Ramblings: Injuries to Pilut and Kesler; San Jose-St. Louis Game 2; Nylander; Klefbom – May 14

by Michael Clifford on May 14, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Injuries to Pilut and Kesler; San Jose-St. Louis Game 2; Nylander; Klefbom – May 14

 

It was a very entertaining Game 2 from the get-go as Jaden Schwartz gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead less than three minutes into the game on a nifty play with Vladimir Tarasenko. With the Blues up 2-0 in the second period, Logan Couture scored two goals two minutes apart, one of them short-handed, to tie things up. Robert Bortuzzo (yes, seriously) scored a great goal late in the period to give St. Louis a 3-2 lead, which they would eventually extend to 4-2 in the win. The series is now tied 1-1.

Game 3 is on Wednesday night in St. Louis.

With his goal in the game, Schwartz is now tied for second in goals these playoffs with Tomas Hertl (Couture is first with 13). I’ve said it before but it’s really nice to see Schwartz have such a good postseason after all the injury and production issues. I wonder if it’s enough to drive up what would have been a depressed ADP in 2019-20.

Timo Meier continues to look great. What a special player. He's on the verge of superstardom. 

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Ryan Kesler underwent another hip surgery and the expectation is that he will miss the 2019-20 season. I will let the readers go through the press release/article posted so I don’t misrepresent anything.

Seeing how his play has fallen off a cliff over the last couple years since these hip issues popped up, this doesn’t come as a huge surprise. Fantasy-wise, this presumably means the 3C spot is wide open for Anaheim and my 2018-19 dark horse, Sam Steel, seems like he may benefit from it. We’ll dig into this more once we know what the roster looks like in a couple months.

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Lawrence Pilut underwent shoulder surgery and is expected to miss five to six months.

I have hopes for Pilut down the road but for the near-term, playing on a middling team behind at least Rasmus Dahlin and perhaps Rasmus Ristolainen doesn’t leave a lot of room for upside. I don’t think he would have been on many fantasy radars outside of dynasty or deep redraft leagues so this injury doesn’t immediately change much, I just hope he can have a normal development year. Even if it’s his age-24 season.

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Los Angeles signed KHL forward Nikolai Prokhorkin to a one-year deal. You can read his Dobber Prospects profile here.

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The Carolina Hurricanes find themselves down 2-0 in the series but it’s not as if they’ve played poorly:

 

 

That’s a lot of shooting from high-danger areas. Tuukka Rask needs a lot of credit here. If the Hurricanes stay disciplined, they have every chance to get back in this series. If both Rask and the power play keep rolling as they have, it may be lights out. 

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Expectations are a funny thing. At the risk of sounding like a first-year college student writing their first essay, expectations literally govern our lives. We expect any number of things to occur on any given day and that’s how we function on a day-to-day basis. If we could not expect life to be predictable at least to some degree, it would be sheer chaos.

Expectations, when not met, also tend to elicit very strong emotions. I have this thought watching any cultural phenomenon (Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Game of Thrones) unfold on my timeline. But it’s true of anything, right? If we expect someone to pick us up at 7 PM for a movie, and they never show up, we’re disappointed, and probably angry. If we expect our new job to pay X amount per hour, but it’s actually a couple dollars less, we’re disappointed, and probably angry. That anger is an emotional reaction that can lead to sub-optimal decision-making.

This doesn’t just apply to cultural phenomenon and day-to-day life, of course. This applies to fantasy hockey. When we have expectations for a player, and those expectations aren’t met, sometimes the pendulum can swing too far the other way. It’s easy to go from “I thought Player X would be great, but he was only average, maybe I need to re-evaluate” to “I thought Player X would be great, but he was only average, so this guy sucks.” I know I’ve done it in the past. All we can do is try to learn from these mistakes and avoid them in the future.

I thought it would be worth going over two players who did not meet my or others’ expectations. Not meeting these expectations may swing the pendulum too far.

Keep in mind that these are largely going to be based off my expectations and from ADP. What you, the individual reader, may have expected could be quite different for some or all of these players than what I or the ADP expected. These ADPs will be for standard Yahoo! leagues and taken from Fantasy Pros.

 

Oscar Klefbom – My own expectation

Klefbom is one of those players I have a hard time of moving on from. He had 38 points a couple years ago as a 23-year old and did so while splitting PP duties with Andrej Sekera, and without playing heavy number-1 defenceman minutes; something closer to the nearly 24 minutes he played this year compared to the 22:22 he did play in 2016-17. I thought he was a very good, young defenceman who was on the verge of becoming a true number-1 on a team with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

Since that season, he has 49 points in 127 games.

The 127 games are important to note. He hasn’t played more than 66 games in either of his most two recent seasons. It’s not to say he’s a perennial injury risk. Maybe he is! But the same was also said of Aleksander Barkov after his first four seasons and he’s missed three games in the last two years. I don’t want to rely on an injury-prone narrative that may or may not be true.

Anyway, the big reason for Klefbom’s disappointing season was Edmonton’s lack of scoring with Connor McDavid off the ice. That issue is well-known, but it kind of gets overlooked anyway because outside of McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, we weren’t relying on the Oilers’ skaters for fantasy. Some people drafted Darnell Nurse, but I sure hope they did so because they wanted strong peripherals and in hope of a 40-point season, even if he did reach that mark. The rotating cast of wingers were all dart throws, starting with Ty Rattie and Jesse Puljujarvi in the off-season. If we missed, it was no big loss. The Big Three got their goals and points, so if anyone else didn’t, it was more or less irrelevant for fantasy.

I don’t think we realize just how bad it was. When Klefbom was on the ice at even strength with McDavid, the Oilers scored 3.24 goals per 60 minutes. That’s a good number; when comparing to other teams as a whole, it would rank ahead of Washington (3.19) and Calgary (3.18). When Klefbom was not on the ice with McDavid at even strength, though, the Oilers scored 1.35 goals per 60 minutes. For a frame of reference on how bad 1.35 goals/60 at even strength is, there were 41 regular penalty-killing forwards on the ice for as many or more goals/60. Yeah, Edmonton was worse at scoring with McDavid off the ice than about one-third of forwards when on the PK. ‘Not great’ doesn’t even begin to describe this suckitude.

That Klefbom spent 60 percent of his even strength ice time skating with a team that scored less often than about a third of regular penalty killers makes his 28 points in 61 games (a 38-point per-82 pace, by the way) kind of look like a miracle.

It’s not to say that Klefbom has a great season offensively himself. By different measurements – driving play, zone entries, shot assists – it was probably about average (still good defensively, though). But being an average offensive defenceman playing heavy minutes with PP1 on a team featuring McDavid/Draisaitl/RNH should be enough for a 40-point year.

There are changes coming to Edmonton, obviously, and we don’t know for certain what this team will look like next year. But Klefbom is a defenceman who had a 38-point pace while playing 60 percent of his even strength ice time with nobody providing anything meaningful offensively. In other words, it can’t get worse. He’s very much a defenceman capable of 40 points, 200 shots, and 200 hits+blocks combined. The wrinkle would be the emergence of Nurse and whether the next coach prefers he or Klefbom for the top PP unit.

My guess is that public opinion will have swung so far on Klefbom and the Oilers in general next year that he’s basically free in drafts. He’ll be a gamble worth taking.

 

William Nylander – ADP: 86

There may not be a bigger lightning rod in hockey, outside of the pests/face-punchers. After missing the first two months of the season because of lengthy contract negotiations, Nylander had seven goals and 27 points in 54 games. He played over a minute less per game than last year and was basically fantasy irrelevant until the final few weeks of the season when he had 10 points in 13 matches.

This was a guy who cracked 20 goals and 60 points in each of the prior two seasons and his production, even on a per-game rate, fell off the map. I have no problem with the notion that part of his struggles were due to missing so much time, but what else was at work?

The shooting percentage drop is an obvious one. At all strengths, he shot 11.1 percent over his first 185 games and shot 5.4 percent in 54 contests through the 2018-19 season. He shot an even five percent at even strength, which was 298th out of 309 forwards with at least 700 minutes played. Expecting him to post anything similar to those numbers again is just flat-out wrong.

From Evolving Hockey, this is how Nylander compared with his teammate this year in driving expected goals and shot attempts at five-on-five:

 

 

That’s one chart. Whether I go to Hockey Viz, sites with zone entry/exit data, or anywhere else, the basic story is the same: Nylander did a great job driving offensive opportunities, but he (and the team) fared poorly at converting those opportunities into goals.

I also want to clarify I'm not saying Nylander is the better player or anything of the sort. These are a few ratings from one season, not an indictment of one or the other. 

Percentages win fantasy hockey leagues. That’s just a fact. William Karlsson and Leon Draisaitl each shooting over 20 percent in one of the last two seasons helped win fantasy owners their leagues. As did goalies like Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner with great save percentages this year. The thing is that percentages are very hard to predict. The best we can do is target players who put themselves in situations to succeed, and then hope they actually succeed.

This fits Nylander to a tee. He’s a guy who drove play pretty well, even when factoring in time missed, but the percentages weren’t on his side. It happens every year, and yet every year, people are surprised when players rebound. If Nylander were 33 years old, that would be one thing. But he just turned 23 earlier this month, is likely to line up with Auston Matthews at five-on-five, and has a chance at top PP minutes, depending on Babcock’s whims. With his disappointing season, his contract negotiation issues, and the Leafs again not advancing past the first round, there is (and will continue to be) a lot of negative coverage of Nylander this summer. The pendulum has swung (and will continue to swing) too far in the other direction and that will make a great buying opportunity for savvy fantasy owners.