Most regular season fantasy leagues are now wrapping up, but playoff pools are around the corner. So what better time for Goldipucks and the Three Skaters to cover skaters on teams bound for the playoffs! This week’s skaters are Filip Forsberg, T.J. Oshie, and Torey Krug, each of whom has the luxury of playing for an elite team which, through the weekend, has already locked up a spot (or is all but assured a spot) in the playoffs, while next week we’ll examine skaters from likely lower-seeded playoffs squads.
As a reminder, or for first time readers, the concept of this column is a play on Goldilocks and the Three Bears, except instead of bowls of porridge I’m covering skaters and declaring one too hot (i.e., doing unsustainably better than he should), another too cold (i.e., doing unsustainably worse), and a third “just right” (i.e., producing where he should). Each skater also receives a 1-10 rating, indicating, on a relative scale, how hot (rated 7-10, where 10 is the most unsustainably hot), cold (rated 1-3, where 1 is the most unsustainably cold), or just right (rated 4-6, where 5 is the most “just right”) he is.
Before you read any further, be sure to guess which of Forsberg, Oshie, and Krug is too hot, which is too cold, and which is just right. It’s an enjoyable exercise, but also important one in that it confirms whether your “spidey senses” are correct, and, if they aren’t, allows you to determine what might have led your instincts awry.
Last season Forsberg entered the zone from February onward, with 23 points (15 goals) in his final 23 games, turning what looked to be a lost campaign into a salvaged 58-point effort, then parlayed that momentum into 16 points in 22 playoff contests. For 2017-18, if the season was to end today he’d finish with a 75-point scoring pace. But can we trust this scoring level to continue into the playoffs and beyond, what with Forsberg having managed only to produce 58-64 points for three straight seasons? The answer is no, we can’t – not quite at least.
This season several of Forsberg’s numbers are strikingly similar to those he had in 2014-15, from his percentage share of his team’s PP minutes (51.5% this season vs. 51.1% in 2014-15), to his 5×5 team shooting percentage (9.83 vs. 9.44), to his IPP (70.5% vs. 70.0%). On the other hand, his SOG rate is down somewhat for this season versus 2014-15 (2.89 in 2014-15, 2.55 this season), although his secondary assists rate is considerably lower, so those come close to canceling each other out.
If it’s for the most part the same old Forsberg, what gives? What’s causing him to produce better than in the past? To a large extent, and as was the case with David Perron in my column from a few weeks ago, it’s the rising tide of team scoring lifting all boats. Back in 2014-15 Nashville scored 226 goals on the season. For 2017-18 they’re on pace for 260 tallies, which would mark a 15% increase from 2014-15; and as a top line player, Forsberg is seeing a direct benefit despite such similarity in his 2017-18 metrics to those of three seasons ago. Yet if you look at Forsberg’s 61.6 point collective output from the past three seasons and up it by 15%, you get only 71 points, which a few notches below his current 75 point scoring pace.
That’s why, all things considered, Forsberg’s scoring pace this season is TOO HOT. But I’m assigning him a 7.5 rating because he could produce this type of scoring if not for the long haul than at least for extended stretches, provided he reverts to his old SOG rate and benefits from a few secondary assists.
Although a repeat of last season’s 66-point scoring pace might have seemed like a reach, what with his 23.1% personal shooting percentage and 11.06% team shooting percentage, few poolies likely would’ve foreseen Oshie’s production dropping to a 50-point pace. But as amazing as it might seem in view of his 61-point collective scoring pace over the past three seasons and him only once scoring below a 55-point pace in a full season since 2009-10, this 2017-18 version of Oshie looks to be the new normal.
Oshie simply is not as dialed into offense as he once was. Look no further than his SOG per game rate for this season being lower than any of his previous NHL seasons and an IPP downward trend since 2012-13 as follows: 87%, 65.9%, 63.2%, 54.3%, 56.6% (last year’s blip), and this season a mere 50.6%. Also, keep in mind he actually started this season fantastically with 17 points in 21 games; since then, in each quarter of the season he’s scored at or below a point per every other game except thanks to a stretch of six points in his last six games he’s now above that threshold for the fourth quarter thus far (nine points in 16 games).
He's also slumping despite ample PP Time (taking the ice for more than two-thirds of Washington’s available PP minutes) and has already banked 17 PPPts, which is well above his highest PP scoring rate for any previous season. If anything, these numbers could drop, which in turn would hamper his production even more. Beyond that, although his secondary assists rate is a mere 32%, which would normally suggest room for more lucky bounce type of points, that’s less likely in view of his paltry IPP and the fact that his secondary assists percentage was even lower last season, meaning he’s the type of player who either scores a goal or dishes out a primary assist, or simply doesn’t score at all.
There’s no other way to slice it except to say that Oshie disappointing production is JUST RIGHT. He gets a rating of 5.25 since he’s still all but assured to get ample PP Time and a top six spot, which should prevent the bottom from falling out completely. But the fact is, he’s now more a 45-50 point player than a 55-60+ point one. One hope poolies can also cling to is perhaps he’s playing with a minor but nagging injury that hasn’t been serious enough to keep him out of the line-up yet is responsible for him playing below his normal skill level or scoring at his usual rate. If that’s somehow not the case though, the Caps and Oshie fantasy owners alike might be in for a long, tough ride over the rest of his contract.
It took Krug until only game 67 this season to best his career high of 51 points, and he can – and more importantly should – score at an even higher pace going forward. Krug’s trends are all pointing in the right direction, as not only is this the third straight season that he’s scoring more, but his IPP, which had been in the 50s for two seasons before dropping down to 44% in 2015-16, rose by nine percentage points last season and is on track to climb again for 2017-18.
He's also been somewhat unlucky, having hit five posts, tied for fourth most among all rearguards. Moreover, his PP usage is up slightly versus last season as is his PP SOG per game rate and yet he’s scoring slightly less on the PP, which should give him a few more points in the near future. And although his secondary assists rate is a bit higher than his combined rate over the past four seasons, he’s still tallied more primary assists than secondary plus he’s shooting the puck at a healthy rate of 2.56 per game.
But perhaps most importantly he’s benefitting from, rather than being hurt by, the presence of rookie phenom Charlie McAvoy. Krug is to McAvoy as Shayne Gostisbehere is to Ivan Provorov, where the younger phenom is being tasked with tougher minutes, leaving the offensively gifted rearguard with a dream deployment.
In the case of Krug, the result is him taking the ice for over two-thirds of all Boston’s PP minutes (sixth-highest percentage among all NHL d-men), but not even a tenth of its man advantage time, leading to 98.3% of his TOI spent at either even strength or on the PP. What could be even better than that? Try an OZ% of 64.7%, which is easily tops among all non-rookie NHL regulars.
In short, Boston makes no qualms about Krug’s purpose – he’s deployed to help score; and that, plus the high powered Bs offense, will indeed let him rack up even more points than he’s on pace for thus far. It’s the kind of stuff poolies dream of when they draft a scoring defenseman in fantasy.
Krug is TOO COLD but gets only a 2.75 because his scoring rate is already high to begin with, so the uptick in his production should be modest.
Remember to come back next week when I’ll cover three more playoff-bound skaters. See you then.
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