15 Thoughts for 15 Teams – The Western Conference: Monday December 19th
A look at all 30 teams in a snapshot. What we know, what we think we know and what we don’t know; to make our DFS game better. Maybe I’ll make this a semi-regular thing.
We are creeping up on the halfway point of the NHL season, and this is the time of the year where DFS players can confidently say that we “know the teams” going forward. Over the last several years of playing NHL DFS, I’ve had the most success from about Christmas through mid-March. It’s time to kick our game into high gear! It’s money-making season!
But what do we really know about these teams? Are our perceptions still shaped by last season, or what we think these teams should be?
Rickard Rakell is the best offensive player on the Anaheim Ducks. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are entering the twilight of their hockey careers; and don’t even start about Ryan Kesler being the best offensive player the Ducks have. Rakell has 21 points in 21 games. Rakell’s glaring fancy stat weakness is his PDO, which sits at a team high 104.7. The Ducks are a negative CF team with Rakell on the ice and he’s a negative Rel.CF%. I’m one of Rakell’s biggest fans but expect his point-per-game pace to dip as we enter the new year.
The Cam Fowler resurgence or emergence, however you want to look at it is something. He was considered the odd-man out of the Ducks were going to make a trade when the season started; now he has 20 points on the season.
I guess this year is the Mike Smith show for the Arizona Coyotes? He’s seeing an average of 35 shots per game. In his last three wins he’s had to make 37+ saves in each of them, and let’s not forget his 58 save shootout loss to the Blue Jackets back on December 3rd. Smith makes an interesting GPP play anytime out because if he gets the win, it’s likely going to be with a hefty save total to boot. The Yotes play the Flames tonight and are home underdogs. Cue up Mike Smith?
Oh and Anthony DeAngelo; keep using him. He’s an offensive defenseman who is getting 18+ minutes of ice-time including power-play time and he’s pretty cheap, especially in places other than DraftKings. What up with OEL? His shot totals are down nearly a shot per game from last year?
Where did this Chad Johnson guy come from? The Calgary Flames made a trade to acquire Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues this summer in an effort to solve their goaltending woes. On the season Elliott has just a 3-9-1 record a 3.31 GAA and a .885 save percentage. Meanwhile Johnson has stepped up to post a 13-6-1 record, a 2.22 GAA and a .924 save percentage. Over the last two games Johnson has just given up eight goals on 50 shots. Both contracts expire at the end of the year, but where will Calgary management go when the season is over? I still think Elliott has more talent and will earn a spot back with the team next year, but Gulutzan has to give him some starts to get his confidence back. Tonight’s tilt against the Yotes will be telling in that regard. If Elliott doesn’t get the nod or gets blown up, this may be his last real shot. This might sound hyperbolic but this could be a watershed start for Elliott.
The Chicago Blackhawks have the 2nd highest PDO in the league at 103.0. I keep waiting for the Hawks to regress but it just hasn’t happened yet. You look at their forwards lines and its ugly. The entire roster looks like the Kane line + Hossa, Toews and a bunch of rookies. Beyond the line of Panarin-Anisimov-Kane, Marian Hossa is the only forward with more than 14 points.
Chicago has 258 points on the season, the Kane line has 93 of them, for a 36% share. Dont look now but Artemi Panarin is outscoring Patrick Kane. Panarin isn’t getting the “lucky” secondary assists either; he leads the team in P1/60 and just nine of his 34 points have been secondary assists. Its feasible to bullet Panarin because he’s more than just Kane’s sidekick.
Maybe it wasn’t Patrick Roy? The cantankerous French-Canadian icon who left the Colorado Avalanche searching for a new coach in the off-season is quietly watching the team fare worse without him than they did with him. Through 30 games the Avs have accumulated just 23 points, putting them on pace for an abysmal 63 point total in Jared Bednar’s first year behind the bench.
The Avs feel like the new Oilers. They have some really damn good individual talent (MacKinnon/Duchene/Barrie) but there is just zero depth and a revolving door of bottom six forwards and defensemen who can’t improve on the play of their predecessors. They have a league worst PDO of 97.1, so the bounces just haven’t gone their way. This team cant be that bad can they?
For whatever reason road Duchene is better than home Duchene. Since the beginning of last season Duchene has 49 points in 50 road games, and just 32 points in 52 home games. Keep that arrow in your quiver for your DFS lineups for the rest of the year. I’ve used him as a single bullet several times on the road with pretty much no ownership.
When will the injuries subside for the Dallas Stars? Only 12 players have played in more than 30 of the teams 33 games so far this season. More concerning however is even when they are healthy coach Lindy Ruff seems to be pulling his best Jack Capuano impression. The Dallas lines are in a constant state of flux.
Would the real John Klingberg please step up? The young Swedish d-man had a breakout season last year with 58 points in 76 games, and seemed poised to take his spot as the leagues next bright offensive-defense man. This season has been a near total reversal of fortune. After finishing with 2.25 shots and a 0.76 point average, this year he has just 1.13 shots per game and a 0.48 point average. He’s even been a healthy scratch. Perhaps it’s growing pains for a young d-man? His possession numbers are still good with a CF/60 of over 63 and a CF% over 53. His price has dropped, be ready to pounce when the production returns.
Connor McDavid is good, that we know. What’s becoming clear this year though is that Leon Draisaitl has been great for the Edmonton Oilers as well. I wrote in the pre-season that Dr. Drai’s numbers away from Taylor Hall last season were pretty poor. In just his second full year in the league though he’s showing he can score on his own. His P1/60 is the highest on the team, even bettering McDavid 2.49 to 2.35.
He’s not riding McDavid’s coattails either; Draisaitl has only played 83 minutes at even strength this year with McDavid. His GF/60 is higher when he’s been away from McDavid, although when paired together the pair has a CF% of nearly 60. Todd McClellan can take a page from Coach Q with how he’s deployed Toews-Kane in the past. Keep them on separate lines as much as possible, but when it comes down to crunch time in the playoffs put them together if you need to.
Kris Russell and Adam Larsson have abysmal Rel.CF%’s too but let’s leave that for another conversation. Miss you Taylor.
Tanner Pearson is a guy I’ve been waiting to break out for a while. He has the highest score adjusted CF% (62.3) on the Los Angeles Kings, but the individual production just isn’t there. He has just 13 points through 29 games, which puts him in the same neighborhood as where he was last year. His expected GF/60 is 4th best on the team. He could be that guy that drives possession for his line but doesn’t directly benefit himself? He’s been befuddling to me; and I find myself wanting to roster him especially when he’s on That 70’s line, but the frustration of point-less nights drives me back away. Help me out Kings fans. What kind of player is he? Can he ever be a 60 point player?
The Bruce Boudreau effect is real. After 30 games the Minnesota Wild have 40 points which is good for 2nd in the Western Conference. Boudreau’s Wild aren’t going it with special teams like his Ducks did last year. The Wild are just 19th in the league on the power-play and 6th in the league on the PK. Their PDO is a league high 103.2. They have the end highest shooting percentage and the 2nd highest 5 on 5 save percentage in the league.
Boudreau will likely make a playoff team out of the Wild, but they are perhaps the luckiest team in the league this far. Devan Dubnyk isn’t Carey Price (although he’s very good). Eric Staal has seen a resurgence, thanks to a shooting percentage reminiscent of his early Carolina days. Charlie Coyle is on pace for a 60 point season and could flirt with 180 shots on net. Minnesota is getting some mileage out of a Staal-Coyle combination who have played 79% of their even strength minutes together this year. The pair has been just as effective on the road as they have been at home. Give them consideration in road games where their ownership is likely to be very low.
The emergence of Viktor Arvidsson has given the Nashville Predators much needed depth scoring. Arvidsson has 20 points and a team leading 98 shots. He has the second highest score-adjusted CF/60 on the team at 71.9, which puts him elite company for the entire league Only center Ryan Johansen has a higher number on the Preds. His Rel.CF% is 6.6, meaning the Preds are doing a great job of controlling play with Arvidsson on the ice, than they are with him off the ice.
Maybe more impressively he’s doing this with almost no power-play time. Seven other Preds forwards have more power-play time than Arvidsson. He’s been bounced up and down the lineup as well. When he’s on the first line, I really like the full line stack, which comes in at a much lower price than Forsberg-Johansen-Neal.
Who doesn’t love Brent Burns? The San Jose Sharks d-man has a league leading 133 shots, putting him on pace for 340 shots, which is lower than his total last season of 353. It’s not that he’s shooting at a higher pace than last season, it’s just that Ovechkin’s shot pace has gone down. Burns has one of the highest floors in DFS, and thus is heavily owned, especially on FanDuel where it’s easier to fit him.
Now that we’ve given the obligatory Brent Burns reference, let’s talk about the shot totals for captain Joe Pavelski. He’s 2nd on the team and 7th in the league in shots with 111, putting him on pace for a career high 284 shots, 60 higher than his total from last season. Pavelski carries a lower price tag and lower ownership than Burns does.
Comparing the two so far this year Burns has 6 multi-point games to Pavelski’s four. Pavelski has been held scoreless 9 times while Burns has been held scoreless 8 times. Pavelski has had two or less shots in 11 games this year while Burns had done the same 10 times. Here is the interesting part though. Of the games they’ve been held scoreless (9 for Pavelski and 8 for Burns), 6 of those times have been the exact same game for both players. Their scoring is highly correlated. Although expensive, consider using a Pavelski-Burns mini-stack, especially against teams with a weak power-play. If there is scoring, they are likely to score together.
The St. Louis Blues are getting by so far with great special teams. They are 7th in the league on the power-play and 2nd in the league on the PK. Their five on five play however is actually below average. The Blues are just 20th in the league in GF% at 5 on 5. Their expected numbers are a bit better putting them at 12th, but considering they are 4th in the conference in points, this is not a juggernaut team.
Vladimir Tarasenko however is on a tear. If you want to get technical, Vladdy is in his magical 4th full year in the league. He’s second in the league in scoring with 37 points through 32 games, putting him on pace for 95 points. He’s a legit super-star without a supporting cast. They dont have a #1 center; Stastny? Lehtera? They have several talented wings and d-men though. The Blues need to make a trade for a #1 center, or something resembling one.
The Vancouver Canucks are winning games, somehow. They have the 6th worst score-adjusted CF% in the league. My only hope is that they stay relevant just long enough to that Benning makes a trade or two at the deadline under the illusion the Canucks have a shot in hell of making the playoffs. Sometimes I take Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi just for fun. To not be totally negative though, depending on the matchup, Ive used Troy Stecher or Ben Hutton a bunch of times. They are cheap, both play 20+ minutes a game and seem to alternate power-play opportunities.
The magical 4th year strikes again. This time for the Winnipeg Jets and Mark Scheifele, who leads the Jets with 30 points in 31 games. He’s been a monster on home ice with 17 shots and and 48 shots through 16 games. His fancy stats at even strength are a little less glowing, but at just 23, Scheifele is putting together a career year.Blake Wheler is a two-way monster like usual, and Patrik Laine is a goal scoring machine with some suspect play in his own end.
From an actual hockey perspective Paul Maurice should keep Wheeler and Little apart to provide some defensive structure in the top six and split up Scheifele and Laine much like he’s done the last few games. Ehlers-Scheifele-Wheeler and Guy-Little-Laine is a very good top six with both goal scoring ability and enough two way play that they aren’t bleeding goals at the other end.
I’ve been one of the biggest “Play Scheifele and his linemates at home” guys over the last few two years. This year is only continuing a trend that started last year when Scheifele totaled 38 points in 33 home games.