The fantasy hockey analysis of Matt Beleskey and Mikhail Grigorenko
This week features two players who will be changing teams this coming season. It figures to have different effects on each player. One is coming off of a career year, the other is hoping for the career saving change of scenery bump. Beleskey is the leading candidate to get ‘Clarksoned’, get a huge contract and then piss off everybody when regression hits. Meanwhile, Grigorenko hopes that his existing relationship with his new coach gets him the contract he wants and the opportunities he needs to succeed.
Matt Beleskey is coming off a career year and looking to cash in big as a 27 year old having never made more than 1.4 million in a season. It says a lot that his career season included 22 goals but only .5 points per game. Beleskey has routinely been given the opportunity to play with Getzlaf and Perry or on Anaheim’s second line. He has been a regular in the Ducks’ lineup since Bruce Bodureau arrived in 2011-12 after appearing intermittently as a call up in the two seasons before that. With the money that Beleskey is rumoured to be looking for, in the neighbourhood of five million, he will continue to get top six opportunities with whomever he signs. Whether he is able to match last year’s totals is not nearly as certain.
Beleskey is unlikely to get placed in a better situation on his new team than he was in Anaheim. He bounced between the top two lines at even strength for the last few years. The biggest benefit of testing free agency for Beleskey, other than a huge new contract, is that with he may start to get enough power play time for it to make a difference in his production. In Anaheim he never broke two power play minutes per game, meaning he was almost always relegated to the second unit and never got more than six power play points in a season.
Matt Beleskey’s point production this year had a great deal to do with his highly inflated shooting percentage of 15.2%. This was a massive increase for Beleskey as in four of his five previous seasons he had a shooting percentage between five and nine percent. Beleskey took 145 shots in 65 games this year, which means that in an average year for him he would have scored only 13 goals this year, not the stuff of which five million per year contracts are made. The positive here is that he averaged his most shots per game this season at 2.2 shots per game. This has been a trend for him since 2011-12 as he has shot increasingly more with which each season. Beleskey needs to shoot even more if he is going to stave off the effects of regression. 2.5 shots per game over a full season with an average shooting percentage would keep him in the 20 goal neighbourhood. That is unlikely though as Beleskey has missed 44 games over the last two seasons, 59 games over the last four seasons, and has never played more than 70 games in a season. As such temper expectations of Beleskey as he is a good bet to miss at least 15 games.
Beleskey’s rate of production this past season was most similar to Rick Nash in 2013-14, Brent Burns as a forward in 2013-14 and 2008-09 Johan Franzen. In 2013-14 Beleskey, when he had an average shooting percentage, was similar to 2013-14 Ryan Garbutt, 2013-14 Jesse Winchester and 2010-11 Darren Helm. There are two notable differences in the factors that went in to Beleskey’s production. The first is that he got two more minutes of ice time per game, this meant that his minor bump in P60 rate was magnified with his extra minutes. The second is that Beleskey averaged 1.2 more Corsi events per 60 minutes played than he did in 2013-14, this is reflected in the extra shots that he took. In combination with his exaggerated shooting percentage the basis for Beleskey’s career year becomes evident, more ice time, more shots and a ridiculous shooting percentage.
The best case scenario for Beleskey is that he finds himself in a situation where he continues to get top six minutes and starts to get some top unit power play time. Under such usage he could get up to 17 minutes per game and would have a legitimate chance to average over 2.5 shots per game. That would get him close to 20 over a full season and keep him from bombing too hard this coming season. Beleskey needs to score goals at a higher rate as he gives himself no cushion by adding assists. This means that he is very reliant on his line mates getting him the puck and creating shots for him. The situation Beleskey finds himself will be extremely important but you will be disappointed if you expect more 15 goals, 25 points and 70 games.
Mikhail Grigorenko was beginning to look like a bust amid the rumours that he was considering heading back to the KHL. With the Sabres prepared to draft Jack Eichel it was beginning to look like Grigorenko might never crack the Sabres lineup as a center. Not surprisingly the rumour was that the Sabres were unwilling to give Grigorenko a one-way contract given that he would likely need at minimum another year in the AHL. While the trade to Colorado does not preclude a Grigorenko return to the KHL his relationship to Patrick Roy, his coach from the QMJHL, would suggest that there is a much higher probability of him staying in North America. The success that Grigorenko had under Roy in the QMJHL suggests that this is the coach that can get the best out of him.
Under Roy in the QMJHL Grigorenko produced 178 points in 115 games, which equates to a points per game average of 1.55. According to Rob Vollman in his initial Hockey Abstract the QMJHL has a translation factor of 0.26, which means that upon coming to the NHL Grigorenko could be expected to produce at a .40 points per game pace. Grigorenko produced at a .2 points per game rate in his first 43 games in the NHL, half of what could have been expected. It could be argued that is because the Sabres rushed him and bounced him around, but either way it is lower than you would expect from a prospect with such high expectations attached to him.
Lest one think that Grigorenko is not cut out for professional hockey in North America he has had success in the AHL. This year he had 36 points in 43 games as a 21 year old in the arguably the second best professional league in the world. That is good for a .84 points per game pace which places him amongst in a group that very often has success in the NHL. According to Rob Vollman AHL players who were 19-21 and scored at a high rate generally have success at the NHL, largely because they are given more of a chance to succeed. That does not mean that Grigorenko is going to light up the league but based on a translation factor of .40 for this year a 25 – 30 point season is entirely reasonable.
With there being some positive signs that Grigorenko is still well positioned for success in the NHL it is necessary to look at how he fits into the Avs’ lineup. The Ava are returning five (Mackinnon, Duchene, Landeskog, Iginla and Tanguay) of its top seven forwards and they brought in Carl Soderberg to replace the recently traded Ryan O’Reilly, although not in that order. This places Grigorenko in the likely position of either returning to the AHL for another year of conditioning or a spot as Jamie McGinn’s role as the seventh forward. The Avs do not have much in the way offensive potential beyond the top six but they do have 16.7 million in cap room. Their primary need is for another defenseman but even after ensuring room for Mackinnon’s next contract they should have space to bring in at least another forward. Even if they do not bring in another forward Grigorenko will likely play around 15 minutes per game and get limited power play time. The lack of forward depth on the Avs beyond the top six bodes well for Grigorenko but not in a capacity that is conducive to high levels of production. The Roy effect on Grigorenko will be to keep him in North America, the jump in points will come with more usage in 2016-17 after Alex Tanguay leaves.
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