Wild West Summer Series 2018: Chicago

by chriskane on July 9, 2018

 

We are back this week for round four of our summer series, this time featuring Chicago. The idea is to compare end of 2017-18 Fantasy Hockey Geek rankings for individual players with an expected ranking based on their average draft positions from the start of the year. This process does not necessarily identify who was the most important player to each team but gives us not only an idea of who was a steal/bust on draft day, but where each player was valued going into this season. I will also be adding some thoughts on whether or not that is the new normal for the player in question and if we should be adjusting our draft positions. For a deeper dive on each team plus full projections make sure to get your copy of Dobber’s Fantasy Guide, out soon.

 

And now for the technical details. We will be using the Fantasy Hockey Geek tool to get a ranking that combines all of a player’s stats for the searched categories. Like for the previous series, the ranks are based on a 12 team, head-to-head league, using the categories of goals, assists, power play points, shots, hits and blocks for forwards/defensemen and wins, saves, save percentage and goals against average for goalies. Player eligibility for this series is based on Yahoo, and draft ranks are based on average draft positions compiled from Yahoo, ESPN and CBS by FantasyPros.

 

Chicago

 

Recap:

Chicago ended the year 33-39-10, good for 79 points and third worst in the Western Conference. It is certainly safe to say that this year took a bit of the shine off of their recent successes. The season started reasonably well, largely because Corey Crawford was playing out of his mind for the first few months, and disguising some of the many issues that are a direct result of Chicago having to shed players and salaries over the last few years. Once he was injured though, Chicago struggled to keep putting together wins.

 

Undervalued:

 

Typically in this section I try and find two players who were undervalued at draft day. In order to meet that criteria there needs to be a discrepancy between a player’s expected value based on their average draft position and their value at the end of the season. For a player to be undervalued then, they need to be more valuable at the end of the year than there draft position indicated.

 

Thus far it has not been difficult to find players who meet that criteria, but Chicago is a pretty remarkable case. There were only two drafted players that met the technical definitions and “improved” their value by the end of the season. I intentionally put improved in quotations because the largest improvement came from Corey Crawford, who if you remember played incredibly for a couple of months and then missed the rest of the season. I cannot in good conscious list a highly drafted goalie as Undervalued when he only played until December, damaging his manager’s prospects pretty dramatically for the remainder of the year. The second player who technically met the criteria is Brent Seabrook and in reality his value was just about even with his expected value. I was able to find one player who improved his standing though, even if he is most valuable in fairly deep leagues.

 

Jordan Oesterle

Jordan Oesterle’s season value is still fairly low, but a quick look at his stat line does help us figure out why.

 

Games Played

Goals

Assists

Points

Points/ Game

Shots

Sht%

Hits

PPlay Points

Blocks

54

5

9

14

0.26

98

5.1

62

3

96

 

His 54 games played this year is the highest total he has reached so far, and that is certainly a reason why he hasn’t been a valuable fantasy asset yet. It is also the reason he had his most valuable season to date and did improve significantly over his draft day value.

 

His value peaked last year during the month of January where he got onto the top power play unit, seeing as much as five minutes in a game. His total ice time increased from roughly 13 minutes a game through the first quarter to upwards of 25 during the January stretch. He scored seven points in six games stretching from December 29, 2017 to January 9, 2018. Managers took notice and many scrambled to add him. Unfortunately it did not last and he went pointless in his next 10 and managed one point in his next 21 games.

 

His rate stats are reasonable and given a full season can provide decent value. His blocks per game is just under two (ranked 55 among defensemen) and is similar to Jacob Trouba, and Ryan Suter. His rate of just under two shots per game (ranked 71 among defensemen) is similar to Mikhail Sergachev and Nick Leddy. He also adds some hits as well, though so far that has not necessarily been his strength.

The real question then is what does it all mean for next year? If what we see above is the new normal then he should be drafted near the players below (who mostly weren’t drafted), where he was valued as the 140th most valuable defenseman (for reference a typical 12 team league drafts around 60). But if we give him the benefit of a full season his value would increase slightly.

 

Ben Chiarot

WPG

D

389

Jason Demers

ARI

D

390

Jordan Oesterle

CHI

D

391

Nick Jensen

DET

D

397

Brett Pesce

CAR

D

401

 

Given how spectacularly be squandered his extended look at the top power play after those first six games, it is hard to imagine he will be given another opportunity soon. That makes increases in point totals unlikely. Overall if he manages to play more games next year his shots and block numbers will  increase his overall value. That moves him from where he started 2017-18 but still puts him in a bubble position at best. He maybe has value as a guy to replace your injured peripherals guy or as someone to keep an eye on just in case he gets that prime deployment again.
 

Overvalued:

 

Patrick Kane

 

Ok so let’s just put this one out there. Patrick Kane is a very talented hockey player. My proposal here though is that he might not be quite as valuable as we all have been drafting him. For a case in point let us take a look at the value table.

 

Alexander Radulov

DAL

RW

65

Vladimir Tarasenko

STL

RW

67

Patrick Kane

CHI

RW

89

Jason Zucker

MIN

LW/RW

91

Sebastian Aho

NYI

LW/RW

93

 

Vladimir Tarasenko is likely the next biggest name on the list and he was the 67th highest ranked player last year, and Kane the 89th (22 positions after). Jason Zucker is the closest ranked winger to Kane, and that is likely the only time those two players have been written about in a sentence equating their value. Kane was drafted an average of third overall across the platforms. Any guesses as to the average of those around him? 114th.

 

Games Played

Goals

Assists

Points

Points/ Game

Shots

Sht%

Hits

PPlay Points

Blocks

81

26

49

75

0.93

282

9.2

18

21

14

 

If we take a look at his stat line we can come to a couple of conclusions. One is that Kane is definitely hurt by the fact that we count hits and blocks as he is abysmal in these categories. He relies then on points, shots, and power play points to provide his fantasy owners value. 75 points is certainly nothing to be scoff at, but his point totals were good to tie him for 26th in the league with Eric Staal and Sean Couturier, and one point ahead of Jonathan Marchessault and VIncent Trocheck. Now some of those players come with question marks about whether or not they can repeat their numbers, but their average draft positions were right around 170.

 

Now maybe that isn’t fair, I mean Kane has a long history of top tier scoring that most of these other players don’t and true, Kane does have a 106 point season to his name. Unfortunately that is his only season over 90 points. In fact, in his 11 seasons, he has produced only three season over 76 points. Injuries have a played a part to be sure, but the fact still remains that his most productive seasons were playing with Artemi Panarin, who is showing us he is a star in his own right, putting up points without Kane, while Kane seems to be struggling a bit with Nick Schmaltz as a replacement.

 

Kane is definitely valuable for shots, ranking seventh overall last year in total shots. Power play points in 2017-18 though is another concern. He is tied for 47th in the league with guys like Anders Lee and right around guys like Kyle Okposo, Mika Zibanejad, and Sam Reinhart. Nothing against them for sure, but they weren’t drafted third overall.

 

If we look at the last three seasons (which obviously includes Kane’s two most productive ones) Kane looks great. He ranks first overall in points, fifth in shots and 16th in power play points. This view gives an obvious reason as to why he has been selected so high. The three years prior though he was 11th in points, 42nd in shots and 16th in power play points. Still excellent numbers, but third overall?

 

The question then is what do we expect from Kane going forward? His value is obviously directly tied to his point production, not peripheral categories. Based on a quick look at some of his underlying numbers, it appears very unlikely he is going to repeat the 106 point season. A career of managing a point per game pace and good shot numbers does give us a reasonable floor though. That means he could reasonably rebound a bit from 75 points but unfortunately, that might not be that valuable. There were 11 players in 2017-18 who scored between 78 and 84 points and 15 players who scored more than 84 points. If scoring in 2018-19 is anywhere close to 2017-18 that means Kane seems to be valued somewhere in the 15-20 range in point leagues that count shots, but likely significantly lower in leagues like the one described here that included hits and blocks. In neither case though does he reach the top 10, and especially not the top three.

 

Jonathan Toews

 

The second Blackhawk to fall to the curse of name recognition is Jonathan Toews. Again it is clear that Toews is an excellent hockey player, though his value has always been significantly higher to Chicago than to his fantasy team. In 2017-18 we can see that he compared favorably to some second or third line centers. While this certainly isn’t terrible real life company, in fantasy we are hoping for a bit more. The average draft position of these players was around 180, while Toews was taken 66th overall. That means he was the 14th center off the board and was quite possibly some fantasy manager’s first center. 

 

Kyle Turris

NSH

C

246

Mikael Backlund

CGY

C

253

Jonathan Toews

CHI

C

273

Nico Hischier

NJD

C

279

Lars Eller

WSH

C

281

 

Toews did have a bit of a down year, but it isn’t like it was a terrible season for him.

Games Played

Goals

Assists

Points

Points/ Game

Shots

Sht%

Hits

PPlay Points

74

20

32

52

0.7

211

9.5

32

13

 

He missed a few games, unfortunately isn’t that unusual, and saw decreases in goals, assists, points, power play points, hits, and blocks in 2017-18. That certainly isn’t good, but the drops weren’t necessarily dramatic in most cases, and he actually saw an increase in shots. The power play seems to be the area of largest concern. Toews dropped four points from 2016-17 even though he averaged almost 30 more seconds of power play time per game in 2017-18.

 

On a positive note there is some potential for improvement. He saw the lowest shooting percentage of his career, his PDO and IPP numbers were also low indicating he might have seen some bad luck while on the ice, and he saw a good amount of power play time on the first unit with Patrick Kane.

 

Overall it looks like there is some room for a slight bounce back, but we aren’t really talking a 75+ point season here. Toews has been averaging about a 63 point pace over the last four seasons. Toews was the 38th most valuable center in 2017-18, but drafted 14th. His value has been consistently inflated in fantasy drafts and I would be targeting him likely as my third, or at my most optimistic, my second center, which is a good 10-15 draft places further back than he was drafted in 2017-18.

 

Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp, Artem Anisimov

 

I am not specifically going to dive into these three, but what was abundantly clear in 2017-18 is that players on Chicago have high name recognition and were therefore drafted relatively high. Many of them (and these three in particular) had significant question marks going into this season, were drafted anyway, and did not live up to the hopes of those draft positions. Chicago has been good recently and won a championship or two, which seems to have driven up the draft price of all of their players. They all stand to fall after a disappointing year, but in most cases rightly so and I would certainly hesitate about reaching for them this year

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Next week: Colorado

 

 

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