Forensics: Six Fast Starters Who Are the Real Deal

by Chris Liggio on November 10, 2017

In the past two weeks we’ve scrutinized some underrated options for your fantasy squad(s) followed by players to target whilst their values were below the norm for each respectively. Now in the vicinity of 15 games played give or take from team to team, it makes for a great opportunity to look into players who are succeeding and the sustainability of such. Like in the weeks prior many names qualify for said circumstance but a few that come to mind make for intriguing research.

 

Mark Stone

There’s no surprises here seeing Mark Stone produce offense for the Senators in the first quarter of the season. At age 25 he is entering the prime offensive years and doing his part to carry the squad. Historically known as a streaky player in past seasons, we’ve seen him establish more consistency in his game this year missing the score sheet but six times in 14 games played. Beyond consistency Stone has also been chugging along at over a point-per-game pace with 16 total.

What’s brought about the uptick in production? Well for one he is certainly shooting more and converting on his chances. With 37 shots in 14 games played Stone is on track to usurp his career best season total of 157 shots over 80 games in 2014-15. Also boasting both the best 5-on-5 shooting percentage of his career at 12.12% and offensive zone starting percentage at 58.77%, Guy Boucher is deploying Stone in situations to flourish offensively.

The question though is if Stone will regress to his streaky ways as time progresses. Stone’s play has exemplified his determination to become a more consistent player as does his interviews with media in which he describes his commitment to it. Now with the arrival of Matt Duchene in Ottawa, Stone may be in line to gain exposure to the most offensively gifted center he’s ever encountered during his tenure with the Senators. The one knock on his game right now is the high shooting percentage which sits at 24.3% so expect his sniping ways to calm down a tad but this looks to be a player taking another step this time around. With two 60-plus point seasons on his resume already, the 65-point plateau looks well within reach.

 

Vincent Trocheck

Forever buried in the shadows of Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, and Jonathan Huberdeau, Trocheck never seemingly receives the respect he rightfully deserves. First and foremost, Trocheck possesses one of the deadlier releases in the game.

Now that you are aware of his goal scoring capabilities, take notice that this season the Florida Panthers wised up and finally placed Trocheck on the top power play unit alongside the aforementioned stars and Evgenii Dadonov. Never before has he received time on the primary man-advantage unit so that in itself speaks volumes to his ability to maintain producing at a prolific clip. Even so to this point only four of his 16 points in the early going have come on the man advantage so if he starts converting more in said scenario watch out for this guy.

What’s strange regarding Trocheck this season is that his offensive zone starting percentage has plummeted down to a shade under 36% yet he is operating at over a point-per-game pace. Your first thought would be he must’ve had a Sam Gagner-esque eight-point game at some point but throughout 14 games played he’s only recorded three multi-point games. Plain and simple Trocheck just finds ways to get it done with his versatile play that sees him deployed in various scenarios included shorthanded where he is also quite dangerous. Though his shooting percentage is currently the highest it’ ever been at 17.9% that is not entirely unsustainable with a career high 14.4% in 76 games played two seasons back. Though we should not expect Trocheck to maintain over a point-per-game pace he is certainly in line for a career season points wise.

 

Tyson Barrie

When you see a defender operating at a point-per-game clip there is certainly cause for trepidation if their name isn’t Erik Karlsson or Brent Burns. Yet here we have Tyson Barrie currently sitting on 14 points in as many games played and one has to wonder if this can be maintained. This is tough for forwards, let alone defenders, but do not be shocked when he reaches the 50-point plateau on an improved Avalanche squad. The debacle of the entire season prior seems to have erased the past accomplishments of Barrie from people’s minds. In the campaigns prior to last, Barrie posted point totals of 49 and 53 respectively. That is rock solid for someone on the blue line and even though last season seems underwhelming with 38 total points be advised that he finished quite strong looking like his normal self despite the dumpster fire around him.

 

Mika Zibanejad

The pressure of taking over for Derek Stepan doesn’t seem to be affecting Zibanejad in the early going. With 17 points in 16 games played he is firing on all cylinders and looks to be in line for a career year. Last season’s start showed the talent he possesses but an untimely injury derailed him, and he just was never able to get back to the same level. Now with the arrival of Kevin Shattenkirk in New York Zibanejad is thriving in his top power play role firing lasers from the circle. With 10 of his 17 points so far coming on the man-advantage this would usually be cause for concern as over reliance is never a great thing, but Shattenkirk is in his own world of power play dominance. A man who generates 25 PPP in only 56 games played warrants his own special tier regarding that category.

Going back to Zibanejad, nothing in his statistics stands out as a red flag. Boasting the best CF% of his career so far and a 5-on-5 shooting percentage of 6.1% his production is not suspect. Though his overall shooting percentage is 15.7 that is by no means unsustainable but expecting it to come down is warranted. A PDO of 939 is lower than what he’s managed in the prior three seasons but that has everything to do with the Rangers slow start which seems to have turned the corner. Plain and simple it appears the true breakout has arrived and barring injury we will see Zibanejad post career best numbers as he flourishes in the number one center spot for the Rangers.

 

Mathew Barzal

With the Islanders catching fire of late most notably the captain John Tavares, Barzal’s impressive rookie campaign has not gotten the spotlight it deserves. When Garth Snow was able to scoop him 16th overall in 2015 he must’ve been on cloud nine. Now that he has finally arrived full time in the NHL it’s become apparent why. With 14 points in the last 10 games played Barzal is scorching hot and in a situation for continued success. Seeing regular time on a line with Jordan Eberle and Andrew Ladd he has now also landed himself an assignment on the top power play unit. If Barzal can cement his place on said unit we are looking at the probably Calder Trophy winner.

Statistically speaking nothing seems outlandish and his PDO of 1012 and 55.71 CF% speak to his line’s dominance when on ice. Barzal possesses elite speed and the skill is not lacking either. With this being his first full season in the NHL we will have to expect him to hit the wall at some point never enduring this type of schedule, but everything is there for Barzal to succeed and certainly usurp the 50-point barrier. While the almost PPG pace is not realistic you can certainly bet on him being a fantastic depth piece for your squad all season long.

 

Logan Couture

Is it me or does Couture seemingly do this once every couple seasons where he comes flying out the gate and has us all believing this is the year he cracks the 70-point barrier?

There is no denying Couture is a phenomenal hockey player, but he has regression written all over his stat line. With eight goals so far through 13 games his owners are certainly loving the production, but the 22.2% shooting tells us the sniping ways are going to drop off. In the past four seasons prior to this one, his highest ever percentage was 14.4%. Offensive zone deployment has dropped 10% from last year and 5-on-5 shooting percentage is roughly one-and-a-half times greater than the mean of the prior four seasons. Believe me I want to see Couture in 70-point territory but at 28 years old we have seen what he is and that’s a phenomenal two-way center with 60-point capability. To ask him to maintain this shooting percentage is a stretch so what we have seen to this point has been a mirage and if you own him do expect a decline in goal production. Nonetheless he will still be a great piece for any squad as his deployment in the top six is all but assured and he is receiving four minutes a night on average on the power play. Though he will not end this season as your superstar you might want to try to offload him for a higher tier star while his current stat line makes fellow owners ponder.