Gus Katsaros

Hockey Analytics

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Second Half Resurgence

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


 

The NHL’s season midway point quickly approaches and it’s time to take stock and find some undervalued forwards potentially on the verge of a second half resurgence. We are only going to focus on even strength play (5v5), understanding that 5v4 production is critical to success.

 

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Many factors go into players falling out of favor with fantasy GM’s, ranging from sheer inconsistency on the player’s behalf, lackluster production, or roster decisions forced by an abundance of available talent, a good draft or shrewd asset management.

 

A similarity among a bunch of the profiled players below – and those in similar situations at this juncture of the season is the negative value of goals minus expected goals. The implication being that while the numerical value of shot generation is presented as an expected goals value, real scoring is not observing the same value, a discrepancy that can be exploited.

 

There are a lot of underachievers every season. For this exercise I have only focused on the players in this table, focusing on some prominent players that rank near the bottom of 5v5 play in 2017-18.

 

Data is provided by Corsica Hockey.

 

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Sidney Crosby


It’s hard to consider any list like this containing the likes of Crosby, but here we are. The reigning Stanley Cup Champions are humming along at a lackluster pace, and their best player is sporting a pts/60 less than one (0.98) ranking seventh overall on the team – truly odd placement and production. There are signs of underperformance and definite improvement, perhaps more immediate than later, such as a very low PDO (94.71) with the team firing 3.42% with the superstar on the ice. Sid going on a prolonged scoring run has been common even under the most adverse of conditions, so to have a second half explosion wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. For the Penguins to solidify a playoff spot out of the bottom of the rankings, Crosby’s second half production will determine that very heavily.

 

Joe Thornton & Joe Pavelski


A pair of Joes, teammates and linemates, on the west coast are struggling to generate offense at even strength – a team wide issue – each with 10 points at 5v5. Both players sport a sub-par PDO (Thornton – 94.95, Pavelski – 96.21) and rank 192 & 196 respectively among NHL forwards. Thornton has the same production at 5v4 (4-6-10) as at even strength, and Pavelski with eight points lags by only a slight degree. He is outperforming individual shooting percentage (8.2%) and the on-ice shooting percentage (56.7%) while lagging his expected goals by 1.19 goal. There’s room for improvement there and should one of them initiate a prolonged heater, the other will inherit excellent peripheral production.

 

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Brandon Saad


Two goals at 5v5 over the last dozen games (12-2-1-3) shortly following an 11-game slump without a point at even strength. Stuck at eight goals, and second on the team, he ranks 115 among NHL forwards in 5v5 points, hardly encouraging numbers.  His 13 points are grouped among Ryan Hartman, Nick Schmaltz Alex DeBrincat and Jonathan Toews as distant seconds to Patrick Kane’s team leading 24 points. That alone is an indication of the state of the Blackhawks depth scoring after its top players, but more is expected out of Saad with the price the Blackhawks paid to reacquire him from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Rotoworld’s Michael Finewax pointed out just how much Saad has struggled on the power play as well. Contains the spark to ignite the Chicago even strength production and an excellent bet for a second half resurgence.

 

Adam Henrique


Former Devils pivot was dealt to the Ducks for a defenseman, splitting 10 points, five for each club at 5v5. There aren’t any specific metrics to expect a better second half, however he is being inserted into a good situation in Anaheim. He’s averaging 101 PDO, and firing 11.11% - while overall with him on the ice teams are firing 7.18%, and at par in expected goals. He’s scored 10 goals at 5v5 every season (lockout season excluded), and his 10 at 5v5 last season followed an 18-goal career high outburst in 2015-16. He has half a season to double up and hit the 10 goal mark once again, especially with a shooting percentage induced start as a Duck.

 

Alex Wennberg


Endured a brutal 13-game stretch with one point – a primary assist earned in his first game back from a six-game absence due to a back injury – at 5v5, before producing four over the last five games leading into the holiday break (5-2-2-4),  that include his first two goals of the season in games 29 and 27. His expected goals of 3.71 isn’t as high as expected either, considering the talent and linemate combinations available in Columbus, and still he is underperforming. Besting last season’s 29 points at 5v5 will take more consistent production and better than 6.9% shooting percentage – especially when the Blue Jackets are firing 9.09% with him on the ice.


Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk & Mitch Marner


It’s not often there’s an entire line ranked among the NHL’s least productive forwards at even strength, and even more puzzling when considering the potent offense of the Toronto Maple Leafs. This trio isn’t alone either, with Nazem Kadri falling into this group of players. Toronto, outside of Auston Matthews, is not producing at a high pace at even strength. The sputtering offense at even strength is being propped up by an effective power play. Mitch Marner was taken off the Bozak/JvR unit earlier in the season, causing a stir among Leafs faithful in what was seen as a demotion to the fourth line. Marner’s points have come in bunches with some droughts. At 5v5 he’s scored twice, and trails only William Nylander with 11 assists (Nylander has 13). Even Marner’s differential suggests a better second half, with real goals (on-ice) lagging the expected goals. The chances are coming for Marner, who has returned slightly to the style that made him successful as a rookie, something I expanded at Maple Leafs Hot Stove, with a small turnaround beginning right before the holiday break. The other two members of the line goals differential in reference to the expected goals is favorable, seeing as they’ve outscored their expected goals amounts by small margins. In addition, they sport individual shooting percentages that are greater than the expected goals amount. Both players are much better when Marner completes the line versus any other teammate, providing reasons to believe if Marner can be the catalyst for retribution for a sub-par first half, the peripheral production at 5v5 would fall to these two linemates.



Gus Katsaros is the Pro Scouting Coordinator with McKeen’s Hockey, publishers of industry leading scouting and fantasy guide, the McKeen’s Annual Hockey Pool Yearbook. He also contributes to popular blog MapleLeafsHotStove.com ... he can be followed on Twitter @KatsHockey
Email :Gus Katsaros



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