Editor note- WordPress has decided to turn my weekly routine into an editing and formatting nightmare for no apparent reason, so I apologize for and total failure on my part to make this piece read-able. I really tried.
As the Jets rolled over the Preds last night, I couldn’t help but think about Winnipeg’s impressive player usage. Despite being outplayed in the first period, coach Paul Maurice stuck to his system, keeping lines intact and continuing to give the offensive zone starts to the offensive players. In case you didn’t catch the game – it paid off.
As analytical thinkers, we are taught to not give as much credit to players who get sheltered or easier ice time, which is fair enough in the context of choosing all-stars or MVPs. But when it comes to drafting your fantasy teams, sometimes its better to throw this way of thinking out the window. Sheltered players are more likely to produce, and when they do produce, they justify their utilization.
That being sad, I just passed over a key point – “when they do produce”. This train of thought only holds up for players who actually take advantage of their starts. So when making the good and bad lists below depended on getting lots of offensive zone starts (OZS) and put up enough points for things to stay the same going forward. So lets take a look at a few players who should or should not slow down next year:
Likely to keep it up:
Kyle Connor (62% OZS in playoffs) I’m starting with Jets because they started this whole conversation for me, and Connor isn’t “sheltered”, he’e on a elite line that is given every chance to score. This will continue to be the case, and should not be avoided or red-flagged on draft lists because of this unusually high stat.
Pierre-Luc Dubois (64% OZS in playoffs) He fought his way into the good minutes this season and it never stopped from there. Don’t expect this % to get any lower.
Jake DeBrusk (66% OZS in playoffs) It’s been a helluva breakout post-season for DeBrusk, who has justified more and more offensive responsibilities.
Brock Boeser (62% OZS in regular season) With a shot like that, the Canucks will be putting him in the OZ as much as they can manage.
Pushing their luck:
Kevin Fiala (72% OZS in playoffs) Fiala has looked great by the eye test, but just isn’t scoring enough to justify this kind of zone start %. He seems likely to be less favored in the future, which will make it harder to get back to scoring.
Jakub Vrana (71% OZS in playoffs) A slightly different situation because of his significantly lower TOI, but same logic for Fiala applies here.
Adrian Kempe (68% OZS in regular season) Once Carter got healthy, his production dropped in a big way. Clearly dependent on situation.
Mark Jankowski (59% OZS in regular season) We know changes are coming in Calgary so who’s to say what will happen next year, but giving 59% OZS to a sub-20-point scorer cant last forever.
Before you go too crazy on me – I fully understand that good teams are more likely to earn offensive zone faceoffs, which gives everyone on the team a boost in this department. The Jets don’t necessarily “shelter” players as much as they all dominate the play enough to give everyone more OZT. I also understand this sort of thing is highly dependent on the coaching style. Some coaches don’t bother line-matching at all. So if you’re on the fence about how a guy will be used next season, definitely pay attention to the coach’s history.
There is probably a much bigger study to do here, because I personally believe this only applies to forwards. D-men reach a certain age where they gain the title of an “offensive specialist” and might then get OZSs only, but before that they are often tested with tougher situations as a reward for good play in easier match-ups (the opposite of forwards, who get more of the same so that they keep producing the same).
Thanks for reading, and best of luck keeping your cool as the playoffs get more and more intense!
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