Mark Barbour (@18sktrs, patreon.com/18skaters)
One of the most rewarding things you can do in fantasy hockey is snag a rising star before someone else in your league grabs him. Unfortunately, this is also one of the most difficult things to do in fantasy hockey. Frankly, I tend to stay away from unproven players because there’s so much uncertainty about how they’ll perform on my fantasy team. Today, though, I will bravely attempt to identify a skater who might be a guy to snag now before he takes off.
The data for this article were pulled from Natural Stat Trick and include games played on or before November 22, 2022.
Young Forwards With A Rising Scoring Metric
The skaters in the plot below are under age-24 and play at the forward positions. They’re ranked according to their improvement in a metric that combines a skater’s shots, scoring chances, expected goals, and actual goals. A skater’s improvement in this metric is determined by comparing his performance in his last 16 team games to his performance in his last 160 team games. Note that all data is for a game state of 5v5.
The plot also provides information about each skater’s Goals/60 and his overall performance in the scoring metric (rather than the increase in that metric). The colour of a skater’s dot shows his Goals/60 relative to the other skaters in the plot (blue is better than orange). The size of a skater’s dot shows his overall performance in the metric relative to the other skaters in the plot (bigger is better). What does that mean? We’re looking for big blue/purple dots that are pushing to the right.
There’s something interesting about every skater in this plot but I’m going to focus on the guy at the top of the list: Dylan Cozens.
Cozens wasn’t really on my radar until I explored the data for this article. Maybe I should have paid closer attention to Cozens given that he was drafted 7th overall back in 2019. In any event, he has my attention now.
- Cozens is only 21 years-old and is the second youngest skater on this list (only Jack Hughes is younger). He has lots of time to keep improving.
- Among all skaters in the NHL, Cozens ranks 8th in xGoals/60, 13th in SCF/60, and 61st in Shots/60 (all data at 5v5 and filtered for skaters who have played at least 100 minutes). He ranks 82nd in actual Goals/60 and while that’s not bad it trails his underlying numbers. An optimist can see his goal scoring trending up in the future.
- Cozens has 0 goals on the power play this season, so there’s room for growth there too.
- As for assists, Cozens has 10 of them in 19 games. Only 1 of those assists is a secondary assist, so this is another area of potential growth.
Cozens is rising fairly quickly in my personal skater rankings. Having said that, he’s likely still a streamer-level skater in many leagues (his roster% in Yahoo leagues is currently 11%). In a deep-ish league he might already be a hold. At the very least he should be on your Watch List. I would give some thought to acquiring Cozens in dynasty leagues, but I wouldn’t go nuts in a trade based on the data from such a small sample of games. The idea would be to acquire him for a good price before his counting stats catch up with his underlying numbers.
The End Of The Article
That’s all for this week.