Is anyone else finding themselves watching a lot more baseball these days? Summer is in full swing and sports are thin in general alas a time for reflection on the previous season’s results. One player thoroughly deserving of spotlight coverage is Victor Hedman.
Notice Nikita Kucherov is going full speed straight ahead, and look at Hedman keep up while pivoting and explode toward the net for the goal.
Just look at that stat line pulled from Hedman’s frozen pool profile, sheer brilliance from the 26-year-old, multi-category star. It goes without saying, that Hedman stepped into the Tier 1 ring of defenders this past season. Since his 55-point campaign in 2013-14, and essentially ever since the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, fantasy managers have been waiting for this. He surely played a helping hand in leading to some league titles.
Hedman is another star in the long line of high-end Swedish, and while it took time to eclipse the 70-point mark, the wait was more than worth it — particularly for owners in keeper circles. Throughout the season he provided consistent point production while logging huge minutes, posting a positive plus-minus rating, shot blocking and hitting. He also scored like a top-six forward, and Hedman checked out as a top-10 asset in 2016-17.
Diving right into it, let’s look at Hedman’s past five seasons and see in the numbers themselves what sticks out in glaring fashion in regards to his rise. A starting point is realizing his ATOI this season shot up by a minute and a half from last year. This alone leads to increased scoring opportunities. Like any player, the issue with Hedman was always the deployment. He was relied upon as a two-way defender, which sacrificed his offensive upside. Because of his defensive aptitude he walked the line of better “real-life” player than fantasy contributor. The true dagger to his value was not being utilized routinely on the No. 1 power-play unit. Simply because of handedness he was typically ousted for Stralman in the year prior.
Enter 2016-17 and that all changed. Looking solely at the highlighted columns anyone can see the different usage in regards to the power play. Logging almost 30 seconds more per game than the past two seasons, Hedman almost always played on the top unit, and he seized his opportunity alongside Nikita Kucherov and Johnathan Drouin.
Diving deeper and breaking this past season down into four quarters, Hedman’s percentage of deployment for total power-play time overall steadily increased starting at 47.3 percent in the first quarter and increasing up to 63.8 percent in the final leg of the campaign. Injuries certainly were a factor, but the fact remains that Hedman was primarily the power-play quarterback of the top unit. Going into next season expecting him to repeat his 33 power-play points is probably not wise, but it's not out of the question to pencil him in for 25. With the trading of Drouin, and the return of Steven Stamkos alongside Kucherov, it’ll give Hedman two of the deadliest snipers in hockey to dish to play pitch and catch with on the man advantage.
Power-play prowess aside, Hedman managed to score another 39 points at even strength with inconsistent pairings throughout the season.
Anton Stralman only missed nine games this season, so we can deduce that head coach Jon Cooper was intentional in his broken-down deployment of Hedman at even strength. Jake Dotchin certainly proved capable of being Hedman’s partner. Overall, Dotchin was deployed four percent less than Stralman was with Hedman, but Hedman managed to score ten points with Dctchin compared to 11 with Stralman. These deployments prove that Hedman's scoring last season was in no way reliant upon who he was partnered with.
The angle on Hedman in the Dobber forums is interesting heading into next season. Some view the past year as what is to come consistently, and the others while still thinking he is a great defender feel his offense will decline. Stamkos' return has been discussed as a cause for concern because it's going to shake up the power-play dynamics. It's unlikely to have a significant impact on Hedman, and as mentioned, Stamkos might help Hedman's numbers next year.
When you own the likes of an Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns or Victor Hedman you give yourself the chance to have a significant advantage over your leaguemates. Tampa Bay looks poised to contend for the cup for many years to come, as the pieces are all there with a nice blend of veterans and youth. Targeting Hedman aggressively in the early rounds is advised.
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