Geek of the Week – Eric Staal

by Terry Campkin on September 27, 2015

Targeting Eric Staal for your team is a wise strategy… if you know where to draft him.

In the Geek of the Week series, we have historically profiled a lot of defensemen and multi-cat wingers as guys that you should be targeting at the top of the draft. The reason for this is simple: These are the types of players that are harder to find, they are the types of players that provide the most value to your team and the FHG math bears this out. But if you are spending the early rounds of a draft stocking up on the likes of Jamie Benn, Dustin Byfuglien and Max Pacioretty then you are missing out on guys like Jonathan Toews or Anze Kopitar and eventually you will have to fill that centre slot so you need to find a serviceable option. Today I present you the perfect such center with the latest Geek of the Week, Eric Staal

Not too long ago, Eric Staal was a perennial top pick in fantasy circles. As a top line, point-per-game player, he was always top of mind at draft tables, but after a couple of terrible seasons for the Hurricanes and a corresponding point decrease for Staal, he has really started to slip. Currently, he has an average draft position of 133 in Yahoo! leagues. Let me use Fantasy Hockey Geek to show you why that is WAY too low:

(12 team Yahoo! league using Dobber’s projections for the 2014-15 season in a league that measures G, A, +/-, PPP, SOG, PIM).

Rank

Player

G

A

+/-

PIM

SOG

PPP

64

Eric Staal

24

39

0

56

244

14

63

Anze Kopitar

25

44

20

18

195

25

70

Jonathan Toews

28

42

20

34

187

15

 

You can see that despite Dobber’s somewhat modest projections for Staal, FHG still calculates him as having similar value to Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews, both of whom are currently being drafted about 100 picks earlier than Staal. While the rest of your league is spending high picks on the name value of a Toews or a Kopitar, you can be nabbing much better value with (for example) Byfuglien, Brent Burns, or Kris Letang, then later on in the draft you grab Staal as a player who will provide just as much value as those centres drafted in the top 2-3 rounds. Brilliant!

Being on a bad team and being on the decline has really hurt the perception of Staal and when perception isn’t aligned with reality it spells opportunity for the shrewd GMs in fantasy sports. Sure, Kopitar and Toews are both expected to outpoint Staal in the coming year, but we’re talking about 5-8 points, which is not all that significant over the course of a six-month season. Look at the shots though – Staal should come in about 50 shots above both of the aforementioned centres, and he will add an extra 25-40 penalty minutes than the other guys too. Run all of this through the FHG math machine, and you can see that what you have is three players with very similar value at a very different draft position. Be the smarter GM, hold out on Toews/Kopitar and grab Staal late.

As always with Geek of the Week, I also like to look at upside, and with Staal I believe there is no lack of that. Based on declining shot rates, I think Staal’s point-per-game days are behind him, but he has a track record of eight straight seasons of a 70-point pace or better prior to the past two seasons. He has also shown an ability to chip in with more than the 14 PPPs that are currently projected for him (having eclipsed that mark eight times, including last season). With the addition/maturation of a number of puck moving defencemen (James Wisniewski, Justin Faulk, Ryan Murphy, Noah Hanifin), it is reasonable to assume that the Canes’ powerplay will be improved this season and that Staal could be a huge benefactor. Add to that the fact that this guy has only missed 22 games in 11 seasons and I think you have a really steady contributor who could overachieve the projections laid out above.

Using the what-if tool that is available on Fantasy Hockey Geek, I put in my more bullish expectations on Staal to see how high his value could potentially climb and here is the output:

Rank

Player

FHG Value

G

A

+/-

PIM

SOG

PPP

64

Eric Staal

31

24

39

0

56

244

14

25

Eric Staal – What if?

48

30

40

0

56

255

20

 

As you can see above, if Staal were to come in at 70 points with 20 PPP, his value would climb all the way up to the 25th most valuable player in a league of this format. A total of 70 points for Staal is not unreasonable by any stretch and I think it is completely attainable. That’s huge upside for a guy who is being drafted 130th overall on a daily basis!

Using Fantasy Hockey Geek is great for identifying the players that will provide you the best value in the early rounds, but as you can see in the instance of Staal, it is also great for identifying players that you can target late in order to fill out the positions you avoided earlier in the draft. My advice on Staal would be to assume his value will fall somewhere around 65th, draft him sometime around 95th and hope that his value spikes to about 25th. To find more great value guys like Staal, enter your league into FHG today and make sure you aren’t drafting players in the second round when there are similar value guys available much, much later!