Hello everybody and welcome in for another article. I’ve been taking some time to put together what I hope you’ll agree is some quality content and information that you likely have not encountered elsewhere. I’m trying to tackle the problem of goal scoring regression and learning what statistics may predict an impending decline in that area. I began with a hypothesis that players that do not generate many individual chances for relative to their actual goal scoring output would regress in the following season. I went back five years and compiled the following list of players who scored more than 20 goals while having an iCF/60 (individual chances for per 60 minutes played) per goals/60 rate less than 9.00:
I’m going to take a quick minute to explain the acronyms here, from left to right. Goals/60 is total number of goals scored per 60 minutes of ice time – if a hypothetical player scored one goal in 120 minutes of ice time, his goals/60 would be 0.5. iCF60/G is individual chances for per 60 minutes of ice time, divided by goals/60 (which if you think about it, comes out to just raw individual chances for divided by raw goals scored). iSCF60/G and iHDCF60/G are the same thing but for individual scoring chances for and individual high danger chances for, respectively. Next Yr G60 is the goals/60 mark posted the following season by that player, G60 Diff shows the difference between Next Yr G60 and the first goals/60 column, and Goal Diff shows the raw goal difference from the initial year to the following year. Let’s get into the findings:
This is a short list, but a doozy. From the 2014/15 season up to and including the 2018/19 season, 15 players posted an iCF/60 per goal rate below 9.00 while still scoring at least 20 goals. The following year all but one player posted a lower goals/60 rate than the previous season. The one who didn’t? Anders Lee in 2016/17, who improved by 0.08 goals/60 in 2017/18, then promptly fell off a cliff in 2018/19 dropping by a whopping 0.50 goals/60. On average, these 15 players lost 0.43 goals/60 in the following season. If you prefer real hard numbers, the players on this list scored an average of 10.5 actual goals less the following year. That is a monstrous dropoff in production that cannot be ignored. By now hopefully you’re ahead of me and asking the question, “who made this list in 2019/20 that we should be worried about for 2020/21?”. I’m glad you asked, dear reader. Let me present to you the four players who met this criteria in 2019/20:
Uh-oh, there’s a couple fantasy community darlings on this list. If you’ve been following my articles or Twitter feed for a while you’ve doubtless already heard my anti-Zibanejad rhetoric before, but if not, let me be the first to inform you: Zibanejad is going to underperform his average draft position in 2020/21. He will be drafted as though 40 goals is his floor when in fact it is closer to his ceiling. By every metric imaginable this man is due for the biggest regression of any player in 2020/21. Get off the train now, this ride will not be pleasant.
Aho is the second aforementioned darling, who helped his case even further by having a marvelous qualifying playoff round against Zibanejad’s Rangers. I am less concerned about Aho than I am about Zibanejad for a couple of reasons. The first is that Aho has an elite setup man on his left in Teuvo Teravainen (I said what I said) and a burgeoning superstar on his right in Andrei Svechnikov. Zibanejad typically only sees time with the other star on his team (Artemi Panarin) on the power play, as apparently the Rangers hate fun. The second is that Aho is a younger and still developing player, whereas Zibanejad had seven seasons of establishing himself as a certain caliber of player before apparently becoming the best goal scorer in the league last year. It’s hard to say if Aho has already peaked or if the chances for will continue to increase as he continues to grow as a hockey player and benefits from Svechnikov’s ascension to stardom.
Killorn and Schenn can easily be lumped together, having had outlier seasons and bound to regress significantly. Neither will come close to the 29-31 goal paces they put up this season and will settle back down to the 20-22 goal region. Killorn in particular had an ludicrously efficient season and unless you think he’s as great a goal scorer as Matthews and Pastrnak you’d be best served to move him down your draft boards.
One final point to make here: nothing is certain in hockey. Predictions and projections of any given player’s outcome over the course of a season will likely be accurate at best 60% of the time. There are far too many confounding variables at play to be perfectly accurate. But when faced with evidence such as this, the astute fantasy hockey player must either accept that strong regression in the goal scoring department is extremely likely for these four players, or have strong convictions as to why they will be an outlier. Anders Lee lost John Tavares as his center after the 17/18 season, precipitating a 12-goal drop in production. If Tavares had remained an Islander, would Lee have maintained his ridiculous efficiency for a third straight season? We’ll never know. But it is possible. So if you believe wholeheartedly that Zibanejad will play full time 5v5 with Artemi Panarin and Kaapo Kakko will take a leap from a dreadful rookie season to a star level in 2020/21 on the other wing, then by all means, draft Zibanejad at price. That’s your projection. But do not convince yourself that any player will be an outlier “because they’re so good”. That’s not analysis, that’s fandom. These are the things you need to divorce yourself from if you want to win on draft day.
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