Hello everyone and welcome in for another article, the seventh 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:
Zach Werenski, D – CLB
Let’s get the recent stats out of the way early, because they’re not pretty. In his last five games, Werenski ranks 85th in 5v5 xGF/60, 104th in all strengths xGF/60, 74th in 5v5 individual chances for/60 (iCF/60), and 80th in all strengths iCF/60 among defensemen. That’s not who you thought Werenski was going to be. The kicker? Werenski is performing almost exactly at his season average over those five games. His 2020/21 season advanced stat profile drips red. Compared to 2019/20 he’s got 1.5 less shots/60, 3.5 less iCF/60, and 1.5 less iSCF/60. On the team side his on ice expected goals has dropped by more than 0.5 xGF/60. There is potential for positive regression in his 7% on-ice S% and his 2.2% S%, but this is a player who is playing poorly on a team that is playing poorly. I can’t confidently predict more than a 40-point pace rest of season (ROS), and even that I wouldn’t take to the bank.
Verdict: Sell on name value if you can
Miro Heiskanen, D – DAL
Miro Heiskanen was a popular name as a breakout candidate to elite defenseman levels this offseason after an unreal playoff run. He’s been good but unspectacular in 2020/21, registering 2 goals and 13 points in 20 games, a 53-point 82-game pace. Unfortunately there are some signs that even that pace is unsustainable, with Heiskanen running an unconscious 61.9% individual points percentage (IPP) and a higher on-ice shooting percentage than his previous two seasons at 9.6%. Unfortunately that is also accompanied by what would easily be a career worst 2.3 xGF/60 and a meager 3.7 shots/60, compared with 2019/20 when he posted a 3.0 xGF/60 and 6.1 shots/60. Of late Heiskanen has been playing a wild 26:20 a night, with the xGF/60 staying the same and the shots rising mildly to 4.6 shots/60. The 5.9 iSCF/60 over his last five games was the only really encouraging stat I could find in his profile; if anything it seems like unless Dallas really picks up the scoring around Heiskanen he isn’t likely to pace as even a 50-point defenseman the rest of the way.
Verdict: Still a sell for me
Matt Grzelcyk, D – BOS
Let’s get one thing out of the way quickly: Matt Grzelcyk’s value is exclusively tied to his role on the top Boston power play unit with Pastrnak, Bergeron, Marchand, & company. If that goes away Grzelcyk is instantly useless for fantasy. But while he’s there, the upside is very enticing, as evidenced by another power play assist Tuesday night. The Bruins clearly want Grzelcyk to succeed as the top power play quarterback so Charlie McAvoy can focus on a being the shutdown #1 defenseman that he is. Grzelcyk has only managed to draw into 10 games this season due to a few different minor injuries, but the results have been promising. He’s not a big shooting threat but has yet to score a goal on 17 shots, so by rights he has some positive regression coming there. The IPP and on-ice S% are both very manageable at 41.7% and 9.6%, respectively. His 6.2 shots/60 is the best pace of his career, as is his 3.4 xGF/60 mark (boosted of course by his newfound PP1 role). That xGF/60 lands him 6th among defensemen on the season with at least 150 minutes played, fitting snugly between Morgan Rielly and Adam Fox. I believe that there is significant potential with Grzelcyk to fill up on assists and PPP. He’s certainly not much help in the bangers cats, but the 50+ point ceiling is very enticing.
Verdict: If you need assists & PPP, Grzelcyk can get those for you
Rasmus Dahlin, D – BUF
I can make this one short and simple: the Sabres suck. There you go, case closed. How do I know? Dahlin’s xGF/60 in his first three seasons (taking his 24 games so far this season as the third) has been 2.97, 2.92, and 2.96. His actual GF/60 in those seasons goes 3.29, 3.58, 2.59. That’s right, the Sabres are scoring literally one full goal less per 60 minutes when Dahlin is on the ice this year, despite the expected goals staying pretty much exactly the same. That works out to (very) roughly one less point every 6 games for Dahlin. That may not seem like much but over 24 games that’s 4 points and over 82 that’s 14 points! Dahlin is shooting a tick more than his career average, seeing 21:12 of ice a night, with a low 1.9% S%. Yes, the Sabres are and likely will be bad. But Dahlin will get some of the positive regression that is coming to him. Is that 60-point ceiling we were hoping for still there? Probably not. But Dahlin’s floor should still be a 50 point pace. This is as low as Dahlin’s stock can get; I’d still be interested in him, especially in points leagues.
Verdict: If you need assists and PPP, Dahlin is still about as safe as it gets even if the ceiling isn’t there
Kyle Palmieri, RW – NJD
Palmieri has not been immune to the effects of a poor Devils’ squad, registering just 4 goals and 10 points in 21 games so far. He’s averaging about 18 and a half minutes per game which is great deployment, but despite him pacing very similarly to previous seasons in shots/60, iCF/60, and iSCF/60, his on-ice xGF/60 has cratered by over a goal per 60 (3.61 in 19/20 to 2.56 in 20/21). Combine that with a personal S% of 7.3% (career average 12.6%) and an on-ice S% of 8.0% (average of seasons in New Jersey is 10.8%), and it’s not hard to see why Palmieri isn’t matching his point totals of yesteryear. He’s still on the top line with Jack Hughes and playing on the first power play unit, but the Devils are real bad. Unfortunately, while Palmieri seems like his same old self, his season will likely be significantly hampered by his teammates.
Verdict: Adjust expectations based on his situation; probably not more than a 50 point player ROS
Alex Iafallo, LW – LAK
Alex Iafallo is having a decent season with 5 goals and 15 points in 24 games so far, a 51-point pace. He’s cooled off of late despite maintaining his top line and PP1 deployment along with significant penalty killing duties. On the season, the IPP looks a little light at 47%, and he could probably bump up his 9.6% S% by another point at least to match his last couple of seasons. However his on-ice S% of 12.7% does stand to regress some over the back half of the season, and Iafallo has gone ice cold shooting of late. He hasn’t scored in eight games, and his shots have dried up to the point that he’s 459th in the league in shots/60 over his past five games. That’s a frankly ridiculous stat for any player with the good fortune to play alongside Anze Kopitar, and one has to wonder how long Iafallo’s leash is with Adrian Kempe tearing it up once again down on the third line. On the season Iafallo’s advanced numbers all actually fall somewhat in line with last season, which gives me reason to think that he’s most likely going to end up in the same place – a 50 point winger with below average shots and hits who can stream in from time to time when he gets hot.
Verdict: A streamer when he’s hot, nothing more, nothing less
Cam Talbot, G – MIN
A lot of fantasy goaltender value is tied up in opportunity, and Talbot seems to be doing his best to lose his of late, giving up four or more goals in each of his last three starts. Unsurprisingly his advanced stats are not great: over those three starts he has a -0.64 goals saved above average/60 (GSAA/60) at 5v5 and an .850 5v5 high danger save percentage (HDSV%) which is not horrific but certainly not good. On the season the 5v5 GSAA/60 is -0.20 and the 5v5 HDSV% is .725, both significantly below replacement level. With Kaapo Kahkonen doing his best Dominik Hasek impression lately, it’s tough to recommend holding Talbot in any but the most goalie-starved leagues. It’s clear that Minnesota will function this season with a 1A/1B type goaltending tandem, but Talbot now has an uphill climb to gain the lion’s share of the workload.
Verdict: Unlikely to be more than a 1B stream unless Kahkonen falters and he improves significantly
Carter Hart, G – PHI
Let’s get the stats out of the way first for Hart: At 5v5, he has a -0.64 GSAA/60 (51st in the league) and an .815 HDSV% (30th in the league) on the season. Over his last six starts, those numbers go to -1.84 and .793, respectively, and in his last three starts it gets really ugly at -3.20 and .688. This is a goaltender who has lost his way completely. I’ve begun to get lots of “can I drop Carter Hart?” questions and my answer is yes, because goalies are voodoo and they can be great one year like Hart was last year and terrible the next. Unless you’re comfortably in first place and you want to wait on the possibility that Hart returns to last season’s form, this is a player that is actively hurting your roster and that is not worth hoping on. I’m of the opinion that you can find and ride different goalies throughout the season, and waiting on a guy who has spent the first two months of the season trying his best to convince us that he’s not good is not a place I want to be. You could lose out on some great goalie play if Hart returns to form, sure. But unless that happens within the next week or two, it’s very debatable whether it’s worth holding him until it happens. Consider this the permission slip you’ve been looking for: you can drop Carter Hart.
Verdict: Drop him
Thanks for reading, you are appreciated!
Advanced stats credit: Natural Stat Trick
Title photo credit: Eric Hartline – USA TODAY Sports