Cage Match: Radulov vs. Hornqvist

by Rick Roos on November 23, 2016

Alexander Radulov vs. Patric Hornqvist – who has more fantasy hockey value?

 

I’ve never shied away from a challenge, and today that means covering Alexander Radulov – arguably the most intriguing age-30 sub-200 career games NHLer since………… ever?! I’m pitting him against Patric Hornqvist, to see which winger is best for your fantasy team this season and – if Radulov sticks around this time – beyond.

Career Path and Contract Status

I could fill the entire column on Radulov’s long and windy history, but I’ll keep it short. Selected 15th overall in 2004 by Nashville, he lit up the QMJHL, including 152 points in 62 contests for 2005-06. Despite this, Radulov was ticketed for the AHL for 2006-07; but his 18 points in 11 games there led to him playing 64 games for the Preds that same season, during which he only tallied 37 points.

Radulov improved to 58 points in 81 games in 2007-08, posting 52 in his first 65 contests before his Ice Time (and output) dropped due to not meshing with then coach Barry Trotz. The situation boiled over when Radulov, still under NHL contract, signed with the KHL. After several campaigns in Russia, Radulov briefly returned to Nashville in 2012, getting suspended for breaking curfew yet managing to fulfill his final NHL contract year. After several additional KHL seasons – and more rumors of his NHL return than bigfoot sightings in rural North America – Radulov signed with Montreal this offseason and has emerged with nearly point per game scoring.

Hornqvist, 29, was drafted by Nashville in 2005 as the 230th (i.e., very last) pick. After honing his craft in the SEL and part of a season between the NHL and AHL, Hornqvist was with Nashville to stay by 2009-10, ostensibly to replace Radulov. Hornqvist was a sniper from the start, scoring 21+ goals in each of his first four full seasons, yet never actually besting 53 points.

When Hornqvist came to Pittsburgh in 2014, poolies had visions of him producing ala James Neal, who twice had point per game output there. Hornqvist’s Pittsburgh numbers didn’t explode out of the gate (102 points in 146 games); but like other Pens, he responded when Mike Sullivan took over last season, putting together 30 points in 29 games and ending with 39 in his final 46 contests. And like Radulov, Hornqvist has started 2016-17 well.

Radulov is signed for only one year ($6M cap hit), while Hornqvist’s contract runs through 2017-18 and brings with it a cap hit of $4.25M.

Ice Time

For Radulov’s table here (and for Secondary Categories), I’ll look at 2006-07 and 2007-08 NHL data, plus 2016-17. SH Ice Time isn’t noted, since neither player exceeded 0:05 per game in the charted seasons.

Radulov

Season

Total Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)

PP Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)

2016-17

15:40 – 4th

2:21 – 1st

2007-08

16:23 – 6th

3:07 – 5th

2006-07

11:38 – 12th

1:50 – 9th

 

Hornqvist

 

Season

Total Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)

PP Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)

2016-17

15:57 – 7th

3:03 –43rd

2015-16

16:50 – 4th

3:02 – 4th

2014-15

17:39 – 4th

3:18 – 3rd

2013-14

16:51 – 3rd

2:55 – 2nd

 

It’s easy to see how things soured for Radulov in Nashville. Despite his pedigree, he was given Total Ice Time as a rookie befitting a fourth liner and was far down the PP ladder among forwards. Although the situation improved in 2007-08, he still barely occupied a top six role; yet he ended up with 2.88 points per 60 minutes at 5×5 (tied for third among 81 forwards who played 1000+ minutes). In short, Radulov apparently did have special talent – it was just squandered in Nashville.

 

Hornqvist’s Total Ice Time dropped from his first Pens season to his second, and is on track to fall even more for 2016-17. Yet although he stands 7th among Pens forwards in Ice Time, if we go by productive Ice Time (i.e., subtracting out SH Time), he’s 5th. Also, although his PP Time is unchanged, he’s more firmly entrenched on PP1, as his PP utilization is up (63.7%, vs 57.1% last season and 61.0% in 2014-15).

 

The concern is both have low Total Ice Time considering their early 2016-17 production. With Hornqvist, given his past the assumption is he’s unsustainably overachieving. But Radulov’s output might just be sustainable, what with his pedigree plus his 2007-08 success despite similarly limited minutes. We’ll know more after looking at additional data.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Radulov

 

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2016-17

1.06

1.29

0.53

1.64

0.29

2007-08

0.54

0.21

0.44

2.26

0.07

2006-07

0.40

0.36

0.28

1.50

0.17

 

Hornqvist

 

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2016-17

0.12

2.56

1.25

3.87

0.43

2015-16

0.44

1.95

0.66

3.13

0.18

2014-15

0.59

1.36

0.51

3.43

0.23

2013-14

0.37

1.01

0.44

3.26

0.22

 

Whatever got into Radulov in Russia, poolies who own him in multi-cat leagues aren’t complaining. He’s gone from borderline category killer in Hits, to solid producer, plus seen big jumps in PPPts and PIM. If Radulov is able to maintain his rate of 1+ PIM and 1+ Hit per game and finish with 60+ points, he’d be in very limited fantasy territory, as the only player to accomplish all three feats last season was Wayne Simmonds.

 

Also, Radulov’s Hits and PIM check out, as although maybe his KHL scoring isn’t a reliable barometer for the NHL, I’d argue his PIM and Hits while there are. And sure enough in his last two KHL seasons (94 games) he totaled 117 Hits and 216 PIM. Unfortunately, Radulov is lagging in SOG; and although that’s in stark contrast to his KHL output (3.6 in 2015-16; 3.3 in 2014-15) this might not be a case of a slow start, since even in his solid 2007-08 season wasn’t firing many pucks on net. If indeed Radulov’s SOG rate stays under two per game, then as was noted in recent column it would make him a long shot for 60+ points. After all, only 14 of the 137 instances of 60+ point seasons by forwards since 2013-14 coincided with a player averaging fewer than two SOG per game, and only five were wingers.

 

Meanwhile, notwithstanding his downward Ice Time trends, Hornqvist’s Hits and Blocks per game rose from his first Pens season to his second, and are tracking even higher this season. But the concern is “rough and tumble” play that goes hand-in-hand with getting lots of Hits and Blocks also brings with it added injury risk. This is worrisome to Hornqvist owners, since he’s already a Band-Aid Boy trainee and suffered a concussion last week.

 

What’s special about Hornqvist – and puts him 13th among skaters in roto value (Radulov is 44th) – is his ability to provide Hits and scoring, plus an incredibly high SOG rate. Yet while poolies are aware SOG are key to scoring, peppering nets with Shots doesn’t always make a player elite. Although Hornqvist is one of five forwards to average 3+ SOG per game in each of the past seven seasons plus this season thus far, the other four include superstars Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, but also Zach Parise and Radim Vrbata, who, like Hornqvist, didn’t post 70+ points in any of those eight campaigns.

 

In terms of PPPts, Radulov’s are high given his PP Ice Time per game; however, as a rookie he managed one PPP per 5.5 games despite even less PP Time and poorer PP usage. Hornqvist’s PPPt rate is clearly unsustainable, especially given how little his output has varied in recent seasons.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

 

Radulov

 

Because most luck-based metrics weren’t charted prior to 2007-08, there’s no data included below for Radulov’s 2006-07 season. Both players have “N/A” for 5×4 IPP for 2016-17 due to not yet meeting the 50 minute minimum.

 

Season

Personal Shooting Percentage

Team Shooting % (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

2016-17

10.7%

10.62%

75.0%

N/A

56.1%

2007-08

14.2%

11.28%

80.3%

35.3%

65.6%

 

Hornqvist

 

Season

Personal Shooting Percentage

Team Shooting % (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

2016-17

8.0%

7.89%

50.0%

N/A

59.6%

2015-16

8.6%

7.81%

68.0%

48.4%

55.4%

2014-15

11.4%

10.65%

63.3%

41.1%

56.0%

2013-14

8.9%

8.76%

68.6%

54.2%

52.0%

 

It’s reassuring to see Radulov doing better despite lower metrics than in his 58 point 2007-08 campaign. No question his 10.62% team shooting % at 5×5 is high; yet at some point, even though we’re talking about a player with less than 200 career NHL games, we have to wonder whether based on the data we do have (5×5 IPPs of 75%+, P/60 as a rookie, PPPts rate) perhaps he’s just a very special player .

 

Hornqvist’s 2016-17 IPP at 5×5 and team shooting percentage are both running low, which, along with a slightly higher OZ%, could compensate for his unsustainable PPPt rate. In other words, although his PPPt scoring rate is bound to decrease, his ES scoring rate could rise enough to maintain his overall scoring pace. Yet if we look at the collective data, Hornqvist’s 5×5 IPP hasn’t been above the key 70% threshold even once over the past three seasons, and his team shooting % has lagged below 9.00% in two out of three. Collectively, this doesn’t show that he’s been unlucky as much as perhaps he’s simply not a “next level” type of player ala Radulov.

 

Who Wins?

 

For the rest of 2016-17, I’m picking Radulov. He seems engaged and focused, with none of the issues that followed him in the past; and although there’s not lots of data out there for him, each and every year at least some of his numbers have clearly shown he’s a tremendous player – including, apparently, even now at age 30. This isn’t to say Hornqvist will be a letdown for 2016-17. In fact, he should breeze to a career best (which, let’s not forget, would only need to be 54 points). But Hornqvist isn’t just a Band-Aid Boy who likes to hit (a dangerous combination); he also lacks the “next level” metrics to suggest that he’s in the same echelon as Radulov.

 

The values of both players are also influenced by preconceptions. Many poolies have a “glass half full” view of Radulov, allowing concerns about his past to substantially lower his value in one year leagues. Meanwhile they tend to see Hornqvist with a “glass half full” mentality because of where he plays and the sense he’s always been primed to breakout, as evidenced in him tying for second in this summer’s Breakout Forwards Cage Match Tournament. To put it another way, Hornqvist is a player who poolies are inclined to overvalue if they want to trade him to you, while the opposite might be true for Radulov.

 

In keepers, the elephant in the room is what Radulov will do when the season is over. Was 2016-17 part of a plan for him to drive up interest (and price) for a return to the KHL? Or is he committed to the NHL for the rest of his career? We can’t know for sure, and that’s a big deal.

 

Owning Radulov in a keeper is essentially an all or nothing situation, since if he goes back to the KHL chances are he’d never return to the NHL again, or if he did, it could be when he’s a shell of himself. If you’re rebuilding and can capitalize on this concern by grabbing Radulov for low value, do it. That way if he stays in the NHL you can sell him for useful younger assets, while if he flees for the KHL again you’re left where you were anyway – still rebuilding. As for Hornqvist, given his age and style he’s likely peaked, making him probably a sell this season or next (while he’s still a “glass half full” member of the Pens) for most anyone except those poised to seriously contend for their keeper title.