Ramblings: Werenski is a Dreamboat, Kucherov vs. Hall, Pulock Hurt (Oct 22)

by steve laidlaw on October 22, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Werenski is a Dreamboat, Kucherov vs. Hall, Pulock Hurt (Oct 22)

Drooling over Werenski, contrasting Kucherov and Hall, Pulock's missed chance and more.

 

Werenski island is filling up but there’s still time to buy property. He is 26% owned on Yahoo and 20.3% on ESPN. I’m not sure what else he has to do to get picked up. Werenski has the pedigree, the hype, the talent, the opportunity and now the production. He has two goals, four points and 14 SOG in just three games. There’s a non-zero chance he gets to 50 points this season. But even if he doesn’t he should put up enough shots to remain fantasy relevant. I’m assuming that I am preaching to the choir and that you’ve all jumped on board with Werenski by now but if not, do so now! Stop reading, I’ll wait. Open a new tab or your fantasy app and make the move. There has to be someone worth dumping on the end of your roster.

In one of my leagues, I went as far as grabbing Werenski as my fifth defenseman, even though we only start four. This runs counter to my philosophy but the value on Werenski is too good. I’ll look to make a trade at some point to get myself back down to four but I don’t necessarily have to. The reason I don’t roll with an extra defenseman is because fantasy relevant defensemen are such a scarce resource.

I want my defenders to be capable of hitting 50 points, or to put up enough peripherals (200+ shots or 90+ PIM) to be worth having in the roster on a nightly basis. Finding five defensemen with that capability in a draft is rare so I’ll usually put my bench slots towards a forward. But if I can find five defensemen who meet my standards I will find a way to use them.

Alexander Wennberg is lingering as another interesting option on the Blue Jackets but I’m not as high on him relative to his position (center) as I am regarding Werenski on defense.

The Blue Jackets sent Oliver Bjorkstrand to the minors and called up Sonny Milano. Bjorkstrand is a far more enticing prospect but he needed to produce to stick around, especially since he was seeing top-six minutes and top PP duties.

Will Milano step into Bjorkstrand’s spot? That remains to be seen. Tortorella made a point of using Bjorkstrand in an offensive role so he could do the same with Milano but he has had Brandon Saad languishing on the third line and second PP unit. Saad was in Bjorkstrand’s spot alongside Wennberg last night, so I’m jumping on board with Saad here.

Last bit of CBJ business, Ryan Murray is out with an upper-body injury. No timeline yet but he is expected to miss time. No real fantasy impact but it will make the Blue Jackets worse.

*

Sounds like some injury woes for the Blackhawks as Marian Hossa may be missing extended time.

*

Missed opportunity for Ryan Pulock who had been called up to fill in for an injured Nick Leddy who is out with an upper-body injury. Pulock was set to skate on the Islanders’ top PP unit, which is his destiny, but went down with an injury of his own.

This opportunity could not have gone worse. What a shame.

Now it appears the Islanders will call up Adam Pelech. In the meantime, Travis Hamonic is the guy manning the point on the top PP unit. He sees a bit of a boost but it only lasts as long as Leddy is out.

*

Tomas Tatar! Finally, he scores his first goal of the season. A real beauty as well. You guys know that I like Tatar’s situation. I think he can threaten for 30 goals and 55 points. He gets top line and top PP usage. Good talent and good opportunity should make for good results.

Gustav Nyquist also scored his first goal of the season. I am not quite as high on Nyquist because he is seeing less opportunity.

I am buying zero shares of Darren Helm’s fast start. He’s up to four goals already. He’s a nice player but not for my fantasy squad.

*

It appears that the flu bug has hit Nashville. Keep an eye out to see if this will cause Johansen or Smith to miss tonight’s action.

*

Dale Weise has been suspended for three games. Not much fantasy impact here.

*

Now for some Q+A:

I like the use of Time on Ice as a category to help boost the value of defensemen. Even with that category, I’d think that expensive defensemen are tough to roster unless they are producing a hefty point total. That’s not really Olli Maatta’s game.

Maatta appears to have slipped down the Penguins’ depth chart as he has only skated 13:51 per game. That’s not going to cut it for $4M on your cap. I’d drop him.

 

I’d drop Troy Brouwer. He has acquitted himself fairly well in Calgary but this is still a 31-year-old with a career high of 43 points. The upside is limited relative to the other two.

 

To answer your second question first, yes try a two-for-one deal. These deals are generally great in all formats, except in leagues where replacement value off the waiver wire is non-existent.

Jonathan Drouin is the odd-man out for me, simply due to shot volume. The rest of these guys should provide 200 SOG or more, along with strong scoring upside. Drouin has the scoring upside but perhaps not the shooting.

First of all, I think the plus/minus factor is stupid and I’m going to disregard it when making my consideration, which is how I treat plus/minus in all leagues, mind you.

Really juicy question, one worthy of a Cage Match column. I’ll dive into it here, however.

The short answer is that I prefer Kucherov and if you aren’t in for a long-winded response, you can skip ahead to the next question. If you want the methodology, here you go:

There’s no denying that Hall has proven a higher level of production. He already has an 80-point season under his belt and has two seasons in which he has scored at better than a point-per-game rate. This being a points-based setup, Hall loses serious marks for being injury prone. Hall missed 77 games in his first five seasons, before finally skating a full 82-game slate last year. That’s an average of over 10 games missed a year.

Hall’s higher level of scoring can be demonstrated not just with raw totals but also with rate stats like per-minute scoring. Over the past three seasons, Hall is eighth in the league in 5-on-5 scoring at 2.38 points per 60 minutes. Kucherov ranks 40th scoring 2.01 P/60 tied with the likes of Patrice Bergeron and Patric Hornqvist, among others. That’s really good but it’s not elite.

Kucherov has also seen a lot of volatility in his performance, with just one season above the 2.00 P/60 mark, whereas Hall has several of those seasons.

Hall, skating on weaker teams than Kucherov’s Lightning has also seen much more ice time with which to impose his higher scoring rates, making them that much more impressive. This could be a function of age as much as team strength, however, as Hall has two years on Kucherov in age, and three years on him in terms of NHL experience. The past three years have been Kucherov’s first three in the league. Hall is already working on year seven.

That age difference matters a little bit. Hall turns 25 next month, which is the peak age for scoring production on most aging curves. After this season, we should expect Hall to start trending downward. It’s not all gloom and doom, however. From the article linked to above, we can see that players retain most of their scoring until their 30’s:

In addition, we now have an estimate of how even strength scoring ability changes through a player's 30's. On average, players retain about 90% of their scoring through age 29, but the drop from there is pretty sharp — they hit 80% at age 31, 70% at age 32-33, and 60% at age 35.

That means Hall has a good five seasons before really falling off, assuming he follows the typical curve. If you are looking past five seasons in a keeper league, you are probably doing it wrong.

While Hall should lose little scoring over the next few years, we should see the 23-year-old Kucherov reaching his peak in the next few seasons. He should also see added responsibility in the form of increased ice time. So far, Kucherov’s ice time has gone up every season, peaking at last season’s 18:13 per game. That still doesn’t match up with Hall’s 19+ minutes, however. So far, Kucherov is skating 17:46 for the Lightning so it is possible that their overall depth will continue to be a hindrance.

We have only talked about even-strength scoring thus far, where Hall has a distinct edge that should be shrinking as Kucherov climbs toward his peak. On special teams, there may be a gap. Neither of these guys has played much of a role on the penalty kill, which is probably a positive, as they can conserve energy for minutes with a higher rate of return. Hall is starting to see a small portion of PK time with the Devils but not enough to be a real concern.

On the power play, both have seen a similar number of minutes ~3:00 per game, while skating on teams that have struggle while up a man and also favour alternating between their two PP units. The end result is these guys skating about 55% of the available PP minutes, which is also a limiting factor on ultimate upside when compared to players like Alex Ovechkin who frequently skate 80% or more of his team’s PP minutes. They both face the same problem however so there is no clear advantage.

Hall has just one season where he has hit the 20-PPP mark so this would seem to be a clear deficiency but as mentioned, the Oilers have struggled to field a strong PP outside of the season in which they were coached by Ralph Krueger. Hall is now on a Devil team that ranks eighth in the NHL in PP efficiency since John Hynes took over, clicking on a solid 19.9% of chances. Hall’s two goals thus far were both PP markers. Anecdotally, it appears that Hall will be much more involved in the PP than during his last few seasons in Edmonton so he could be in for a spike in production here.

Much has been made about the addition of Todd Richards to the Lightning coaching staff and the impact he may have on their power play, which stunk last season. This is a topic I’ve already discussed at length. It’s too early to say for certain if the Lightning have improved but so far they’ve scored on three of 15 chances for a solid 20% success rate.

Kucherov used the PP to boost his point totals scoring 25 of his 66 points with the man advantage. That’s more PPP than Hall has ever produced and it’s a good sign that he did it with a group that scored at a below-average rate. We probably don’t know enough to call this a distinct advantage for Kucherov, however.

Ultimately, Hall is at his peak now and if not for injuries there probably wouldn’t be much of an argument for passing on him for Kucherov. That I’m getting 10 extra games out of Kucherov in the average season narrows the gap. Add in that we probably haven’t seen the best of Kucherov yet and that’s the direction I’m leaning.

*

Interesting article and podcast on the former Jets GM who tried to start the Russian revolution in the NHL before it really took. This is part of FiveThirtyEight’s “Ahead of Their Time” series.

*

Thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.