Ramblings: Pacioretty, Okposo, Gallagher, Kreider, and Position Scarcity – September 7

by Michael Clifford on September 7, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Pacioretty, Okposo, Gallagher, Kreider, and Position Scarcity – September 7

 

It’s the final weekend before training camp which means fantasy drafts are right around the corner for most. Time is running out to get all the knowledge you need to dominate your fantasy league this year so head to the Dobber Shop to get your copy of the 2018-19 Dobber Hockey fantasy guide! Projections, tips, line combinations, articles, and more to get you set for the upcoming campaign.

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More on the Max Pacioretty saga.

The Canadiens captain is apparently not willing to negotiate a new contract with the Habs once the season begins. That means they either extend him now, trade him now, trade him in season, or let him walk. Let’s assume Bergevin is smart enough not to let him walk for nothing, and there is enough bad blood that he won’t be extended in the next four weeks, it’s a matter of when, not if, he will be traded. That throws his potential fantasy value in disarray. If he’s traded to Colorado to play with Nathan MacKinnon, great! If he’s traded to Anaheim to play with Adam Henrique, well…?

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The refinement of my projections for 2018-19 continues. I’m still on track to have everything ready for Tuesday, which is about two weeks later than I wanted but c’est la vie.

Yesterday’s Ramblings discussed arbitrage opportunities. Today we’ll discuss positional scarcity and how that can affect rankings.

Anyone who’s played fantasy hockey long enough knows that in leagues where forwards are split between the three forward positions, elite wingers generally carry more value than elite centres. The reason for this is that someone like Mikael Granlund could be a 70-point centre this year and be the 20th-ranked centre. If you looked for the 20th-ranked left winger, you could be looking at someone like Ondrej Palat and his 50-ish points. Peripheral stats will make a difference, but the point remains the same: the floor for relevant centres in a fantasy league is higher than the floor for wingers. So, if all is equal, elite wingers have more value over replacement fantasy options than elite centres.

The categories also matter. In my latest iteration of projections, I have Connor McDavid at 28.2 hits and Blake Wheeler at 94.8. While I don’t have enough leagues to create a meaningful sample, in one of my keeper leagues, every 107.8 hits above the lowest-ranked team in hits (1185) gains one point in roto standings. In that league, though, fantasy-relevant right wingers rack up fewer hits than fantasy-relevant centres, meaning hits from right wingers are more valuable than hits from centres. Even though Wheeler is only projected for roughly 2.4 times more hits than McDavid, because of the added value to hits due to their scarcity right wing relative to centres, the value Wheeler’s hits bring to the roster are significantly more valuable than just a factor of 2.4.

Of course, that only applies if you draft Wheeler as a winger and dress him as a winger. On Yahoo!, he has multi-position eligibility. If you dress him as a centre, you’d have to compare apples to apples, and Wheeler’s hits become less valuable.

With that in mind, these are my latest top-20 skater projections for standard 12-team Yahoo! leagues, without plus/minus included. That means goals, assists, shots, power play points, and hits. They are based on everyone playing 82 games, are not age adjusted, and try to account for position (and category) scarcity.

 

 

The first thing that will jump out at people is that Connor McDavid is not first overall. In fact, he’s not even in the top-5. A few words about that.

As I mentioned, this isn’t age adjusted. If we assume McDavid keeps improving, he very easily could be at the top of the list.

Two things about McDavid’s rankings: his hit totals are so low relative to centres that his 28 projected hits are actually a net negative in reference to points gained in roto standings. If we were to exclude hits as a category for all skaters, McDavid moves from sixth to third and Alex Ovechkin moves from fifth to eighth. There isn’t a huge spread at the top; the point distance between first and fifth is smaller than the distance between fifth and seventh. Moving even just a few spots at the top is significant. But it should show how important it is to not be a relative zero in a category. The difference in projected hits (relative to their position) between Patric Hornqvist and Auston Matthews amounts to about one-quarter of the total value that Nikolaj Ehlers projects to have this year. Just think about this statement:

 

The difference in hits between Patric Hornqvist and Auston Matthews is so large that it’s equal to about five goals, nine assists, 53 shots, and 2 PPPs.

 

When put into that context, it shouldn’t be such a big surprise McDavid isn’t ranked as a top-5 skater (subject to change). Despite how far ahead he is in aggregate in point production and (to a degree) shot totals, the replaceability at his position and his complete drag on hit totals are enough to knock him down a few pegs from the top slot.

Just as an aside for added context on how much individual league settings matter: I ran my current projections through the DraftKings scoring system (3 points for a goal, 2 for an assist, 0.5 for either a SOG or a blocked shot, 1 point for a short-handed point) and Matthews comes in as the #9 skater, between Malkin and Seguin. In Yahoo! standard setups, he’s just inside the top-25.

Now, McDavid still a top-10 pick as it is and I’m sure once I adjuste for age he’ll be a top-3 pick. But this is an exercise to show just how much it can hurt when a player is a complete nothing in an entire roto category.

 

On Tuesday, I showed part of my points-only projections and raved about Johnny Gaudreau. Then I ran his projections for standard roto leagues and he was *checks notes* rated ahead of several players being drafted ahead of him. A few of those names: Brad Marchand, Patrik Laine, Nathan MacKinnon, John Tavares, Tyler Seguin, Auston Matthews, and Claude Giroux, just to start.

*Note: we’re using the expected goals model from Corsica for part of the projections and they don’t like Laine at all. If he pops 40 goals again, he moves into the top-15 skaters.

The lack of hits will keep Gaudreau from being an elite fantasy option unless he gets to the 100-point mark, but that is reflected in his ranking drop from points-only leagues to roto leagues.

These projections love Gaudreau and have him fourth in the league in assists this year. Having such a leg up at a wing position in assists is a big reason he’s ranked where he is.

Right now, his Yahoo! ADP is early in the third round. That seems about perfect for those targeting him; it’s probably drafting him at where he should finish in a good year and there is loads of upside beyond that.

 

Blake Wheeler tops the list and that is on the heels of a season most heavily weighted in this projection where he amassed 91 points, 94 hits, and over 40 PPPs. His Yahoo! ranking is 18th, his ADP is 20th, and NHL.com has him at 14. In all likelihood, he’ll be a second-round pick in 12-team leagues this year.

It seems most people are expecting a regression from Wheeler this year and that is totally reasonable. He had a career year last year and is heading into his age-32 season. Here’s the thing about that: in 2016-17, when he had nearly half (21) the PPPs that he had in 2017-18 (40), he was still the 12th-ranked skater. Now, scoring is up league-wide so dropping to 70 points in 2018-19 wouldn’t be like having 70 points in 2016-17, but it gives us an idea that even with regression built in, he does enough elsewhere (at a wing position) that he can still be incredibly valuable.

When drafting skaters in the second round, you want to get a player who won’t hurt you and has the upside to be among the elite fantasy options. As long as Wheeler doesn’t fall off a cliff, and there’s no reason to think he will just yet, he checks both those boxes.

 

Anyone that follows me knows it’s no secret I think John Tavares will be over-drafted this year and this is another point on this side of the ledger. Before assuming I have any ‘bias’ or I’m a ‘hater’ these are projections based on historical performance. These aren’t made by hand. I let Excel do the work.

People have to realize that last year, Tavares had one winger score 40 goals, another winger have a 50-assist season, a rookie who put up the first 80-point season in a decade as the fourth forward on his power play unit, and Tavares didn’t even manage a career-high in points. Factor in greatly reduced PP minutes moving from a heavily-used top unit in Brooklyn to a split PPTOI setup in Toronto, and how much can we expect from him? Even repeating last year will be a good 2018-19.

 

Quite honestly, if you want to attack wingers and defencemen early, you can probably wait and grab Ryan Getzlaf in the fifth round as your top centre. If he can stay healthy – remember that he only missed a month and a half because of a puck to the face, it’s not like he’s an injury-prone player – he could be a point-per-game centre with stout hit totals in the fifth round.

 

People may be looking for Brad Marchand. This is the problem with Marchand: he’s great at racking penalty minutes, not so much in the hits department. Yahoo! switching from PIMs to hits hurts his value a lot. Marchand has 88 hits over the last two seasons, spanning 148 games; Wheeler had 94 hits last year alone. If Yahoo! had kept PIMs instead of hits as the standard, Marchand probably ranks somewhere around Malkin, Stamkos, and Kessel. Instead, his value takes a big hit.

 

Readers may be asking where all the defencemen are, with just Burns ranking in the top-20. Well, there are four defencemen ranked between 22nd and 28th: Victor Hedman, Dustin Byfuglien, Erik Karlsson, and John Carlson, in that order.

As mentioned earlier, this doesn’t include plus/minus. Considering the quality of the Sens this year, Karlsson could very well get buried by plus/minus. I said it in a prior Ramblings: he’s a guy you trade for in January rather than draft in September.

 

You’ll never believe this, but people are undervaluing Brendan Gallagher again. To be honest, the same could be said for Chris Kreider. Here’s their company in my current projections among wingers:

 

 

Remember that we’re using an expected goals model which favours net-front players. Gallagher is projected for more goals than Kreider and Kreider more than someone like Sebastian Aho. All the same, Gallagher was a top-75 player last year and that was accomplished skating with Tomas Plekanec and carrying a minus-13. If he’s on the top line and finally start playing 17-18 minutes a night? He can be a top-100 player again. He’s going much later than that in drafts.

Both Kreider and Gallagher have plus/minus concerns because of their respective teams which obviously factors into their rankings and ADP elsewhere. They also are backed by two of the top performing goalies of the last decade. Not a bad gamble.

 

One last guy I want to talk about: Kyle Okposo. He’s ranked outside the top-200 by Yahoo!, is not being drafted as a top-36 RW by ADP, and is just inside NHL.com’s top-250. By my projections, in a full 82-game season, I have him as the 21st right winger.

Okposo is a guy who can put up nearly a hit per game, has the ability to land 200 shots in a full year, and is likely locked on Buffalo’s top PP unit. In 12-team leagues, his cost is virtually nothing. He’s a player I want as a bench option who can finish much higher than that (two years ago, in just 65 games played, he finished just outside the top-150 players in this format).

 

That’s all for today. I’ll have a lot more on Tuesday when all my work should be finished.