Wild West Summer Series 2019: Los Angeles

by chriskane on July 29, 2019

 

Welcome to week eight of our summer series. Like last season, this series is intended to take a look at the teams in the Western Conference one by one. We will do a short recap of what took place, but the deep dive here will be into the players that helped make it so, for better or worse. We will be taking a look at a few players who out or under performed their expectations and be considering whether this performance might just be the new normal.

 

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. These 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. The idea is to compare this ranking with an expected ranking based on the 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. 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.

 

This week: LA

 

Recap:

The Kings finished the 2018-19 season in last place in the West with 71 points. In fact the only team to end up with fewer points was the Ottawa Senators. Ilya Kovalchuk returning to the NHL was supposed to be a spark for the beleaguered offense, but as we will see later that didn’t pan out. There was also some difficulty in goal, but we will get to that too. Overall it was a forgettable season, but with minimal movement so far in the off season, it appears that management is betting on a rebound from this aging cast.

 

Undervalued:

Jack Campbell:

Campbell wasn’t drafted in any league that we had data for in 2018-19. By the end of the season he was the 146th ranked player, ahead of guys like Jake Allen, Semyon Varlamov, and Henrik Lundqvist

 

Player

Team

Position

FHG Rank

Petr Mrazek

CAR

G

107

Anton Khudobin

DAL

G

116

Jack Campbell

LAK

G

146

Philipp Grubauer

COL

G

147

David Rittich

CGY

G

151

 

To say that Campbell had a career year would be a bit of an understatement. Technically he has gotten games in each of the last three seasons, but coming into 2018-19 he had played a max of five games in a single season. 

 

By the time 2018-19 was under wraps he had started 31 games, posted a save percentage of .928 and a quality start percentage of 51.6.

 

GP

W

GAA

SV

SV%

QS%

31

10

2.3

784

0.928

51.6

 

It wasn’t an incredibly consistent road. He played 13 times in the first quarter when Jonathan Quick missed most of November with an injury. He only played once over the second quarter, but by the fourth played ten games. Quick’s games played number stayed relatively consistent across the quarters, but it is pretty clear that Campell was the better performer. Quick finished the season with 46 games (a low except for seasons completely lost to injury), a save percentage of .888 and a quality start percentage of 43.5. In short it was the worst season of Quick’s career and by quite a lot.

 

Campbell clearly was able to take advantage of a rough Quick season, but what happens in the future? Quick is the goalie with the proven track record, and likely the goalie the team wants to give the starts to. He is being paid well until 2023 and this was his first season with a save percentage below .915 since 2012-13. We should take into account though that for a number of those years the Kings were an excellent defensive team, and won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014. Since the 2012 season Quick has two seasons where he performed significantly better than an average goalie would have, and one season where he performed significantly worse than an average goalie would have (Evolving-Hockey) given the quality of shots against him. In the remaining five seasons his performance was right about average given the strength of the team in front of him. This is relevant because maybe Quick isn’t the goalie we thought he was, and as a 33 year old net minder on a crumbling team there is ample opportunity for him to be exposed and another goalie to be given an opportunity. Likely Quick isn’t an .888 goalie next year, but he also might not be a lock for a return to a .915 save percentage either.

 

As it stands Quick will likely be given the starting gig and he will need to falter, and Campbell excel for Campell to get another significant shot. Even if Campell does get that shot though there is no guarantee that he is a goalie you want to start on a regular basis. His personal numbers look pretty good, but with such a small sample to his name there is no guarantee that his season is repeatable. In addition LA as a whole was a fairly miserable place to play. They ranked 4th worst in goals for percentage (comparing goals for to goals against) meaning only three teams (Ottawa, New Jersey, and Edmonton) fared worse. Much of that was due to a lack of scoring production as they were in the middle of the pack in terms of total goals against. If you do end up with either Campbell or Quick don’t expect much in the wins department.

 

Campbell has definitely seen a bump in value, and as Quick ages he will likely continue to see more starts. It seems unlikely though that he will improve or even repeat 2018-19 so while it is nice to see his potential, I will likely let someone else take the chance on him in 2019-20.

 

Overvalued:

Ilya Kovalchuk:

Kovalchuk made his triumphant return to the NHL in 2018-19. The expert’s opinions appeared to be a little mixed coming into the year, some recommending caution, some calling a strong performance. Managers seemed excited though, drafting him 89th overall, the 25th winger, ahead of guys like Jonothan Huberdeau, Gabriel Landeskog, and Evgenii Dadanov. By the end of the season though he had fallen dramatically to 434th overall and the 125th ranked winger.

 

Player

Team

Position

FHG Rank

Anthony Duclair

OTT

LW/RW

427

Josh Archibald

ARI

RW

432

Ilya Kovalchuk

LAK

LW/RW

434

Conor Sheary

BUF

LW/RW

435

Thomas Vanek

DET

LW/RW

446

 

So what happened? Well it had been five seasons since he had played in the NHL and he was 35 years old. Oh and he was also playing for the Kings. He declined (as should have been expected) in every conceivable metric from his 2012-13 season in New Jersey. He put up a career low point pace, and the majority of the underlying metrics are consistent with his earlier career, implying he wasn’t adversely affected by luck.

 

GP

Goals

Assists

Points

Points/ Game

Shots

S%

Hits

PPPts

Blocks

PPTOI

TOI

64

16

18

34

0.53

141

11.3

28

9

19

2:47

16:14

 

A big red flag comes just by looking at his time on ice. It steadily decreased throughout the year across all situations. His total ice time started over 18 minutes a night, but by the fourth quarter he was down to 14 minutes. He started with over three minutes of power-play time, but by the end of the season he was down to just above two. It certainly also doesn’t help his production that he only played 64 games.

 

At 35 and making a return to the NHL he likely was going to have a difficult time keeping up with the fast pace and higher level of play. In order to be successful he was going to need some serious usage help, particularly on the power play and he clearly just did not get it. His decreasing time on ice is a huge cause for concern and implies that the coaching staff lost faith in him over the course of the year. Overall I am not excited about Kovalchuk for 2019-20, and while I will wait for another year of data before completely writing him off he is well on the way to being LA’s Corey Perry (which if you have read previous articles in this column you know is no compliment).

 

Anze Kopitar:

Managers were very optimistic about Kopitar going into 2018-19, and understandably so. He was coming off of what looked like a great 92 point season and was returning to the Kings with largely the same cast. He was drafted 40th overall, the 10th center off the board, and right ahead of guys like Mark Scheifele, Aleksander Barkov, Nicklas Backstrom, and Sean Monohan. By the end of the season he had fallen to 145th overall and the 24th ranked center.

 

Player

Team

Position

FHG Rank

Blake Coleman

NJD

C

136

Evgeny Kuznetsov

WSH

C

144

Anze Kopitar

LAK

C

145

Frank Vatrano

FLA

C

148

Elias Pettersson

VAN

C

162

 

So what went wrong for Kopitar? Well first off let’s just say he still got 60 points, so didn’t fall off the map completely. Let’s also say that a return to 92 points wasn’t really all that likely. All of his individual metrics were high enough that it looked like a regression was coming. His point pace has fluctuated a bit in recent years, but coming into this season his five year average was about 70 points over a full season. That seemed a reasonable target coming into the year, but he still failed to meet that one tool.

 

GP

Goals

Assists

Points

Points/ Game

Shots

S%

Hits

PPPts

Blocks

PPTOI

TOI

81

22

38

60

0.74

156

14.1

59

19

66

2:50

22:18

 

If we first take a look at his time on ice we don’t see much changing. He averaged about the same total time on ice and total power-play time. Unfortunately we see drops across the board in goals, assists, shots, and power-play points. His shot production is worrying as he saw the same amount of time on ice for about the same number of games but put up almost 50 fewer shots. That combined with expected regression from his shooting percentage had him dropping 13 goals from 2017-18. He was also less involved in the offense than in previous years as his IPP indicates with a drop from 79.3 to 64.5.

 

It wasn’t just Kopitar that was the issue though, the Kings scored 38 fewer goals in 2018-19 than in 2017-18 and 14 of those missing goals were on the power play. There were just fewer goals to go around and it shows in Kopitar’s numbers. Obviously we see it in his total point numbers, but also the productivity of his linemates. His team five on five shooting percentage was down to 8.37% from 9.27% the year before.

 

These numbers, just like his personal shooting numbers all seem to indicate that two things happened. There were fewer opportunities for Kopitar (personal shots, and teammate goals) and he cashed in on fewer of the ones that did exist.

 

So what about 2019-20? Well the news isn’t exactly stellar. The team around him hasn’t changed much, other than being another year older. That isn’t great when your top three scoring forwards are 31 and older. The Kings had the second worst goals for numbers in the league, and all indications are they deserved to be there. Their expected goal numbers just about matched their goal total. With no major moves in the off season, it is hard to be excited about this cast of players suddenly finding more goals.

 

Personally, his shooting percentage in 2018-19, while down from 2017-18 was not out of line with his career numbers and it was still high if anything. I would not rely on that improving, and the same goes for the his team five on five shooting percentage. The one potential place for improvement seems to be his IPP. That 64.5% is not only a significant drop from his 2017-18 season, but also low for his career. It is very likely that number rises to at least 70% in 2019-20. Kopitar is another year older, but I don’t think he is washed out yet. Maybe juggling lines around, and Jeff Carter being more available allows LA to score a few more goals and Kopitar gets in on more of them. In that case, 70 points seems possible, but I am not sure I am banking on much more than 65 for 2019-20.

 

Thanks for reading

 

Next week: Minnesota

 

Previous Team Articles:

 

Anaheim

Arizona

Calgary

Chicago

Colorado

Dallas

Edmonton