Hello and welcome in for a brand new series in which I will detail three players at each position that I am higher on than the majority of fantasy players for the upcoming season. Today, we’re taking a look at a trio of centers who I believe will return big time value on their draft position for you in 2020/21.
Patrice Bergeron is the first name on this list and is a player that I think doesn’t get enough respect for his offensive contributions. Bergeron is continually lauded for his defensive prowess and rightfully so, but that perception of him along with his age (entering his age-35 season) causes most to look elsewhere for their C2 slot. But let’s take a look at his shot rates:
Let’s start with the individual stats. Bergeron’s iCF/60 has declined in two straight years, usually a bad sign for a player entering the second half of his 30s. But it’s important to relate this level of production to the rest of the league – Bergeron’s 17.11 iCF/60 ranked 9th among NHL centers in 2019/20, ahead of fantasy darlings like Mika Zibanejad, Evgeni Malkin, and Jack Eichel. Now Bergeron doesn’t see the same amount of ice time as those guys so the raw totals won’t be as high, but the production is there. Bergeron could lose another full point off his iCF/60 and still rank top-15 in the league with ease. Bergeron’s S% has ranged from 13.4 to 15.6% over the past three seasons, so even if he drops to the lower end of that range he’s scoring at a great clip. And then there’s that IPP. Bergeron’s IPP took an inexplicable 17% nose dive in 19/20. Bergeron had a similar bad luck season in 2016/17 and his points/60 took a 50% jump the following year. We’re talking about 18 more points Bergeron would have scored (in just 61 games) if his IPP had stayed at his established career rate. We can see from Bergeron’s on-ice stats that Boston as a team played at pretty much the same rate with him on the ice in 19/20 as it did in 18/19.
The long and short of it is that Bergeron remains an elite NHL center on one of (if not the) best lines in the league and he’s due for a big positive regression in 2020/21. He does carry some injury risk, but even with 9 games missed built into my projections, he still comes out as my #11 center for next season. He’ll likely go off the board more in the C15-18 range (behind Zibanejad, Aleksander Barkov, Mark Scheifele among others) and represents great value at that price.
Brayden Point is another player that saw a surprising dip in IPP in 2019/20 and looks to be in line for a rebound season. Lots of fantasy managers will see his 2018/19 92-point campaign as a major aberration and consider him to be a 70-75 point player moving forward, which will create a value Point in your 2020/21 drafts (see what I did there). Let’s check out that IPP and some other rates:
Starting with the IPP we see Point establish a level around 66% in two straight seasons (including his breakout 18/19) and then drop to 57.7% last year. That difference represents 9 points over his 66 GP; tell me we aren’t talking about Point in a very different light if he posted 73 points in 66 GP rather than 64. There are lots of other encouraging signs here as well: the drop in production can be partially attributed to a lack of secondary assists while Point actually had more primary assists/60 in 19/20 than 18/19. The goal rate was bound to come down after that outlandish 21% S% he posted in 18/19, but the fact that he sustained a 17.7% rate in 19/20 tells us that this is a player who can support a high shooting percentage. He also saw a minor improvement in iCF/60 and maintained an iSCF/60 rate that ranked 7th among NHL centers. On the team rate side there’s nothing to suggest Point’s play fell off in 2019/20 and we can feel pretty confident that he’s in line for some positive regression next year as an integral part of that elite Tampa offense.
Point’s teammate and captain Steven Stamkos is the last of the centers we’re looking at today, and to me represents a tremendous value as a bankable point producer. This is a guy who is 6th in points/60 over the past three years, sandwiched in between David Pastrnak and Nathan Mackinnon. Let’s get after it:
Consistency is the first word that comes to mind here. Looking at his last three seasons (in which he averaged a 94-point pace over 82 games), we see consistent usage, consistent IPP, a S% that can bounce around a bit but averages around the 16+ percent rate he fired in 19/20, an improved iCF/60 that ranked 4th among centers, and excellent scoring chance generation. Going into his on-ice team rates yields the same results: the variation over the last three seasons is minimal.
It doesn’t have to be hard to pick good players; Stamkos is going to fall behind everyone’s crush Jack Eichel, a slowing Sidney Crosby, and an injury-prone Evgeni Malkin in most drafts, but he’s going to end up with 90+ points and all those managers are going to regret passing on the “boring” vet who puts up numbers year after year.
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