Prospect Ramblings: Updates on Addison, Sandin, Evangelista, and Byfield

Ben Gehrels

2023-03-08

Image Credit: Predlines.com

Welcome back to my weekly ramblings, where I provide news and updates, highlight intriguing prospects, and track the development of junior players across the hockey world.

Klingberg Acquisition Hurts Addison

As Ian Gooding indicated in the Dobber Fantasy Take over at the main site, John Klingberg joining the Wild was likely to impact the fantasy relevance of rookie Calen Addison because both are fairly one-dimensional power play specialists. And so it has. During Minnesota’s last game, Klingberg’s first with his new club, Addison sat as a healthy scratch while Klingberg commanded nearly 81% of the available PP time. That is not a good sign for Addison owners hoping for some man-advantage production from him down the stretch.

To be fair, Addison had hit a rookie wall well before the Klingberg acquisition. His last PP point came in early February. He scored 24 points (with a whopping 17 on the PP) over the first 46 games of the year but has only four points over his last 11 games (1 PPP). The playoff race is tight in the West but the Wild are on track to claim a spot. Reading between the lines, it seems clear that Minnesota management felt it was prudent to bring a veteran offensive defenseman on board to ease the load on their young rookie.

For Addison owners in keeper and dynasty formats, it will be a much more concerning development if Klingberg re-signs with Minnesota in the off-season. He has a history of hogging the point on PP1 and negatively impacting the production of young players. Miro Heiskanen (DAL), for instance, jumped from a 42-point pace (11 PPP) to a 63-point pace (22 PPP) this year since Klingberg’s departure. That increased production corresponded with a 15% boost in PP time. When Klingberg arrived in Anaheim, Jamie Drysdale immediately lost 35% of his previous PP time before going down with a season-ending injury. Had he stayed healthy, Drysdale would likely have posted disappointing fantasy numbers in 2022-23.

One thing is for sure: the Wild will not be paying Klingberg the $7 million he is currently making. No team will be given his age (30) and recent decline. So Klingberg will presumably be taking a pay cut no matter where he signs, but Addison owners better hope Klingberg’s demands are still too high for the cash-strapped Wild.

If Addison continues to see the lion’s share of PP1 time moving forward, his fantasy value will remain secure, but he is a kind of boom or bust in that regard. He will have to round out the defensive and transitional elements of his game, however, to earn the trust of his coaches—and fantasy owners. At the moment, he is a defensive liability who only positively impacts his team on the PP.

The most surprising thing about Addison’s microstat profile is that he is not great in transition. It is only when he is set up in the offensive zone on the power play that he creates magic. Even then, he clearly prefers to pass than shoot (1.3 shots/game), which is great for his PP assist totals but bad for his overall fantasy value. Keep in mind that he is a heavily sheltered rookie being used in a very specific role, but these metrics certainly paint a less flattering picture than his season totals do.

Sandin Looking Great in Washington

With the Capitals locked in a four-way tie for ninth in the East, every game is crucial for them right now if they hope to claim a wildcard spot. Their number one defenseman, John Carlson, has been out since late December with a head injury, so the door is wide open for recent acquisition Rasmus Sandin to play a major role with his new club down the stretch—though Carlson could return near the end of this month.

Early results have been tremendous. Sandin has five points in his first two games as a Capital and has been seeing over 64% of the available PP time so far. That is almost a 30% boost on what he was receiving in Toronto, where the blueline is far more crowded than in Washington. As Michael Clifford noted in the Dobber Fantasy Take, Sandin provides decent hit (2.2) and block (1.1) rates but has never been a big shooter. He is averaging less than a shot per game over his career so far, and that unfortunately has not changed so far in Washington, where he has only one shot across two games.

In the right format, a shot on the power play that leads to a goal helps a fantasy team in three categories at the same time, so I try to avoid players who shoot less than, say, two shots per game. That said, Sandin seems like an excellent prospect to invest in moving forward—both because of his potential upside and cheap price tag. Washington is not exactly the fantasy hot spot it once was, and the buzz on Sandin is still simmering. You might still be able to slip a lowball offer past your league’s Sandin owner, who might just see the Toronto production and be willing to part ways.

Unlike Addison, who has a higher offensive ceiling but is a riskier, one-dimensional own in fantasy, Sandin’s underlying metrics show that he has a broadly positive impact on the game and is ready for a more prominent role than was available to him with the Leafs.

Evangelista Right At Home With Nashville

During Nashville’s recent game against the Canucks, recent call-up Luke Evangelista scored two goals and positively impacted all facets of the game more than any other player on either team.

That game score is a great example of how Evangelista has been billed as a prospect all along: a strong, two-way forward who outworks opponents and has the offensive instincts to excel on the power play. Someone on Twitter asked about his upside, and that’s a tough question to answer at this point.

Like many young players, Evangelista’s trajectory hit a covid speed bump at a critical point in his development, his Draft+1 season. He had an average point-per-game Draft year in a depth role for the London Knights (OHL) and then blew up two years later in what should have been his D+1 posting 111 points (55 goals) in only 62 games. Because that high-end production came a year later than it “should” have, his Hockey Prospecting star potential remains in the sub-15% range despite two back-to-back campaigns with a 40+ NHL equivalency.

That means, historically speaking, a player like him currently has an 11% chance of averaging over 57 points per year over his career, which leaves room for a handful of seasons both above and below that mark on either end. Out of the fourteen players listed as comparables by HP, one was a Star Producer (Milan Hejduk), one was a Fringe Star (Jeff Carter), three were Average Producers (Mikkel Boedker, Vladislav Namestnikov, Brendan Morrow), four were Replacement-Level Producers, one was a Bust, and four are still developing. 

That’s not the most optimistic picture for a prospect, but it also suggests that he will be a serviceable NHLer who can play up and down the lineup. Take those model projections with a grain of salt, however, given the covid disruptions. Timing tends to be everything in the development of star-level players but this was an unusual, exceptional situation.

The Predators core is locked up long-term: Filip Forsberg (seven more years), Ryan Johansen (two), Matt Duchene (three), Roman Josi (five), Ryan McDonagh (three), Juuse Saros (two). But the fact that they shipped out Nino Niederreiter and have stockpiled 17 picks in the first four rounds over the next two entry drafts suggests that the plan is to re-tool on the fly. Young guns like Evangelista, Cody Glass, Jusso Parssinen, Yaroslav Askarov, Joakim Kemell, and Philip Tomasino should play a key role in bridging the gap and keeping this organization competitive.

Byfield Generating Value For Kings

Quinton Byfield currently has points in four straight games playing on the Kings’ top line alongside Adrian Kempe and Anze Kopitar. It should still be a few years before the big man fully hits his stride and realizes his significant potential but this is an encouraging sign for the impatient Byfield owners out there.

Even more positive than this mini-streak of production is Coach Todd McLellan’s recent comment about Byfield’s pro-level mentality and how he is “playing to stay” and valuable even when he isn’t scoring.

Byfield is driving play quite well while not being overly sheltered and inexplicably receiving the second-fewest offensive zone starts on the team. He has also mostly worked on the second PP unit. That top-line usage is excellent to see but when he starts earning offensive zone starts and works his way onto PP1, watch out.

Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @beegare for more prospect content and fantasy hockey analysis.

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