Ondrej Palat vs. Tomas Tatar

by Rick Roos on April 29, 2015
TomasTatar

 

Game 7 primer: who is the better fantasy own – Ondrej Palat or Tomas Tatar?

 

 

This week’s match focuses on two top keeper league LWs – Tampa’s Ondrej Palat and Detroit’s Tomas Tatar, whose teams just happened to face each other in Round One of this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. At age 24, both have already translated their potential into fantasy success; but questions remain about whether either one can be a true star, and what their respective points ceilings might be. Let’s find out exactly how they compare, and determine who’s the better own – Cage Match starts now!

 

Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications

Palat wasn’t drafted until he was 20 years old, and the Lightning waited until the 7th round (208th overall) to grab him. Seeing this, it’s remarkable how quickly and emphatically he’s achieved success, what with posting nearly a point per game in the AHL in 2012-13 just a year after being drafted, and then following his 59 point 2013-14 season with four more points in six fewer games for 2014-15.

Tatar followed the customary Red Wing blueprint in his path to the NHL, as after being drafted in 2009 (60th overall) he played the majority of four seasons in the AHL (275 games), tasting only brief bites of NHL action (nine games in 2010-11; 18 in 2012-13). But the patience of Tatar, Detroit, and poolies has been rewarded, as he posted 39 points in 73 games in 2013-14, finishing especially strong by with 11 points in his final 12 regular season games. And he parlayed that into solid results for 2014-15, tallying 17 more points in just nine more total games.

Both players have two years remaining on their current deals, with Tatar being the slightly better bargain at a $2.75 per year cap hit compared to Palat’s $3.33M.

 

Ice Time

Neither had played in more than 18 games in a season prior to 2013-14, so we’ll only examine data from the last two seasons in this and the other tables.

 

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

2014-15

17:25 (O.P.) – 4th

16:13 (T.T.) – 5th

2:20 (O.P.) – 4th

2:29 (T.T.) – 6th

1:46 (O.P.) – 3rd

0:00 (T.T.)

2013-14

18:02 (O.P.) – 6th

14:21 (T.T.) – 12th

1:37 (O.P.) – 7th

2:17 (T.T.) – 9th

2:04 (O.P.) – 1st

0:00 (T.T.)

 

At first, there’s concern in seeing that Palat’s Total Ice Time went down; however, the good news is he fell below the dreaded 2:00 per game of SH Ice Time mark for forwards. Beyond that – his PP Ice Time per game was up by just under 50%. This is a clear case where a player has experienced a net benefit despite lower Total Ice Time.

Tatar also made strides in 2014-15, as although his PP Ice Time held nearly constant the biggest keys are that both his Total Ice Time and PP Ice Time now rank him within the Red Wing “top six” (same as Palat with Tampa). And we can also see that although Tatar’s 2014-15 Total Ice Time still trailed that of Palat by 1:12, his productive Ice Time (i.e., Total Ice Time minus SH Ice Time) was higher than Palat’s by more than 30 seconds, again showing why it’s best not to focus just on Total Ice Time.

One key to remember is the rest of Tampa’s top six forwards in Total Ice Time had an average age of 27, compared to 31.6 for Detroit. That means Tatar might have a better chance for future gains in Ice Time in the coming seasons. But on the flip side – the Lightning nucleus might be able to stay intact longer.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2014-15

0.32 (O.P.)

0.34 (T.T.)

1.65 (O.P.)

1.09 (T.T.)

0.66 (O.P.)

0.22 (T.T.)

1.85 (O.P.)

2.57 (T.T.)

0.14 (O.P.)

0.23 (T.T.)

2013-14

0.24 (O.P.)

0.41 (T.T.)

1.80 (O.P.)

1.11(T.T.)

0.79 O.P.)

0.27(T.T.)

2.03 (O.P.)

2.16 (T.T.)

0.13 (O.P.)

0.08 (T.T.)

 

Palat saw each of his Hits, Blocked Shots, and Shots decline. Most disturbing is Shots, since if we look at 2014-15, only three of the top 30 scoring forwards averaged fewer shots per game than Palat’s 1.86, with two being pass-first veterans (Joe Thornton, Henrik Sedin) and the other (Jiri Hudler) having exceeded his career high in points by 19 at age 31. Long story short – for Palat to see gains in points, he’ll likely need to get his Shots per game – at minimum – back over two.

Palat’s PP point average is arguably just as concerning, since despite a 50% increase in PP Ice Time he still finished with a nearly identical (and far from outstanding) output. And since Tampa has no shortage of offensive weapons, Palat could find himself in jeopardy of losing prime PP Ice Time in coming seasons. But the news for Palat is not all bad, as his Hits per game rate would’ve translated to 135 for 2014-15 had he played all 82 games; and only two forwards (Nick Foligno, Alex Ovechkin) had both more than 135 Hits and more than Palat’s 63 points this past season.

The news is better overall for Tatar, as although he too saw decreases in several categories (PIM, Hits, Blocked Shots), they were either less severe than Palat’s or they occurred in categories (like Blocked Shots, PIM) where his contribution likely wasn’t being counted upon by poolies. Plus, he had big gains in key metrics like Shots and PP Points, both of which not only helped boost his points this past season, but also bode well for his future. After all, if he’s already achieving this level of Shots and PP Points output despite being barely within the top six among Detroit forwards for Total Ice Time and PP Ice Time, it stands to reason that he has room to keep growing in both areas.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

 

Season

Personal Shooting %

PDO (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

2014-15

11.5% (O.P.)

13.7% (T.T.)

1045 (O.P.)

992 (T.T.)

72.6% (O.P.)

71.4% (T.T.)

47.6% (O.P.)

62.1% (T.T.)

56.6% (O.P.)

60.9% (T.T.)

2013-14

13.9% (O.P.)

12.0% (T.T.)

1040 (O.P.)

1017 (T.T.)

70.9% (O.P.)

71.4% (T.T.)

52.6% (O.P.)

46.2% (T.T.)

54.3% (O.P.)

60.6% (T.T.)

 

There’s no denying that Palat’s PDO numbers are astronomical; and they actually ranked as the fourth highest (among the 266 forwards who played 60+ games) in 2014-15 and seventh highest (out of 302 who played 60+) in 2013-14. But here’s the thing – no other forward ranked in even the top twenty for both seasons, which suggests this was not a fluke.

Beyond that, the news is generally good in terms of OZ% and Personal Shooting % for Palat, as neither seems unsustainable. What’s strange is his Shots per game and Personal Shooting % both went down, yet he scored at a nearly a 69 point full season pace. And although his high PDO can help explain this somewhat, it’s comparable to last season, when his scoring pace was ten points lower. In his case, the answer lies in two additional metrics, as Palat had the second highest points per 60 minutes rate among the 262 forwards who skated 750+ minutes at 5×5, and his 18 primary assists tied him for 8th among the same 262 forwards.

But the concern is whether Palat’s production might be maxed out based on his metrics, let alone would allow for further improvement. Plus, yet again we see concerns with the man advantage, as Palat ranked 7th in 5×4 IPP among eight Bolts forwards who played 50+ minutes of 5×4, after having finished 8th of ten in 2013-14. This is very concerning, since as noted above the team has no shortage of viable options for PP Ice Time, which in turn could result in Palat being “Brad Marchand-ed” out of PP Ice Time. And that not only would hurt his current output but also put a realistic ceiling on his future output.

Meanwhile, Tatar’s data is quite promising. Most notably, despite his PDO going down and his OZ% essentially holding steady, his IPP at 5×5 was unchanged and his 5×4 IPP rose considerably. And that was despite not being on anything close to Detroit’s PP1. All this points to Tatar being a driving offensive force, which is good for the time being since it will give him points on a high percentage of goals scored while he’s on the ice. And even once Detroit’s core veterans (Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen) eventually retire, it suggests that Tatar will be able to step in and take over their scoring roles.

 

Ownership and Value

Both players were LW-only eligible in Yahoo and finished next to each other in end of regular season ratings – 22nd for Tatar, 21st for Palat. But what’s interesting is Palat – despite his 59 point 2013-14 output – was drafted 91st among LW-eligible players for 2014-15, while Tatar, who had tallied only 39 points, was selected as the 49th LW on average.

Two factors likely explain this gap. The first is what I’ve referred to as the “Habs Factor”, which basically means players (like Tatar) from high profile teams (like Detroit) are more likely to be selected earlier in fantasy drafts than those from squads who are less followed and have less widespread fan bases, even if their values are actually quite close or even favor the lower profile player. The second, somewhat related factor is when a player comes from out of nowhere to have a breakout season – particularly after being such a late draft pick like Palat was – poolies tend to be more skeptical about believing that player is for real.

But here’s the thing – now that Palat not only proved he wasn’t a fluke, but actually improved upon his total from last season, his value might tilt all the way from far too low to perhaps too high. On the other hand, Tatar’s rise hasn’t been so meteoric as to make him a big risk for being overvalued, other than the “Habs Factor,” which certainly still looms large.

 

Who Wins?

Tatar is on a nice upward trajectory that seems sustainable as he becomes even more entrenched in the Detroit top six and given his likely “tip of the iceberg” gains in Shots and PP Points. And once veterans like Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Franzen retire, Tatar should see little to no ill effects in production, as he’ll be a venerable heir apparent by then.

Palat’s issues boil down to production red flags, mainly in the form of low Shots per game totals and poor PP production. And although Palat was able to duplicate his sky high PDO from last season, one has to wonder how long that can continue, as he was the only forward to place within the top 20 in each of the past two seasons. Yet there’s also his undeniable talent, as exhibited by his points per 60 at 5×5 and his primary assists total. But when considering everything as a whole, it’s too hard to picture Palat being able to improve upon his 69 point pace from this season, with a drop back to 60-65 being more probable than staying at the 65-70+ level. It’s not often that one can argue that a second year player has peaked, but many signs point to that perhaps being the case with Palat.

If Tatar wasn’t a Red Wing, or on another team affected by the “Habs Factor”, then he’d likely be the clear victor. But we can point to the fact that Tatar was picked by poolies much earlier than Palat in Yahoo drafts for 2014-15 despite having finished with 23 fewer points than Palat in 2013-14; and now we’re coming off a season where the gap between them had shrunk to a mere seven points.

Given all the aggregate data, I think Palat gets the edge in one year leagues, as although both will likely finish with 60-65 points next season, Tatar probably will still cost more to draft. For keeper leagues, I see Palat as someone to softly shop, since it’s hard to see him improving in the near or long term and because you might be able to entice someone in your league to overpay for him now. Tatar is likely best to hold if you own him, but at this point probably will cost you too much to justify acquiring him.

 

 

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