Frozen Pool Forensics: Early Surprises Destined to Disappoint?

by Cam Robinson on November 18, 2016

Every summer the experts come out with all the lists they can think of: Sleepers, Snoozers, Buy-Lows, Sell-Highs, Fourth Year Break Outs… in the end, there are a few right, a few wrong and a handful of down right embarrassing, but the lists continue to get made. This week on Frozen Pool Forensics, we’re going to dig into some players who likely weren’t on many peoples’ list of anything but have thrived in the early going of 2016-17.

 

These are players who weren’t expected to regress, they weren’t expected to blossom, they were simply slotted into the fantasy purgatory of ‘likely irreverent’. Well here they are, over a fifth of the way through the NHL campaign and stapling their names on the first page of the points’ leaderboard.

 

The question now is will they continue their ascent or are they destined to disappoint?

 

 

Michael Grabner

 

The list of players with more goals than Grabner thus far is a short one: Patrik Laine. The blazing fast winger currently sits with 10 goals and 13 points through 17 games playing on a revamped third line for the surprisingly offensively dominant New York Rangers squad.

 

New York signed the 28-year-old on July 1st to a two-year contract worth 1.6 million per. The unheralded signing was made in an effort to add some much needed speed to a Rangers’ lineup that desperately needed it. Thus far, it’s been paying off ten-fold.

 

Grabner is producing incredible amounts with the ice time he’s receiving. He’s currently sitting 14th in the league for points per 60 minutes (3.56); ahead of guys like Vladimir Tarasenko and Mark Scheifele.

 

Seeing just 12:54 of ice time per contest with literally no power play time is not conducive for extended production however, nor is his out-of-this-world five-on-five shooting percentage that sits at 16.67 percent – triple that of a year ago.

 

 

Year

PDO

5 on 5 SH%

Off. Zone Start %

PTS/60

2016-17

1129

16.67

40.91

3.6

2015-16

986

5.87

39.93

0.9

2014-15

1001

7.35

37.88

1.8

2013-14

956

7.24

45.31

1.7

2012-13

1006

8.4

48.64

1.9

Dec-11

979

7.25

42.69

1.6

Nov-10

1011

8.92

44.44

2.7

 

Grabner did pot 34 goals as a rookie with the Islanders back in 2010-11 so this isn’t completely unchartered territory, but to expect this type of production to continue, especially from a purely even-strength standpoint, is unrealistic. Ride the wave while you can but don’t be shy to cut bait when it comes to a screeching halt. Better yet, try and sell the former 14th overall selection for a more proven producer if possible.

 

 

Artem Anisimov

 

One would think that lining up next to an Art Ross winner and one of the top scoring rookies would have resulted in a big production spike for Anisimov in 2015-16, however that was not the case. Despite some bursts, Anisimov continued to hover around the half-point-per-game mark, finishing with 42 points in 77 contests.

 

Those projecting outcomes for this season saw him as a complimentary player who would get his share of points but would remain on the fringes of relevancy for most fantasy leagues. Fast forward a couple months and Anisimov was leading the Blackhawks in scoring for a good portion of time and even the entire league for a cup of coffee. His 17 points in 16 games puts him in a tie for ninth league wide, but is any of it sustainable?

 

In a word, no.

 

Anisimov is taking just 1.6 shots per game yet is scoring on nearly 31 (!) percent of them. Go ahead and just cut those eight goals he has down to two or three if he’s converting on his career averages. And while he’s seeing completely unsustainable personal numbers, his team is helping him out as well by converting on 14.3 percent of their shots at even-strength.

 

 

 

Yes, he’s seeing over three minutes of power play time per game, starting 68 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone and usually lining up with at least one of Artemi Panarin or Patrick Kane (or both), but there is no reason to expect him to continue producing at such a lofty pace. While this might be the career-season we’ve been waiting for, the 28-year-old is destined to tumble down in the luck-based metrics and with it will be stretches of unproductivity.

 

Sell now if you can, or temper expectations moving forward.

 

 

47.2%  ANISIMOV,ARTEM – HOSSA,MARIAN – PANARIN,ARTEMI

 

43.2%  ANISIMOV,ARTEM – KANE,PATRICK – PANARIN,ARTEMI

 

4.4%    ANISIMOV,ARTEM – KANE,PATRICK – MOTTE,TYLER

 

2.8%    ANISIMOV,ARTEM – HOSSA,MARIAN – PANIK,RICHARD

 

2.3%    ANISIMOV,ARTEM – KANE,PATRICK – PANIK,RICHARD

 

 

Jonathan Marchessault

 

Hands up if you actually drafted Jonathan Marchessault this fall instead of simply plucking him from the waiver wire upon Jonathan Huberdeau’s injury? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

 

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

 

Marchessault has been a revelation this season for the Panthers. He took a chance leaving Tampa Bay, the team that gave him his start and where he showed glimpses of promise when given opportunities up the roster, but the diminutive forward felt he had more to offer and hoped Florida would be the spot where he could shine.

 

Boy was he right.

 

Thrust into a top line role next to the legendary, Jaromir Jagr and a burgeoning franchise centre in Aleksander Barkov, Marchessault has managed to lead the way from near-obscurity and onto the league’s top scorers’ list.

 

82.6%  BARKOV,ALEKSANDER – JAGR,JAROMIR – MARCHESSAULT,JONATHAN

 

7.7%    MARCHESSAULT,JONATHAN – SMITH,REILLY – TROCHECK,VINCENT

 

4.3%    BARKOV,ALEKSANDER – MARCHESSAULT,JONATHAN – SCEVIOUR,COLTON

 

2.9%    BARKOV,ALEKSANDER – HARPER,SHANE – MARCHESSAULT,JONATHAN

 

2.5%    JAGR,JAROMIR – MARCHESSAULT,JONATHAN – TROCHECK,VINCENT

 

 

So has the league found a new star? Well, yes and no. Marchessault has made the most of his opportunities thus far, but he’s never been a prolific goal scorer, and through his short NHL career, he’s taken about two shots per game and converted on around eight percent of them. This season he’s averaging over three shots per night and scoring on 16.3 percent. It’s inspiring that he’s shooting with much more regularity, but maintaining such a high conversion rate is usually left for the elite snipers of the world.

 

He’s produced enough early on, to likely warrant a spot amongst the team’s top six forward group once Huberdeau returns, but even NHL coaches aren’t immune from some recency bias and with just four points in his last nine games and two in his last five, Marchessault will need to wake up again soon or risk slipping into a more limited role.  

 

This is a player who has shown capable of putting up serious numbers at every level when given the chance, and Florida is proving to be a team willing to give smaller players a fair crack and put them in positions to succeed – as their five roster players measured at 5’10 or shorter can attest to.

 

 

Year

PDO

5 on 5 SH%

Off. Zone Start %

PTS/60

2016-17

1021

8.94

53.57

2.9

2015-16

953

5.58

44.92

2

2014-15

1100

16.67

25

2.5

2012-13

909

0

25

0

 

 

 

Of the all the early surprises Marchessault may be the best bet to continue scoring at a high level throughout the season and beyond, but he may also be in the most volatile spot. The former Quebec Ramparts’ star will need to show the consistency that is so necessary in proving yourself worthy of prime ice.

 

Without a fancy resume, a large pay cheque or some incriminating photos of the coach, the production will need to be healthy and steady.

 

***

 

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.