Prospect Ramblings – Are rookies worthy PIM pickups?

by Hayden Soboleski on November 5, 2017

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Despite being a number that actively hurts the team, PIM is a typical stat used in deep fantasy leagues too add some depth beyond goals and assists. Penalties can be part of a nasty skater's game, or a sign of poor play leading to regular obstruction calls. If the player is just mean, does his PIMs number stay the same as a sophomore and beyond? And if the penalties are due to poor abilities, does this number decrease as the player develops into a better NHLer? 

 

Here is a list of several rookies from the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, along with their penalty minute totals since their rookie campaigns:

 Rookie  2015-16 PIMs  2015-16 PIMs  2016-17 PIMs
 Cedric Paquette  51  51  80
 Jonathan Drouin  34  4*  16
 Anders Lee  33  51  56
 John Klingberg  32  30  34
 Aaron Ekblad  32  41  58
 Evgeny Kuznetsov  24  32  46
 Filip Forsberg  24  47  32
 Kevin Hayes  22  30  18
 Alex Wennberg  22  2  21
 Max Domi    72  40*
 Joel Edmundson    63  60
 Darnell Nurse    60  33*
 Anthony Duclair    49  14
 Oscar Lindberg    43  32
 Sam Bennett    37  75
 Dylan Larkin    34  37
 Artemi Panarin    32  21
 Colton Parayko    29  32

* indicates an injury during the year. I intentionally included mainly players who played close to a full season in each year, to avoid confusion over PIM/game rates.

 

There are LOTS fo different types of players in the above table, so lest try to break players into groupings:

 

– Klingberg and Parayko are both top 4 offense-first d-men, so it makes sense that their PIM numbers stay fairly steady from year-to-year. They aren't being bred into shutdown guys yet. 

– Ekblad and Nurse I would categorize more as "all-around/shutdown top-4 d-men". In Ekblad's case, it makes sense that his PIMs climb over the years as he receives more and more of the workload that forces him to take penalties against tougher opponents. In Nurse's case, he started high, so maybe he didn't have room to grow this number (he was on pace for a similar sophomore mark before his injury). Maybe I'm giving Nurse too much credit, and he's more of a 2nd/3rd pair blocker/bruiser comparable to  Edmundson, who true to this role is maintaining steady time in the penalty box. This wouldn't surprise me. 

Domi, Lee, and Bennett are the "tough guys" on the list – the top-nine wingers who were drafted both for their goal-scoring and their mean edge. Domi had so many rookie PIMs that he couldn't maintain the pace in his second year (even before injury), but Bennett and Lee grew their numbers over the years to reach their current sustainable pace. I expect this is a trend, and that fiestier young players take more time to reach their penalty-minute plateau. So be patient. 

Paquette is the only career agitator/energy forward on the list, so he will have to represent the bottom-six rookies who carve this niche for themself. He racked up decent minutes when he started, but kicked production into gear once he found his role. 

– The more one-dimensional scorers/playmaers like Panarin, Duclair, Wennberg, and Drouin actually dropped thier penalty totals as they matured. This could be a result of them getting better defensively and taking less d-zone penalties. 

– I would've expected the same trend from guys like Larkin, Kuznetsov, Forsberg, and Lindberg, but instead these guys throw a wrench in the plans. Larkin, an even-strength workhorse, stayed flat as a sophomore, while the flashy Kuznetsov actually continues taking more. I have no explanation for this other than his increased ice time giving him more time to take offences. Forsberg is al ovr the place with his totals, and Lindberg dropped his by nearly a quarter. These guys are the ones that show us that no matter how many trends I try to find in articles like this, there is always chaos.

 

Now, here are the rookies that have spent the most time in the sin bin so far in 2017:

 Blake Coleman  20
 Brendan Lemieux  19
 AJ Greer  16
 Sean Kuraly  14
 Charlie McAvoy  12
 Robert Hagg  10

 

Coleman and Lemiuex probably follow a similar PIM path to Paquette above – all are bottom-six guys who need to fill the physical niche. Their games-played may not always be 82, but their PIM totals should be steady investments. Kuraly has a pedigree of penalty-inutes in the NCAA, but if he sticks in his 3rd-line role he could also follow the path of Lindberg – another pivot capable of potting some points while also racking up a few minutes of shame. 

AJ Greer will follow the Lee/Bennett/Domi power-forward path of growing his totals over time until he finds his personal plateau. Expect season-over-season growth for a year or two, unless like Domi he hits a ridiculous number in year one.

Charlie McAvoy (depending on who you ask), will probably be more comparable  to Klingberg/Parayko than Ekblad/Nurse. Based on this, dont expect his PIM totals to significantly grow next year and beyond. He is already in his role so there's no need to expect a jump in anything but points. 

Robert Hagg…will not be compable to Klingberg or Ekblad. He fits much better into the archetype that Edmundson fills above – which also resulted in steady penlty-taking from year-to-year. Growth would likely only come as a result of more games played.

 

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A few more first NHL goals to present this week:

 

What a move at the line by Charles Hudon and what a finish for a spectacular first:

 

Mike Amadio takes advantage of a bad turnover and doesn't waste his chance:

 

Brendan Lemieux gets in the right lane to tip home his first:

 

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Thanks for reading, and best of luck positioning yourself for long-term roto league success!

Hayden Soboleski

@soboleskih