Frozen Pool Forensics: A Rookie Class for the Ages – Part 3

by Cam Robinson on April 28, 2017

Auston Matthews - USA TODAY Sports Images

 

Well, we’ve finally made it. It’s been a long and winding journey that has seen this caravan of fantasy hockey players witness some truly remarkable sights: The feisty second generation NHL’er making his mark in Calgary; a 19-year-old Finn who popped 24 goals; the upstart Pittsburgh rookie who pushed a point-per-game for half a season; the historical campaign from a teenaged Blue Jacket defenseman and a couple of Maple Leafs who broke 60-points and a few hearts along the way.

 

Today, we dig into the final two freshmen standing. It just so happens that the two of them are quite familiar with one another, being closely compared for most of last season, summer and all of 2016-17.

Without further ado, here are your soon-to-be named winner and runner-up for the Calder Memorial Trophy:

 

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Patrik Laine

 

“No one remembers who came in second place” – Walter Hagen

With all due respect to Mr. Hagen, I think we’ll have a decent chance of remembering Patrik Laine.

The most recent second overall selection once again must play second fiddle to Auston Matthews, but it’s not for a lack of trying or results. The unbridled enthusiasm that Laine displays on a nightly basis is enough to get people to tune in, and that howitzer of a shot keeps their butts in the seats.

As one of the youngest players in the league – He just turned 19 last week, Laine accomplished some incredible feats.

2016-2017 Regular Season

 

player

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

+/-

PIM

Shots

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

PPTOI

%PP

%PK

TOI/G

%TOI

LAINE, PATRIK

73

36

28

64

0.88

7

26

204

80

9

14

0

33

02:44

51.0

0.4

17:55

29.6

 

His 36 goals were good for second among first-year players and sat seventh overall, while his goals-per-game output was good for fifth – just a hair above his Maple Leaf rival.

In fact, he finished in front of Matthews in several categories:

That 17.6 percent conversion rate places him amongst a team of elite snipers league wide and there is little reason to believe that his future seasons won’t hang right around that incredible figure. At 18-years-old, he was ringing pucks by the ears of the world’s best puck-stoppers and most of the time, they didn’t even see the release because it happened so quick.

Seeing nearly 60 percent of his even-strength shifts next to top centre, Mark Scheifele and the young, dynamic, Nikolaj Ehlers as well as 2:44 on the top power play unit, Laine was given the keys to the jet from the day he walked into the MTS Centre.

Outside of the obvious maturation and normal development trajectory of elite players like Laine, there is further evidence that shows he is due to increase his outputs moving forward.

His 16 power-play points are modest for such a lethal weapon, and as the Jets look to improve on an 18th-ranked unit, and Laine receives even more prime ice, those numbers are very likely to improve.

Advanced Stats

Year

PDO

5 on 5 SH%

Off. Zone Start %

PTS/60

IPP

2016-17

1032

12.61

54.87

2.9

68.1

 

 

 

 

Additionally, his 68.1 Individual Point Percentage (IPP) is very sustainable and will certainly rise entering his prime.

If the 6’3 power forward could have suited up for all 82 contests, this would be a razor thin divide at the top. However, the fact that his counting stats didn’t quite match up, and he had the privilege of less responsibility on the wing, this washes out to a clear second place finish.

But in case you were thinking about forgetting about second, I’ll just leave this here..

 

 

 

Auston Matthews

 

Boy was that quick; Toronto went from bottom of the barrel to an exciting young playoff squad, all thanks to some ping pong balls last April…and I guess Matthews a little bit, too.

Well, not exactly. The Maple Leafs turnaround has many pillars to stand on, but the foundational piece came way of the Arizona native.

Matthews led the charge, becoming the team’s top-line centre by Christmas and flanked by two rookies, led the league in even-strength scoring with 31 and sat tied for second overall in the league with 40 markers.

It’s the first time since Eric Lindros in 1992-93 that a teenager has broken the 40-goal mark. He’s just the 13th rookie to ever accomplish the feat and first since Alex Ovechkin popped 52 goals 11 years ago.

2016-2017 Regular Season

SEASON

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

+/-

PIM

Shots

SH%

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

FOW

FO%

PPTOI

%PP

%SH

TOI/G

%TOI

2016-2017

82

40

29

69

0.84

2

14

279

14.3

21

9

22

0

61

530

46.8

02:27

50.6

0.3

17:38

29.0

 

His season began with the unlikeliest of starts, pumping four goals past Craig Anderson in a historic debut. While that type of hype is hard to live up to, his 69 points in 82 games is a top-end start to any player’s career.

Both his goal and point totals were good for franchise records. Not too shabby for a team that’s been around for a hundred years.

Some other notable highlights of his freshman campaign were recording a shot on net in every single game this year – something no other player could accomplish. While his final shot count of 279 represented the eighth most in the league and is only outmatched by rookie seasons by Alex Ovechkin (425), Teemu Selanne (387), Dale Hawerchuk (339) and Wayne Gretzky (284).

Lofty company.

While the counting stats alone are strong enough to propel Matthews into the winner’s circle this June in Las Vegas, the not-so-obvious skills really push him over the top. It’s rare that a player can walk straight from the draft floor and into the centre ice positon for an NHL squad. He not only did that, but he took over the top gig and handled all the responsibility that comes with it. Defensive assignments, all the tough matchups from opposing coaches, and as mentioned earlier, he did it next to two rookies on his wing.

Literally. Over 90 percent of his even strength shifts were as a part of an all-rookie line.

Even Strength Line Combinations

Freq

Line Combination

52.6%

HYMAN,ZACH – MATTHEWS,AUSTON – NYLANDER,WILLIAM

38.1%

BROWN,CONNOR – HYMAN,ZACH – MATTHEWS,AUSTON

3.7%

HYMAN,ZACH – MARNER,MITCHELL – MATTHEWS,AUSTON

3.4%

KADRI,NAZEM – MATTHEWS,AUSTON – NYLANDER,WILLIAM

2.3%

MATTHEWS,AUSTON – NYLANDER,WILLIAM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was nowhere to hide for the 19-year-old and evidently, he didn’t need to hide. His star shone bright. He will be a very worthy Calder winner and the first Maple Leaf to do so in 51 years.

 

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For the modern era, 2005-06 has long been remembered as one of the most dominant rookie classes of all time. You had Ovechkin and Crosby both breaking 100 points, Brad Boyes slotting 69, Dion Phaneuf popping 20 goals from the back end and a host of other quality seasons from future stars Jeff Carter, Thomas Vanek, Alexander Steen and Ryan Getzlaf.

Looking back on 2016-17, however, this crop is looking like a strong bet to challenge that illustrious group as one of the rookie classes for the ages.

 

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As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3 where I often give unsolicited fantasy advice that I’m sure at least someone is listening too.