Geek of the Week: Better Days Ahead For Larkin?

by Ben Burnett on November 24, 2019

With the first quarter of the season in the books, there are always players who make us second-guess our projections. Deployment and puck luck are very fickle, and unfortunately, even the most accomplished fantasy hockey player has no control over either. That said, sometimes players slump for no other reason than the pucks and points just aren’t quite going their way. Such is the case with Dylan Larkin.

The 23-year-old center has amassed 16 points through 25 games, pacing for only 20 goals and 52 points. That’s a far cry from the 79-point pace Larkin put up one year ago. As we move into the season’s second quarter, many owners in shallower leagues may be considering a C-only player on pace for low-50 point total a bust. As we get into the middle of the schedule, it’s high time for Larkin to show what he can do. But was the Wings leading scorer from 2018-19 just a flash in the pan?

Season so far

Larkin’s disappointment for fantasy owners extends past the boxcar stats. His shot rate has fallen by about half a shot per game. His hit, penalty minute, and even face-off win paces are all down from last year as well.

There is likely an explanation for those numbers falling off, though I’m not sure it’s a promising factoid for fantasy owners: Larkin’s overall time on ice is down by about 80 seconds this year. While it’s a positive sign to see about 50 seconds more on the power play each night, it’s frustrating to see the Wings’ obvious first-line winger lose so much ice time at even strength. Last year, Larkin ranked third in the league in even-strength time on ice per game, behind only Connor McDavid and Patrick Kane. This year, he’s fallen down to ninth, though that’s meant an average drop off of 1:20 each time the Red Wings hit the ice.

Underlying numbers

The first number we’re going to look at when checking for possible regression is individual shooting percentage. In this case, Larkin has averaged 9 percent even-strength shooting percentage over the three years before this one. This season, he’s shooting at around 6.5 percent. His power-play shooting has been roughly what we’d expect at 14.29 percent.

But that’s not all that’s going on here. While Larkin is on the ice during a power play, the Wings are scoring on over 11 percent of their goals. And Larkin, a player who typically figures in to about 60 percent of power-play goals when he’s on the ice, has only factored in to 25 percent of those goals this year.

We are seeing a similar trend at even strength. Even though the Wings are shooting above 11 percent when Larkin is on the ice, a number that should regress to about 9.5 percent over the course of the season, the centerman is only getting points on 50 percent of these goals. That number has historically been about 75 percent over the rest of his career.

These numbers can look distorted over small sample sizes, but typically over the course of 82 games they even out. The question is, should we expect Larkin to significantly improve on his mediocre 52-point pace over the next few months?

Projection time

If we take Larkin’s shooting rate, and then regulate his shooting and point percentages to his three-year averages, I think we’ll see a much more reasonable expectation for what Larkin will put up over the next 56 games.













As we can see, Larkin should pace for a much higher total than his current number suggest. These numbers even offer only a modest power-play point total. If the Red Wings happen to figure out how to properly coach those units, I could see these numbers trending even higher.

One number that stands out: that’s a full-season pace of 19 power-play points. You’d think a possible point-per-game stud would be capable of more. But the Detroit Red Wings power play could be what’s at fault here. With only two power-play points on the year, and only 15 to show for all of 2018-19, it’s a reasonable assumption to suggest Larkin and the Red Wings just might not be adept with the man advantage. That’s something that could be fixed with a coaching shake-up. And can you imagine what these totals would be if Larkin was projected to be potent at 5-on-4?

As it is, I’d suggest looking at buying low on Larkin. These numbers would be a full-season pace of 26 goals and 81 points. There’s plenty of players who would be worth moving out to buy-in on a player with this type of upside.

If you’d like to run a possible Larkin buy-low option past me, hit my Twitter @burnett_hockey or @avgtimeonice.