Hello everyone and welcome in for another article, the ninth part of a series in which I try to determine the truth about puzzling players. First I want to take a second to invite you to join the Apples & Ginos Discord server which is where I gathered ideas from the members on which players to investigate. With that said, let’s discover the truth:
Carter Verhaeghe, LW – FLA
Yeah, I’m still in on Verhaeghe. As long as he’s tied to Barkov I’m not going to change that tune. Verhaeghe has been heating up again of late as well, and it’s reflected in his rate stats over the last five games: 34th in 5v5 shots/60, 38th in 5v5 individual scoring chances for/60 (iSCF/60), 12th in 5v5 on-ice expected goals for/60 (xGF/60), and 37th in 5v5 on-ice scoring chances for/60. He’s just fine. I ran what I considered to be a conservative estimate of Verhaeghe’s ROS pace (17 minutes of ice time per game, 13% shooting percentage, and sustaining his current xGF) and came to a 25-goal, 62-point 82-game pace. That’s going to fly on most fantasy teams. As I write this Barkov is a late scratch to the Panthers’ game tonight; this is obviously a situation to monitor as Verhaeghe’s value is heavily tied to playing on Barkov’s wing as he has for some 90% of the season.
Verdict: As long as he’s playing with Barkov, he’s legit
Jesse Puljujarvi, RW – EDM
Puljujarvi has been a favourite of mine since the pre-season, when I posited that a full season alongside McDavid would result in a 60-point pace for him. Of late Puljujarvi has gotten that deployment back and skated 19:31 and 18:14 in his last two games. Unfortunately Dave Tippett still believes that Alex Chiasson is valid PP1 option in the NHL despite myriad evidence to the contrary and as a result Puljujarvi hasn’t been able to achieve his ceiling as a point producer. Poolparty is a legitimate shot/hit producer, who ranks 22nd in the league in 5v5 iSCF/60 on the season, comfortably sandwiched in between studs like Kyle Connor, David Pastrnak, and Filip Forsberg. He’s only got a 50% IPP and remarkably has a higher xGF than actual GF on the season; both strong signs for positive regression. He will always be streamable whenever he’s on McDavid’s wing, but the ceiling likely won’t hit until Tippett pulls his head out of his pooper. I’m expecting a 50-point pace out of Poolparty whenever he’s on the McDavid line.
Verdict: Should be a solid if unspectacular fantasy contributor with untapped upside if he ever gets PP1 deployment
Kevin Labanc, RW – SJ
I’ve been recommending Labanc to anyone who would listen for almost a month now, and I hope you took that advice. Labanc has been found money with five goals and seven points in his last ten games, and I could make the argument he should have more. Over his last five games, Labanc is fifth in the league in iSCF/60 and 42nd in xGF/60. The Sharks are shooting under 6% when Labanc is on the ice which is remarkably bad. I’ve heard people voice concerns about the Sharks’ ability to score and fade Labanc as a result, but there’s no reason to do when a) Labanc is the one both creating the chances and converting them, and b) he plays with legitimate scoring threats both at 5v5 and on the PP in Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane. Labanc may not keep up this shot and chance generation rate forever, but the production right now is sustainable and then some.
Verdict: Take him to the banc
Kaapo Kakko, RW – NYR
Kaapo Kakko has been an interesting study this season, a player I was eyeing as a potential breakout star before he went on the COVID-19 list for a couple of weeks and killed all the momentum he had been building up. On the season he’s still showing growth in all his individual shot and chance generation rates which is very promising, with relatively low IPP, S%, and on-ice S% numbers that suggest he should have some positive regression coming his way soon. I believe in Kakko’s future because he was putting up shot and chance generation numbers that are hard to luck into before his time off. He spent 7:52 on the Artemi Panarin/Ryan Strome in the Rangers’ 5-3 win over Buffalo last night and instantly delivered, scoring two goals on six shots. If he can make that deployment stick and creep up into the 16 minutes/night range, I’d be very bullish on Kakko’s ability to put up points the rest of this season. Unfortunately I have no faith in coach Jack Quinn to make that happen because of his apparent inability to keep any line intact for longer than the average bowel movement (lotta bathroom humour today eh). Until Kakko holds down a spot opposite Panarin for longer than three games, it’s tough to trust him.
Verdict: A high risk/high reward add. Definitely worth a stream when he’s on the Panarin line
Jason Robertson, LW – DAL
Robertson has been a surprise point scoring machine, turning in 4 goals and 14 assists for 18 points in 24 games on the season, adding another power play helper in tonight’s game versus the Lightning as I write. I expected to find some unsustainable rates in Robertson’s game, but he actually looks pretty solid, skating a very impressive 18:46 per night over his last five games. His individual chance generation rates are just OK over those five games, but he’s 46th in xGF/60 with a relatively low 7.9% on-ice S% and unremarkable 67% IPP. He’s not a point-per-game guy ROS by any stretch, but with 18:46 a night he could sustain a 55-60 point pace fairly easily.
Verdict: Very rosterable player as long as he’s getting the big minutes
Jonathan Drouin, LW – MTL
Drouin is an enigmatic player, one that flashes the kind of skill that made him the third overall pick in the 2013 draft and then disappears completely for weeks at a time. He’s somehow only scored two goals in 31 games on the season, but has managed to put up a solid 19 assists for a 56-point 82-game pace. Drouin has been getting a lot more ice under interim coach Dominique Ducharme, averaging 18:32 a night in his last five games. Drouin has responded with an improved shot rate, but puzzlingly remains 236th in the league in iSCF/60 despite the increased shot volume. Still, you can argue me into just about anybody who’s seeing 18+ minutes a night and top line/top power play deployment. Montreal’s COVID situation has resulted in games postponed at least until the weekend thus far, and Drouin doesn’t move the needle enough for me to hold him that long, especially considering the just average schedule for Montreal next week. I’d make the drop for now, but would definitely consider picking him back up towards the back end of the next fantasy hockey week if he’s still getting this kind of deployment then.
Verdict: Not intriguing enough to hold through Montreal’s COVID layoff
That’s all for this one folks! Make sure you follow Apples & Ginos on Twitter or join the Apples & Ginos Discord server for more content and to ask any fantasy hockey questions you may have.
Thanks for reading, you are appreciated!
Advanced stats credit: Natural Stat Trick
Title photo credit: Jerome Miron – USA TODAY Sports