Ramblings: Vegas Edge Jets; Ekman-Larsson; Klefbom; Forward Shot Rates – May 17

by Michael Clifford on May 17, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Vegas Edge Jets; Ekman-Larsson; Klefbom; Forward Shot Rates – May 17

Vegas played its first-ever home Conference Final game and managed to skate away with a 4-2 win. They started off flying as Jonathan Marchessault broke in alone and deked to the backhand on Connor Hellebuyck just 35 seconds into the game. Mark Scheifele would square things early in the second period with a goal of his own but James Neal took advantage of a Hellebuyck stickhandling gaffe second later to make it 2-1. Alex Tuch would add a goal and that’s all the Golden Knights would need even with Scheifele adding his second.

Game 3 between Vegas and Winnipeg had just about everything. We had nice goals, nice (and some lucky) saves, a few big hits, and… tickling?

That wasn’t all from Marc-Andre Fleury, though. With the Jets pressing hard in the third period, he robbed Scheifele twice with a pair of top-notch saves:

Something about Fleury making sliding saves in the playoffs…

Both teams traded chances in this one. It seemed like the Marchessault line was getting an odd-man rush every other shift while Mathieu Perreault blew it on a nearly-wide open net and Patrik Laine clanked iron just minutes apart in the second period. And, as mentioned, it was basically all Winnipeg in the third. Had the Hockey Gods been a little less fickle, this game could look wildly different.

I suppose that’s the best part of this series. Sure, each team is getting lucky in their own respects, but they’re creating the opportunities and conditions for that luck. They’re creating chances and getting to the net using their speed and skill. Something, something good to be lucky.

This should be a a wonderful series to watch as a neutral hockey fan.

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A report from Craig Morgan at Arizona Sports indicates that the Arizona Coyotes and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are in discussions for a contract extension. Not that it’s a surprise they’re discussing it, but the fact that terms are reported would at least indicate to me that they’re getting close.

OEL turns 27 this summer and has one year left on his current contract.

There had been some rumblings over the last year that Arizona may look to move Ekman-Larsson but outside of a lopsided, blockbuster package, this avenue always made the most sense. He’s a number-1 defenceman currently in his mid-20s. As long as he doesn’t turn into Brent Seabrook they should be fine.

Assuming Arizona signs Jakob Chychrun next year as his ELC runs out, that gives the Coyotes a top-4 of Ekman-Larsson, Jason Demers, Alex Goligoski, and Chychrun through the 2020-2021 season, along with Antti Raanta. With Clayton Keller looking like a gamebreaker, and a bevy of prospects to come, the future is indeed bright in the desert. Don’t discount them short-term, though. If their depth can fill out a bit this season, they’ll make noise in the West.

Those with OEL shares in cap leagues, start budgeting to add at least $2.5-million after the 2018-19 season. Whether he’s worth it for you depends on roster construction.

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An interesting little tidbit:

That is in reference to Ryan RIshaug of TSN saying that it appears the Oilers may be looking for a major shake-up.

What they actually end up doing, well, we have another month or so to wait and see. They need depth, they need scoring, they need defencemen. One trade isn’t going to do it. On the other hand, leave it to Peter Chiarelli to trade Oscar Klefbom following a season where he played injured the entire year and had his performance suffer because of it. I want Chiarelli as a GM in my fantasy leagues. 

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A couple days ago in these Ramblings there was a discussion about league-wide shot rates, their increase over the last couple years, and how this affects fantasy leagues. As Cam pointed out in his Ramblings yesterday, power plays and penalty kills are a part of the rise in goal scoring. That’s a fascinating topic that should get a lot of coverage this summer. For all the fans bellowing “shooooot” with their team on the PP, the players were more efficient than they have been in decades with the man advantage. Maybe they know what they’re doing.

Either way, the discussion on goal scoring is going to be set aside from my perspective for a little bit. This will be a continuation of shot rates league-wide and as promised, we’re going to dive down to the player level. Today will cover forwards. As usual, data from Natural Stat Trick.

As mentioned in those Ramblings on Tuesday, shot rates at five-on-five at the team level have increased by a significant margin. Read those Ramblings for a little primer.

Here’s the thing: there hasn’t been a commensurate rise in average shot rate among forwards. In 2013-14, the average forward had an individual shot attempt rate per 60 minutes at five-on-five of 12.352. This past season, that number was 12.416. That’s a rise of about one half of one percent. In 2014-15, when we had a five-year low of league-wide shot rates, the average individual shot attempt rate per 60 minutes at five-on-five among forwards was 12.007. As mentioned, this year’s average shot rate was 12.416. That’s a rise of about 3.29 percent.

Long story short, the rise in league-wide shot rates has led to more goals, but the rise in average shot rates among forwards has not been in lock-step with the league. In fact, the shot rates in 2017-18 are very similar to what they were in 2013-14.

League-wide conversion rates have gone up, though. In 2017-18, forwards scored on 5.382 percent of shot attempts. Back in 2013-14, that conversion rate was 5.229 percent. It might not seem like a huge difference, but keep in mind that we’re talking about tens of thousands of shot attempts. For example, on the 71 583 shot attempts forwards took in 2013-14, if we apply he 2017-18 conversion rate of 5.382 percent, it yields an extra 109.6 goals. That’s a lot of goals.

What does this mean for fantasy? Of course, goals and shots are devalued because they are more prevalent than they have been in years. Moreover, goaltending in fantasy is as important as ever. That’s a problem. Everyone knows how much volatility there is in goaltending. Pekka Rinne was average-to-bad for a half-decade and this year he’s a Vezina finalist. Carey Price was as dominant as we’ve seen from a goaltender this century for a four-year stretch and in 2017-18 he would have been a poor backup goalie. The examples go on and on but fantasy owners know the deal with goalies.

Depending on perspective, this is a problem or an opportunity in the fantasy game. For example, the top-5 goalies by ADP on ESPN (Holtby, Price, Murray, Bobrovsky, and Talbot) finished with the following season-end ranks on ESPN’S Player Rater among goalies only: 33rd, 74th, 42nd, 6th, and 43rd. No goalie with an ADP among the top-5 goalies actually finished as a top-5 goalie. If we expand to the top-10 by ADP, we add Jones, Dubnyk, Rinne, Rask, and Quick. Only Rask, Rinne, and Quick finished among the top-10 goalies. In other words, four goalies drafted in the top-10 by ADP on ESPN finished as top-10 goalies. They’re horrific investments.

It’s something to be covered deeper as the summer wears on but it’s probably time to treat goalies in fantasy hockey as if they were running backs in fantasy football: avoid drafting them early and stockpile them in the mid-to-late rounds. Just a thought.

That was a bit of a goalie tangent but whomst among us hasn’t gone off on a goalie tangent once in a while.

The last part to cover is shot volume among forwards.

The average number of shots on goal at five-on-five by a forward in 2013-14 was 79.26. This past season, it was 83.53. Given that we know shot attempts have gone up over the last four years, this is not a surprise. What is a surprise the distribution of those shots.

In 2017-18, there was an explosion of middle-of-the-road shot totals. Each season from 2013-14 through 2016-17 saw between 130-135 forwards post between 100 and 149 shots. Last year, the number of forwards jumped to 158. The jump in forwards posting 100-150 shots in 2017-18 compared to the seasons 2013-14 through 2016-17 was 16.14 percent. On the other hand, the number of forwards that posted 150 or more didn’t climb nearly as much. In 2017-18, there were 54 forwards to manage at least 150, representing an increase of 13.43 percent. As explained in yesterday’s Rambings, the middling totals are becoming more abundant. The elite totals are as well, just not at the same rate.

All this is only at five-on-five and power-play production is a huge factor in fantasy performance. It’s just to point out that we should be coveting the guys that can put up elite shot rates more than we have in recent seasons. The automatics like Alex Ovechkin and Vladimir Tarasenko are obvious but don’t forget guys like Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Skinner, or Brendan Gallagher. Power-play minutes have to be factored in before final determinations are made, but guys like that are important to finishing atop shot totals in your fantasy league.

Just as a small aside: this is what the distribution of forward shot totals for each of the last five seasons looks like. You’ll notice how the elite shot totals (over 220) of even two years ago don’t exist anymore but there is a higher density in the ~130-200 range. Also, the curve from 2017-18 shifted right from 2016-17, which shows the general increase in shots:

Let’s summarize the last couple Ramblings:

  • Shot rates at five-on-five across the league are increasing and forward shot rates are increasing with it.
  • Not only are shot rates increasing, but conversion rates are as well. A lot more studying needs to be done into why but this is bad news for goalies.
  • The increased shot rates mean more volume at all levels but we are seeing a larger increase in middling totals than we are elite totals.

This is but one small piece of the puzzle we’ll be putting together all summer trying to figure out how to best allocate draft picks come September and which players we should value. As promised, tomorrow we will focus on defencemen and how their shot and goal rates are changing.