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2021 My Guys vs Guys I Hated: Performance Review Time

Hello everyone and welcome in for another article. In this one I will check in on some players that I was publicly for and against for the 2021 fantasy hockey season to see if I was right in my assessment or if there is a learning opportunity there. I want to take a second to invite you to join the Apples & Ginos Discord server where I would be more than happy to answer any questions you have about Andre Burakovsky’s point production, the Easter Island statues, or anything else that is truly unbelievable.

Players I Was Out On for 2021

  1. Kailer Yamamoto

Yamamoto was an absolute slam dunk in this category. He never showed a great shot pace, had an unbelievably high IPP and S% in 2019/20, and a tenuous grasp on a top-six role. Yet he was drafted and held for far too many weeks by fantasy managers on the hope that he would find the magic beans that made him a fantasy darling last season. It was just never going to happen for Yamamoto unless he took a major step in driving play on his own, which wasn’t something we had seen signs of.

2. Andre Burakovsky

Burakovsky was my second pick, and one I’m still baffled by. For the second straight season Burakovsky posted what I would say were unsustainable IPP and S% rates; the IPP ballooned to a McDavid-esque 81% while the S% dipped only slightly from 22% to 19%. What makes this so remarkable is that Burakovsky was a 9-14% shooter for five full years prior to these past two seasons. Perhaps I missed on the fact that Colorado’s overall skill level raised Burakovsky’s efficiency, but I do feel that he also got a little lucky getting some PP1 and L1 time when Mackinnon was out this season. Burakovsky remains a streaky player, one I am completely fine with streaming in when he’s hot and casting aside when he’s not.

3. Miro Heiskanen

Heiskanen was a popular player in 2021 fantasy hockey drafts, with many expecting that his nuclear 2020 playoff run of 26 points in 27 games would carry over into spectacular regular season numbers. But that run looked wildly unsustainable to me for several reasons including increased average time on ice, an extremely high IPP, a significantly over-inflated shooting percentage, and the ever-present John Klingberg factor. I projected Heiskanen a lot more conservatively than most, and he undershot even those projections with a subpar season. I do think Heiskanen has a little more to give than what he showed this year, but at this point it seems likely that he’ll never be an elite 55-65 point scoring defenseman in the league.

4. Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Ekman-Larsson has been a fantasy hockey staple for some time and there didn’t appear to be an immediate challenger to his top power play role. But I was out on OEL due to decreasing chance generation stats that I didn’t see rebounding in any way with a lack of high end talent on the Coyotes’ roster. Jakob Chychrun emerged this season and OEL lost time to him and to injury, dropping from 23 minutes per game in 2019/20 to just 20:58 in 2020/21. His counting stats didn’t look horrible at the end of the year due to some strong puck luck, but his play driving stats didn’t rebound which leaves me out on OEL as anything more than an occasional streamer for next season.

5. Phil Kessel

I was out on Phil Kessel for what I thought were rock-solid reasons: lack of offensive support, uncertain role, declining ice time and declining shot volume/chance generation. But old Phil surprised many in the fantasy hockey space, dropping 20 goals and 43 points in 56 games on an otherwise tepid Arizona squad. I will remain out on Kessel for 2021/22, however, as his shot and chance generation numbers continued to slide downwards but he outperformed with a solid on-ice shooting percentage and a very high IPP and S% combination. Betting on Kessel to outperform his rate stats yet again seems like a fool’s errand to me.

Players I Was In On for 2021

  1. Andrei Svechnikov

All things told, Svechnikov was a bit of a flop this year. The ice time crept up to a respectable 17 and a half minutes a game and the individual shot/chance for rates remained the same, but Svech dropped 3% on his shooting percentage and 8% off his IPP. Svechnikov’s on-ice chance for and expected goals for rates also took a significant hit in 2021, suggesting that at least a portion of his reduction in scoring was due to his teammates. It’s worth noting that despite having three NHL season under his belt, Svechnikov is still just 21 years old and development is not always linear for young players. It’s certainly possible that he has another gear left, but coach Rod Brind’Amour doesn’t seem to play any of his wingers beyond that 17:30 mark, so Svechnikov may be artificially capped for fantasy by his situation. I still see him as capable of pushing a point-per-game pace through his prime.

2. Morgan Rielly

Rielly was an easy smash at his ADP, walking back into a prominent role on a Toronto offensive juggernaut. His production was a little under my projections but he was still very useful, putting up a 52-point pace. However there have been some concerning developments with his profile: Rookie Rasmus Sandin took over on the Leafs’ PP1 at times late in the season and looked adequate, and 2021 marked the second straight season that Rielly’s shot rate has declined (although his individual scoring chance for rate has held steady). If Rielly’s power play role were to dissipate, his scoring upside would be significantly reduced despite his steady 23-24 minute per game role on a stacked Toronto team.

3. Anthony Mantha

This was my biggest miss pre-season by a far margin, as Mantha was a mystery wrapped up in an enigma almost all season long. After his trade to Washington he seemed to get a bit of a second lease on life, but Mantha disappointed me across many of my leagues. I’m tempted to write off this season completely on whatever was going on behind the scenes with him and coach Jeff Blashill, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about Mantha’s outlook now that he’s on a new team with an uncertain role. Mantha has a bit of reputation as a player who can drift in and out mentally at times, which makes spending a high pick on him a risky proposition. I’ll be seeing where his ADP is at before making any decisions on him for 2021/22; if he’s being properly valued for his inherent risk I don’t mind taking a shot on him in a league or two because he has 70+ point upside if everything breaks his way in Washington.

4. Dougie Hamilton

Hamilton was another obvious smash as an unbelievable shot and point producer from the defense position going in the third round of a lot of drafts. People continue to disregard the extreme value over replacement that elite defensemen can provide in start-4D leagues, and I continue to profit from it. Hamilton actually left some points on the board by my projections and was still one of the best fantasy defensemen this season. I’ll be watching to see where Hamilton goes next season before buying in once again, but I expect he’ll at least be appropriately valued for 2021/22.

5. Anthony Duclair

This is one that didn’t feel correct but ultimately was. I projected Duclair for a 61 point pace and he hit that exactly with 32 points in 43 games, missing a few with COVID-19 and a shoulder injury. I’ve got receipts on this one:

He got the expected Barkov boost, getting a little lucky with an 11.9% on-ice shooting percentage but perhaps counterbalancing that a bit with a relatively low individual shooting percentage of 9.6%. Duclair did get bounced around the lineup a bit (especially late in the season) and at this point I am starting to wonder if there’s something about him that rubs coaches the wrong way as it’s becoming a trend for his career. I’m still optimistic about him for 2021/22 (depending of course on where he lands as a free agent) as a player who will probably be available in the late rounds of your drafts or even off the waiver wire and will outproduce the investment you make in him.

Overall I went 3-for-5 on guys I didn’t like and 3-for-5 on guys I did like – not bad numbers but definitely with room to improve. Hopefully this analysis was helpful for you and you can perform a similar study to see who you missed out on and what you could have picked up on to make better decisions for your 2021/22 squads.

That’s all for this one folks! Make sure you follow Apples & Ginos on Twitter, on TikTok, or join the Apples & Ginos Discord server for more content and to ask any fantasy hockey questions you may have.

Thanks for reading, you are appreciated!

Nate

Title photo credit: Tim Fuller – USA Today Sports

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Apples & Ginos Fantasy Hockey Advice

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