Ramblings: Draisaitl, Plekanec, Vlasic, Price’s Workload, and more (August 11)

by Michael Clifford on August 10, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Draisaitl, Plekanec, Vlasic, Price’s Workload, and more (August 11)

Looking at assist rates for Draisaitl, Plekanec, Jokinen, Vlasic, and other topics

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Watching a documentary on the James Bond franchise of movies and books a year or so ago, one thing that kind of stuck with me was something said by the daughter of famed Bond movie producer Albert Broccoli, Barbara Broccoli; to paraphrase, “when stuck coming up with new source material, return to the originals.”

In general, it’s pretty good advice in fantasy sports. Undeniably, the wealth of statistics and analysis is greater now than it ever has been, and in many ways, this newfound wealth has improved our understanding of the game, and by extension, helped owners improve their fantasy game.

Some areas are still lagging, though, and one piece or source material I always return to is this piece by Eric Tulsky – now with the Carolina Hurricanes – from 2011. It discusses the nature of secondary assists in the NHL. There have been additions to this – like earlier this year from FiveThirtyEight – but the basic premise remains the same: there is no real year-over-year correlation in secondary assists. In other words, outside of a very few cases, secondary assists are random, and are not reliable for projections.

With that in mind, it’s worth looking at players who had monster secondary assist totals or rates last year. These are guys that will almost certainly see a decline in this area, and without other mitigating factors like an individual assist percentage (IAP) increase or additional ice time, will undoubtedly see a decline in final assist totals.

Most of the following stats were taken from Hockey Analysis, and at five-on-five play.

Tomas Plekanec

Last year, Plekanec posted his highest single-season assist total (40) since 2009-2010. Going into his Age 34 season, that alone should be a red flag. He also had more second assists at five-on-five last year (15) than he did primary assists (14).

There are a few more issues compounding Plekanec’s problem, though. Given the ascendance of Alex Galchenyuk, Plekanec will be seeing a lot more second line ice time, and second unit power play time, than he did last year, particularly in the first half.

One of the mitigating factors I discussed was an increase in IAP, or the rate at which a player assists on goals scored while they are on the ice. Well, last year, Plekanec set a career high in IAP at 57.4-percent. For reference, he hadn’t been above 45-percent in any of the previous three seasons. So the likelihood of his IAP increasing, thus off-setting the loss of secondary assists, is unlikely.

In leagues that include faceoffs, Plekanec can still be a useful player. Given that he likely won’t exceed the ice time he was given last year with his second line role seemingly cemented, and his IAP not increasing next year, that assist total will come down. The decrease could be significant as well. Banking on more than 50 points is ill-advised.

Leon Draisaitl

Taylor Hall being traded to New Jersey will likely dampen Draisaitl’s average draft position come September. The fact that he put up over 50 points as a 20-year old, though, will mean a lot of drafters will have their eye on a shiny new toy.

There are reasons beyond assists to think Draisaitl will disappoint relative to expectations next year. That would depend on what those expectations are, exactly, but I have my doubts he’s a 60-point player in 2016-2017: his individual points percentage (IPP) was fifth among forwards with 1000 five-on-five minutes played, which is one sign of regression, and Hall no longer being with the Oilers is another huge issue.

More than all this, though, was the fact that Draisaitl had just 10 first assists last year, compared to 24 total assists. Many of the players in his range of first assists last year (Tyler Seguin, Steven Stamkos, Tomas Hertl, Vladimir Tarasenko, Sean Monahan, Brandon Saad, Tyler Toffoli) are primarily goal scorers anyway. I don’t think Draisaitl fits that profile.

Draisaitl played over 18 minutes a game last year, and with a healthy Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the lineup this year, I don’t see any significant increase in minutes. The IPP will go down, the secondary assist rate will go down, and Hall has a new team. There is a plethora of reasons to avoid drafting Draisaitl next year.

Jussi Jokinen

Tomas Plekanec set a six-year high in assists last year, while Jokinen set a career high in assists. One thing Jokinen did do for the first time since 2009-2010 was crack the 60-point plateau.

A little bit of a caveat here in that I think Jokinen is probably one of the most underrated players in the league. In fact, he’s one of 34 forwards with at least 120 goals and 220 assists since 2009 (from Hockey Reference’s Play Index):

He is also one of 27 forwards with 45 goals and 110 assists over the last three seasons. In that span, he has three fewer points than Henrik Zetterberg, and four fewer points than Derek Stepan.

With those caveats out of the way, Jokinen set a career high in assists with 42, which happened to coincide with a career high in ice time per game at 18:17. He also ranked seventh in the NHL last year in assist rate at 1.57 per 60 minutes among regular forwards. For reference, to that point in his career, his rate was 1.13. While he was also at 1.62 in his first year with Florida, I find it hard to believe that a player that has been around as long as he has simply found a new gear to his game.

It will depend on his ADP, but I think Jokinen hit his high-water mark last year. He won’t crater like I think Plekanec might, but he won’t maintain or surpass his 2015-2016 marks.  

— Be sure to grab your copy of the 2016-2017 Dobber Hockey Fantasy Guide today!

Marc-Edouard Vlasic

It’s easier to envision defencemen having a higher rate of secondary assists than forwards just because of the flow of the game; a d-man outlets to a forward, he rushes in, then a rebound or a pass later, and it’s a second assist for the defenceman. Vlasic, however, had two-thirds of his five-on-five assists come in a secondary fashion last year (12/18), and that’s high. In fact, over the previous three years, the number was exactly half (13/26). So when Vlasic sets a career high in five-on-five assists at 18, there should be cause for concern.

The indicators of regression don’t stop at just the rate of secondary assists, though. Vlasic’s IAP was a career-high at 32.1-percent, helping lead to a career-high IPP of 42.9-percent. Also, the Sharks shot over 10.2-percent when he was on the ice, after his previous career-high was 8.5-percent. These are all reasons why Vlasic set a personal best with 39 points last year despite playing just 67 games.

There are a few saving graces here for Vlasic. First, as mentioned, he missed 15 games last year. He also had his highest ice time per game since the 2008-2009 season. Should he play over 23 minutes a game again next year, and a full season, it will mitigate the almost certain drop in production.

I think where drafters may run into problems during draft season is seeing his 39 points in 67 games last year, and thinking Vlasic is nearly a lock for 40 points. This is a mistake. With across-the-board declines among several indicators, expecting anything more than he did last year will probably lead to lost value.

Kevin Klein

Over the past three seasons, Klein has a higher points/minute rate than names like Justin Faulk, Keith Yandle, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Weird, huh?

Last year was particularly bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s, as Klein finished top-20 among d-men in points per minute, ahead of guys like Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton. As always, just about anything can happen in a single season.

The thing is, a lot of Klein’s production last year came from secondary assists, and that’s a big problem. Of his 13 five-on-five assists, just two of them were primary. That means 11 of his 20 five-on-five points were secondary assists, and that’s not going to be conducive to production next year.

Klein isn’t a name that most fantasy leaguers would worry about outside of deep leagues, or perhaps ones that reward blocked shots. With that said, those that would draft him are probably hoping that he’ll land in the 25-30 point range again. Blocking shots is nice, but being able to chip in with some meaningful number of points is what provides real fantasy value. I would not rely on 25 points from him next year.

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Came across an interesting tweet yesterday…

The article, for those that don’t intend to read it, states that there was essentially a plan to limit his starts last year but he was hurt. Price played in nine of the first 11 games for Montreal before his injury really started to plague him.

Now, just some quick math, but playing nine out of every 11 games means a 67 start season. Obviously they could have rested him more frequently as the season wore on, but a 67-start pace isn’t “limiting” by any means.

If we take this at face value, and assume Price is only around 60 starts this year, that may give some good value to Al Montoya. If the Habs play their standard “first to two goals wins” defence next year as they have for a few years now, Montoya could put up some decent ratios.

At the very least, for those drafting Price this year, Montoya should be your fourth goalie. Handcuffing a goalie that is just coming off an injury isn’t a bad idea in general, but you may get more value out of that pick than many other backups around the league.

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The closer we get to draft season, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the more comfortable I’m starting to get with Frederik Andersen as a second goalie on my fantasy teams.

Yes, the concerns about the Leafs defence corps are valid. That said, the forward group will be pretty good, and every five-man unit should be among the most well-structured in the league. The defensive numbers improved dramatically from Rowdy Randy Carlyle’s teams to the one Mike Babcock iced last year, and there’s no real reason to think why they won’t be even better next year.

Expectations should probably be tempered, but the more I’ve gone through my projections next year, the better Andersen is looking as a mid-tier goalie next year. We’ll see. 

*Additional stats from Hockey Reference