Hello everyone and welcome in for another article. This is the twenty-second installment of a weekly article I’ve been writing all season long in which I try to determine the truth about puzzling players. I pull suggestions for which players to write about for these articles from the Apples & Ginos community on Discord and the Apples & Ginos Patreon members. Be sure you check out those spots to catch up with me and I would be more than happy to answer any questions you have about Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson, or any other New York Islander forwards (just please respect my privacy while I mourn Oliver Wahlstrom’s lost season). Let’s get it!
Evan Rodrigues, RW – PIT
Rodrigues has had an up and down season to say the least. He started out with 30 points in his first 33 games, firing 11.8 shots/60 and 10.9 individual scoring chances for/60 (iSCF/60). Since then Rodrigues has just 10 points in 34 games, pushed down the lineup by the return of Sidney Crosby and subsequently Evgeni Malkin. But suddenly Rodrigues has been thrust back into relevance by virtue of his new role as Sidney Crosby’s right winger. It goes without saying that anyone playing on Crosby’s wing is worth a look, and Rodrigues’ iSCF numbers have shot back up to their previous heights. He’s not on the top power play any more so we can’t expect the full point-per-game Rodrigues to return, but 16 minutes a night on Crosby’s wing and PP2 time is enough to make E-Rod plenty relevant.
Verdict: As long as he’s on Crosby’s wing, E-Rod is in play as a useful streamer
Matt Boldy, RW – MIN
Boldy’s season has taken a hard right turn of late, getting bumped off the top PP unit and seeing his minutes decrease to the point that he’s averaging just 13:17 in his last five games. The shots and iSCF have dried up as well despite his on-ice stats still looking very solid. Linemate Kevin Fiala can carry a line, but Boldy will need to get back to his previous level of play to be fantasy relevant. If you’re still carrying Boldy it’s beyond time to drop him. This is a point I often bring up about rookies: they’re wildly unpredictable. They don’t have the reps in the league to understand yet what to do to bust a slump and get their game back on track. I still think Boldy has a bright future in the league, but I will wait to see his chance generation numbers bump back up before I think about adding him back on my rosters.
Verdict: Boldy is talented but playing very poorly with reduced deployment. Safe to drop until his individual numbers come back
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Mathew Barzal, C – NYI
Barzal has been overshadowed by the sudden rise of teammate Brock Nelson as a sniping star, and it doesn’t seem he’s taken well to the new role as second fiddle. Barzal is down 1.25 minutes a night and his shots/60 and iSCF/60 have taken a hit as well. Still, there is some room for hope as Barzal’s on-ice numbers remain very strong. Barzal’s stardom is of a caliber that you expect him to be able to snap this slump and return to his point-scoring ways, but that’s scarce comfort for his managers in the first week of the playoffs and looking for a win. I’d like to hold Barzal if at all possible, but I’m not against dropping him if there’s someone like a Brock Nelson available on the wire who is getting better deployment and playing better currently. There’s probably options on your roster to drop before you get to Barzal, but it’s playoff time and you shouldn’t be holding him on name value alone if there are better options available.
Verdict: Holding him where possible, but if you need to drop him to win a week I’m not going to tell you no
Brock Nelson, C – NYI
Nelson’s level of play is at least part of the reason Barzal hasn’t been at his best, but I’m pretty excited about my Nelson shares and the level of play he’s sustained for almost the entire season at this point. Nelson is 27th in the league in iSCF/60 over the last month and while the 22.8% shooting percentage (S%) is clearly indicative of impending regression, Nelson is legitimately playing the best hockey of his career and it’s the playoffs: time to ride the wave til it crashes. There’s certainly no signs under the hood that Nelson is likely to fall completely off the map even after the shooting percentage begins to correct. I’m holding Nelson until he goes cold.
Verdict: Nelson is playing well and scoring at a ridiculous pace – sit back and enjoy
Sean Durzi, D – LAK
Durzi is a guy I’ve been pumping up a bit for over a week at this point. He’s replaced Drew Doughty as the Kings’ top defenseman and is absolutely crushing the role. His 15.1 individual Corsi For/60 (iCF/60) over the past five games ranks 17th among all defensemen during that span, made even more impressive by the 23:50 ATOI he’s been logging. The Kings have been trending well of late and Durzi’s on-ice CF/60 reflects that too. Undoubtedly the individual points percentage (IPP) and on-ice shooting percentage (oiSH%) are a bit too hot and he won’t continue with multi-point games all over the place, but Durzi provides shots, blocks, and a few hits to boot. That kind of multi-category coverage makes Durzi a dream for fantasy managers everywhere.
Verdict: Can’t recommend Durzi enough currently
Before you go, I want to make sure you’re aware of the Apples and Ginos Fantasy Hockey Podcast and I would be much obliged if you were to give it a listen. There are two 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 Ian Gooding from Dobber Hockey and Nick Alberga from NHL Fantasy on Ice on the show, and I’ve added a midweek podcast with my friends Josh Hutchinson and John Binkle who are a ton of fun on the mic.
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 free 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 Natural Stat Trick’s advanced stats glossary.
Thanks for reading, you are appreciated!
Player Stats Cards: Created by @TJStats
Soundtrack to my writing: OK ORCHESTRA by AJR
Advanced stats credit: Natural Stat Trick