No Kane, No Gain

by Matt Cane with Rob Vollman on September 19, 2015
USA Today Sports Images - Evander Kane

Matt Cane and Rob Vollman have devised a system to project a player's future performance by finding players with common statistics historically (Vollman, on the left) and in the modern day (Cane, on the right). This article is part of a series to introduce readers to their system, and to demonstrate how it can give you an edge in fantasy hockey.

With a new coaching staff and the arrival of Ryan O'Reilly and Evander Kane, along with rookies Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, all joining Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis, Buffalo could be an interesting source of sleeper picks this year. Among them, should Kane be number one on your list?

As one more tool that can help answer that kind of question, consider the following lists of players with the same basic era-adjusted statistics as Kane throughout history (on the left), or the same modern statistics as more recent players (on the right). Both systems agree on a basic scoring range between roughly 35 and 70 points, but disagree on the most likely result.

Vollman Historical Production - Evander Kane

Rob's Take: There's no question that Buffalo's new 24-year-old left winger, who was the fourth overall selection in 2009, has tremendous upside potential. So far, he hasn't relied on power play opportunities nor shooting luck to score goals, he has done it primarily with high shot volumes of 3.4 shots per game, and 80% of his goals have been scored at even strength. With good health, a hot streak and some more time with the man advantage, Kane's best case scenario of a 40-goal season isn't entirely out of reach.

On the down side, Kane has scored at a 22-goal pace over an 82 game schedule, with the exception of his 30 goals in Winnipeg's inaugural 2011-12 season. Furthermore, his career high is just 74 games, and he has missed an average of 16 games a year. And, if he slips, the Sabres have a proven veteran in Matt Moulson who can push him out of the top spot.

When studying his historical comparables, place the most emphasis on hard-hitting wingers like Kevin Dineen, Dustin Brown, and even Wendel Clark. These are players who also threw hits like the 9.0 per 60 minutes that Kane achieved in Winnipeg, while also working a regular penalty killing shift his last two years there. Each of these players were right in their goal-scoring prime at age 24, so if Kane will ever elevate himself beyond that 20ish-goal level, it will be right now.

Matt's Take: For a player that has the 14th most goals before hitting his 24th birthday in the shootout-era, there seems to be a lot of questions surrounding Evander Kane as he moves from Winnipeg to Buffalo this season. And because of his limited playing time last year, Kane’s projections for the coming season are all over the place. Will he turn out to be Nikolay Kulemin after Randy Carlyle decided he hated him? Will he be another David Booth, looking like a star goal scorer early in his career, before fading off prematurely? Or will he rediscover the touch that had him above 30 goals as a 20 year old?

While there’s certainly cause for concern in some of the players that show up as his contemporaries in the modern dataset, there’s a lot of reason to be hopeful for Kane in the season to come. The most optimistic comparables in both lists are all players who fit the same mould as Kane, those with the ability to put the puck in the net as well as themselves into the sin bin. Dustin Brown and Ryane Clowe have played the same style of game in recent years, while Ed Olczyk and Kevin Dineen are both great comparisons from eras past, so it’s not hard to see the upside potential in the Vancouver Giants grad. On top of that, the former Thrashers first round pick is entering an offence loaded with young talent, and is likely to get opportunities to star alongside Ryan O’Reilly and Jack Eichel over the coming year, leaving no reason to fear he’ll be stranded without someone to set him up.

The most encouraging thing to note though, is that most of the winger’s modern comparables are a few years old than Kane was last year, implying that he likely faced much tougher assignments than someone his age is usually given. If that’s the case, then Kane may have some room to grow and a higher upside than the projections might suggest. As he gets used to the role that he’s going to be put in long term, he’ll begin to acclimatize and figure out what he needs to do to be an elite goal scorer facing top level competition day in and day out. If he’s able to do that, he may well be able to outperform even his best case projection of 68 points.

For complete projections on over 700 active NHL players, Vollman and Cane Historical Projections 2015 is available exclusively through the Dobber store for just $4.99 – or it's free if you bought the Fantasy Guide using the coupon code on page 151!