Ramblings: Top Scoring Centermen, Power Play Trends, and more (Feb 2)

by steve laidlaw on February 2, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Top Scoring Centermen, Power Play Trends, and more (Feb 2)

 

Rumours are swirling about the availability of Erik Karlsson in a trade. Guys this good simply do not come available so you could almost say that no price is too hefty to pay. However, the biggest rumour out there is Karlsson for Brayden Point + other assets, which I don’t think the Lightning should even think about for a second.

This has nothing to do with the future Hall-of-Famer, but rather everything to do with how good Point is. There’s no better asset in the league than a productive player on an entry-level deal, especially when that asset is a forward scoring like a legitimate #1 centerman. Not buying it? I was skeptical of Point’s early production too, especially considering he only skates secondary PP time, but check out where he ranks among the top per-minute centermen scorers at 5-on-5 this season:

 

 

Points/60

Nathan MacKinnon

3.38

Mathew Barzal

2.99

Ryan Getzlaf

2.8

Brayden Point

2.78

Auston Matthews

2.78

Connor McDavid

2.73

Sean Monahan

2.73

William Karlsson

2.63

Steven Stamkos

2.59

Eric Staal

2.59

John Tavares

2.54

Leon Draisaitl

2.46

Patrice Bergeron

2.45

Nico Hischier

2.45

Claude Giroux

2.43

 

That’s elite company. There’s some shooting percentage noise in his figures, but even with regression he’s still likely producing at a top-30 rate. His possession metrics are also well on the positive side of the ledger. He benefits a little from Stamkos and Kucherov taking the tougher assignments, but often times it’s Point’s line who faces tougher matchups.

Point is essentially giving the Lightning the same competitive advantage than Washington enjoyed with Evgeny Kuznetsov for the past few seasons, except without any of the performance bonuses in his deal. Point is locked in at under $1M on the cap for one more season. Losing him would open up a hole on the second line, albeit while plugging a hole on defense. One of the reasons that Tampa Bay is well positioned to take on a contract the size of Karlsson’s is because they have Point on a near-minimum deal. The opportunity cost is that their cap space to fill that hole at forward would be soaked up by Karlsson’s deal.

Under a cap system Point is worth more to a contender than Karlsson, who is objectively the better player. The Lightning would be better off leveraging their cap space to acquire a defensive upgrade that doesn’t cost them an established talent like Point.

If you’re Ottawa, you shouldn’t settle for any less. In the end, if you lose Karlsson for nothing it’s not really any different than losing him for a middling return. Players of this calibre so rarely move, and when they do, it’s almost always for a middling return. I suspect he stays in Ottawa.

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We’re talking some small margins here in terms of number of power play opportunities, but check out the best teams in terms of power play efficiency since the start of January:

 

 

PP%

Penguins

33.3%

Hurricanes

30.0%

Kings

27.8%

Flyers

27.5%

Sabres

26.1%

Blue Jackets

26.1%

Sharks

26.1%

 

We expect to see the Penguins and Flyers up there, so no surprise. I’ve been tracking the uptick for Buffalo and Columbus all month. At this point, we know that Kyle Okposo and Rasmus Ristolainen are surging. Similar story for Seth Jones and Artemi Panarin in Columbus, but it’s particularly notable how few power plays the Blue Jackets even get. One team no one is talking about is the Hurricanes.

Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk have been the biggest beneficiaries in Carolina netting six and five PP points over the past month respectively. This makes sense as they are mainstays on the top unit. You’d expect Sebastian Aho to be up there as well, but concussion woes cost him some time.

Amazingly, Justin Williams has provided fuel for the second unit with five PP points of his own, but I am less inclined to use him in shallower formats. 50 points with roughly 2.0 SOG per game has value in a ton of leagues though, so don’t sleep on the veteran.

On the flip side of the coin, which teams are dwindling here in 2018?

 

 

PP%

Oilers

3.6%

Lightning

10.3%

Flames

10.8%

Red Wings

13.3%

Islanders

13.8%

Maple Leafs

15.2%

Blackhawks

16.7%

Senators

16.7%

 

The Oilers’ power play has been pitiful all season. These guys are still in the playoff hunt if not for abysmal special teams play. The two biggest victims have been Leon Draisaitl and Oscar Klefbom, who combined for 43 PP points last season, but have just eight thus far.

As seen in the Point discussion above, Draisaitl’s 5-on-5 scoring has been just fine, and that’s even with spending half of his time away from McDavid. Draisaitl should be in the mix among the league’s top scorers, but a lack of PP production is keeping him down. Seems like a strong rebound candidate for next season, and that’s acknowledging that his 40 points through 45 games aren’t even bad.

There’s no explanation for the power play falling this flat for an entire season. It’s very much reminiscent of how Columbus’ power play crashed at mid-season last year, taking an entire year to perk up again. If there’s a silver lining, the Oilers’ power play can’t get any worse and is likely to regress through sheer randomness.

That’s not to say that this is pure dumb luck. The injuries and inconsistencies of the Oilers’ top PP defensemen have hurt. The Oilers also experienced tremendous shooting seasons from Draisaitl, Milan Lucic and Mark Letestu, each of whom scored double-digit PP goals. There’s also McDavid’s reticence to shoot. As brilliant as McDavid it, their PP is fairly predictable if he’s unwilling to be a shooting option.

It is awfully surprising to see some of the first-half’s powerhouse teams near the bottom. I can only assume that this is the result of teams heavily scouting the tendencies of teams like the Lightning, Islanders and Leafs, taking away what they do best. The Lightning’s PP should be fool-proof with both Stamkos and Kucherov capable of bombing or playmaking. What this highlights is that there is still plenty of variability in performance.

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No Nathan MacKinnon for the Avalanche last night. He is officially out 2-4 weeks with an upper-body injury. Could be worse, but even missing two weeks could be enough to drop Colorado in what is a tight Wild Card race. We discussed yesterday how vital MacKinnon has been for the Avalanche.

Alexander Kerfoot stepped into MacKinnon’s top line role between Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, but was scoreless in 15 minutes of action. I’m not sure exactly how to balance his promotion with the fact that his numbers scream regression, but I’m probably not using him outside the deepest of leagues.

Semyon Varlamov came off IR yesterday and served as backup to Jonathan Bernier. Given Bernier has slowed down losing three straight before last night’s overtime win it seems inevitable that Varlamov will be back running with the starting gig.

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Pavel Buchnevich left last night’s game with an upper-body injury. No word on the severity, but without Buchnevich I have a lot less optimism about the rest of this lineup.

Rick Nash has scored a bunch lately, but he’s mostly a shot-volume guy than a point producer at this stage of his career. Mika Zibanejad needs some skill guys to tee him up for big bombs. Mats Zuccarello is legit, but in the 55-60 -point kind of way. At least Cody McLeod bombed eight hits. Tear it down!

*

Intriguing line shuffle in Winnipeg over the past few games with Kyle Connor dropping to the fourth line and Jack Roslovic jumping up to the top line:

#1           22.6%    EHLERS,NIKOLAJ - LITTLE,BRYAN - PERREAULT,MATHIEU

#2           18.4%    LAINE,PATRIK - ROSLOVIC,JACK - WHEELER,BLAKE

#3           13.7%    COPP,ANDREW - LOWRY,ADAM - TANEV,BRANDON

#4           10.7%    ARMIA,JOEL - CONNOR,KYLE - HENDRICKS,MATT

Ultimately, it was Connor who had a two-point night, and has three points in the four games since his demotion. Probably time to switch them back, Connor is better.

*

The John Gibson rollercoaster continues. He sat out last night with a lower-body injury. This comes after getting hurt prior to the All-Star break, but making the first start out of the break on Tuesday. They’ve got a strong backup in Ryan Miller and should probably be more cautious with Gibson, rather than allowing him to exacerbate these issues. He’s been too injury-prone in his career to gamble.

*

After spending weeks away, Devin Shore was back on the Stars’ top PP unit skating over five minutes. He scored a goal and an assist. This doesn’t necessarily make Shore a must-have option. Even when he was a top unit regular he was scoring at under a 40-point pace.

What Shore’s return to the top unit means is curtains for Jason Spezza who had spent the past couple of weeks back in the money spot. Spezza has six points in the last seven games, which is almost enough to convince you he’s having a renaissance, but then you discover he was held to less than 10 minutes last night. He did, however, flash some creativity on this assist:

*

Jake Allen made his first start in over three weeks stopping 43 of 45 against the Bruins. That’s a damn good performance, but he took the loss. With how light’s out Carter Hutton has been, he probably needed a shutout to get the next game. Still, this is a positive sign and we all know that coaches love to go back to the big money starter.

*

Back-to-back two-point efforts for Kyle Palmieri who looks to be a great option for the second half. I’m a big fan of his shot volume and opportunity on the Devils’ top PP unit. It would be excellent if he also got you exposure to Taylor Hall at even strength, but I suppose the Devils are keeping their lines balanced.

Palmieri only has 11 points in 18 games since returning from injury in mid-December, but a few of those games were without Hall, which are pretty much write-offs. He’s also been dragged down by a ghastly 5.5% 5-on-5 on-ice shooting percentage. I’m betting on Palmieri scoring 10-15 goals and 20-25 points over the final 32 games. If he hits the high end of those ranges, you’ve got a stud on your hands.

*

Filip Forsberg returned from injury, registering a couple of points. His return reset the lines:

 

#1           27.5%    ARVIDSSON,VIKTOR - FORSBERG,FILIP - JOHANSEN,RYAN

#2           25.1%    FIALA,KEVIN - SMITH,CRAIG - TURRIS,KYLE

#3           19.4%    BONINO,NICK - HARTNELL,SCOTT - JARNKROK,CALLE

#4           14.7%    SALOMAKI,MIIKKA - SISSONS,COLTON - WATSON,AUSTIN

 

It should come as no surprise that Ryan Johansen awoke from a recent funk registering three assists. Forsberg is the guy who makes this team go.

*

Nino Niederreiter is expected to return from injury tonight. His return should bump Tyler Ennis out of Minnesota’s top six, which is no great loss, but it may also bump Charlie Coyle out of the power play mix.

*

Conor Sheary is out week-to-week with a lower-body injury. No huge impact here as the winger has been a bust, but he had been skating on the top line with a red-hot Sidney Crosby. Amazingly, Sheary had only three points during Crosby’s 10-game scoring streak, though part of that is because so much of the Penguins’ production has been on the power play.

This injury probably isn’t enough to get Daniel Sprong called back to Pittsburgh, and perhaps that is a good thing.

*

Petr Mrazek will reportedly start again for the Red Wings tonight. Normally, I leave the goalie starts info to GoaliePost (who you should be using daily), but this makes four starts in the last five games for Mrazek. He’s played well, so this is likely just the riding of the hot hand. Whether intentional or not, it also serves to showcase Mrazek for a trade, which given his history with the team would represent a mutually beneficial separation. He is rumoured to have nearly been traded to the Oilers earlier this year.  

Mrazek has come off the rails in the past couple of seasons, but he’s still only 25 and his first few seasons in the league were wildly impressive. I remain highly intrigued by his potential.

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Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.

 

  • Steve

    For Ottawa tovtrade karlsson it would have to be Sergachev + Point + high draft pick

    But really you need to understand what is a rumour and what is an idea. Nobody has actually said Karlsson for point+ is an actual rumour. That was somebody’s idea .

  • MarkRM16

    Steve, what do you think of this potential trade?
    Spezza clearly won’t be given a chance to produce with Hitch at the helm, so what about a trade to Montreal in exchange for Plekanec, a 2-way C that Hitch may actually play. He’s a pending UFA, so it’s a low risk move for the Stars, and frees up cap space and salary with Spezza’s contract off the books. Spezza only has 1 year left on his contract, so the Habs might be willing to roll the dice. Were he to click with Pacioretty and/or Galchenyuk, it might change Bergevin’s mind about trading Pacioretty and/or Galchenyuk, both of which would be idiotic moves (like usual).

    • steve laidlaw

      I do like the idea behind it. I recently read an article discussing Montreal’s potential to leverage their cap space in order to add some future assets. This deal would certainly follow that line of thinking. I wonder what kind of assets (if any) they could get out of Dallas in such a swap. I’d imagine a 1st rounder would be asked for.

      But I suspect that Montreal is keeping their powder dry for a legitimate #1C option. Can they get into the Tavares sweepstakes? They’ll certainly try, which means needing all of the projected 15M in cap room this summer. Bringing in Spezza doesn’t solve the #1C problem, and it clogs up the potential to do real damage. I can’t see them going this route.

      End of the day, I think that Montreal would be better off keeping their options open. What likely unfolds is that the strike out on big free agents and bring back Plekanec on a cheaper two-year deal.

  • Steffen

    Not to quibble, but Kyle Connor hasn’t proven he’s better than Jack Roslovic, yet. The offence in Winnipeg has been spread out, and most nights, the so-called 3rd and 4th lines provide much of the jump.

    Roslovic is a boon to this team, and would be welcome in most teams’ top 9s. It’s a shame he’ll likely be sent back down to ripen when Scheifele returns.

    A Jets fan.

    • Striker

      Maybe not the best choice of words for Steve. Better today, far more advanced & NHL ready, better in almost any statistical catagory you choose to use today. Rislovic is a great prospect & going to be a good NHL hockey player, probably a great 1, Connor is a great 1 day today & going to be a stud.

    • starz31

      I’m sure you’ll take the consolation of having Scheifele back in the lineup…

    • steve laidlaw

      If you’ve been following along, I’ve been on the Roslovic hype train for a while. Connor is better, at least for pure offense. Get him back into the top-six.