Ramblings: Recaps, Breakouts for Next Year, Sean Monahan (April 21)

by Michael Clifford on April 21, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Recaps, Breakouts for Next Year, Sean Monahan (April 21)

Recap of last night’s games, Sean Monahan, potential breakouts for next year, and more.

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Flyers/Capitals

Behind a strong goaltending performance from Michal Neuvirth, and a more aggressive penalty kill, the Flyers took the fourth game by a 2-1 score, extending the series at least another game. This one was a bit of a step down from the raucous third game that saw the ice littered with fan bracelets. It was still entertaining, though.

Of course, thoughts go out to Scott Laughton and his family. I won’t post the gif or video here – users can search for it if they so choose – but he lost a high-speed battle with John Carlson while making a turn and went into the boards extremely hard. He was motionless for a little while, but the Flyers said he was transported to a hospital for precautionary reasons, and things are looking up:

Let’s hope things stay that way.  

At the risk of slings and arrows, I will say this: I will not be drafting Shayne Gostisbehere next year. His five-on-five underlying stats were fairly pedestrian, ranking fourth on the Flyers in both possession differential and on-ice shot attempts by the team; he was third among all NHL defencemen in personal five-on-five shooting percentage (over 9.5-percent!); he ranked outside the top-50 defencemen in shots on goal per minute; he was top-10 in on-ice (team) shooting percentage. These all indicate a regression next year. I am not saying he can’t be productive, and there is obviously time for him to improve, but this is a case where I think he will get so much hype it’ll push him into the top-20, if not top-15 defencemen drafted in a one-year league. That is too rich for my blood.

Islanders/Panthers

The Panthers evened the series with a 2-1 win last night on the back of a game-winning third period goal from Alex Petrovic. Yes, that Petrovic, the defenceman with two career NHL goals. Hockey is awesome.

Admittedly, this was the game I saw the least of last night. Whenever I did watch, at least through the first half of the game, it seemed the Panthers were in control. In fact, they had double the shots and shot attempts of the Islanders after the first 20 minutes. I did catch the full third period, and remember this from the MSG+ broadcast: Jonathan Huberdeau had a goal/no goal situation in the second period, and between the initial review, and the coach’s challenge, the total delay was over nine minutes long. There has to be a more efficient way to do this. Stop the insanity.

I am really interested to see how the goaltending shakes out next year for the Islanders. Both Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss are under contract, and both are the same age. Could this be another Stars situation where it’s pretty much split? Do they go back to Halak? This might be a fantasy situation to completely avoid for the 2016-2017 campaign.

Wild/Stars

Ok. The first half of this game was a pretty dull affair, and then, as good ol’ JR would say, business picked up. With the game tied 1-1, Charlie Coyle scored this goal for the Wild to give them the lead. It was incredible to watch in real-time:

That was pretty. In total, five goals were scored in the second period.

The third period wouldn’t produce a goal and the Stars now lead the series three games to one with the 3-2 win. With the news that Zach Parise won’t be returning anytime soon, this weekend would seem to spell the end to the Wild’s season.

So far, Jason Spezza has had a great playoff run. He now has four points in four games with 14 shots on goal. With Seguin on the shelf, the centres needed to step up, and Spezza has. Maybe he’s never the point-per-game guy he once was, but this year was his third straight 60-plus point season since the lockout, averaging a shade over 24 goals a season. A nice safety blanket pick in season-long fantasy drafts.

Kings/Sharks

The first period was incredible to watch. There were zero goals, but as many on Twitter pointed out, it was essentially a track meet. The Sharks probably had the better of the play, but either team could have had the lead, and it was a scoreless period. Just phenomenal to watch for any fan.

I will say this: the Sharks power play is an absolute clinic. It was during the regular season, and it continues to be in the playoffs (at least in terms of process until the power play goals last night). The next section discusses the power play, but in terms of puck movement and setup, they are amazing to watch. Their two second period power play goals gave them a 2-0 lead heading into the third period. 

San Jose would score early, but the Kings would make things interesting with two goals of their own. That's how things would end, though, and the Sharks are now firmly in control with a 3-1 series lead following that 3-2 win. 

After a rebound this year with Los Angeles, I am very interested to see where Milan Lucic ends up next year. He will probably be too expensive for the Kings to re-sign, and I think he really needs an elite centre to be a top fantasy option in roto leagues. It will be an interesting summer for Mr. Lucic. 

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The next frontier of hockey analytics will undoubtedly be player movement and placement. Similar to what the NBA has done with SportVu over the last three years, hockey will be following suit. Figuring out ideal spacing, pressure, passing lanes, shooting lanes, optimal distances, and a whole host of other problems with regards to optimizing every inch and every movement.

Until that day comes, there is still some work that needs to be done to give a team an advantage over the competition. One such advantage, no pun intended, is on the power play.

There was a very interesting article written by Arik Parnass on this exact topic. Parnass has created a new rate called ZEFR, or Zone Entry to Formation or dangerous Rush. He hasn’t tracked every player from every team – that is a monumental task for any one person to take on – but he has tracked the power plays of five different teams, plus over half a season of Maple Leafs games.

I encourage the readers to go through this. It helps pinpoint players that are proficient in doing the right things to put a power play in a position to succeed, and ones that are not. It is math-based, but also incorporates general strategy, and the fantasy applications are obvious; knowing which players are drivers of positive power plays can help identify under-appreciated fantasy assets (hello, Nazem Kadri). Hopefully all teams are tracked at some point, as it would help give knowledgeable fantasy owners a leg up on their league mates.

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It is never too early too look for breakout candidates. Sure, sometimes there will be enough public steam to drive their average draft position to unpalatable levels by the time late September rolls around, but knowing valuations going in helps to figure out just how steep a price should be paid at the draft table.

Here are a two guys I’m looking at initially (remember, it’s still April, a lot can chance) for a breakout next year. Keep in mind, these are varying levels of breakout – not everyone can be a 30-goal scorer.

Micheal Ferland

This one would definitely be on the lower end, and for the deep leaguers. With the Calgary lineup as it is currently constructed, though, Ferland is piquing my interest.

Jiri Hudler was a staple for most of the last two years on Calgary’s top line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. I suppose he could always re-sign with the Flames in the off-season as he’s set to be a free agent, but for our purposes, let’s assume he doesn’t. Ditto for David Jones.

Below is a screenshot taken from Corsica (a relatively new hockey stats website). It shows Johnny Gaudreau’s five most-common line combinations over the last two years. The inherent problem here is that Monahan-Gaudreau-Hudler is by far the most common combination, and the rest are only about 10-11 full games worth of ice time. Small samples are dangerous, so take this with a grain of salt.

The CF60 (shot attempts for per 60 minutes) column leader? Monahan-Gaudreau-Ferland. The CA60 (shot attempts against per 60 minutes) column leader? The same trio. Being over 54-percent possession on that possession-barren team is exceptional.

Ferland did have 96 points in his Age 19 season in the Western Hockey League. He also had a higher shot rate at five-on-five this past season than names like Jamie Benn, Corey Perry, and John Tavares. Sure, he's not a top-end prospect, but there are a lot of players who weren't and yet are very good NHLers. 

Drafting third wheels is dangerous; coaches don’t always go with the numbers when deciding line combinations. (This is why Patrick Maroon is in Edmonton instead of Anaheim. Seriously, go look at his five-on-five rate numbers in Anaheim over the last few years with Getzlaf. He was better with him than most non-Perry options.) But someone has to play on the top line in Calgary. Assuming there is no signing or trade made to fill that spot, I would put my money, and a late round draft pick in a deep league, on Ferland.

David Pastrnak

This is another situation where it would really depend who gets signed or traded. As it sits right now, both Loui Eriksson and Lee Stempniak are to be come unrestricted free agents. Maybe one is signed, maybe both. For now, let’s assume neither is.

The departure of two top-six forwards would seemingly give Pastrnak a spot in that mix. Obviously, playing with David Krejci or Patrice Bergeron for the entirety of the season would be huge for Pastrnak’s fantasy value. It may also lead to some power play time on the top unit as well, a unit the Bruins use heavily.

Think about a few of these numbers, since the start of the 2014 season, at five-on-five:

  • Pastrnak leads regular Bruins forwards in points per 60 minutes.
  • Pastrnak is second among regular Bruins forwards in shots per 60 minutes.
  • Pastrnak is fourth among regular Bruins forwards in first assists per 60 minutes.

Mind you, Pastrnak doesn’t turn 20 until next month.

Pastrnak is a highly-regarded prospect, managed 32 points in 28 AHL games as a teenager, and is among Boston’s leaders in some important indicators. This is a guy whose ADP I can see getting steamed as the season approaches, but if Claude Julien can actually play him 16-17 minutes a game with semi-regular top power play minutes, Pastrnak can push 50 points next year.  

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I talked about the Calgary top line earlier, and one thing I’d just like to point out is that Sean Monahan hasn’t been very good in his career without Gaudreau on his wing. Here is what I mean, and these numbers are from Hockey Analysis:

  • With Johnny Gaudreau, Monahan’s points per 60 minutes at five-on-five: 2.03.
  • Without Johnny Gaudreau, Monahan’s points per 60 minutes at five-on-five: 1.40.

It is not a small sample, either. They are 1500 minutes and nearly 1800 minutes, with and without, respectively.

Now, a lot of Monahan’s minutes without Gaudreau came in Monahan’s rookie year, so here are the numbers from just the last two years alone:

  • With Gaudreau, Monahan’s points per 60 minutes: 2.04.
  • Without Gaudreau, Monahan’s points per 60 minutes: 1.32.

There can be a fair amount of noise in point rates, and his time without Gaudreau only amounts to about two-thirds of a season. All that I want to point out here is that Monahan hasn’t produced playing away from one of the most talented wingers in the league, and that worries me for fantasy. If they are ever broken up for an extended period, it probably hurts Monahan more than Gaudreau. Just something to keep in mind when draft season rolls around.  

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I don’t really have much to say or add to the suspensions, or lack thereof in the NHL. A big problem a lot of the times is these things are outlined in the CBA, and precedent matters. In the 2014-2015 season, Milan Lucic was fined $5000 for making a masturbating motion towards the fans as he entered the penalty box. Clearly what Andrew Shaw said is on a whole other level, and is infinitely more disgusting, but the NHL seems to be limited in what it can levy (if anyone familiar with this section of the CBA can help me out in the comments, that would be very much appreciated). Hopefully, though, this is something that starts to pop up less and less as we move forward.

*Stats from Hockey Reference, Hockey Analysis, and Corsica