Hello everyone and welcome in for another article, the fourth part of a series in which I try to determine the truth about puzzling players. First I want to take a second to invite you to join the Apples & Ginos Discord server which is where I gathered ideas from the members on which players to investigate. With that said, let’s discover the truth:
Clayton Keller, LW – ARI
Keller has popped of late, dropping five points in his last five games. In those five games, he’s posted some pretty impressive stats: he’s skating 18:17 a night alongside known A&G darling Conor Garland both at 5v5 and on the PP, is 25th in the league in all strengths iSCF/60 and 34th in xGF/60. He’s shooting a lot (almost 3 per game over those five games) and his IPP is under control at 67%. To be honest, Keller is almost the exact same player he was last year with an uptick in personal and team shooting percentage. Okay, it’s more than an uptick – he’s rocking a 21.4% shooting percentage to go with a nutty 18.4% on-ice shooting percentage. On the season that levels out to 12.8% for himself and 12.3% for the team. I projected him at a 12.5% pace with 18:15 of ice per game for the rest of the season and I came up with a 29-goal, 70-point pace. That’ll play, folks.
Verdict: Dude’s a buy
Shea Theodore, D – VGK
Theodore returns to action tonight for the first time since leaving a February 9th game with an undisclosed injury. Before the injury Theodore was lighting the league on fire. First in the league in shots/60 for a defenseman. First in the league in individual scoring chances for/60 for a defenseman. Third in the league in CF/60 for a defenseman. Seventh in the league in xGF/60 for a defenseman. Second in team scoring chances for/60 for a defenseman. I could go on, but you get the picture. Theodore was dominant and while he’s probably not a point-per-game defenseman the rest of the season, he has real 70-point-pace upside and should be considered a near lock to finish in the top 5 in point pace among defensemen when it’s all said and done.
Verdict: This man is a certified stud
William Nylander, RW – TOR
Nylander has been frustrating fantasy managers of late, going ice cold with zero points in his last five games. As a non-factor in the peripherals department, when Nylander isn’t scoring he’s a net negative to your team. I dug into Nylander’s underlying numbers and was… whelmed. He’s 78th in on-ice scoring chances for/60, 41st in individual expected goals for/60, and is skating 15:52 a night over those last five games. His shot rate is significantly down from the 9.55 shots/60 he posted in 2019/20, all the way down to 6.96 on the season and 6.05 over his past five games. His on-ice shooting percentage is under 9%, surprisingly low for a player who plays with John Tavares and a dangerous Maple Leafs squad in general. The Leafs choosing to split the power play units with Tavares/Nylander on the second unit has certainly hurt Nylander and while he’s not playing as poorly as his lack of counting stats would suggest, I can’t say that he’s going to recapture last year’s 40-goal pace any time soon. A 60ish point pace from here on out seems like the most likely bet.
Verdict: Hold, but adjust expectations
Matthew Tkachuk, RW – CGY
The elder Tkachuk has taken a backseat to brother Brady in fantasy hockey circles, running cold with no points in his last three games and only two in his last five. Tkachuk’s underlying stats are disconcerting to say the least. His all strengths expected goals for/60 ranks 301st in the league over his last five games, and his 5v5 numbers are somehow worse. Tkachuk’s individual numbers look a little better, with an individual scoring chances for rate that sits at 97th in the league over those same five games. Not great, but not abysmal. On the season, Tkachuk’s numbers still look pretty strong overall and in line with previous seasons both on the individual and team side. With Tkachuk’s track record, I’m more than willing to bet this is a short term cold streak for the entire team and he’ll be back to his super pest, goal scoring ways shortly. I would continue to monitor his numbers and ensure when the team starts to heat up that he also turns it on a little more – that’s the easiest way to determine if he’s the cause or a symptom of the current problem in Calgary.
Ryan Strome, C – NYR
Strome has held value in fantasy leagues over the past season-plus because of his unlikely on-ice marriage with superstar Artemi Panarin. He also benefited last season from being a part of a scorching Rangers power play, but as of late he has been kept off the top unit in favour of Pavel Buchnevich, Chris Kreider, and even rookie Alexis Lafreniere. Panarin got a little nicked up recently and Strome’s production has dried up as a result. Strome has some nice 5v5 numbers of late, generating good individual chance numbers and getting unlucky with a low on-ice shooting percentage. But to me there are two keys to Strome’s success as a player who can’t really change a game on his own: Panarin on his line at 5v5 and PP1. When he’s getting both those things, the numbers look terrific and the points start to flow. With Panarin out of the lineup for a few games and everyone else getting that PP1 look ahead of Strome, it becomes hard to recommend Strome as a fantasy option. In my opinion he’s trending into streamer territory, a player you pick up when he’s worked into that PP1 group and when he’s got a bunch of games against easy matchups. But unless you’re in a pretty deep league, there are probably better options out there currently.
Verdict: Sell if possible, drop if necessary
Erik Karlsson, D – SJ
Karlsson has hurt fantasy managers in a big way this year, registering just four assists in 13 games to start the season despite playing over 25 minutes a night. Now comes a mysterious lower body injury that held him out of Monday’s game against the Ducks – the body blows just keep landing for those holding him. It’s a shame, too, because there were some small signs that Karlsson might be emerging from his slump. He bumped up to 6.5 shots/60 in his last four games, a rate that would better his 2019/20 mark by a substantial margin. They were quality chances too, as he ranked eighth among all defensemen with 5.2 individual scoring chances for/60 during the same time period. With just a 25% IPP on the season, it’s easy to see a path for Karlsson to at least return a 45-50 point pace ROS, especially if he continues to skate 25 minutes a night. The injury concerns are real, but I’m not quite ready to fire Karlsson into the sun just yet.
Verdict: Hold juuust a bit longer
Thanks for reading, you are appreciated!