Forum Buzz: Are These Players ‘Really’ As Good As They Seem?

by Rick Roos on June 12, 2019
  • Roos Lets Loose
  • Forum Buzz: Are These Players ‘Really’ As Good As They Seem?

 

Welcome to another edition of “Forum Buzz,” a column where I dissect some of the most popular posts from the DobberHockey Forums. Pretty much anything posted within the forums over the past month might be covered, other than trades (those usually will get their own separate write-ups on the site and are also covered in the next day’s Ramblings) and signings (those tend to be dissected in Alex McClean’s weekly Capped column). With that out of the way, let’s get rolling!

 

Topic #1 – Based on what we’ve seen so far, particularly in 2018-19, is Max Domi a sell-high?

Domi’s fourth season was indeed a magical one, seeing him top his career best scoring rate by 20 points. Yet I don’t blame some for wondering if he might’ve overachieved, in part because of the extent (38%) by which he surpassed his previous career high. As always, let’s see what the numbers tell us.

Although Domi was consistent in scoring 14-24 points in each quarter and his overall ice time average per game was 17:00 -17:17 in three of the four quarters, his PP time per quarter went from 3:10 per game in the first quarter (when he scored 24 points in 20 games) to 2:13 in the second quarter, to 2:01 in the third quarter, to 1:10 in the fourth. At first that looks very concerning; but it turns out Domi still took the ice for 40%+ of Montreal overall PP time in 12 of those 20 fourth quarter games, and Montreal had no power plays in four of the 20, dragging down his – and everyone else’s – per game average. Even still, if we look to Q1, Domi took the ice for 59% or more of the team’s PP Time in 12 of 20 games, versus just three in Q4; so although his Q4 numbers look worse than they actually were, they certainly weren’t on a par with Q1. There’s also the fact that he had seven PPPts in Q1, but a mere four more over the rest of the season. Accordingly, Domi might not have a spot on Montreal’s PP1 locked up.

On the other hand, in Q1 Domi averaged 2 SOG per game, but in Q4 he was above 2 per game, so he had that going for him. And his SOG rate for the season was 2.47 per game after never previously having reached even two per game. No surprise – that led to more goals; but his personal shooting percentage was 13.8% after only once being above 8.3% in his previous seasons. Digging deeper, we see his average shot distance was 29.2 feet, or nearly as low as when he was a rookie and shot 11.5%. So Domi was shooting more but taking quality shots, which is a good sign that his 28 goals for 2018-19 was not a fluke and could improve further if his quarter to quarter trend of increasing SOG continues, which is realistic since of the 58 players who potted 28+ goals last season all but 13 had more SOG than Domi’s 203.

As for Domi’s advanced stats, his 10.69% team shooting percentage at 5×5 was a career high; but let’s keep in mind in his three seasons with Arizona his rate was 9.28 to 9.43, which are impressive numbers in general but even more so considering how offensively challenged the Coyotes had been. Where there’s a bit more concern is in Domi’s IPP (i.e., the percentage of points he received on goals scored while he was on the ice), as it was 75.8% last season after only once being over 70% in his seasons with Arizona and averaging only 63.6%. If anything, Domi is now playing with more talented players, and, in turn, his IPP would be expected to drop, rather than rise as compared to when he was carrying weaker Coyotes players. So either that was unsustainable good luck or the “magical fourth year” in effect.

The specific question in the forums was whether Domi should be a sell high. Based on all the data, my take is no. His consistently solid 5×5 team shooting percentage shows that good things happen when he’s on the ice. And although his IPP last season did seem to run somewhat high, he also looked to be somewhat snakebit in terms of PPPts, and he has room to grow in overall ice time (assuming Claude Julien leans on his stars more than he did las season), and his SOG rate was trending up each quarter. I’m also not sure you’d even be able to get fair value for him in trade.

Going forward, I think Domi is a virtual lock for 70+ points per season, with a better chance of 75+ points than under 65. Moreover, if Montreal continues to come together offensively as a team, with a rising tide lifting all boats, including Domi’s, and more ice time is bestowed upon stars, he could eventually flirt with point per game numbers.

 

Topic #2 – Is Brayden Point likely to be a perennial point per game player?

How did Point follow-up a jump from 40 points as a rookie to 66 as a sophomore? By yet again jumping 26 points, this time to 92 for 2018-19! The question from the forum thread was whether Point is poised to be a point per game player; however, the proper focus might need to be more on whether he stands to make still further scoring gains to push for (or beyond) 100 points.

What immediately jumps off the page when it comes to Point is his SOG total dropping from 217 in 82 games in 2017-18 to 191 in 79 games last season. Yet his goal total rose from 32 to 41, thanks in part to a whopping 21.5% shooting percentage. Those numbers aren’t sustainable. Need proof? Since 2005-06 there’ve only been three other instances of players who scored even 35+ goals while both taking fewer than 200 shots and also sporting a shooting percentage of 20% or greater. Two were by players (Loui Eriksson in 2008-09; William Karlsson in 2017-18) who definitely are not the type to which one wants to be compared, while the other was Joe Pavelski this past season, and he had a 2.5 SOG per game rate, meaning had he played in 82 games (like Eriksson and Karlsson did) he’d have amassed over 200 SOG. Long story short, Point is likely to see his goal total drop, perhaps considerably, unless he starts shooting the puck more again, which might not occur given the type of game he looks to now be playing.

Point also had 35 PPPts last season, which was tied for sixth most in the entire NHL and was more than triple his total for 2017-18 despite only a minute more of man advantage time per game this past season versus 2017-18. Yet if we look at his IPP on the power play, it was 58.3%, meaning while he was on the ice last season his team scored a whopping 60 PPGs. Thus, what might at first have looked like evidence of unsustainable man advantage production instead appears to suggest Point could see his PP scoring increase in the normal course, as he’ll likely stay part of the team’s PP1 due to its resounding success, yet some of the points that went to Nikita Kucherov (48 PPPts, 80% IPP on the PP) and Steven Stamkos (40 PPPts, 65.6% IPP on the PP) last season could instead come to Point in 2019-20.

Point also has seen his 5×5 team shooting percentage increase with each season, from 8.83 as a rookie to 9.94 in 2017-18 to 10.73 last season. In part that’s a function of him skating alongside better and better players but also, I believe, due to his game improving, as evidenced in particular by his IPP holding essentially steady from 2017-18 to 2018-19 despite all the added even strength time he spent with Nikita Kucherov (over 70% in 2018-19 versus under 15% in 2017-18).

Yet as much as it seems like anyone who skates with Kucherov has hit the production lottery, it’s not automatic that taking the ice with a superstar means one also scores in droves. Kucherov’s IPP last season at even strength was 84.2%, meaning that usually when a goal is scored while Kucherov is on the ice there’s at most one or perhaps two other points to be shared among the four other Tampa skaters who are on the ice as well. As such, for Point to be able to just keep his IPP steady despite his ice time with Kucherov increasing roughly five-fold is a testament to Point having a nose for scoring and, in turn, for his numbers to stay high if he continues to skate as much as he did (not only over 70% of his even strength shifts, but also over 85% on the PP) with Kucherov in the coming season. And chances are that happens, what with Kucherov posting the highest single season point total in more than 20 years.

All things considered, Point had some areas (i.e., goals) where he overachieved, but he also could see his share of PPPts and/or his even strength IPP increase. And chances are Tampa Bay will likely be just as productive as a team next season, what with its core set to stay largely intact. As such, Point looks to be a virtual lock for point per game scoring, with I think a better chance to finish again above 90 point than to fall below that mark.

 

Topic #3 – Has Jordan Binnington’s 2018-19 made him a better keeper option than Sergei Bobrovsky or Marc-Andre Fleury in a league that doesn’t allow for offseason trades?

It’s too bad that trades aren’t allowed, as that way you’d get something in return for whomever you opted not to keep. Thus the question becomes whether Binnington has truly arrived enough to elevate him into the keeper conversation with Bobrovsky, who’s been one of the best overall netminders in fantasy over the past five seasons, and Fleury, who’s defying father time and playing top notch hockey since arriving in Las Vegas.

Much has been made Binnington doing all this as a 25 year-old rookie after over 150 games played in the better part of five seasons in the AHL. But guess what – according to www.hockey-reference.com, since 2000-01 there’ve been ten other netminders who, like Binnington, started 30+ games as an age 25+ rookie. Of them, four went on to be top flight starters, namely Pekka Rinne, Jimmy Howard, Corey Crawford, and Mike Smith, with three (not Smith) being the only ones of the ten – other than Binnington himself – to win 20+ games that same season. One concern, however, is Rinne, Howard and Crawford were “stuck” in the AHL largely due to another goalie then shining for their team, whereas Binnington arguably was there because he wasn’t up to par.

Yet despite this, we can’t look past Binnington’s stellar regular season NHL numbers for 2018-19, including the highest percentage (66.7%) of quality starts of any of the 11 on the above-referenced list, with quality starts being defined as starts with a SV% greater than league average or, in games facing fewer than 20 shots, with a SV% of at least .885%. Then there was Binnington’s regular season GSAA, which stands for “goals saved above average” and represents the goals a netminder prevented given his SV% and shots faced versus the league average SV% on the same number of shots. Binnington’s 13.74% GSAA, although behind Howard’s. was not only higher than Rinne’s and more than double that of Crawford, but the rest of the 11 all had negative GSAAs. Also, when factoring out age, and again according to www.hockey-reference.com, there’ve been 27 other rookie netminders who started 30+ games since 2000-01, with Binnington’s GSAA ranking him fourth (behind Tuukka Rask and Matt Murray, but ahead of the likes of Carey Price, Jonathan Quick, John Gibson and Bobrovsky to name a few) and his quality start percentage trailing only Rask’s.

While some might argue Binnington was buoyed by the strong team in front of him, it’s important to note that between Binnington’s debut on January 7th and the end of the regular season, Binnington started 30 games compared to only 13 by Jake Allen. In those 43 combined games, the Blues gave up more than two goals in a game (not counting empty net goals) 14 times, with seven of those coming in Allen’s 14 starts and the other seven in Binnington’s 30. So one would think if the team in front of them was responsible for bolstering goalie stats then the percentages would be more in line the number of starts. But clearly Binnington was not just being bolstered by the team in front of him. Binnington’s individual skill is further confirmed, in addition to the GSAA and QS data above, by the fact that his even strength SV% for this past season was .936, which again only trailed Rask among rookies who started 30+ games since 2000-01.

All this being said, does it put Binnington ahead of Fleury or Bobrovsky in terms of keeper value? One question is whether Fleury can keep up his strong play when he’ll turn 35 this coming season. If we look at goalies since 2000-01 who, like Fleury, had 60+ combined wins during their age 33 and 34 seasons we see there were seven others. Of these, only one (Henrik Lundqvist) went on to have just one 30+ win season and more than half had at least two. So Fleury could stay viable for a few more seasons given his comparables and playing for a strong team.

That leaves Bobrovsky, who’ll no doubt be given a huge contract and, with that, every chance to start and succeed. Could he falter, or perhaps lessen his effort level with a fact contract in his pocket? Yes, I suppose; however, betting against him, at least on paper, seems unwise.

So it comes down to Binnington or Fleury, and from where I sit there is no clear cut choice. Instead, it boils down whether one has more faith in Fleury hanging on for a few more productive seasons, or in Binnington not being a one season wonder. If it was me, I’d keep Binnington over Fleury, as the player comparables and individual data suggest he could be a late blooming, top-flight goalie, whereas Fleury might get a team a couple of more seasons of solid play, if even that.

 

Topic #4 – In a 16 team league with G, A, PPP, SHG, SOG, BLK and HIT as skater categories, Evander Kane was ranked 36th among players last season while Matthew Tkachuk was ranked 37th. Which would be the better keeper?

What we saw from Kane last season is tantalizing, as before faltering somewhat in the fourth quarter and missing several games, Kane had a third quarter where he put up 22 points in 20 games with 88 SOG and four PPPts. This also marked the third straight season where Kane played in 70+ games after having failed to hit that mark in any of his three preceding campaigns.

Also, due to Kane’s stellar Hits and SOG, he doesn’t need to excel in your other categories – most notably PPPts – in order to keep pace with Tkachuk. And in terms of PPPts, we can surmise that Kane’s role with the man advantage will at worst remain largely the same if Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton stay on board or could expand if one or both depart via unrestricted free agency. So it’s a no lose situation of sorts, provided of course that Kane remains healthy and mentally checked in, which are somewhat lesser ifs nowadays but can never be removed as at least back of the mind concerns.

All this having been said, Kane is nearly six and a half years older than Tkachuk, who’s managed to excel despite not lining up for the most part with either Johnny Gaudreau or Sean Monahan at even strength. And even there, if we dig a bit deeper we see that Tkachuk did skate with them on a semi-regular basis at 5×5 in the second half of the season and all three enjoyed success. But even if Tkachuk doesn’t get a regular gig with those two, he’s locked into a spot with them on PP1, where he’s excelled.

There’s also the fact that Tkachuk’s magical fourth season is about to occur and he’s seen all his key metrics (points, PPPts, SOG, ice time, PP time) increase in each of his campaigns yet still not come close to being maxed out. As such, he could be in line for even higher totals in the normal course, especially with Calgary looking to be a team on the rise and an offensive powerhouse.

I could dissect the data even more, but I think you have to go with Tkachuk’s combination of youth and upward trends over Kane’s likely maxed out production and question marks.

 

Topic #5 – In a points only league where forward positions don’t matter, which one of the following should be traded or not kept: Nicolaj Ehlers, Nico Hischier, Clayton Keller, or Dylan Strome?

First off, I’m definitely keeping Ehlers despite his disappointing 2018-19. Since 2000-01 there have been just 21 other players who, like Ehlers, scored 60+ points in at least two of their first three seasons by age 21. Among the 21 who are at least 27 years old as of now, all but one (Jonathan Toews) had scored 70+ points at least three times in their career and nearly three quarters had scored 84+ points at least twice. Although past results don’t dictate what will necessarily happen to a player, this is pretty encouraging data – encouraging enough to keep Ehlers.

I’m also keeping Hischier, who had 43 points in 58 games before getting hurt; and a good chunk of that was without Taylor Hall in the line-up. I see Hischier breezing his way to 70 this season, and with a huge breakthrough by 2021-22 at the latest.

And I’m also keeping Keller, who had similar SOG and PPPts as in 2017-18 but scored 18 fewer points due to his unsustainably low 5×5 team shooting percentage and IPP. Plus, Arizona’s offense has only one way to go, and that’s up, with Keller likely to be a major beneficiary. If those factors weren’t enough, the list of players who, as teenage rookies since 2000-01, posted 65+ points, consists of Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Auston Matthews, and Keller. Now that’s some fine company to be in.

That leaves Strome, who as we know was red hot once he came to Chicago (51 points in 58 games). But among these four he had the highest 5×5 team shooting percentage last season, plus he scored that much despite barely averaging 16 minutes of ice time per game, calling into question whether he caught lightning in a bottle. He also limped to the finish line with only 14 points in his final 19 games; and when he posted 23 in 19 third quarter contests, he had only 26 SOG. Don’t get me wrong – Strome has talent; and what we saw could be the start of something special. But by the same token, he could fizzle out. I’d dangle him as trade bait and see if you can upgrade your team at another position. If you get no takers, he’s who I’d reluctantly let go among the four.

 

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Questions needed for Mailbag column

As a reminder, I’m always seeking questions for my monthly mailbag column, where I answer your fantasy hockey questions. Please continue to send me your questions either by private messaging them to me (rizzeedizzee) via the DobberHockey Forums or by sending an email to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line.