – 10th

2:08 (C.S.) – 6th

0:21 (M.B.) – 7th

0:01 (C.S.) – 13th

2010-11

10:54 (M.B.) – 14th

1:17 (M.B.) – 10th

0:00 (M.B.)

 

Both players made the most of their Ice Time in 2013-14, with Smith tying for 71st in forward scoring despite receiving only the 149th most Ice Time among all forwards, while Boedker was no slouch either, finishing tied for 74th while receiving the 111th most Ice Time.

 

In terms of trends, Boedker took a step back in overall Ice Time for 2013-14. But most of the lost time was shorthanded duty, which one could consider addition by subtraction, especially since his production actually increased. Meanwhile, Smith’s overall Ice Time was 2:12 greater than his previous career high. But both also saw their PP Ice Time trend lower, with Smith receiving less per game than he did as a rookie, albeit only by five seconds, while Boedker’s drop was more precipitous, amounting to more than 20% from a very healthy 2:47 in 2012-13 to a merely respectable 2:12 in 2013-14.

 

While all this is useful information, a big key in forecasting Ice Time for both in 2014-15 is the offseason player movement of their respective teams. In Arizona, gone are Mike Ribeiro and Radim Vrbata, and with them their nearly 36 minutes of overall Ice Time per game, including over six minutes on the PP per contest. And beyond that, no comparable players came on board to replace them, which bodes very well for Boedker in 2014-15 in terms of Ice Time and opportunity.

 

Nashville was active at last season’s trade deadline and during the summer, with two of the three forwards who received more Ice Time than Smith in 2013-14 (David Legwand, Patric Hornqvist) now gone and the other (Mike Fisher) on IR for a couple of months. But unlike the situation in Arizona, they’ve been replaced by players poised to slide into those vacated Ice Time slots, namely James Neal, Ribeiro, and Derek Roy, who, on their 2013-14 teams, combined for less overall Ice Time than the departed/injured Nashville forwards (about 50 minutes, versus over 54 minutes) but considerably more on the PP (over ten minutes per game compared to just over seven minutes).

 

And the reality is that once Fisher returns he’ll almost assuredly slide back into the top six at even strength and get his usual 2:30+ of PP time. Thus, it’s no guarantee that Smith will emerge with similar overall Ice Time in 2014-15 as he received in 2013-14, and he might well dip back below 2:00 per game on the PP when all is said and done.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2013-14

0.24 (M.B.)

0.41 (C.S.)

1.28 (M.B.)

0.68 (C.S.)

0.19 (M.B.)

0.26 (C.S.)

2.02 (M.B.)

2.72 (C.S.)

0.19 (M.B.)

0.12 (C.S.)

2012-13

0.45 (M.B.)

0.25 (C.S.)

1.60 (M.B.)

0.88 (C.S.)

0.35 (M.B.)

0.29 (C.S.)

1.73 (M.B.)

1.88 (C.S.)

0.14 (M.B.)

0.16 (C.S.)

2011-12

0.28 (M.B.)

0.14 (C.S.)

1.31 (M.B.)

0.61 (C.S.)

0.25 (M.B.)

0.23 (C.S.)

1.05 (M.B.)

2.39 (C.S.)

0.01 (M.B.)

0.18 (C.S.)

2010-11

0.23 (M.B.)

1.23 (M.B.)

0.17 (M.B.)

1.14 (M.B.)

0.06 (M.B.)

 

Both players won’t help a fantasy team in PIM or Blocked Shots. In terms of Hits, Smith had been trending higher until 2013-14, but at this point it looks like it’s safe to say he won’t be morphing into a one Hit per game player. On the other hand, we’ve seen enough evidence to count on Boedker for at least five Hits per every four games, with an outside shot of even more.

 

But the edge Boedker holds in Hits is essentially mirrored by Smith’s advantage in Shots, although for what it’s worth Boedker has seen his average improve significantly over the past two seasons, to the point where it’s probably safe – especially with him being counted upon to replace the offense lost by the departures of Vrbata and Ribeiro – to pencil him in for two plus Shots per game again this season, with a realistic upside of even more.

 

With Smith, the more he shoots the more he scores – that much has held true. But the big question is what effect the likes of Roy, Ribeiro, and Neal will have on Smith’s Shots totals. The answer is perhaps not much, as Roy and Ribeiro hardly shoot the puck at all, and Neal’s Shots this season likely will end up being similar to the total from last season from the now departed Hornqvist.

 

Boedker has been on an upward trajectory with respect to PP points, whereas Smith has been trending down. On the one hand it’s a positive that Smith was able to manage as many points as he did last season despite his lack of PP production on a team that actually had the 12th best PP in the league; however, unless he was especially unlucky on the PP last season (we’ll examine that below) his lack of production on the PP could be a trend that continues, thus acting as a de facto ceiling on his overall points production.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

 

Note that there’s no 5×4 IPP data for Boedker for 2010-11 because he didn’t play enough total minutes for his data to be charted at stats.hockeyanalysis.com.

 

Season

Personal Shooting Percentage

PDO (5×5)

Offensive Zone Starting %

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

2013-14

11.4% (M.B.)

11.2% (C.S.)

991 (M.B.)

1017 (C.S.)

50.4% (M.B.)

52.5% (C.S.)

76.3% (M.B.)

74.5% (C.S.)

68.0% (M.B.)

70.6% (C.S.)

2012-13

8.4% (M.B.)

4.8% (C.S.)

1001 (M.B.)

961 (C.S.)

55.3% (M.B.)

44.3% (C.S.)

66.7% (M.B.)

41.7% (C.S.)

66.7% (M.B.)

87.5% (C.S.)

2011-12

12.8% (M.B.)

8.1% (C.S.)

1009 (M.B.)

992 (C.S.)

53.4% (M.B.)

50.8% (C.S.)

69.7% (M.B.)

79.3% (C.S.)

33.3% (M.B.)

72.2% (C.S.)

2010-11

10.3% (M.B.)

1078 (M.B.)

56.0% (M.B.)

75.4% (M.B.)

 

 

Nothing sticks out for either player in terms of Shooting % or Offensive Zone %. As far as PDO, Smith’s was miniscule during his poor season, which is somewhat reassuring, as is the fact that Boedker’s only excessively high PDO occurred in his 34 game stint in 2010-11.

 

But something interesting is lurking beneath the PDO surface for Smith. While his 1017 5×5 PDO for 2013-14 falls well within the “normal” range of 970-1030, it was actually 28 higher than Nashville’s 989 team PDO at 5×5. Beyond that being concerning in general, consider also that no player who finished among the top three scorers for his team in 2013-14 had an individual 5×5 PDO that was more than 28 points higher than his team PDO.

 

It would be one thing if Smith already was an established NHLer with a high scoring (and high PDO) track record; but with this happening in what was his first really productive season, it does ring some alarms bells. And compounding that concern is the fact that both of Smith’s IPPs for 2013-14 were above 70% (so much for the notion that he might’ve been unlucky on the PP last season). And there were actually only seven forwards in 2013-14 who had a greater IPP at both 5×5 and 5×4 PDO than Smith – Patrick Kane, Ryan Getzlaf, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Joe Pavelski, Blake Wheeler, and David Perron. Seeing this makes me think back to the childhood song/game “one of these things is not like the others” (well, more like two – sorry David Perron….).

 

Playing devil’s advocate, I suppose one could argue that Smith being on the same list as these proven stars (plus Perron) shows that he might be ticketed for stardom too, especially since it’s actually the second time in his only three seasons that both his IPP numbers exceeded 70%. But I’m not buying it, especially with his comparatively high PDO versus the rest of his team. Instead, I think it shows that not only is it a stretch to count on Smith improving his stats in 2014-15, but he might be hard pressed to hit 50 points in the upcoming season.

 

Who Wins?

 

This is Smith’s “magical fourth season,” and the trajectory he’s followed is one I’d normally associate with a player on the cusp of a breakout. The problem is Smith has far too many barriers and question marks (Ice Time, luck metrics, Nashville forward logjam, declining PP production) that suggest not only is it unlikely he’ll see his points increase, but it’s probably safer to predict he’ll fall short of the 50 point mark this season.

 

On the other hand, Boedker isn’t hampered by any of those issues or concerns. And in particular, with Ribeiro or Vrbata (both of whom he hardly played with at even strength or on the PP, according to Frozen Pool) now gone from Arizona, he’ll be looked upon even more to produce.

 

Boedker wins this match, as for 2014-15 I’m penciling in Smith for 45 points with maybe a 35% shot at 50 but virtually no chance for 55, while I see Boedker as all but assured to hit 50 once again, with a better than 50% chance of topping 55, and a 30% chance of posting 60+ points.

 

Where Should Both Players Have Been Drafted in the DobberHockey Expert League?

 

In the recent DobberHockey expert league draft I gave some good-natured ribbing to Steve Laidlaw about drafting Smith in the 15th round (160th overall), which I thought was too early despite his multi-position eligibility, especially considering that Boedker went four rounds and nearly 50 picks later (207th overall). What do you think? Was Smith picked too early, too late, or just right? Take a look at the draft results and let us know your thoughts here in the comments or the forum thread.