The big news from Wednesday was the trade of winger Carl Hagelin from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles in exchange for winger Tanner Pearson. Those two players have combined for one (1) goal this year between them. The former is a UFA after this season while the latter has two more years with an AAV of $3.75-million.
What I will say is this: from 2015-16 through 2017-18, Pearson scored 0.78 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five. Among wingers, that ties him with Taylor Hall, and places him slightly ahead of Mike Hoffman and Jaden Schwartz, both at 0.76. It’s easy to look at his poor start this season and write him off, but this is a guy with a proven track record of being able to score well in the minutes allotted to him. He won’t see the top PP unit unless there are a handful of injuries, and if there are a handful of injuries, those top PP minutes might not be worth anything. Pearson will be a better real-life contributor than a fantasy one.
There’s no fantasy relevance for Hagelin. Don’t do it. Just don’t.
So, uh, Sidney Crosby may or may not have an “upper-body injury.” Being intentionally vague is something we’ve grown accustomed to from NHL coaches and GMs but this is an exceptional circumstance given Crosby’s concussion history. A little more information would have been nice.
There was a bit of a hubbub as Sebastian Aho was in a non-contact jersey for Carolina on Wednesday but coach Brind’Amour said that it was nothing. Aho just felt sore and rather than risk anything he just put Aho in a yellow jersey to be cautious. Nothing to be concerned over, yet.
Also on the ‘Canes, it appears Petr Mrazek is close to returning and Victor Rask isn’t far away from being medically cleared. Mrazek will likely be in a backup role for now with the way Scott Darling is playing and I assume Rask would go to the third line to play with Andrei Svechnikov, pushing Lucas Wallmark to the fourth line. This all is speculation on my part for now.
The Flyers are expected to welcome James van Riemsdyk back on Thursday. At the least, he should start on the top power play unit which is a big boost compared to starting the season on the second unit. Temper expectations, though, as he could slot on the third line and that hasn’t exactly been a bright spot of offensive production for the Flyers yet this year.
Erik Haula is out “month-to-month” says coach Gerard Gallant. One month? Five months? Who knows.
Braden Holtby did not suit up for Washington's game with an upper-body injury. It shouldn't be serious, though.
Cam Fowler is still being evaluated by doctors after leaving Anaheim’s last game. He did not suit up on Wednesday night.
We had a pair of low-scoring early games on Wednesday so let’s get to them.
Evgeny Kuznetsov was injured in the first period of the Washington/Winnipeg after taking a shot to the head from Brandon Tanev. He played one more shift and did not return.
Jakub Vrana scored the lone goal for Washington on a snipe over the far shoulder of Connor Hellebuyck. Mark Scheifele replied on the power play and it was 1-1 until late in the third when Ben Chiarot’s knucklepuck wrist shot beat Pheonix Copley. Kyle Connor added the empty-net goal to give him two points on the night.
TJ Oshie went to the ice hard late in the game and skated very slowly to the bench. Something to keep an eye on.
Chicago and St. Louis played a… let’s call it low-event game. A power play goal from Brent Seabrook that went in off Jay Bouwmeester’s foot was all that was needed in Chicago’s 1-0 win. Corey Crawford turned away all 28 shots he faced for the shutout.
The new(ish)-look Vegas second line had a monster night in the team’s 5-0 win as Cody Eakin had a pair of goals, Max Pacioretty had a pair of assists, and Alex Tuch had one of each. Nick Holden had one goal and one assist with three blocked shots and a pair of hits for a very good night as well. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all 29 shots in the victory.
Mercifully, John Gibson was pulled about halfway through the game after the third goal.
This is just me thinking out loud: Randy Carlyle can’t be much longer for the Ducks. This team has only modestly turned themselves around since everyone was healthy and just being without Cam Fowler shouldn’t be enough to have them revert to the way they were playing a month ago.
Stop me when this seems familiar: the Colorado top line had a big night en route to a win at home. Mikko Rantanen had a goal and two assists, Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and an assist while Gabriel Landeskog chipped in a goal. Sam Girard had a pair of a helpers with four shots and a couple of hits for a very solid fantasy performance while Alex Kerfoot managed a goal and an assist himself. Not for nothing, but with the top line getting all the praise, Kerfoot has 14 points in 18 games this year. This is where he ranks since the start of last year in overall points/60:
Jake DeBrusk had a couple of goals for Boston in the team’s loss. Zdeno Chara left the game with a lower-body injury and that one may turn out to be serious. Stay tuned.
No fantasy relevance in the slightest here, but we had a goalie goal in the AHL Wednesday:
— Taylor Haase (@TaylorHaasePGH) November 14, 2018
Who doesn’t love a goalie goal?
This being Hall of Fame week and all, I threw out a question to my Twitter followers:
The HOF stuff this week made me want to do a poll: as a GM, if you could have either player from their age-20 season onward, which is it?
— Michael Clifford (@SlimCliffy) November 14, 2018
This isn’t a fantasy angle or anything. Just straight up: if you were a GM, and you could have either player at the age of 20 to build your franchise around, which would it be?
I was kind of surprised by the results. Not that Malkin is a bad choice or anything remotely like that, but that it was so lopsided in his favour. What say you, Dobber fans?
We’re nearly a quarter of the way through the season and I want to discuss a trio of young defencemen. The genesis of this was this tweet from Tuesday afternoon, keeping in mind that this obviously doesn’t include Tuesday or Wednesday night’s games:
— Matthew DeFranks (@MDeFranks) November 13, 2018
As of Wednesday afternoon, the trio of Henri Jokiharju, Thomas Chabot, and Miro Heiskanen were all in the top-60 league-wide for total ice time per game among defencemen, meaning all three young blue liners are effectively playing top-pair minutes. Pretty good for two rookies and one second-year player, and those two rookies being teenagers.
I have written recently with some depth on Chabot so I won’t go much further into his season. Dobber readers can just go back and read what was written a week ago. This is going to be more about Heiskanen and Jokiharju.
In no particular order, let’s start with the Chicago blue liner.
If there’s one thing Chicago desperately needed in order to keep their Cup window open it was a couple young defencemen emerging as not only NHL players, but impact NHL players. Jokiharju has certainly been that. Let’s dig in.
As he sits at time of writing. Jokiharju is taking 15.1 shot attempts per 60 minutes at five-on-five. Among 151 defencemen with at least 200 minutes at five-on-five, he ranks 11th, just ahead of Chabot and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. That is an excellent sign.
Of course, there is a lot more to being a defenceman than just high shot rates at five-on-five. How does the team fare when he’s on the ice?
Well, according to Corsica’s numbers, when the 19-year old Chicago defenceman is on the ice, the team generates 8.32 more shot attempts relative to his teammates (for an explainer on teammate-relative stats, go here). When the rookie Finnish blue liner is on the ice, the team allows 5.05 fewer shot attempts relative to his teammates. All told, his teammate-relative shot share is +5.46 percent at five-on-five, which leads all Blackhawks defencemen. Among those same 151 defencemen mentioned earlier, he ranks 20th, just behind names like Dougie Hamilton and Roman Josi.
So, Jokiharju, through the first quarter(ish) of his rookie season, has been good at driving the play and limiting shots relative to his teammates. So good, in fact, that he’s in the top-20 percent of the league in relative shot share.
How about driving goals? Well, it’s not as pretty. To this point of the season, the right-shooting rearguard sits at 0.11 expected goals for per 60 minutes ahead of his teammates but also 0.23 expected goals against. Relative to his teammates, he sits with a negative expected goal differential at -0.59%. League-wide, he ranks 20th in relative shot share but 84th in relative expected goal share. In short, being able to drive shots and limit them against has not translated to much in the expected goals department. It also hasn’t translated into being ahead in actual goals, either.
To sum it all up, let’s temper our expectations for Jokiharju at least for this season. Let’s be clear here: we’re talking about a roughly quarter-season sample for a 19-year old defenceman. There is absolutely nothing definitive one way or the other about his future. What I am saying is that there are some good signs for him to reach his potential but there is still work to be done. I am one of many, I’m sure, clamouring for him to be on the top PP unit but maybe it’s best to let Brent Seabrook have that mantle for now. It’s not to say he can’t be fantasy-relevant or that things might not change by February. It is to say that just pencilling him in for 40 points might in 2018-19 might be a bit premature.
Now, let’s get to Heiskanen.
With John Klingberg’s injury, the spotlight shifted to Heiskanen and rightfully so. At five-on-five this year, he’s playing two fewer seconds per game than Erik Karlsson, three more seconds than Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and over a minute more than Mark Giordano and Colton Parayko. He was being relied upon heavily by the team even before the injury and that will continue now.
Let’s run through the same exercise as we did with Jokiharju.
As far as driving shot attempts relative to his teammates goes, Heiskanen is nowhere near his Finnish counter-part’s realm. The team is generating 2.65 fewer shot attempts per 60 minutes at five-on-five with him on the ice compared to his teammates and allow 0.08 more. All told, the team’s shot share is 1.16 percent worse when comparing to his Dallas teammates.
Unlike Jokiharju, though, he has been solid when it comes to expected goals as the team creates 2.3 percent more expected goals with him on the ice relative to his teammates. That ties him for 57th among those 151 defencemen with 200+ five-on-five minutes, a tie with Brent Burns. So he’s a little better than the other 19-year old blue liner in this regard.
That doesn’t really tell the whole story though.
Heiskanen has been playing with
two boat anchors attached to his right leg Roman Polak and Marc Methot for much of the season. Both Polak and Methot haven’t been play-drivers in years. From Domenic Galamini’s Own The Puck blog, we can see the offensive and defensive shot impacts for both Polak and Methot from 2015-2018, and they’re bad:
The 19-year old rookie d-man has over 327 minutes at five-on-five this year and has been asked to carry third-pair/AHL defencemen for 151 of them. When you’re a 19-year old rookie defenceman being asked to hard-carry a pairing while playing heavy minutes, your shot metrics are unlikely to be flattering. It’s why his numbers are much, much better with Klingberg and Connor Carrick than with Methot and Polak.
All things considered, given that he’s had to play nearly half his minutes with guys that are borderline NHLers, that Heiskanen has had a positive impact in expected goals is incredibly impressive. With Klingberg out for a month, he should be very valuable in the fantasy game while skating those top PP minutes and playing the minutes he does. Just be cautious in leagues with plus/minus.
Again, this is about a quarter of a season, but there’s reason to be very optimistic about the three defencemen mentioned. Chabot’s is obvious given his point production to date, but Heiskanen’s role and Jokiharju’s shooting are standing out already. They’re both driving play or goals, they’re both carrying pairings (to a degree), and just by watching them, they’re impressive almost every game they play. This is a very imposing triumvirate of blue liners.
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