Ramblings: Cup Final Begins; Kuznetsov; Power Play Ice Time – May 28

by Michael Clifford on May 28, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Cup Final Begins; Kuznetsov; Power Play Ice Time – May 28

After a very lengthy layoff for Boston and the better part of a week for St. Louis, the Stanley Cup Final dropped the puck at long last.

It was a game that didn’t lack for physicality and which the Bruins dominated most of the time. St. Louis got out to a 2-0 lead but Boston scored the next four goals, the last of which was an empty netter, to take a 1-0 series lead on the back of a 4-2 win.

The final shots were 38-20 for the Bruins and that was entirely indicative of the play from the second period onward.

It was the depth for Boston that came through once again as Connor Clifton got them on the board redirecting a Sean Kuraly pass while Kuraly himself scored the eventual game-winning goal just at 5:21 of the third period. Charlie McAvoy scored on a solo effort on the power play while Brad Marchand scored with the goalie pulled.

Just as a small aside: it really would be nice to see what McAvoy's true fantasy upside is if Krug weren't around. A guy can dream. 

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The 2019 Dobber Prospects Report officially drops later this week! It has everything you need to know about the big-name, and lesser-known, prospects that will be going into this year’s draft. Head over to the Dobber Shop to pre-order your copy!

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I know North America doesn’t really care about the World Championships, but it seems like Finland sure does:

 

 

What a great story.

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Something to keep an eye on: there was a video posted to Instagram taken from summer of 2018 that shows Evgeny Kuznetsov sitting in a chair in a hotel room and there are two lines of a white powder on this table. The Caps are aware of the situation and have no further comments at the moment. I don’t know what will come of this but there is a potential for a suspension, so we will update when we get more information.  

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Even with the Stanley Cup Final going on (finally), we’re reaching the time where we need to really start reviewing the season. The game is changing rapidly so being on top of current trends is more important than ever. I don’t mean trends in the He’s Been Cold For A Couple Weeks types of trends, more arching, season-long trends. There are more than enough tools here at Dobber to identify in-season trends (be sure to check out our hot/cold tools), so let’s look at something different.

Power play ice time is vital to fantasy success. When you look at the leaderboard for five-on-four total TOI leaders, it’s a who’s-who of fantasy goodness.

The thing with PPTOI is that it can be a bit misleading looking forward. For example, Tyler Seguin and Claude Giroux were separated by over 40 minutes in 5v4 PPTOI in 2018-19 but played virtually the same percentage of their own team’s 5v4 PPTOI (69.1 percent for the former, 69.05 percent for the latter). Both players were treated as upper-echelon power play contributors, but one had significantly more time than the other because the Flyers drew 20 more power plays over the course of the season than the Stars.

It’s important figure out the players getting a significant, or insignificant, percentage of the team’s available power-play ice time.

The caveats:

  • All forwards, no defencemen
  • At least 60 games played in 2018-19
  • At least 100 minutes of 5v4 PPTOI in 2018-19
  • No players who changed teams during the season
  • Expressed as a percentage of TOI for the games the player actually played based off the team’s 5v4 PPTOI per game
  • Data from Natural Stat Trick

Let’s dig in.

 

Alex Ovechkin

Not that it’s much of a surprise, but Ovechkin was way out in front for percentage of 5v4 PPTOI, skating 89.2 percent of his team’s ice time. No other forward was above 80 percent, and only four others were above 75 percent. I don’t see any reason why this would change as he gets older; it’s where he brings the most value. There are concerns around Ovechkin as the years pass – he turns 34 in September – but his power-play ice time is as sure as it gets.

 

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

It seems like with all the (justified) negativity surround the Oilers, the fact that RNH had his best offensive season by a wide margin is going underreported. His 28 goals were a career-high, his 41 assists were a career-high, his 208 shots were a career-high, and his 20:06 of total ice time was a four-year high.

His great season was built off the power play. In his rookie year, RNH had 23 PPPs. A couple years later, he managed 20. From 2013-14 through 2017-18, he never managed more than 15 PPPs before exploding to 26 in 2018-19. It’s no coincidence that the Nuge managed the most PPPs of his career in a season where he also managed the most PPTOI of his career.

The question seems to be whether the next Oilers coach (seems like it will be Dave Tippett) will treat Nugent-Hopkins the same way. As mentioned, all the power-play ice time that he received last year was very abnormal. At the same time, barring a miracle summer, this team won’t have top-end offensive options beyond the Big Three in 2019-20 (I’ll talk a bit more about this later). Regardless of how you or I think of Tippett, I can’t imagine he just discards RNH to the second unit consistently in favour of whichever fourth line winger they sign this offseason.

 

Clayton Keller

I’ve written about Keller already this offseason and will do so again later so I won’t spend too much time here. Just know that he was on the ice for about 63.8 percent of Arizona’s available 5v4 PPTOI, which was just a little less than Brad Marchand’s 64.3 percent, and yet Keller scored zero goals at 5v4. That will undoubtedly rebound next year, building in positive regression to go along with natural player and team development. Get excited about the incoming draft value, kids.

 

Evgenii Dadonov

Coming into training camp last year, I was very concerned about Dadonov’s draft position because with the addition of Mike Hoffman, I thought for sure that Dadonov’s PPTOI wouldn’t improve, making 2017-18 basically his high-water mark for production. I was initially expecting a small decline of 5v4 PPTOI, and certainly was not expecting an increase. I relaxed my expectations as we got closer to the season and finally hopped on board, but I missed out on value in early drafts.

The team basically used the same quartet of Dadonov, Huberdeau, Hoffman, and Barkov for most of the season. There were players who slid in and out like Frank Vatrano and Vincent Trocheck – whose health and under-performance was a major factor in that exact quarter outlined above getting the ice time they did – but it was basically the same guys.

Does that stay constant in 2019-20? Trocheck has never been a player specifically lauded for his power-play prowess, but he had always been used in prior seasons. Does he work his way back to the top unit? Maybe they want to give him less ice time and figure there are other people who can do the job.

Regardless, Dadonov wasn’t overly reliant on PP production for his fantasy value so even if he loses 5-6 PPPs next year, he’ll still have value.

 

Alex Chiasson

So, this was the first name that really took me by surprise. I knew he had some power-play ice time because he ran hot most of the year and there was literally no one else to use as the fourth option after the Big Three and the PPQB (be it Klefbom or Nurse), but Chiasson played 59.2 percent of Edmonton’s available 5v4 PPTOI in 2018-19. When looking to other teams, that percentage was in the same range as Sean Monahan’s, Logan Couture’s, and Mitch Marner’s. He turned those minutes into 15 power play points. 

Of course, team depth plays a factor here. Unless Jesse Puljujarvi or Kailer Yamamoto take a big step forward, or the team lucks out in a trade somehow, who else but Chiasson can fill that role? They can’t bring in a big-name free agent. There really isn’t a forward in the minors who impresses offensively besides the two already named.

I guess there’s uncertainty here. Chiasson has to be re-signed, and he’ll come with a raise on his league-minimum salary. He may not even return. There is also a new coach coming and likely a lot of shake-ups to the roster. But if Chiasson is back, and the kids don’t take a step forward, he could see similar deployment in 2019-20.

 

Dylan Larkin

This frustrates me to no end. Look at the Detroit roster. LOOK AT IT. And yet, Larkin spent a lower percentage of the time on the ice for Detroit’s 5v4 PP time than Dustin Brown did with Los Angeles.

WHY. WHY WHY WHY DEAR GOD WHY.

Anyway, now that I vented a bit, we can move forward a bit more rationally.

Last summer, I wrote quite extensively about Larkin, namely that he was a guy to target for a big breakout. Specifically, from July 31, 2018: “… if… he can boost his PP production overall, there could be a huge year coming… if Larkin pushes to be nearly a point-per-game player, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.” Larkin’s PPP total went from eight in 2017-18 to 15 in 2019-20. He had a commensurate rise in total production, finishing with 73 points in 76 games. I had my misses this past season, but Larkin was a hit.

With that said… we still have Jeff Blashill. For whatever unholy reason, he refuses to treat guys like Larkin and Mantha as top-tier offensive options. It’s not as if this is a situation like San Jose where they’re so deep they can have guys like Timo Meier and Evander Kane on the second unit. Detroit had Larkin, Mantha, Athanasiou, and Vanek. After those four, it’s guys like Tyler Bertuzzi, Frans Nielsen, and Justin Abdelkader. Is there really a good reason to have Larkin on the ice for less than 55 percent (!!!) of your PPTOI when that’s the case? No, there isn’t. It’s Blashill being stubborn.

I’ll give Blashill some credit: Larkin saw a higher share of PPTOI in 2018-19 than 2017-18 (about 46 percent), so the team-relative increase is there.

Does he suddenly have a change of heart and go with a heavily-used PP1 unit? I have my doubts. This is the Blashill we’ve known for years and the team is ostensibly going to get deeper with guys like Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno on their way. I do think Larkin is an 80-point threat in 2019-20, but I don’t think it’ll be because he’s suddenly enduring an avalanche of PPTOI.