Geek of the Week: Regression in the Projections Part 3

by Scott Maran on September 9, 2018


In our third part of Regression in the Projections (you can find parts one and two here), we’ll be taking a quick look at a few other players who are projected to provide a lot less value than they did last season. As usual, all projections are based on a standard 12-team Yahoo league measuring goals, assists, shots on goal, power play points, and hits.

Eric Staal (2017-18: 69th, 2018-19 projected: 114th)

 

Rank

FHG Value

GP

G

A

SOG

PPP

HITS

2017-18

69

25

81

42

34

241

17

42

2018-19

114

6

82

33

36

260

17

42


Early in his career Eric Staal was considered as one of the top players in the NHL, routinely averaging over a point per game for the Carolina Hurricanes. However, after he turned 29, Staal’s decline looked imminent, as his point totals slowly dropped from the 60s to the 50s and then even the high 30s (that quarter of a season with the Rangers was rough). But ever since heading to Minnesota, Staal’s career has been revitalized. Last year he shocked the hockey world with one of his best seasons to date, recording his first 70+ point season since 2011.

Finishing tied for the 26th most points in the league, Staal finished with over 40 goals for just the second time in his career. His 42 markers were good for the fourth most in the entire NHL, more than noted stars such as Connor McDavid, Nikita Kucherov, and Taylor Hall. This all lead to an extremely valuable fantasy season from Staal, ranking 69th overall in terms of fantasy value (calculated from our Fantasy Hockey Geek tool).

So why is Staal projected to fall all the way down to 114th overall in the rankings? It pretty much has to do with his goal totals and the near-certain regression in line for next year. As much as Staal has shown that he’s not the 40-point player he was towards the end of his time in Carolina, Staal is also not a consistent 40+ goal scorer. He was barely a 40-goal scorer in his prime, let alone in his mid-30s, so expecting him to keep up that scoring pace at 33 years old is extremely optimistic. After averaging a career 11.2% shooting percentage, Eric Staal converted on 17.4% of his shots on goal last season. There’s no way that’s sustainable and it’s almost certain that that number will come down next season. If Staal shot his average 11.2% last season, he would have only scored 27 goals (32 goals if he maintained his shooting percentage from the previous season).

Dobber’s projections have Staal coming in at 33 goals next season, which is a much more likely scenario. Though Staal’s shown great improvement on the Wild (scoring 65 points in his first season with the team), the drop in goals will be what kills his value. He doesn’t contribute a lot of hits and for a player who’s main asset is recording points, 17 power-play points isn’t enough to cut it. His shot totals are fairly good (tied for the 30th most last season), but there are plenty of other skaters who can score and shoot yet lack peripherals. Without the 40+ goals to his name, Staal isn’t that special, and that shows in his descent down the rankings. Staal will most likely fall outside the top 100 skaters in value next season if he can’t keep up the blistering scoring pace he set last year.

John Carlson (2017-18: 7th, 2018-19 projected: 43rd)

 

Rank

FHG Value

GP

G

A

SOG

PPP

HITS

2017-18

7

70

81

15

53

237

32

46

2018-19

43

37

74

13

41

192

22

53


Another big name that is in line for some regression, John Carlson is also coming off a career season. After averaging around a 50-point pace over the last three seasons, Carlson blew his previous career highs out of the water with 68 points last season. Finishing with the most points by any defender, Carlson was one of the top defensemen to own in fantasy hockey last year.

But can we expect Carlson to provide the same sort of value? Most likely not, merely because it would be hard for anybody not named Erik Karlsson to repeat that sort of fantasy production. His 68 points were 13 more than his previous career high while his 237 shots on goal were 29 more than his previous career high. He was also one of only five defenders in the last five years to score over 30 points with the man advantage, finishing with the second most in the league at 32. Even with his weak hit totals Carlson managed to finish with the seventh-most fantasy value out of all skaters in the NHL, ahead of names like Evgeni Malkin, Nathan MacKinnon, and Sidney Crosby.

There are plenty of fantasy owners who don’t realize the magnitude of Carlson’s impressive season. But only the truly elite can replicate such a fantastic season, and Carlson will have his work cut out for him to try to repeat it.

Dobber’s projections have Carlson finishing with 54 points in 74 games. Carlson is still one of the top offensive defensemen in the game, and he shouldn’t have much of a problem racking up the points. We may not see another 65+ point performance (only six defensemen have broken 65 points in a season since 2013) but Carlson will still be effective. Rick Roos gave an extensive overview of Carlson not too long ago, showing that while he may be in line for a little regression, Carlson’s additional power-play ice time and increased effectiveness in that role will help negate its effects. A monumental drop in points shouldn’t be expected.

It is possible that we see a drop in shots on goal and power-play points too though, as maintaining those numbers would be hard for anybody. It’s possible Carlson keeps it up (especially when factoring in the effectiveness of the fabled Capitals' power play), but the safer bet is projecting a slight dip in power-play points. And while his shots totals weren’t insanely high, Carlson had never shown an ability to shoot that much before in his career, increasing the risk that he won’t be able to replicate that sort of output again.

Overall, all of these slight drops add up, culminating in Carlson’s final ranking at 43rd overall for next season. This is still great production, but a far cry from the monster of a season he had last year. With his career year still fresh in people’s minds, it may be hard to select Carlson in any fantasy draft without overpaying for him or utilizing a high draft pick on a player who’ll have a tough time outperforming his draft position. So while Carlson is still good for providing plenty of fantasy value next season, there’s a good chance it’ll still be less than what he produced last year.