Hello everyone and welcome in for another article. This is the twentieth installment of a weekly article I’ve been writing all season long in which I try to determine the truth about puzzling players. I pull suggestions for which players to write about for these articles from the Apples & Ginos community on Discord and the Apples & Ginos Patreon members. Be sure you check out those spots to catch up with me and I would be more than happy to answer any questions you have about Jack Campbell, Cam Talbot, or any other goalies *gasp* not performing as projected. Let’s get it!
Cole Caufield, RW – MTL
The first topic of conversation here is Cole Caufield. Everyone wants to know: has he arrived? Is he a star now? It’s clear from the rolling averages above that Caufield’s production and ice time has been on the upswing since Martin St. Louis showed up to coach the Canadiens, and I’m a believer. Caufield ranks 16th in the league in individual scoring chances for/60 (iSCF/60) over his last five games, firing four or more iSCF in four of those five. Caufield has skated more than 20 minutes in three of the last five games and I don’t see any reason why the Canadiens wouldn’t want to let Caufield run with as much ice time as he can handle in what has essentially been a lost year for the franchise. Caufield is a rookie and rookies certainly go hot and cold, but Caufield is showing that the talent is real and he’s well beyond streamer status at this point.
Verdict: A star in the making
Jack Campbell, G – TOR
Another day, another goalie whose future performance no one should even try to predict. Campbell has been in a bit of tailspin for some time now as you can see from the graph above. The Leafs are searching for a hot hand and both he and Petr Mrazek keep fumbling the job back and forth. I believe the Leafs would prefer to have Campbell take the lion’s share of work as he’s at least shown he has the ability to be a difference maker in goal earlier this season. But it’s going to fall on him to make that change. I do think that Campbell has gotten a bit unlucky of late on top of not playing poorly and that has caused some of this recent spiral. If he can get one lucky game I think we could see his confidence build back and get back to at least a serviceable starting goaltender level. But there’s certainly downside here as well and Campbell is absolutely trending into droppable territory.
Verdict: Campbell is a hold for the upside, but my fingers are getting weaker
Jakub Vrana, RW – DET
akub Vrana is back, baby! I had a huge projection on Vrana to score 30+ goals this season, but his campaign was derailed before it ever began due to a shoulder injury that required surgery. In eleven games last year with the Red Wings, Vrana eclipsed the 10 shots/60 (10.1) and 10 iSCF/60 (11.69) marks that I like to see. His ability to maintain those rates at higher minutes (17:16 average time on ice) was a huge signal to me that Vrana was primed and ready for a breakout season. I’m not sure how Vrana will fit into the lineup now that Lucas Raymond has staked a serious claim to the top line and top PP unit, but if Vrana gets second line and top power play deployment I’ll be interested in him as a streamer level player with upside for more. I wouldn’t expect him to immediately be back to his former self, so if you’re taking the chance on him give him 3-4 games before you make any long term decisions.
Verdict: Very talented player; I’ll give him 4 games to prove he belongs on my fantasy roster for the playoffs
Pavel Buchnevich, LW – STL
Buchnevich has been relatively consistent this season, but has fallen on tough times of late with just a single goal in his last six games. Buchnevich’s 8.67 iSCF/60 through that span isn’t ideal, but it’s certainly not indicative of poor play. His on-ice shooting percentage (oiSH%) is less than 4% in this stretch so it’s seems to me that pucks just haven’t been going in for Buchnevich and Co. of late but that trend should reverse shortly. If you can buy low on Buchnevich now due to this little slump I would certainly be interested in doing that since the Blues have a terrific playoff schedule Weeks 23-25.
Verdict: A slump to be sure, but there are positive signs under the hood. Not worried long-term
William Nylander, RW – TOR
Nylander has always been a frustrating player to roster, capable of looking like one of the best players in the league on any given night and then disappearing for weeks at time immediately afterwards. Nylander is still seeing solid usage and on the season he’s posting the best advanced stats of his career. But there has certainly been a disturbing trend over the last 5-10 games where Nylander’s iSCF/60 and shot generation has dipped. I’m still unworried, because Nylander’s role on the team is completely secure and he has always been a highly streaky player. Combine that with the long goalless stretch that linemate John Tavares just snapped, and I think there are better days ahead for Nylander.
Verdict: Nylander could slump for another game or another week or two, but the rebound here feels inevitable given his history
Before you go, I want to make sure you’re aware of the Apples and Ginos Fantasy Hockey Podcast and I would be much obliged if you were to give it a listen. There are two weekly shows focused on the strategy elements of fantasy hockey and I’m very excited about providing more value to the fantasy hockey community in this way. I’ve already had terrific guests like Ian Gooding from Dobber Hockey and Nick Alberga from NHL Fantasy on Ice on the show, and I’ve added a midweek podcast with my friends Josh Hutchinson and John Binkle who are a ton of fun on the mic.
That’s all for this one folks, I hope you had as much fun reading it as I had writing it! Make sure you follow Apples & Ginos on Twitter and join the free Apples & Ginos Discord server for more content and to ask any fantasy hockey questions you may have. If you want to learn more about any of the advanced stats I mentioned in this article, be sure to check out my article on applying advanced stats to fantasy hockey, or Natural Stat Trick’s advanced stats glossary.
Thanks for reading, you are appreciated!
Player Stats Cards: Created by @TJStats
Soundtrack to my writing: Justice by Justin Bieber
Advanced stats credit: Natural Stat Trick