Western Conference Overachievers – 2016

by Doran Libin on February 1, 2016

Taking a look at overachieving fantasy players in the Western Conference. Who's due to slow down?

 

There are many factors that can lead to a player overachieving within a season. A player exceeding expectations can occur as much due to a player taking the next step in his game as a blip in shooting percentage. Either way the points are just as pleasant a surprise for poolies regardless of whether they are likely to continue long-term. Below are the players who are besting their expected point-per-game pace this season.

 

Forwards

Player

Games

Points

Shots per Game

Time-on-ice (TOI)

PPG Diff.

Tobias Rieder

49

30

2.67

18:06

0.61 (+0.38)

Joel Ward

46

31

1.83

17:30

0.67 (+0.46)

Patrick Kane

53

73

3.58

20:30

1.38 (+0.34)

 

Tobias Rieder – In only his second full season of NHL action Rieder is already seeing top six minutes along with significant power-play time. He is getting a minute-and-a-half more per game overall more than last season much of which is due to him getting close to three minutes per game of power play time. The extra ice time has been reflected in Rieder’s increased shot and scoring chance rate. He has even seen his shooting percentage rise to close to eight percent, meaning there is still room for improvement in his shooting percentage without cause for much concern. While Rieder is not a long-term solution for the Coyotes’ top six his production and the lack of depth make him a safe shot-term depth option for poolies.

 

Joel Ward – In Washington Ward bounced around the top nine and while he got a lot of notice for playing alongside Ovechkin the reality was that he only lined up with him for just over one seventh of his even-strength ice time. The move to San Jose has worked out well for Ward as he is getting more ice time and has played close to 80% of his minutes with Patrick Marleau, a stark upgrade from his most common Washington linemates of Eric Fehr and Brooks Laich. The most encouraging factor for Ward’s continued production is the fact that he has not lost ice time since Couture’s return at even strength or on the power play.

 

Patrick Kane – Kane has occasionally been a point-per-game player in the past but has not produced at this level since he left the London Knights. He is scoring at the third highest points-per-60 rate of any player of any player with more than 40 games in the last five years. Kane’s even-strength production of 2.7 points per 60 is the highest of his career but not drastically so. The major area of improvement is in his power-play production, which is at more than nine points per 60 minutes. He is one of two players to sustain such a rate over 50 games. No player in the last five years has finished a season with such a prolific rate of power play production. With an on-ice shooting percentage on the power play of 20% his power-play production may be a little inflated but the Hawks’ power play is stronger than ever. Any decrease in his rate of production will not drop him under 100 points should he play the whole season.

 

Defense

Player

Games

Points

Shots per Game

Time-on-ice (TOI)

PPG Diff.

Mattias Ekholm

50

22

1.28

18:54

0.44 (+0.18)

Francois Beauchemin

52

24

1.54

25:00

0.46 (+0.16)

 

Mattias Ekholm – Ekholm was already having a career season before Seth Jones got traded and a spot was opened up on the Predators’ second power-play unit. At this point in the season he has already set a career high for points in a season and matched his career high for goals in a season. He has gone from being a puck moving defensive presence to providing value at both ends of the rink. That will only be helped by the power -play minutes Ekholm now receives, having gone from rarely seeing any power-play minutes at all, to seeing close to two minutes per game since the Jones trade. In that time Ekholm has racked up eight points in 10 games while taking 15 shots. The shot rate is a marked improvement from his career shot rate this season of just one shot per game. This is Ekholm’s third full season and he has made significant strides each season and should be a 40-point defenseman with a full season of second unit power-play time.

 

Francois Beauchemin – The shallow Avs’ defense corps has been a blessing for Beauchemin. He is playing 25 minutes a night, a level he has not reached since in four years, including more power-play minutes than he has seen in six years. There has not been much that has stood out about Beauchemin’s game this season with the exception of his success on the power play. That success has been buoyed by a very high on-ice shooting percentage as well as by the periodic absence of Erik Johnson. This is as good a situation as Beauchemin could hope for late in his career, and as such his fantasy value is as high as it has ever been or will be.

 

Goalie

Player

Games

Wins

Goals Against Average

Save Percentage

Expected Wins Diff.

Corey Crawford

42

28

2.14

93.08

+5.5

 

Corey Crawford – Crawford has never been considered an elite goalie despite impressive win totals. He has been looked upon as the product of the strong team in front of him rather than as the backbone of said team. Up until this season he has basically been looked upon as a modern day Chris Osgood. That view of Crawford is more than a little misguided especially over the last four seasons. In three of the last four seasons he has posted a save percentage of 92% or better. He has been at his best in the last two seasons when the Hawks’ have allowed more shots per 60 minutes than they have since the 2009/10 season. Furthermore, his save percentage on high-danger shots has been amongst the best in the league over the last four years. While it does help that he has one of the best teams in the league in front of him the fact that he has maintained an elite level of play even as the Hawks have ceased to be an elite shot suppression team says a lot about the goalie Crawford has become. If you do not already it is time to consider Crawford amongst the league’s best goalies.

 

Rookies

Max Domi and Artemi Panarin had two of the biggest differences between their expected and current point per game pace, however they are getting special mention because rookies are such a volatile class. Panarin and Domi are producing in different ways though. Panarin is an older rookie at 24, having just come over from the KHL, and landed on one of the best teams in the league. He has fit right in and has found immediate chemistry with Patrick Kane. Lest anyone think Panarin is just riding coattails note that Kane did not significantly break the point-per-game pace of his previous seasons until he was teamed up with Panarin. With that success has come immediate high end ice time for Panarin, both in the top six and on the top power-play unit, as such he is blowing away projections and expected KHL transfer rates. Domi on the other hand joined one of the weakest teams in league and almost immediately became the most dangerous forward on the team. He has the highest rate of production on the team overall despite not getting first power play unit minutes. Domi has a high shooting percentage but that is likely because he has a much higher scoring-chance rate than shot rate.

 

Honourable Mention:

Johnny Gaudreau – Gaudreau has the most three on three points of anybody in the league this year. His success three on three is a huge part of why he warrants a mention on this list. Even without his ridiculous scoring prowess at three on three Gaudreau is doing everything right this year as all his underlying numbers are moving in the right direction.

 

Joe Pavelski – For the second time in three years little Joe has a shooting percentage bordering 20%. Last time he potted 40 goals over a full season. He is on pace to do that again this year, assuming his shooting percentage stays at its current astronomic heights. In most cases this would be worrying but playing with Joe Thornton has its benefits and a heightened shooting percentage is certainly one of them. Pavelski’s flying a little too high at the moment but as long as his linemate is one of the best passers in the game he gets some leniency from regression.

 

TJ Brodie – Brodie’s return to the Flames helped turn both his and Mark Giordano’s season around. He is as secure in his position on the top pairing as he has ever been after Dougie Hamilton’s disastrous performance while Brodie was injured to start the season. Brodie is on pace for 50 points over a full season with only a slightly elevated on-ice shooting percentage standing out as even a minor concern. It would be nice if Brodie shot more but that is not a major concern because the Flames as a team take more shots with Brodie on the ice than they do otherwise, and given the amount the Flames rely on him to carry the puck up the ice the team’s generation of shots when he is on the ice says even more than is own shot rate.