Hello everyone and welcome in for another article. This is the twenty-first 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 Dougie Hamilton, Neal Pionk, or any other underperforming defensemen. Let’s get it!
Dougie Hamilton, D – NJD
Hamilton is an interesting case. Many (including myself) expected Hamilton to return from his injury and immediately resume his top PP role as the Devils’ top offensive defenseman. But things haven’t quite worked out that way, as Damon Severson has retained his status on the top unit and is still producing (two PP points in his last three games). Hamilton is still seeing similar overall minutes, just not with the same quality of teammates. His individual advanced rates are down a bit, but they’re still excellent, and his on-ice numbers (CF/60 & SCF/60) are higher than ever. He’s undoubtedly gotten a bit unlucky of late with that 3.2% on-ice shooting percentage (oiSH%) in his last five games, but of course we also can’t expect him to be at his best when not getting optimal deployment. I would say I’m 70% confident that Hamilton reclaims his PP1 role in the next three weeks and in the interim he’ll still be a very good fantasy asset, just perhaps not a great one.
Verdict: Sucks that the PP1 is gone, but this is a stud don’t overthink it
Dylan Strome, C – CHI
This is one I didn’t see coming: Dylan Strome is playing like a superstar skating with two other superstars in Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat. The time on ice, the shots/60, the individual scoring chances for/60 (iSCF/60), the CF/60, the SCF/60… all of it has gone through the roof. Strome has been running a little too hot of late of course, rocking a 77% individual points percentage (IPP), a 37% shooting percentage (S%), and a 16.5% oiSH%, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s generating chances at a borderline elite level while playing with two truly elite players at both 5v5 and on the power play. I’m hesitant to say that Strome will keep up these rate stats indefinitely since we’ve seen the bad with Strome before and it’s nothing short of horrendous. But you absolutely have to tip your cap to him at this point. He’s doing something he’s never done before and he’s being rewarded by his coach and on the scoresheet.
Verdict: Still have reservations long-term, but Strome is legitimately playing terrific hockey
Nick Schmaltz, C – ARI
On the surface, Nick Schmaltz looks a lot like Dylan Strome these days. The parallels are all there: bad team, playing with team’s only great forward(s), a history of mediocre play being rapidly eclipsed by incredible point production. The difference with Schmaltz is that the advanced stats don’t back up the production. His shots/60 and iSCF/60, while not terrible, certainly don’t support the goals he’s been scoring, and the on-ice numbers are very average and in some cases even worse than his career averages. The regression stats are all blaring red: IPP of 87.5%, S% of 35.7%, oiSH% of 26.7%. I’m certainly fine with riding out the hot streak with Schmaltz, but that’s all this looks like at this point.
Verdict: The advanced numbers say Schmaltz is headed for a regression cliff; get off the ride as soon as the fun ends
Neal Pionk, D – WPG
I’ve somehow managed to dodge questions on Pionk all season but alas, all good things come to an end. On the season, Pionk looks like the exact same player. The shots/60 are uncannily close to his career average, and the same goes for his hits and blocks. The on-ice stats are a bit biased because of his first two seasons in New York, but comparing to his Winnipeg seasons it looks pretty in-line with expectation. The IPP sticks out as being a bit low, but all told Pionk isn’t far off an average season for him. Of more concern is the reduction in ice time over the last five games. In my opinion, you have to ask yourself if what Pionk can give you as a 19-20 minute, PP2 defenseman who bangs is enough to hang on. In cats he’s a clear hold for me, but in points-only or points leagues with a low weight on banger categories he’s a borderline play, and likely will be for the rest of the fantasy season. The nice part of holding Pionk is that Winnipeg has a pretty solid schedule for the rest of the year – weigh that as you will.
Verdict: What you see is what you get – depending on your setup Pionk may or may not be worth holding
Valeri Nichushkin, LW – COL
Nichushkin is currently on line 1 and the top power play in Colorado, which should be all you need to know in order to go pick him up (although you should be aware Colorado only plays two games this week). But we’ve also see Andre Burakovsky get looks in both of those spots, and neither player has exactly lit the league on fire of late. Nichushkin’s advanced numbers are certainly not problematic and they should take a step forward given the deployment, but it’s hard to be 100% certain that he’s going to maintain this role as long as Gabriel Landeskog is out. I’m still going to pick him up, but I will be keeping a very close eye on that deployment. Nichushkin has taken a real step forward this season as a player and I’m hopeful (if not convinced) that he can make good on this opportunity.
Verdict: Certainly worth the add (especially given COL’s schedule next week) if you can afford to grab him in a light week
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 Stat Cards: Created by @TJStats
Soundtrack to my writing: Between Broken by Dabin
Advanced stats credit: Natural Stat Trick