Hello everyone and welcome in for another article. This is the eighth installment of a weekly article I’ll be writing all season long in which I’ll deep dive some hot and cold players and determine if they’re worth trying to acquire or sell off. Before we dive in, be sure to check out the Apples & Ginos community on Discord and the Apples & Ginos Patreon for even more content. I’m in there every day and would be more than happy to answer any questions you have about Joe Pavelski, Hugh Hefner, or anyone else whose closest co-workers are far more appealing than they are. Let’s get it!
Too Hot to Touch
Joe Pavelski, RW – DAL
Joe Pavelski has been on fire as of late, with four multi-point games in a row before getting shut out by the hapless Coyotes on Monday night. Pavelski has carved out a top line and top PP role once again in Dallas alongside emerging stars Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson. I do have concerns about Pavelski’s ability to maintain this pace, however. Certainly his 148-point pace over the last five games is unsustainable, but even over the course of the season we can see that Pavelski’s shot rates and individual scoring chances for/60 (iSCF/60) have declined from last season (which was already one of the worst iSCF/60 seasons of Pavelski’s career). Hintz and Robertson may prop up Pavelski’s fantasy value all season long, but it seems best to bet against Pavelski continuing to run a 70%-plus individual points percentage (IPP) and 17%-plus shooting percentage (S%) all season long. Pavelski has managed just eight shots in his last five games and scored on three of them; I just have questions about how many incredible hot streaks he can go on without improving his underlying numbers. At his age, I’ll bet the under.
Valeri Nichushkin, LW – COL
Nichushkin has bullied his way into fantasy hockey relevance with 12 points in 13 games including five points in his last five games. I like Nichushkin overall, as he’s seemingly cemented a second line role on the team skating 17 and a half minutes a game (up from 14 minutes per game last season). I believe Nichushkin is a very viable streaming option in weeks that Colorado has a good schedule, but I am less convinced that he can be a long-term hold. Nichushkin’s underlying numbers are more or less in line with his career averages, and while the huge jump in ice time does wonders for increasing his point projection, Nichushkin is not a point-per-game player. There’s the 26% S% and the 15.3% on-ice shooting percentage (oiSH%) which both point to impending regression for the 6’4” winger. So while Nichushkin has taken a step to the point where he’s fantasy relevant, I wouldn’t consider him in my long term plans in anything but a deep league. A 45-50-point pace rest of season seems reasonable.
Honourable Mentions: Michael Bunting, LW – TOR // Jason Robertson, LW – DAL // Ryan Johansen, C – NSH // Jordan Eberle, RW – SEA // Mattias Janmark, C – VGK // Brady Tkachuk, LW – OTT // Roope Hintz, C – DAL // Alex Formenton, LW – OTT // Ryan Donato, C – SEA // Devon Toews, D – COL // Lucas Carlsson, D – FLA // Jacob Trouba, D – NYR // Evan Bouchard, D – EDM // Seth Jones, D – CHI
The Right Amount of Hot
John Tavares, C – TOR
I’ve seen some people tossing around the idea of trading away John Tavares and I’m here to say I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Consider Tavares’ NHL-wide rank in iSCF/60 and on-ice scoring chances for/60 (SCF/60): 5th and 7th. He’s not getting elite minutes at 18:36 ATOI on the season, but there’s absolutely nothing unsustainable about the 85-point pace Tavares is currently on. The Leaf power play has renewed life this season which was the main thing that held Tavares back last season and Tavares and linemate William Nylander have been a steady, dominant force for the Leafs all season long. I don’t see any reason to move on from Tavares in what’s shaping up to be one of the best seasons of his career.
Trevor Zegras, C – ANA
Oh yeah, the kid is legit. Zegras has checked every box for me from an analytical perspective and I’ve been the conductor of the hype train all season long. Getzlaf’s injury has forced Zegras into the 1C role and he has run away with it. Zegras has improved his shot, iSCF, CF, and SCF rates compared to his 24-game audition last year and has thrived when given more of a role. His current chemistry with linemates Rickard Rakell and Sonny Milano is undeniable, and the regression stats look solid: Zegras has a 73% IPP, 9% S%, and 11% oiSH%. He’s more than passed the eye test for me in my limited viewings of him and I’m ready to call him my Calder favourite at this point. My only caveat with Zegras is the same caveat I have with all rookies: they’re often unpredictable and the cold streaks can last longer than they do with veteran players. But the optimist in me thinks that Zegras could just be the exception to that rule given his prodigy status.
Honourable Mentions: Jake Guentzel, LW – PIT // Max Pacioretty, LW – VGK // Viktor Arvidsson, LW – LAK // Auston Matthews, C – TOR // Sebastian Aho, C – CAR // Kirill Kaprizov, LW – MIN // William Nylander, RW – TOR // Nathan Mackinnon, C – COL // Morgan Rielly, D – TOR // Kris Letang, D – PIT // Dougie Hamilton, D – NJD // Joel Eriksson Ek, C – MIN
Colder than Ice
Jonathan Toews, C – CHI
Stunningly, inconceivably, Jonathan Toews has played 25 games this season without scoring a single goal. He’s only got nine assists, so it’s not like he’s been making up for it in other places. The long-time Chicago captain and star has been frankly atrocious all season long, with shot, iSCF, and SCF rates well below his career norms. One has to wonder if Toews’ bout with CIRS took more from him than previously believed. The good news is that Toews’ IPP, S%, and oiSH% range from low to outrageously low, but the bad news is that even if Toews is capable of getting those stats back up to where they belong his new level of play dictates that he’s little more than a 40-45 point player. Unless Toews unlocks a previous version of himself in the near future, I am all the way out on him.
Torey Krug, D – STL
I’m not sure what to make of Krug this season to be honest. He’s currently on an eight-game pointless streak after opening the season with 10 points in 12 games. The shots have dried up considerably and the problem with Krug has always been that if he’s not scoring points, he’s not doing much else for you in the way of peripherals (shots/hits/blocks). Krug’s on-ice advanced stats look terrific and I’m hopeful that his 33% IPP has a lot of room to rebound, but Krug is undoubtedly in a cold stretch and has gotten progressively worse in his underlying stats instead of growing them and portending a potential slump-breaking game. He’s still a hold for me given the team context, but I won’t blame you for shopping him around at the moment and seeing what you could get for him.
Honourable Mentions: Owen Tippett, RW – FLA // Anthony Beauvillier, LW – NYI // James van Riemsdyk, LW – PHI // Jordan Staal, C – CAR // Tyler Myers, D – VAN // Mario Ferraro, D – SJS // Gustav Forsling, D – FLA // Brayden Schenn, C – STL // Dawson Mercer, C – NJD // Tyler Seguin, C – DAL // Jack Hughes, C – NJD
Frozen but Thawing
Sean Couturier, C – PHI
Couturier is in the midst of an extended cold streak, with one point in his last nine games and two in his last thirteen. But under the hood I’m looking at the same old Sean Couturier. The shots are in line, the iSCF/60 makes sense, and the SCF/60 is solid. It’s the regression stats that stand out for Couts: 58% IPP, 7% S%, and 8% oiSH%, all well below his career norms. Philadelphia’s struggles as a team have been well documented and it could take some time for everything to sort itself out, but as long as Couturier continues to play his game the way he has throughout this drought he will eventually snap out of it and return to the level of production we all expect from a player of his caliber.
Sam Bennett, C – FLA
You could be forgiven for not having noticed Bennett was in a mini-slump (just one point in his last five games) given how he stuffs the stat sheet in every other category. But while Bennett has been solid on the season with 13 points in 21 games, I foresee even more potential production in his future. Bennett has put up the 7th highest shots/60 rate in the league and ranks 8th in iSCF/60; combine that with the 25th best SCF/60 and you have all the ingredients for top-end fantasy production. Bennett has a 10% S% and 11% oiSH% that seem reasonable (although I’d personally expect a little more room to grow in the S%), but it’s the 43% IPP that looks like a beacon of positive regression to come. One could argue fairly comfortably that Bennett should have found five or six extra points on the season thus far, and that would put him in the 70+ point pace range. A player with that point production who bangs like Bennett does could legitimately be a league-winner in bangers formats, so to say I’m interested in acquiring Bennett’s services would be a colossal understatement.
Honourable Mentions: Kevin Fiala, RW – MIN // Philip Tomasino, C – NSH // Noah Gregor, LW – SJS // Charlie McAvoy, D – BOS // Jakob Chychrun, D – ARI // Tage Thompson, C – BUF // Blake Coleman, LW – CGY // Andrei Svechnikov, LW – CAR
Before you go, I want you to know I recently launched the Apples and Ginos Fantasy Hockey Podcast and I would be much obliged if you were to give it the time of day. I’ll be providing weekly shows focused on the strategy elements of fantasy hockey and I’m very excited about providing more value to the fantasy hockey community in this way. I’ve already had terrific guests like TJ Branson from Five Hole Fantasy Hockey and Elan Dubrofsky from Keeping Karlsson on the show and I believe the content is top notch.
That’s all for this one folks, I hope you had as much fun reading it as I had writing it! Make sure you follow Apples & Ginos on Twitter and join the Apples & Ginos Discord server for more content and to ask any fantasy hockey questions you may have. If you want to learn more about any of the advanced stats I mentioned in this article, be sure to check out my article on applying advanced stats to fantasy hockey, or check out Natural Stat Trick’s advanced stats glossary.
Thanks for reading, you are appreciated!
Soundtrack to my writing: Pictures of Mountains by Cody Fry and Infinity on High by Fall Out Boy
Advanced stats credit: Natural Stat Trick