Investigating whether hot streaks will effect regular season point totals in this Sunday Ramblings…
The World Cup has come and gone, with Team Canada taking home the title as expected. Out of the tournament came a number of players who looked absolutely ready to start the NHL season, carrying tons of jump in their step and swagger in their game. But do we think that this "warm-up" of sorts will help actually jump-start their fantasy production once the season kicks off? I wanted to look into this more.
A point to note in this small study is that the World Cup rosters were made up of, for the most part, very good players. Players that are among the best on their respective NHL squads. I'm not wondering here about Denis Seidenberg or Milan Michalek, I'm talking about Big Joe, Sid the Kid, and whether patterns seen here can also be applied to talents like Auston Matthews, who had an outstanding showing against older, more experienced veterans. With that in mind, lets look at the data I'm using to draw my conclusions. My goal here is to find out whether players do witness a "warming up" period as the season starts, using monthly data from the 2015-16 NHL season:
|Points per game|
Data is courtesy of the wonderful hockey-reference.com. So what do we see here?
Let's start with the veterans – Thornton, Crosby, Kopitar, Perry, and Marchand.
Thornton, Crosby, and Kopitar have something in common: all three had an obvious period of ramping-up over the first 4 months of the season. Perry's progression is slightly different but he clearly takes time to consistantly perform to his standards. If we accredit this to the players coming into their own as they get back into the rhythm of NHL, then logic would suggest that the hot start obtained via the World Cup could shorten the wait until they hit full-production. I believe this is a reasonable assumption and expectation. But there comes a downside to this – if they hit top level production right away, can they maintain it all season? This is where it becomes very important to distinguish these elite players from average ones – because these players dont slow down. Even the 37-year-old Thornton stayed at his peak production level once he got there, alongside Crosby, Perry, and the less consistent but still productive Kopitar and Marchand.
What do I take away from this? : I believe that once a top talent gets into form, they dont slow down. And I think the World Cup has served as a boost to get them into form faster. I would bet on Crosby, Kopitar, Perry, and Marchand to all outperform their 2015-16 totals based only on the fact tht I think they will have hotter starts.
Now, lets look at the younger crowd – Forsberg, Gaudreau, Tatar, and the youngest of all, Eichel
The first three names in this group all behave similarly, and almost stereotypically of young players – inconsistently. Their production went up and down substantially month-to-month. I view this as telling me that a hot start may come in October, but is by no means likely to be sustained. So while I may expect a few extra points over the first several weeks, I dont expect a significant increase in production based solely on a potential hot-streak coming out of the tournament.
This leaves one player to discuss – Jack Eichel – who is also the most relevant player to talk about if hoping to gauge how Auston Matthews will perform out of the gate. Like Eichel last season, Matthews will be stepping onto a team without much firepower to work with. They both are coming out of competitive leagues known to be more physically demanding than the CHL. The prerequisites are there for a comparison. Last year we see that Eichel took a few months to get into the swing of things, peaking in January. He wasn't completely consistent from month-to-month after that, but he held a respectable scoring pace. He ended the year with 56 points. Now if we can make the claim that the warm-up that was the World Cup will help accelerate this learning curve or this adjustment to the NHL pace, its not unreasonable to predict Matthews could start seeing peak production earlier than Eichel did, and as a result, reach the 60-65 point mark.
What do I take away from this? : Younger players are seemingly more prone to inconsistent point production. So while a hotter start is possible and even likely, this is unlikely to translate to a season's worth of higher-level scoring. Given that Eichel had an apparant adjustment period in his rookie year, if the World Cup shortened this learning period, Matthews has a good shot to outperform the former Calder nominee.
Remember that all of the opinions I've strted above are based on the belief that the competitive World Cup will serve as a warm-up to the NHL season. It is very possible that this wont be the case, and that the week and a half before the regular season begins will be long enough to put out any fires started over the last two weeks. I hope this isn't the case, because when it comes to the elite players in the data above, they dont low down once they get going, and they were definitely going when they represented their countires.
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As always, thank you for reading and best of luck in your upcoming drafts!
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