Ramblings: Players Return, Alex Galchenyuk, and Using Arbitrage – September 6

by Michael Clifford on September 6, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Players Return, Alex Galchenyuk, and Using Arbitrage – September 6

 

Rookie camps start this week, training camp next week, and before we know it the season will finally be here. Fantasy hockey preparations should be underway and what better way to get a leg up on your league mates than grabbing your copy of the 2018-19 Dobber Hockey fantasy guide! Projections, line combinations, articles, draft lists, and more. Just head to the Dobber Shop!

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Players are starting to roll into their respective homes of employ – those who weren’t there already at least – which means there are a lot of media days, interviews, quotes, etc.

Here’s what I do when this time of year rolls around: I ignore almost all of it. Unless a coach is discussing specific tactics or deployments, for fantasy hockey purposes, it’s all filler. There’s nothing, absolutely nothing, to be gleaned from players saying they’re In The Best Shape Of Their Lives, are Glad To Have Had A Full Summer To Train, are Hungry To Prove People Wrong, or Want To Improve On A Down Year. This is all very obvious and does not pertain to us for any reason. It would only be news if a player said he’s 40 pounds overweight and doesn’t really care if his team wins or loses.

There’s also this fun little project on Twitter for quotes about hockey players In The Best Shape Of Their Lives:

 

 

If there’s something important to pass along, like Bruce Cassidy toying around with the idea of moving David Pastrnak to the second line or the health of a player, then we’ll pass it along. Other than that, it’s just noise.

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One interesting article came out Wednesday, this from Andrew Berkshire, who write for Vice and Sportsnet. It discusses the Canadiens defensively over the last few years, and Alex Galchenyuk more specifically.

I won’t ruin it but it does give me hope for Galchenyuk to really flourish in Arizona. Playing next to Clayton Keller will help.

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Last Ramblings I mentioned the concept of arbitrage. In fantasy sports, it’s simply looking for one player who could perform similarly to another player, but is available at a lower ADP. Cameron Metz had an article about this a couple weeks ago with regards to defencemen and it’s something I wrote about a couple years ago in drafting Brendan Gallagher over Corey Perry. (I was a year early on that one.)

My projections are nearly finished and should be ready for my Tuesday Ramblings next week but I wanted to go over some arbitrage opportunities today. My projections will change a little bit between now and Tuesday but probably not to such a degree where it will greatly alter clear arbitrage opportunities.

For today, these will be in line with standard Yahoo scoring, sans plus/minus. That means goals, assists, PPPs, hits, and shots on goal. All players are projected to play 82 games in 2018-19 and we are using Corsica’s expected goals model.

 

Forwards

Player to Draft: Mikael Granlund

Current Projection: 20.6 goals, 48.4 assists, 18.5 PPPs, 181.4 shots, 52.4 hits

 

Player to Avoid: Anze Kopitar

Current Projections: 19 goals, 54.4 assists, 21.1 PPPs, 177.3 shots, 62.8 hits

 

These projections aren’t exact, which is usually the point of these arbitrage decisions. The goals and shots are a small edge for Granlund, the assists and hits are bigger edge for Kopitar, and the PPPs are basically within one hot week of each other.

If the small differences are a concern, keep in mind that Granlund has multi-position eligibility (C/RW) whereas Kopitar is locked in as a centre. That’s another checkmark in Granlund’s favour.

The one area that bothers me here is the hit totals for each player. The data behind these projections goes back three years. Three years ago, Granlund had 86 hits; in 2017-18 that fell to 47. From 2015-2017, Kopitar posted back-to-back seasons with 78 hits; in 2017-18 that fell to 50. As I showed back in May, hit rates have gone down a lot of late: over 14 percent from the top hitters in the league from since 2014-15 and a little over 10 percent since 2015-16. That the totals of Granlund and Kopitar have gone down over the last couple years is not a surprise. It just makes me less confident in the projection because hit totals stabilized from 2016-17 to 2017-18 after those significant drops. Does that stabilization continue or was it just a one-year blip? We just don’t know.

Here is where ADP starts to factor in, however. On Yahoo!, Kopitar is ranked as a mid-third round pick. At NHL.com, they have him ranked at the 2/3 turn of a 12-team league. In all likelihood, if you want to draft the Los Angeles captain, you’ll have to use your third rounder at the least.

Granlund, meanwhile, is ranked 74th on Yahoo!, or an early 7th-round pick. At NHL.com, he’s ranked at the 7/8 turn. If you want Granlund on your team, you’ll have to expend no higher than your sixth-round pick, more likely your seventh.

This is the point where I’ll note that I’m significantly lower on Kopitar’s production in 2018-19 than most. Many spots I’ve seen have Kopitar for at least 80 points. (If I’m not mistaken, Steve Laidlaw has him under 80 as well, so, we’re in this together, Laidlaw.) But here’s the thing: Kopitar shot 17.5 percent last year, a career high. His three-year average was 11.5 percent, averaging 18 goals a season. If you knock off, say, 16 goals from his total last year, that drops his points down to 76, not far off from where my projection has him.

What’s the effect of Ilya Kovalchuk? There’s not much certainty there but even at his advanced age he should be better than Alex Iafallo.

My bet here is that even with Kovalchuk in town, Kopitar won’t repeat anywhere close to his shooting percentage. Also, Kopitar played over 22 minutes a game last year as the team tried to squeak into the playoffs with Jeff Carter injured most of the year. You could see up to 100 minutes at even strength disappear. The drop in ice time alone would knock off 3-4 points. Factor in the shooting percentage regression, and a 75-point season from Kopitar instead of an 85-point campaign is easy to envision.

 

Player to Draft: Jake DeBrusk

Current Projection: 16.8 goals, 31.6 assists, 12.3 PPPs, 167.5 shots, 82 hits

 

Player to Avoid: Gabriel Landeskog

Current Projection: 18.5 goals, 31.1 assists, 12.4 PPPs, 176.8 shots, 156.4 hits

 

I’m going to take some heat for this one and that’s fine. Believe me, I know that Landeskog is a huge hits contributor and if he can replicate close to last year, he could be a top-50 player. That would make his current Yahoo! ranking of 89th as a steal.

I’m banking that he won’t repeat close to that.

Here’s something to keep in mind: the 2017-18 season saw everything go right for Colorado. It was a season where Nathan MacKinnon established himself as an MVP-calibre player; Mikko Rantanen silenced his doubters (present company included); they led the league in PP opportunities one year after finishing 19th in this regard; they were top-3 in the league in team five-on-five save percentage, leading to the 10th-fewest goals against per minute despite allowing the fifth-most shots per minute. Despite all this, Landeskog just barely cracked the 60-point plateau (62) and couldn’t manage 20 PPPs (17). Though I’m not considering plus/minus in these Ramblings, he finished at plus-16.

What happens to Landeskog’s production if everything doesn’t go right? What if the team loses 30 PP opportunities off their league-best totals? What if Landeskog doesn’t shoot a career-high 13.7 percent again? What if either MacKinnon or Rantanen misses 15 games? What if the team save percentage is league-average instead of among the league’s best?

What I’m trying to say is this: if everything doesn’t break right again for the Avs, what happens to Landeskog’s 62 points?

Banking on things like career-high shooting percentages, elite team save percentages, and league-high PP opportunities all to repeat is a dangerous game to play.

Now, even if Landeskog were to ‘bust’, it’s not as if it’ll be a second- or third-round pick like Kopitar. Busting out on a seventh- or eighth-round pick isn’t a season-killer. But it’s easy to envision a year where there’s a little pullback across the board for Landeskog and his draft value dies a death by a thousand cuts.

On the flipside, it’s no secret to anyone who reads my work that I’m high on DeBrusk and I think my projections are a little on the conservative side. We’ve seen the quotes about the possibility of David Pastrnak being moved to the second line to try and balance the scoring a little bit. I’m also a believer that DeBrusk, not Ryan Donato, will be the guy to take the final forward spot on the top PP unit. (That isn’t factored into these projections yet, however.) Let’s say Boston does move down Pastrnak and DeBrusk is on the top PP unit. We’re talking about a guy who could soar past 60 points.

Landeskog will have a huge edge in hits on DeBrusk, even though DeBrusk is no slouch in that category. That is not in doubt. But considering DeBrusk can probably be drafted seven or eight rounds later than Landeskog, and has a very real chance to out-produce Landeskog across the board except in hits, I think it’s a chance worth taking.

 

Defence

 

Player to Draft: Kevin Shattenkirk

Current Projection: 8.7 goals, 37.1 assists, 22.9 PPPs, 165.1 shots, 82.1 hits

 

Player to Avoid: Ryan Ellis

Current Projection: 9.8 goals, 33.7 assists, 9.4 PPPs, 179.4 shots, 58 hits

 

This isn’t necessarily about arbitrage even though goals and assists grade out with relative similarity. This is about a defenceman who, it appears, is the clearly superior fantasy option being available at a huge discount.

By ADP on Yahoo!, Ellis is going as roughly a top-20 defenceman whereas Shattenkirk is going as the 37th defenceman (Martin Marincin glitch not included). NHL.com has Ellis just inside the top-120 players and Shattenkirk just outside the top-175. No matter where you look, Ellis is ranked ahead, sometimes far ahead, of Shattenkirk.

I’ve had The Ryan Ellis Discussion with other fantasy writers and everyone seems pretty uniformly in this camp: that Ellis’s 2018-19 season, shortened by injury, was the new norm for him and not an aberration.

Here’s what I wrote on Ellis a few weeks ago:

 

 

That basically summarizes my thoughts on Ellis. The assist rate concerns me and I’m not sure we should throw out the years before 2017-18 when projecting his shot rate moving forward.

It seems people are forgetting that Shattenkirk, when healthy, is still one of the best offensive defencemen in the league. From 2013-17, he averaged 12.8 goals every 82 games, managed at least 44 points in each season (remember: Ellis has never had a 40-point campaign), and he is the sure-fire top PP QB for the Rangers, something else Ellis can’t boast. When he was healthy, Ellis averaged 2:12 of PP time per game in 2017-18, mostly on the second unit. When Shattenkirk was healthy, he averaged 3:11 of PP time per game, mostly on the top unit.

I will concede that this is skewed by not factoring plus/minus. If the Rangers are as bad as most people think they will be, at least defensively, it’s possible we see a minus-25 year from Shattenkirk. On the other hand, we thought the same thing about Tyson Barrie before the 2017-18 season and though his was bad, it wasn’t a season-killer.

Keep in mind that Shattenkirk was on pace for a 41-point season and did so with a left knee issue that popped up in training camp and was endured until he finally had to have surgery. If he can put up a 40-point pace on one knee, what can he do if he’s healthy?

If the plus/minus scares you off Shattenkirk, I understand. I just think it’s random enough that taking the chance on him much later in the draft over Ellis is a reasonable gamble.