This is the second of a multi-part series looking at the most valuable players at each position this year from the Western Conference (part one is here). Just as a refresher, we are using the Fantasy Hockey Geek ranking tool to get a ranking that combines all of a player’s stats for the searched categories. For the purposes of this series, the ranks are based on a 12 team, head-to-head league, using the categories of goals (G), assists (A), power play points (PPP), shots (S), hits (HT) and blocks (BLK) for forwards/defensemen and wins (W), saves (SV), save percentage (S%) and goals against average (GAA) for goalies. Player eligibility for this series is based on Yahoo, and any draft ranks are based on average draft positions compiled from Yahoo, ESPN and CBS by FantasyPros.
This week, left wings.
3. Gabriel Landeskog (51)
Gabriel Landeskog had his best overall performance of the last few years. He rebounded well from a pretty disastrous showing in the 2016-17 season. His final stat line this year included 25g, 37a (for 62 points), 182 shots and 149 hits. He also tied his career best in power play points (17).
From 2013-14 until 2016-17, Landeskog saw four straight seasons of decline across the board. Goals dropped from 26 to 18, assists from 39 to 15, shots from 222 to 169, hits from 176 to 143. What changed this year? Well, for one, Landeskog was on a line with MacKinnon who caught fire, but there are some changes in his own numbers as well that can account for the improvement. His average time on ice reached the highest of his career, just passing the 20 minute mark (20:09). That is his highest of any recent season by more than a minute. He saw more time, but less of that time was on the penalty kill, as he was only on the ice for 20% of his team’s short-handed opportunities. That indicates a major gain was on the power play where he saw 3:35 average time on ice, up from 2:21 last year. He was on the ice for 61% of his team’s power play time, which is the highest of his career by a significant margin. Even though he increased his shots this year, his shooting percentage was still the highest of his career at 13.7% (the three prior years he averaged 11.05%). While the shooting percentage indicates that the goals might dip a little, Landeskog managed 62 points this year while only factoring in on 51% of the points while he was on the ice (IPP). His most recent three year average is about 63%, implying either that he still has room to grow, or perhaps that MacKinnon’s magic year had much more to do with MacKinnon and less to do with Landeskog.
2. Jonathan Marchessault (48)
What is left to say about Jonathan Marchessault? He and the Vegas Knights as a whole have been the topic of an incredible amount of ink this season, and rightly so. Marchessault had the best season of his career with 27g, 48a (75 points), 268 shots, 17 power play points, and 99 hits – all in 77 games.
To make matters slightly more impressive (or concerning depending on your perspective), of the top three players at left wing, Marchessault has the lowest average time on ice (by at least two minutes), the lowest average power play time per game, and the lowest percentage of his team’s power play time. For a reference point, over the last five years, there are 6 players who have produced 70 or more points with similar time on ice numbers (fewer than 1350 for a season). Evgeni Malkin has done it three times, and once each for Brad Marchand (this year), Tyler Johnson, Matt Duchene and David Pastrnak. Malkin, Marchand and Duchene all had significantly more minutes per game in those seasons though, just played fewer games.
Marchessault’s personal shooting percentage was low, if anything, this year, and his Individual Points Percentage (IPP – the percentage of goals he managed to get a point on while he was on the ice) was a touch high, but mostly in line with his three year average. If we take a look at Marchessault’s true comparables though for this season, they are Tyler Johnson, who has been unable to come close to repeating his success, and David Pastrnak who has. Some of Marchessault’s numbers point to sustainable production, which is positive, the question going into next year is, will he be a Johnson or a Pastrnak?
1. Jamie Benn (24)
Jamie Benn was king of the left wings this year. He did it with 36g, 43a (for 79 points), 241 shots, 140 hits and 22 power play points. In short, Benn did it all this year. It was also a nice rebound from his 69 points in 2016-17.
Things look pretty good for Benn. His shot count is up from last year, closer to his more productive seasons. His shooting percentage and power play times also seem within the normal range. If anything his IPP was low this year, but he did have a high number of secondary assists, which is a less repeatable number. All things considered he was the top western conference left wing this year by just being Benn. I would guess that Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin had something to do with it. It will be interesting to see what happens with a new coach next year.
Bubble Players (just missed a top ranking)
As I referenced earlier in this column, Evander Kane ranked (51) overall, had quite a transformation upon joining the San Jose Sharks. He ended the with his highest point totals (54) in seven seasons, his highest shot count of his career (307) and tied his highest goal output (29). His big question mark is where he will end up next year.
Like with Kane, a change of scene certainly agreed with Brayden Schenn (57). Unlike Kane, Schenn had a full season to enjoy it. He played a significant portion of shifts with Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko. He ended the year with 28g, 42a, (70 points), and 210 shots, all career highs. He also added 19 power play points and 154 hits.
Rickard Rakell (60) rounds out the bubble players. He ended the season with career highs in goals (35), assists (34), points (26), shots (230) and power play points (18)
Filip Forsberg (73) falls off the pace a bit, but mostly because it was his first year in the last four where he did not play a full 82 game season. His point pace with 64 points in 67 games was the highest of his career, and he still managed 21 power play points in his shortened season. Johnny Gaudreau (80) is hurt a lot in rankings when periphery categories are included. His hit and block numbers are fairly abysmal. Points wise, he finished with 84 in 80 games, the highest point total and point pace of his career as well as the highest power play totals of his career (24). In short, if your league doesn’t count hits and blocks, he is considerably more valuable.
As described last week, this section is reserved for those players who possibly weren’t mentioned above, but who provided strong value when compared to their draft position. Again, like with last week, I am forced to reference two players already mentioned as they blew their draft places out of the water. Marchessault, the second ranked left wing in the west had an average draft position of 197th. Third-ranked left wing Landeskog was drafted right around 240th. For reference, Benn was drafted 12th and Gaudreau 44th. I would say both Marchessault and Landeskog meet and exceeded the criteria of surprising fantasy value this year.
Thanks for reading. Next week, centermen.
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