I recently watched a game on TSN and during the intermission the hockey panel, consisting of Darren Dreger, Marc Crawford and Aaron Ward, was asked by host James Duthie to rank four young stars in terms of who will have the best career. Their answers made me raise a Spockian eyebrow.
Hockey experts, particularly those on TSN, can break a game down like no other. They can evaluate talent and accurately tell you a player’s strengths and weaknesses. They also have their ear to the ground and have the greatest feel for what NHL GMs are thinking when it comes to player movement.
But analyzing who will be the better player long-term isn’t necessarily the same as who will be the better fantasy player. We’re talking about two different things here: It’s evaluating talent and breaking down games versus analyzing statistical trends and evaluating opportunity. Experts spend their days speaking to insiders and their nights analyzing the on-ice action. Full-time fantasy analysts, such as myself, spend their days looking at game reports, analyzing player stats and trends and attempting to model how each piece fits in a team’s scoring system based on events such as injuries, slumps, trades or coaching changes.
That’s not to say that the hockey experts can’t run a good fantasy hockey squad. Not at all. I’m sure many of them would kick my butt. But they look at things from a “real world” standpoint. They have better things to worry about than looking at things from a fantasy angle (look no further than the “fantasy drafts” put on by the top media outlets every October).
In the example from above, the four young stars given to the panel were Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, John Tavares and Tyler Seguin. Two from the panel had Tavares third, one from the panel had him fourth and all three of them had Nugent-Hopkins or Seguin first or second. To be fair, they each said question was akin to asking, “which supermodel would you rather date.” There is no wrong answer.
But here’s my fantasy angle on these youngsters. I’m not going to worry about the intangibles the panel considered such as leadership or clutch play. I’m just concerned with the production, because that’s what will help a fantasy squad. There are two projections to look at. What the player will “probably” get during the best three seasons of his career what the player “could” get if the stars align.
First, let’s look at “could”…right after I clean up the mouthful of beer I sprayed all over my laptop. In fact, Tavares is the only player who didn’t make me do that. These are my rankings in terms of a spit take-worthy “dream” season, along with how many points they could get in their prime in the perfect year.
1. Tavares 120
2. Nugent-Hopkins 115
3. Seguin 105
4. Hall 100
These are, I reiterate, ideal seasons for each. The odds that any one of them reaches said total are quite slim, think less than 10 percent. But to me, that’s how it shakes out. Upside.
Next, let’s look at “probably.” I’ve had the “fluke injury” argument before with readers, in which I call a player injury-prone because he’s been hurt a lot. Fluke or not, if the player gets hurt he gets hurt. Several years ago, readers argued vehemently that Derick Brassard wasn’t injury-prone and his injuries were just unlucky. But “unlucky” seems to happen to some players more than others. So for this reason, I put Hall at the bottom of this list. I think during his three best seasons he will average about 75 games and 85 points.
Tavares and RNH battle for the top spot in the “probably” category. Tavares is on a young team with lots of talent on the way (then again, the same could be said for all four of these youngsters). Tavares’ entire line is in the top 25 in scoring right now and he will probably finish in the top four this campaign. His production has increased quite a bit each season in the NHL. He has proven the most of the four.
1. Tavares – mid-90s
2. Nugent-Hopkins – low/mid-90s
3. Seguin – high-80s
4. Hall – mid-80s
Since both lists under consideration are the same, it goes without saying this is how I would rank them. It’s a much different picture than the one painted by the hockey insiders…and the perfect example of how real hockey analysis differs from fantasy.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.