Early Returns: Real or Imagined? (2016-17)

by Cam Robinson on October 21, 2016

Are these seven fast-starting players for real?

 

The NHL season has been underway for a solid week now, so that’s more than enough time to fully and completely judge a player, team or entire organization…right? Of course not, but there are some tell tale signs that can be gleaned from such a miniscule sample size to help you determine if a player’s hot start is sustainable and likely to endure, or just a blip on the radar.

 

This week on Frozen Pool we’ll take a look at a handful of players who are off to the races to begin 2016-17 and tell you whether they’re destined for greatness this season, or just someone carry a hot stick. We’ll spare you the in-depth look at players such as Connor McDavid or Patrick Kane; they’re amazing and will continue to be so. This is more of a look at the players giving their fantasy owners a pause.

 

 

Kris Russell

 

Expected to be one of the first signees on July 1st, Russell may have overplayed his hand a touch and was forced to watch the summer turn to fall before signing a contract with Edmonton Oilers in early October.

 

The advanced stats crowd is not too enamoured with the veteran blue liner. He blocks an incredible amount of shots, but some wonder if he had the puck and moved it up ice with more frequency if he’d need to clog shooting lanes so often.

 

So far this season, the former Blue Jackets’ third round pick has fit like a glove on a weak Oilers’ back end and has contributed three assists, 14 blocks and five shots on goal through four contests. All the while seeing an average of just 27 seconds of power play time.

 

Is this the year the former junior-league offensive standout delivers big time production? Unlikely.

 

Advanced Stats

 

Year

PDO

5 on 5 SH%

Off. Zone Start %

PTS/60

2016-17

1075

17.14

52.5

2.1

2015-16

1005

10.39

49.72

0.8

2014-15

1039

11.03

50

1.1

2013-14

999

8.7

51.42

1.1

2012-13

1006

7.49

57.59

0.8

2011-12

1012

8.5

52.86

0.8

2010-11

986

7.68

59.93

1.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Russell has been on the receiving end of some serious beneficial puck-luck. While he’s been on the ice, his teammates have converted on 17.14 percent of their even-strength shots and consequently, he is one of the league leaders in the PDO department with a whopping 1075. Needless to say, those numbers aren’t just due to regress, they’re shaping up to crater down quite quickly.

 

If you’re able, Russell is an obvious sell-high candidate and not a player anyone should be targeting unless it’s the blocks you’re after.

 

 

Chris Kreider

 

It seems like every year people are trumpeting Kreider to have his break-out campaign. The Rangers’ power forward offers a tantalizing skill set that is led by his amazing speed. So far this season, his speed and skill have been on full display; stoking the breakout fires across all types of leagues.

 

The former 19th overall selection from 2009 has found the score sheet in each of his team’s first four games, recording three goals and seven points to go along with 20 shots on net. He is playing with exceptional confidence and the production has been a suitable reward.

 

Taking a look at his career history, Kreider has teased us before. In 2014-15 he put up six points in his first seven games, while the year before that he produced 10 points through the first 11 games only to go on to disappoint owners (and Rangers’ fans) with about a half point-per-game output the rest of the way.

 

Even Strength Line Production (5)

Pts

%Total

Line Combination

3

60%

BUCHNEVICH,PAVEL – KREIDER,CHRIS – ZIBANEJAD,MIKA

2

40%

KREIDER,CHRIS – NASH,RICK – ZIBANEJAD,MIKA

 

 

 

 

 

However, something feels different this season. He’s found immediate chemistry with the newly acquired Mika Zibanejad and so far is seeing a full minute more of power play time on average. Now, of course he won’t be able to sustain anything near the 1.75 points-per-game he’s achieved thus far, but with a PDO of 772 and a shooting percentage within a reasonable range (15%) you can expect him to continue to put up strong numbers this season.

 

NHL Stats – Last 5 Years

 

SEASON

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

+/-

PIM

Shots

SH%

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

FOW

FO%

PPTOI

%PP

%SH

TOI/G

%TOI

2016-2017

4

3

4

7

1.75

-1

4

20

15.0

16

1

2

0

2

0

 

03:23

55.5

5.1

17:31

29.2

2015-2016

79

21

22

43

0.54

10

58

158

13.3

177

5

8

0

33

5

83.3

02:24

53.1

0.1

15:57

26.3

2014-2015

81

21

25

46

0.57

24

88

183

11.5

164

7

8

0

17

9

42.9

01:52

40.1

0.0

15:40

25.9

2013-2014

66

17

20

37

0.56

14

72

136

12.5

146

6

12

0

18

8

42.1

02:11

40.8

0.5

15:44

26.0

2012-2013

23

2

1

3

0.13

-1

6

19

10.5

36

0

0

0

6

0

0.0

00:42

12.6

0.0

10:07

16.6

Average

82

20

22

42

0.52

15

74

163

12.3

172

6

9

0

24

7

46.8

02:01

41.3

0.2

15:16

25.2

 

Plus, if you’re a believer in the magical breakout fourth season, this is his fourth full campaign in the league and he sure looks every bit the quality bet to produce a career-high in goals, points and shots on goal.

 

 

Zach Werenski

 

I am firmly entrenched on the notion that opportunity reigns supreme in fantasy; often times outweighing individual skills. The eighth overall selection from 2015 has found himself in a plum opportunity to begin his NHL career.

 

Werenski has produced at every level he’s played; often, right out of the gate. And here he is as a 19-year-old navigating his way through his rookie NHL-campaign after just 24 total AHL contests, and he’s continuing that trend.

2016-2017 Regular Season

 

player

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

+/-

PIM

Shots

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

PPTOI

%PP

%PK

TOI/G

%TOI

WERENSKI, ZACH

2

1

1

2

1.00

-1

2

9

3

1

1

0

0

02:19

71.8

10.2

21:55

36.5

 

 

Through his first two contests this season, the slick-puck mover has a goal and an assist to go along with nine shots on goal. He’s seeing almost 22 minutes of total ice (21:55) next to Seth Jones with 2:19 of that is coming on the first power play unit. He’s also not receiving much in the way of help from his teammates as they’ve shot just 4.76 percent with him on the ice at even-strength.

 

Are we expecting Werenski to pile up a point-per-game? Of course not, but as my colleague Steve Laidlaw has been spouting off to anyone with ears, eyes or a nose for the game, this is a player that demands ownership. He’s wildly skilled, playing top minutes and receiving all the opportunities you want from a fantasy perspective. A 40-point freshman season is completely realistic.

 

 

 

Quick Hits

 

Brad Marchand: For those who may still be in doubt, Marchand is the real-deal. Even with his running-mate Bergeron on the shelf to begin the season, Marchand is demonstrating his penchant for filling the score sheet. He’s shooting a ton and converting with regularity. A serious threat for 40 goals.

 

Richard Panik: The now-journeyman 25-year-old is in a great spot being mixed around the Blackhawks’ top six, but he’s converted on four of six shots and that’s just nonsensical. He’ll produce career-highs across the board if he can stay within the top grouping, but don’t get carried away. Joel Quenneville loves to throw his lines in a blender.

 

Thomas Vanek: The former 40-goal-man appears to have a chip on his shoulder after signing a show-me contract upon being bought out by the Wild. He’s converted on half his total shots but is seeing time on the top line and top power play unit. He’s a strong bounce back candidate but it’s difficult to see any Red Wings’ player break 55 points this season.

 

David Pastrnak: Four games, four goals and 18 shots on net for the 20-year-old. It’d be nice to see him get closer to 18 minutes a night compared to his 16:08, but he is accelerating most people’s expectation. He’ll have a strong season and there’s plenty more to give.

 

***

Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3 where I often give unsolicited fantasy advice that I’m sure at least someone is listening to.