Ramblings: Players That Are Being Forgotten in Drafts, Line Combos (September 30)

by Michael Clifford on September 29, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Players That Are Being Forgotten in Drafts, Line Combos (September 30)

Ramblings: Looking at some players left as draft after-thoughts, and more line combinations

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It seems to happen every year in fantasy. There is always a handful of players that, at the end of the season, fantasy owners look back and think, “how did I miss him?” Last year, guys like Loui Eriksson, Jake Muzzin, Boone Jenner, Jaromir Jagr, and Martin Jones were some players that I personally missed. Hindsight is 20/20, but each of those players were in somewhat fortuitous situations that shouldn’t have been overlooked.

Below is a list of 10 players that may be overlooked right now in fantasy. None are being drafted with any regularity inside the top-100, and some are going outside the top-200.

Tanner Pearson

With Milan Lucic now in Edmonton, the left wing depth for Los Angeles… well it isn’t great. With Marian Gaborik – a player that can play the left side – looking to be out into November, and the top-six left wing slots are wide open.

Any guesses who is second on the Kings in goals per minute at five-on-five over the last two seasons? Given the player being discussed, the answer is obvious – at 0.91 goals per 60 minutes over the last two seasons, Pearson has the same mark as guys like Vincent Trocheck, Jeff Skinner, and Tyler Johnson. It’s just a sample of 121 games, but the results are nonetheless encouraging.

Where Pearson is going to run into issues is his power play time. Assuming the top PP unit consists of Kopitar/Carter/Toffoli, that would leave him on the second unit for most of the season. If that’s the case, getting to double-digit power play points would be his upside, and not an expectation. That would likely cap this season’s upside at 50 points. All the same, with consistent top-six minutes, Pearson can get to 20 goals this year, and given his team, that plus/minus should be stellar.

Eric Staal

As written about yesterday by Alex MacLean, things went about as poorly as possible last year for Staal, and he still managed nearly 40 points. Again, as written by Alex, the big problem was on the power play where Staal managed just seven PP points.

It’s possible that Staal is used a second line centre this year. With that comes a certain level of ice time. More than that, though, is the power play uptick. Out of 84 forwards that had a least 200 minutes of power play time last year, Staal finished 81st in shooting percentage at 3.12-percent. That’s about half the rate of his career-low shooting rate at five-on-five (6.28-percent in 2014-2015). He can add 3-4 power play goals through regression alone. Staal also finished 81st in IPP, considerably lower than he has at any point in his career at five-on-five. Just normalizing these rates on the power play this year could double his power play output and bring him to 45 points.

Staal seems to be a decent bet for a rebound to 50 points with a 20 goal year under his belt. He’s basically free in drafts.

Paul Stastny

Stastny finished with just 49 points last year. Not great, right? Well his points per game was 0.77, which in a 75-game season would put him around 58 points. With David Backes gone, and Vladimir Sobotka not coming back to the Blues, Stastny is not only the unquestioned number-1 centre for a team that features a plethora of scoring talent on the wings and blue line, but he’s by far their best centre as well.

Unless Stastny starts shooting more – his shots per game has declined every year since 2008-2009 – he will be hard-pressed to get to the 20 goal plateau. Even shooting 13-percent at two shots per game might not get him to 20 goals without a full season. For that reason, he’s not a complete roto stud.

Given he won’t score/shoot much, and doesn’t take much in the way of penalties, Stastny is not a guy that needs to be jumped on early for roto leagues. If he can stay relatively healthy this year, though, with the surrounding talent and his role on the team, Stastny can be a 15-goal, 60-point, 15-18 power play point player this year. That has value.

Jussi Jokinen

The Florida Panthers frequently ran a four-forward power play last season. We’ll have to see how this works out as we get deeper in the exhibition games, but Jokinen was mostly used on the non-Barkov unit, which can be an issue. Even with that, he was still third among Panthers forwards in power play ice time last year, and trailed Reilly Smith by just a couple of seconds overall (he was fifth by ice time per game). In other words, even though he may have been on the second unit, he was heavily used, and there’s no reason to think that will change.

There have been just six players to record at least 33 assists in each of the last six 82-game seasons, via Hockey Reference’s Play Index: Ryan Getzlaf, Patrick Kane, Anze Kopitar, Daniel Sedin, Joe Thornton, and Jokinen. That mark of 33 assists is the fewest that Jokinen has managed in any season.

Kind of like Stastny, Jokinen won’t stuff the sheet across the board, and that devalues him in fantasy. What he can provide is 15 goals, 35 assists, and double-digit power play points. Considering his position, that can be valuable. He should be able to give a solid plus/minus as well (though not the plus-25 he managed last year) if that team improves as most think they should.

Jarome Iginla

There were 19 forwards last year who managed the following stat line: 20 goals, 25 assists, 40 penalty minutes, and at least two shots on goal per game:

It should be noted that Iginla managed 19 power play points as well, including 13 goals, as many as Wayne Simmonds managed. That is not bad.  

What killed Iginla’s value beyond the dip in assists was his plus/minus. Assuming Colorado is improved defensively this year, and their goaltending rebounds, his plus/minus should as well. He may not be a plus player, but being too far below zero isn’t my expectation.

Mathieu Perreault

The big problem with Perreault is health. Last year was the first time he managed at least 70 games in a season, and he played just 71. It’s not really a huge issue in fantasy though because he’s easily replaceable. This is a guy going outside the 12th round of a 12-team league, and replacements can be found on the wire.

*note: Perreault left the team's game last night in the third period, did not return, and there was no update immediately after the game. Stay tuned. 

We will have to see how the lineup works out, but it’s possible that Perreault starts the year on the first line. I suppose it would depend on how they’re labelled, but he may play alongside Bryan Little. He did spend significant time in the top-six last year, and could easily do so again with Andrew Ladd gone.

Perreault’s shooting percentages cratered last year, which means a rebound is incoming. If he gets back to normal rates, this could be a career year for him, and that should give us about 20 goals and 45 points. Not huge, but he’s multi-position in some leagues, and may even see more ice time. He’s not a roto stud, but the stars are aligning here.

Tyler Myers

The clear top option in Winnipeg is Dustin Byfuglien (sorry, Jacob Trouba). But even if Trouba sticks around, the clear second option on the power play is Tyler Myers. Despite playing eight fewer games than Trouba last year, he played over 60 more minutes with the man advantage than Trouba did (from Hockey Analysis).

All things considered, it was a bad year for Myers on the power play, managing just two points in all those minutes. Given his forward options, though, and his slot as the number-2, double-digit power play points are in order.

Oscar Klefbom

Things are muddled on the Oilers blue line. With Adam Larsson being brought in, Andrej Sekera still kicking around, and Brandon Davidson looking like a solid option, it’s not clear-cut who will be the go-to defenceman on this roster. In fact, that’s something that may change frequently through the year.

Betting on talent is usually not a bad proposition. Coaches are smart enough to know who the most talented players are, and Klefbom is the most talented blue liner this team has. Whichever defenceman gets big minutes with the Connor McDavid unit is the winner of the lottery. I’m betting on Klefbom, and if that turns out to be a bad decision, he’s easily replaceable (maybe even with the guy who wins the job).

Jake Gardiner

Sometimes things have to be put into perspective. Think of this: 21 goals, 60 assists, 357 shots, and 75 penalty minutes over the last three seasons works out to be seven goals, 20 assists, 119 shots on goal, and 25 penalty minutes a year. Not great, right? Well, there have been just 28 defencemen to average those marks over the last three years. That means, on average, about two and a half defencemen per team in a 12-team fantasy league.

Guys like Johnny Boychuk, Ryan Ellis, and Zdeno Chara are on that list, and are going well ahead of Gardiner. We know coach Mike Babcock likes him, and there could be more minutes coming. He can be had as a bench d-man in a 12-team league, and there is upside to his game with a bigger role.

Jaroslav Halak

His performance at the World Cup of Hockey may influence his draft position a little bit, but this is definitely a guy that should be on radars, specifically for people that eschew goaltending early.

Like Perreault, the problem with Halak is staying healthy. Last year that limited him to just 36 games, and even with such a limited role, he was still a top-24 goalie (depending on league settings). If he can replicate his ratios over a 50-55 start sample, this can be a top-15 goaltender. Basically, he’s being drafted at the position he finished last year, which means there is a lot of profit to be had at his ADP.

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It does look like the Blues are going into the season with Schwartz-Lehtera-Tarasenko as a unit. While Jori Lehtera isn’t an optimal centre, that probably means the Paul Stastny line will be used more in defensive situations. With lots of secondary matchups and offensive zone starts, that Tarasenko line could shred this year (which means draft Jaden Schwartz).

 

We’ll see if things change here, but Auston Matthews lining up with James van Riemsdyk is going to be a whole lot of fun. My opinion on Matthews hasn’t changed for this season, but if JvR gets an offensive role rather than a middle-or-defensive one, he could have a better year than expected. He’s probably being under-drafted right now.

*Stats from Hockey Reference and Hockey Analysis. Line combos from Dobber’s Frozen Pool