Wild West: Winnipeg Jets

by chriskane on October 1, 2018

 

We have arrived at the final off-season article, and this week we are taking a look at Winnipeg. After this we will be diving back into the action with some live stats. Hear about the injuries to Seth Jones and Corey Perry? Dobber’s got you covered in the Guide. Also make sure you are up to date with the Eastern Edge Series on value left wings. 

The idea for these columns 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 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 now!

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.

 

* * Buy the 13th annual DobberHockey Fantasy Guide here – always updated and you can download immediately * * 

 

Winnipeg

 

Recap:

Winnipeg made one thing clear in 2017-18. They have arrived. They finished second in the Central Division with 114 points and proceeded to oust division rival Nashville in the second round. Unfortunately, they lost out on the conference championship to Las Vegas. Expectations are certainly raised going into 2018-19.

 

Undervalued:

Blake Wheeler:

Somehow Blake Wheeler continues to be undervalued. Every year he seems to get drafted a little bit higher, and yet every year he outperforms that draft position. 2017-18 was certainly no exception. He finished the season as the second ranked winger and the 8th most valuable player overall.

 

Alex Ovechkin

WSH

LW

2

Blake Wheeler

WPG

RW

8

Taylor Hall

NJD

LW

9

Nikita Kucherov

TBL

RW

11

 

Wheeler’s value typically comes from a combination of good point production and peripheral stats. 2017-18 saw that point production turn to exceptional. He had career high assist, point, point pace, and power play point numbers while maintaining excellent hit and block numbers.

 

Games Played

Goals

Assists

Points

Points/ Game

Shots

Sht%

Hits

PPlay Points

Blocks

81

23

68

91

1.12

246

9.3

94

40

66

 

Wheeler was featured prominently back in April during a review of the top right wings in the western conference. In short, that article found that the big jump in Wheeler’s point production came because of an increase in power play points. A little digging indicated that the power play was just simply the most productive of Wheeler’s career. Winnipeg has increased goal scoring on the power play for three consecutive years and now has the fourth highest power play goal total of any team in the past three seasons.

Certainly, the indication is that the Winnipeg power play is good. There is no guarantee though that those 64 goals from 2017-18 are repeatable. Just like there is no guarantee that age won’t catch up with Wheeler at some point. Those are really the only question marks. Maybe because of those things you don’t want to take him as the second overall winger. That is fine. Take him third.

 

Tyler Myers

Tyler Myers. Wasn’t he supposed to be good? Like back in Buffalo? Well, Myers hasn’t been able to break 30 points since 2011-12 despite consistently seeing over 20 minutes of ice time and over two and a half minutes of power play time. In 2017-18 he was drafted (or not) accordingly. His average draft position was 250th.  He finished the season in decent company with those who were drafted an average of 164th. He was the 34th-most valuable defensemen and the 111th-most valuable player in the league.

 

Alec Martinez

LAK

D

103

Darnell Nurse

EDM

D

105

Tyler Myers

WPG

D

111

Jake Gardiner

TOR

D

113

Keith Yandle

FLA

D

114

 

What happened? Somehow, Myers managed 17 power play points. That production gave him his highest point totals and point pace in recent years, which also correlated nicely with recent highs in blocks and hits.

 

Games Played

Goals

Assists

Points

Points/ Game

Shots

Sht%

Hits

PPlay Points

Blocks

82

6

30

36

0.44

150

4

68

17

119

 

He did receive slightly more power play time than in previous years (though not by much) so it isn’t likely that had much to do with it. He also did not see any additional total time on ice per game. His share of the power play time did tick up a bit, but given that his total time didn’t increase I am certainly less optimistic that that is an indicator of continued success.

I think we again have the same issue as Wheeler above. Winnipeg’s power play was just plain more effective and it rubbed off a bit on everyone. The second unit clearly has some talented players as well and it paid dividends for Myers. Unfortunately in Myers’ case, I am a little less confident that if those power play numbers drop he will be as ownable. His shot rate is not high, and his hit rate is low for a defenseman. It took an impressively unsuspected power play performance to thrust him into relevance, and while he is looking to be in a similar position next season I am would hesitate to draft him in his current position.

 

Overvalued:

 

Bryan Little

Bryan Little has long been one of my late draft or even free agent grabs that allowed me to spend earlier picks on other positions. 2017-18 was a disappointment. He was the only player drafted in this group (at 165th). He ended up as the 333rd-most valuable player in the league and the 46th most valuable center.

 

Jean-gabriel Pageau

OTT

C

321

Christian Dvorak

ARI

C

331

Bryan Little

WPG

C

333

Danton Heinen

BOS

C

335

Carl Soderberg

COL

C

338

 

The worse news is he actually played a full season for the first time since 2013-14 so we can’t even say he would be ranked higher if he had played more games.

 

Games Played

Goals

Assists

Points

Points/ Game

Shots

Sht%

Hits

PPlay Points

Blocks

82

16

27

43

0.52

129

12.4

50

13

33

 

His stat line is not pretty. 2017-18 ended with Little’s lowest point pace since 2009-2010, as well as his lowest shot, hit, power play point, and block rates of essentially his entire career. Some of the underlying numbers aren’t promising either. His average time on ice has been decreasing for the last four years, as has his power play time, and his shot rate. In addition (or potentially a factor in these drops) Little spent a chunk of time on the third line. In fact he spent 45% of his even strength shifts with Mathieu Perreault, instead of say, Wheeler, Patrik Laine or even Nikolaj Ehlers (with whom he did spend a little more time).

On the plus side his personal shooting percentage, his IPP, and his team’s 5-on-5 shooting percentage were all on the low side for Little and have not been showing the same downward trend as his time on ice states. Again on the plus side, Paul Stastny is now in Las Vegas, which means the spot between Laine and Ehlers is once again open and seems to be Little’s for the taking. That spot seems to be ideal for a guy who passes first and shoots second.

The moral of this story seems to be that, while there are some concerns about age-related declines, there are also indications that 2017-18 was a bit of an aberration and if Little can catch a bit more puck-luck in 2018-19 he should rebound. He may not quite be a 65-point place player anymore, but likely isn’t a 40-point guy either.

 

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