Rookies trending upward may provide a second-half boost to your fantasy team.
The Journey examines trends for the post All-Star break, and which rookies will be trending up or trending down for the second half of the season from a fantasy perspective.
Patrik Laine – Winnipeg Jets – Trending Down
This is by no means to say that Laine isn’t going to have a great end to the season now that he is back from IR. He will. However, he’s currently sitting with a 18.3% shooting percentage, which if history is a guideline is not typically sustainable. Laine could prove history wrong and remain at that level, but his closest comparisons of player type and where he produces shots from are Steven Stamkos and Ilya Kovalchuk. Both Kovalchuk and Stamkos had only one season over 18% with more than 175 shots on goal.
Laine’s 22 goals are second among rookies behind Auston Matthews, but he leads in P/60 at a rate of 2.99 (for players who have played more than 20 games. Laine’s PDO (1033) and 5-on-5 shooting percentage (12.19%) are also high, which point to a regression. With not as much of a sample size for Laine, it will be harder to predict his success over the next 30 games. But if he doesn’t produce at the same level, there’s no reason to be alarmed.
Sebastian Aho – Carolina Hurricanes – Trending Up
Don’t look now, but Aho is up to third among rookies in goals scored with 12 after not scoring his first NHL goal until his 14th game of the season in mid-November. Playing alongside Teuvo Teravainen has helped tremendously, as the two have formed a formidable duo in the offensive zone, often finding each other to make scoring plays out of nothing. Aho has been arguably the Canes’ most consistent offensive player recently, and could have scored at least twice more on Thursday against the Kings.
With a 10.2% shooting percentage and a 7.36% 5-on-5 shooting percentage, there is certainly room to grow, and his increased presence on the Canes power play should lead to more points. The Canes have 34 games left to play, and with Aho sitting at 26 points currently, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see him near 50 when the season ends.
Zach Werenski – Columbus Blue Jackets – Trending Down
Before finishing with a goal and an assist on Thursday night against Nashville, everyone’s favorite rookie blueliner had come back down to earth a bit with points in just three of his prior 13 games.
Werenski currently ranks third among rookies with 21 assists and sixth with 29 points. However, nearly 60% of the 2015 first rounder’s points have come with the man advantage. This can be attributed to the Blue Jackets tremendous power play which is humming along at nearly 25% and produced at an even higher rate during their 16-game winning streak. Since the 2010-11 season, only eight defensemen have produced 30 power play points in a season, a number that Werenski is on pace for at this point. It’s not unfair to expect a drop-off in power-play points and in turn total points for the rookie in Columbus’s last 32 games.
William Nylander – Toronto Maple Leafs – Trending Up
It’s hard to expect the any of the three Toronto superstar rookies to surpass their pre-All-Star Game production, but it could be a real possibility for Nylander if you look at the numbers. The Maple Leafs forward will likely defer to being a playmaker during his career rather than a pure goal scorer, but with his talent and his shot volume (117 SOG) it’s unlikely his shooting percentage will stay under 10%. Currently, Nylander is scoring at just an 8.5% rate on his shots, and has scored just five goals at even strength.
Nylander has 31 points in 46 games with 10 goals, but he could easily have more with just a progression towards what should be a sustainable shooting percentage for a player of his talent. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him finish the season closer to 20-22 goals, rather than the 18 he is currently on pace for. That would put him more in line for around 60 points, if he continues to thrive from a distribution perspective for the Leafs.
Derek Forbort – Los Angeles Kings – Trending Down
Forbort has been a terrific multi-category option for owners this season, especially in capped leagues given his $650,000 salary. He should continue to produce with hits and shot blocks, as long as he continues to play nearly 20 minutes per night. If his ice time drops, there will be less opportunity to pick up those peripheral stats.
Where you may see a drop off however, is in his offensive production. Of Forbort’s 14 points, 12 have come when he is on the ice with Drew Doughty. Recently, Doughty has been back with Jake Muzzin, which bumps Forbort down in the lineup. Add to the mix that Brayden McNabb is back, which means there are going to be less minutes to go around. It’s unlikely that Forbort is in your lineup for his scoring ability, but just know there may not be as many bonus points to go around as the season progresses.
Pavel Zacha – New Jersey Devils – Trending Up
It has been hard to believe that Zacha is producing at the level he has this season through 42 games. He has played with just about every combination of Devils’ forwards on the roster, but the majority of his shifts this season have been played with Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri at even strength.
The sixth overall pick from 2015 has a microscopic 5-on-5 shooting percentage at 3.2% and an extremely unlucky 962 PDO. Nowhere to go with those numbers but up. It appears the 19-year-old could be slowly coming out of it with three points in his last five games, to give him 10 points in the season. He has a received a combined nine minutes of power play time over his last three games after being on the ice with the man advantage for just under four minutes total in his previous six games. New Jersey could be a seller at the deadline in a month, which will open the door even farther for Zacha to maximize his role and production.
Andreas Athanasiou – Detroit Red Wings – Trending Down
Athanasiou is one of the most exciting players to watch in the league when his engine gets going, using his speed to produce opportunities in one-on-one situations. He has been playing alongside Thomas Vanek for most of his shifts this season, another Red Wings forward who has been overproducing throughout the first half of the season.
Ice time is one of the biggest deterrents to production for Athanasiou, as he is only averaging 13 minutes per game this season. Add that to the low amount of power-play time he receives and his inability to directly create for his linemates with just five assists on the season, and it’s not a great formula for production. If his current 16% shooting percentage drops, the goals could dry up down the stretch.
Frank Vatrano – Boston Bruins – Trending Up
Vatrano missed 34 games this season with a foot injury, but has recovered to play well in his 18 contests for the Bruins since late December. He has eight points, with five goals and three assists, regularly playing in Boston’s top-six forward group.
One of his biggest attributes and a reason for optimism in the Bruins’ last 30 games is that Vatrano shoots the puck a ton. In 39 games last season, the young forward put the puck on net at a pace of 2.54 shots per game. This season, he has increased that number to 2.77 in 18 games. He doesn’t play a ton of minutes at just under 15 per game, but he has averaged two and a half minutes with the man advantage, which should continue to help his offensive output.
Give Kevin a follow at @kleblanchockey for prospect talk and happenings.
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