Verhaege, Kyrou, Hischier, Zegras and Bennett – December 23 – DobberHockey
During my last Ramblings, I’ve taken the time to talk about some stats from the season so far, focusing on both forwards and defenders. While most of my analysis for fantasy hockey is done through public data sites like ours on Frozen Tools, Natural Stat Trick, or elsewhere, there are other non-public resources that can be of great value not only to the public. fantastic analysis, but just to understand the game better. My recent Ramblings have used the work of Corey Sznajder, a game tracker examining every game for things like zone exits / entries, dumps, blue line defense, and a plethora of other stats. His Patreon can be picked up here.
Previous Ramblings have discussed rates of fire and assists among attackers as well as breakout rates among defenders. Today we are going to see the players who create scoring chances in a rush. The reason is that teams that can win the zone in control and immediately create something have a good chance of scoring. It is not a perfect science; Not all players who are good in the rush are good scorers. We find guys like Adrian Kempe, Jake DeBrusk and Jakob Silfverberg who are part of the elite to start the race for the past three years. On the other hand, the top 5 names from this period, based on 60, are Brady Tkachuk, Timo Meier, Max Pacioretty, Kevin Fiala and David Pastrnak. In the top 20 are names such as Brendan Gallagher, Alex Ovechkin, Nazem Kadri and Ondrej Palat. There are also rising stars like Filip Chytil, Denis Gurianov, and Anthony Duclair (although he’s a bit more established). All of this to say that if you can control the puck with pace and precision, good things usually happen. Who knew!
It’s not that this is groundbreaking news, it’s that we have real data to at least start ordering these players. As always, this is a sample spanning about a quarter of the season, so nothing is definitive. We’re just looking for good signs, and players to watch for the rest of the year.
Of all the players tracked, only a handful have a higher controlled zone entry rate this season than Verhaege, and these are the guys you’d expect; the Gaudreau-Point-Ehlers landing. Likewise, only a handful of players have Also saw more scoring chances generated by his zone entries, and these are the guys you would expect; the McDavid-Marner-MacKinnon level. To put it in simpler terms: his zonal entries, and subsequent scoring chance rates, have been among the elite in the NHL this year.
It’s at this point that we ask if it’s just a blip or maybe something more. I lean for the latter. The reason is that according to the same metric last year – zone entries with checks every 60 minutes and odds on those entries – Verhaege was equally excellent, grouped into one level with Nathan MacKinnon, Artemi Panarin, Kevin Fiala and Taylor Lobby. In the previous two seasons he was inside the 80se percentile of two assists (passes leading to shots) and controlled zone entries every 60 minutes. That for the next two years the Panthers continue to generate plenty of scoring opportunities and that he continues to be excellent in transition seems like a natural progression from an extremely talented player.
He has 25 goals and 58 points in his last 71 games, averaging more than two shots per game and he’s able to break 50 hits. He is a fantastic asset of value no matter what. The key here is that he ultimately gets the best power play minutes. I really believe he can be a point per game player with this better billing, he’s so good. It’s just a matter of giving him that role, which the team doesn’t seem to like too much.
Included in that group of players mentioned in that last section of the previous season, that MacKinnon / Panarin / Verhaege group? It would be Jordan Kyrou from Saint-Louis. This has persisted this season as he has the same zonal entry rate as names like Kirill Kaprizov and Jack Hughes, with the team generating roughly the same number of scoring chances on their entries as Rangers and Panarin or the ‘Avalanche and Kadri. He was a guy who always showed a lot of skill but had to endure a few injuries and some growth in outlook to get to where he is. Now he has 60 points in his last 82 games, averaging more than two shots per game, spanning the past two seasons. By the way, it was skating 15 minutes a night. What would his production look like if he skated 18-19 minutes? Something to ponder.
That’s why I think Kyrou is, for lack of a better term, for real, and not a mirage. He had solid zone entry / exit numbers in small samples when he started his career, clearly had superior speed and hands, and his game has gotten stronger over the past two years as he is a full time player. The problem would be ice time, as the Blues like to roll three, if not four, lines, but it has gained two minutes from last year and could possibly reach 18 minutes by next year. His peripherals leave much to be desired, but he’s 23 and still has more ice time. Hits are unlikely to come, but I think he can hit three shots per game over the next two seasons.
One concern about New Jersey’s prospects this year would be Nico Hischier’s performance. He hadn’t really progressed in his production and was coming out of an injury-ridden season. While he’s on track for just over 50 points, it’s a three-year high, and he has a career-worst 6.7%. Regulate that shooting percentage to his career standard and he’s on pace at about 60 points.
The other good news is that he was a great playmaker for the team. His entry rate into the controlled zone only closely follows Verhaege and overtakes names like Hughes, Kaprizov and Kadri. The problem is, the team don’t generate a lot of these entries, as players like Yanni Gourde in Seattle and Phil Kessel in Arizona have higher scoring chance rates on their entry zones. This is actually an issue that persists throughout the team, as they generate even fewer chances with the inputs from Hughes and Bratt, and Tatar and Mercer’s rates are only slightly higher. They’re doing everything right, but that doesn’t translate into a lot of dangerous opportunities yet. There’s a good reason the team’s shooting percentage is near the bottom 10 in the league at 5v5.
It’s good to see Hischier doing the right things, but this team still needs scorers to take it to the next level, both for their success and for their crosses success in fantasy play. Paging Alexander Holtz, Alexander Holtz you have a call to the courtesy desk.
You don’t really have to dig much here because, guess what, Trevor Zegras has been really good this year. Now that could be a chicken and egg argument of “is he good because his small sample of zone entries is strong, or is he good for zone entries and generating odds and that is. why is it good? ” The point is, there is no one else close to him on his squad in his entry-to-zone / scoring chance abilities, at least so far not this year. So it’s not just a question of team philosophy. That tells me it’s more up to the player, so I’m inclined to believe it’s just a skill he has and that’s why he’s been great at it, rather than just a small sample issue. Of course, there’s always the caveat of “it’s been 30 games and he’s a rookie,” but he’s been solid in that regard last year, and thinks he’s just a very. good young player.
The only Florida forward generating more controlled EO entries is Verhaege, which means he does more heavy loads than Aleksander Barkov or Jonathan Huberdeau, per minute. Of course he was inside the 85e percentile on zone entries on a percentage basis over his last two years in Calgary, so that’s not really new to him. What’s new is always having great teammates, and that’s probably why he’s on track for 30 goals. The assists haven’t arrived yet, but we’re getting there.
Florida doesn’t generate a lot of scoring chances with Bennett’s entries, as he’s much closer to the aforementioned Devils level than Marners and Fialas of the world. This could be a problem for his assists totals as they need to generate scoring chances that aren’t limited to his stick for him to get assists. He needs his teammates to shoot more, in all likelihood, as it looks like he’s the trigger for his own zone entries.
Either way it’s good to see him still playing well and while he won’t be a point per game player, once those assists bounce back he is a guy who can score 30 goals. and 60 points with 250 shots and 150 hits. These are fantastic monster numbers.
Official on the NHL and the Olympic Games:
This is not a huge surprise and players have every right to be concerned about their health and safety. I was looking forward to this, so hopefully they can do some sort of summer tournament. However, I guess if the league is to push the playoffs, it starts to get unlikely.