Prospects Rambling – Predicting rookie playoff performance (Mar 13 2016)

Hayden Soboleski

2016-03-13

What to expect from rookies heading into playoff season in this Sunday's Rambling…

 


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The playoffs are coming, and just as importantly – playoff pools are coming. Not every pick can be reliable heros like Toews or Kane, so to make the most out of your draft or budget you're most likely going to need a little help from some risky buys. I know, by the time a team makes the playoffs and their youth are still earning real ice time, those kids probably wont qualify as prospects for too much longer. But rookies in the playoffs are typically considered unknowns and therefore darkhorses when it comes to playoff predictions. I thought I'd do a little investigating to see what trends do or (in most cases) do not exist when using regular season numbers to foresee playoff success.

 

So what are the biggest knocks against kids in the playoffs? Here are the three I hear the most:

1: Rookies are usually smaller guys not yet fully grown, and therefore get beaten up on the physical playoff style and can't do their job

2: The players that suceed most in the playoffs are the grinder/hitter types, since they're already prepared for said playoff physicality

3: Coaches dont trust rookies as much as the veterans with playoff experience under their belt, therefore rookies will get less ice time and less of an opportunity to be difference-makers.

 

What I've done is take the most fantasy-notable rookie scorers from the last two seasons (2013-14, 2014-15), and make some basic charts plotting their playoff performance (measured in points per game) against various data concerning the three worries above. Obviously my selection is limited to rookies on teams who made the playoffs, and those that are fantasy-relevant in points-only leagues to begin with. Small sample size is a factor but let's work with what we can. Here are my subjects for this test:

 

 
player
regular season playoffs
  weight (kg) points per game hits per game TOI (min) points per game TOI (min)
  Gadreau 68 0.80 0.18 17.7 0.82 19.15
  Stone 92 0.80 0.61 17 0.67 19.15
  Forsberg 84 0.77 1.32 17.33 1.00 20.6
2014-15 Hoffman 79 0.61 0.51 14.5 0.50 13
  Hayes 102 0.57 0.72 13 0.37 14.2
  Lee 102 0.54 2.22 14.4 0.20 14.75
   Kuznetsov     80 0.46 0.54 13.33 0.50 16.6
  Teravainen 77 0.26 0.32 12.75 0.56 13.5
  Mackinnon 88 0.77 0.70 17.33 1.43 20.5
  Palat 86 0.73 1.80 18 1.00 18
  Johnson 79 0.61 0.67 18.8 0.50 21
  Krieder 103 0.56 2.21 15.75 0.87 16.8
2013-14 Chiasson 85 0.44 0.96 15.1 0.33 15.66
  Nichushkin 80 0.43 1.09 15 0.33 13.5
  Jenner 94 0.40 2.94 14 0.83 17.25
  Toffoli 91 0.47 0.92 13 0.54 13.3
  Hertl 95 0.68 1.05 15.33 0.71 13.6

 

Ok, Experiment #1 – Do smaller rookies have a harder time getting points in the playoffs? Here is a graph comparing the weight of a player against their point production:

So, no, not really. The graph is pretty much a dart board of data, indicating that out of all the fantasy-relevant players in my data, there is no real correlation between their production and their weight (which is, in my opinion, the best available value for guessing how likely a player is to get pushed around in a physical contest). Keep in mind here that when it comes to players coaches want on the fourth line, meant to be a crushing force against the opposition, yes there is likely a preference towards bigger players. But this evaluation is for the purpose of fantasy hockey only, and the data is only representative of the players likely to be considered in your typical playoff pool.

 

Next: the players who have success in the playoffs are those who play a more physical game, who know that wearing down the opposition is equally as important as scoring the goals. So, here I'll compare rookies' hits per game throughout the year to their playoff success:

Huh…That didn't turn out so great either. There is a very slight positive correlation between player weight and points, but that would be reaching. It would seem that the larger players (who again – are also of fantasy-relevant caliber when it comes to scoring) show little indication of being better playoff bets than their lightweight counterparts. Now, to be fair, measuring a player's success in points when their priority is being claimed to be landing hits is a strange comparison to make. But at the end of the day, coaches aren't going to put players on the i