Frozen Pool Forensics: Underrated Producers

by Cam Robinson on February 3, 2017

As the old adage says: any idiot can draft a first overall pick. Finding good value in the middle rounds and later, off the waiver wire is what often propels a fantasy team to the finish line and into the glorious warm glow of the championship sun.  

 

This week on Frozen Pool Forensics, we’re going to dig into a few players who have remained under the radar despite their successful seasons and forecast a few others who may still have some surprising left in them for the stretch drive.

 

Let’s just get this disclaimer out of the way early, there are a ton of players who could have made this list, but since few of you are interested in reading 5000 words, a line must be drawn somewhere!

 

Without further ado, here we go…

 

Bryan Little

 

When it comes to consistent, quality fantasy players who won’t ever grace the top of the scoring lists, Little is right near the apex. He has produced at a 50-plus point pace (0.62-plus points-per-game) in eight of his 10 seasons and has accumulated a 60-plus point pace (0.74-plus points-per-game) in each of his last four seasons.

 

Those numbers kept him right in the mix as a solid, contributing member of your fantasy squad which is not overly surprising as the de facto top line centre and line mate of one of the best offensive players in the league in Blake Wheeler.

 

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

30

13

14

27

0.90

1

8

64

20.3

12

4

7

0

11

330

56.7

02:14

44.6

23.2

17:47

29.4

2015-2016

57

17

25

42

0.74

-13

12

127

13.4

48

2

12

2

22

674

51.3

02:57

55.2

32.8

19:36

32.4

2014-2015

70

24

28

52

0.74

8

24

148

16.2

56

9

18

1

32

762

49.1

03:13

56.2

30.8

19:55

32.5

2013-2014

82

23

41

64

0.78

9

56

170

13.5

84

8

15

2

38

785

47.5

02:40

51.2

39.3

20:00

32.7

2012-2013

48

7

25

32

0.67

9

4

84

8.3

32

2

5

0

19

431

51.2

02:33

50.2

33.7

19:48

32.6

Average

82

24

38

62

0.76

4

30

169

14.2

66

7

16

1

35

852

50.2

02:47

52.5

33.2

19:38

32.2

 

Coming into this season, however, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Little’s production was in line for a decent hit as Mark Scheifele had supplemented him as the top line pivot and then an unfortunate injury during the first regular season game appeared to derail any chance the 29-year-old would have at being a quality fantasy guy in 2016-17.

 

However, since returning from that injury at the end of November, Little has been one of the better point producers in the league. His 26 points in 29 games is good for 15th in the league over that span, tied with Patrick Kane, Tyler Seguin, Vladimir Tarasenko and Phil Kessel.

 

Not bad company to keep.

 

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though, as his 20.3 percent conversion rate is certainly due for some negative regression, but otherwise he’s seeing some sustainable numbers and being placed in positive positions to succeed. He’s currently lining up next to Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers at even strength and has bumped Schiefele off the top power play unit as well.

 

The former 12th overall selection from 2006 is also winning 57.6 percent of his face offs – good for ninth best in the league; and doing all this while seeing just 2:14 of power play time per game and just shy of two minutes less per contest than he saw the previous five seasons.

 

That drop in ice and increase in production has led to his points per 60 minutes to jump up to 3.0 which sits within the top 20 league wide.

 

Advanced Stats

Year

PDO

5 on 5 SH%

Off. Zone Start %

PTS/60

IPP

2016-17

984

8.81

53.68

3.0

75.0

2015-16

992

7.75

54.4

2.3

72.4

2014-15

1014

7.51

55.13

2.2

72.4

2013-14

1003

8.81

49.15

2.3

75.4

2012-13

1015

9.78

44.4

2.0

70.3

2011-12

982

7.86

53.43

1.8

57.1

2010-11

1016

8.75

53.22

2.0

60.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the age of 29, Little is producing at career-best numbers and even though Winnipeg’s best days are in front of them, he appears set to continue producing for his fantasy owners down the stretch.

 

With a very skinny fantasy playoff schedule, he may be a good player to look at selling high on for an equally producing player who will have more games on tap when the money is on the line.

 

 

Leon Draisaitl

 

It’s easy to forget that Draisaitl is just 21 years old. The former third overall pick from 2014 wrapped up a solid sophomore campaign a year ago by recording 51 points in 72 games with just nine of those coming on the man advantage. He got off to an incredible start last season posting 17 points in his first 10 games and then slowly cooled off throughout the rest of the season.

 

This season has been the opposite. Look at his quarterly results thus far:

 

First Quarter Summary

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

Pace

+/-

PIM

Shots

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

PPTOI

%PP

%PK

TOI/G

%TOI

23

7

10

17

0.74

61

-5

2

42

7

4

6

0

11

.5652

50.6

7.1

.9130

28.3

 

 

Second Quarter Summary

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

Pace

+/-

PIM

Shots

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

PPTOI

%PP

%PK

TOI/G

%TOI

21

9

12

21

1.00

82

9

4

58

6

3

8

0

3

.7142

60.9

21.6

.7619

32.3

 

Third Quarter Summary

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

Pace

+/-

PIM

Shots

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

PPTOI

%PP

%PK

TOI/G

%TOI

8

4

5

9

1.13

92

2

2

13

5

1

3

0

3

.6250

60.0

3.8

.3750

31.4

 

He’s only been improving with each passing month and a great deal of that can be attributed to his move from second line centre to riding shotgun with the league’s premier player in Connor McDavid.

 

Draisaitl currently sits tied with Alex Ovechkin and Phil Kessel for 11th overall in league scoring, thanks in large part to the damage he’s done on the man-advantage. His 17 power-play points rank him amongst the top 15 league wide and are almost double his total of nine from a season ago.

 

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

52

20

27

47

0.90

6

8

113

17.7

18

8

17

0

17

340

48.9

02:52

56.0

12.5

18:35

30.4

2015-2016

72

19

32

51

0.71

-2

20

133

14.3

38

5

9

0

18

502

48.4

02:33

51.1

1.0

18:04

29.7

2014-2015

37

2

7

9

0.24

-17

4

49

4.1

21

1

2

0

8

128

40.6

01:50

34.0

0.3

12:42

20.9

Average

82

21

34

54

0.66

-7

16

150

13.9

39

7

14

0

22

494

47.3

02:30

48.6

4.5

17:00

27.9

 

 

As of late, Draisaitl has been spreading his scoring out, recording 11 even strength points in the 14 games since the calendar flipped to 2017 and is currently riding a seven-game point streak to the tune of nine points.

 

Maintaining his spot next to McDavid at both even strength and on the top power play unit is critical to maintaining his blistering pace, but if he can manage that, expect this young player to continue to hang amongst the league leaders not only for the remaining 30 games this year, but for many more seasons to come.

 

Bonus points for the Oilers and fantasy leagues that count face off wins, Draisaitl continues to take draws while playing on McDavid’s wing, and has taken more and sports a better winning percentage than the generational talent – 44.6 percent compared to 48.9 percent for the big German.

 

Mikael Granlund

 

For the first time in years, Mikael Granlund was not a sexy choice for a breakout campaign. Too many seasons had come and gone leaving prognosticators looking silly as the silky distributing forward underperformed despite what appeared to be some top-notch skills.

 

Well here we are, in his fourth full season in the league and he’s breaking out. Turns out that ‘classic fourth year burst’ is still for real for some players.

 

After years of struggling down the middle, the former ninth overall selection from 2010 has finally found a permanent home on the left wing amongst a surging Minnesota Wild top six grouping. There he has found fantastic chemistry with captain, Mikko Koivu as illustrated by the two having been on the ice together for 35 of Granlund’s 40 points thus far.

 

Even Strength Line Production

Even Strength Line Production (30)

Pts

%Total

Line Combination

19

63.3%

GRANLUND,MIKAEL – KOIVU,MIKKO – ZUCKER,JASON

2

6.7%

GRANLUND,MIKAEL – KOIVU,MIKKO – PARISE,ZACH

2

6.7%

GRANLUND,MIKAEL – KOIVU,MIKKO – STEWART,CHRIS

2

6.7%

GRANLUND,MIKAEL – KOIVU,MIKKO – STAAL,ERIC

1

3.3%

NO LINEMATES,

 

There are some red flags, however. Granlund is starting just 36.9 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, creating an environment where he and his line mates need to earn possession before pushing the play up ice; a task that becomes more difficult as the games get closer to spring time especially for a player who is ticking below 50 percent in the Corsi for metrics (48.9)

 

Additionally, the Finnish forward has been the recipient of some strong luck based metrics. His teammates are converting on 12.2 percent of their five on five shots while Granlund himself is scoring on 11.7 percent of his shots – well above the sub-eight percent he has normally converted on during his career.

 

Despite his nice contributions with the man-advantage, Granlund is seeing just the fifth most power play ice on the team and a full half minute less than what he saw a season ago; all the while recieving a big uptick in shorthanded ice time. This usually isn’t a recipe for sustained production.

 

His age, pedigree and production this season seem to point towards a rising superstar, but the deeper numbers suggest a player who is riding a wave and is likely to come back down to earth sooner rather than later.

 

***

 

Quick Hits

 

Dmitry Orlov

 

The 25-year-old defenseman has been a quiet producer for the Capitals this season. Seeing time next to Matt Niskanen or John Carlson at even strength and earning an uptick in power play opportunities has him playing at a 40-plus point pace. He owns terrific skating ability and a good offensive mindset. Keep an eye on his share of five-on-four ice time as a second unit hinging around Evegni Kuznetsov isn’t the worst place to be.

 

 

Ryan McDonagh

 

Another defenseman who hasn’t garnered a ton of attention outside his local media, Ryan McDonagh is back to receiving top power play minutes and lo and behold, his numbers have spiked because of it. Despite going pointless in his last five games, the Rangers’ captain is on pace for 45 points and has already surpassed last season’s power play output with 32 games remaining. He’s seeing well over three minutes of ice on the man advantage and is converting on just 2.2 percent of his shots despite averaging over six percent in the last five seasons. There should be more to come.

 

TJ Oshie

 

Oshie had a lot of hype heading to Washington a season ago, but failed to surpass or even meet his usual career output of 55-60 points. This season he’s gone a little unnoticed while playing at a 67-point pace. Beware of the elevated even-strength shooting percentage and the 21.4 percent personal conversion rate. He’s in a great spot, but this could be another sell high opportunity.

 

***

 

 

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.