Hello everyone and welcome in for another article. This is the fourteenth instalment of a weekly article I’ll be 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 Jacob Markstrom, Daniel Vladar, or any other goalie whose future performance I will not predict for you. Let’s get it!
Anton Lundell, C/LW – FLA
Lundell has turned his season around in a big way of late, getting a promotion to the top line alongside captain Aleksander Barkov and Sam Reinhart. Lundell had piled up five points in his last four games heading into Monday night’s contest against the Rangers, but equally importantly Lundell’s shot and chance generation numbers have improved to go with the extra ice time. With the Panthers in a position where they have to be willing to hold onto anything that works, I’m betting on Lundell to hold onto his top line deployment at least until the wheels fall off. Keep in mind that Lundell paced for 55 points as a rookie last season (mostly playing alongside Reinhart) and was a top-10 selection in his draft year; this is a player with pedigree who impressed immediately upon arriving in the NHL. I’m bullish on players who give me reasons to believe and Lundell fits those criteria easily.
Chris Kreider, LW – NYR
This isn’t the first time Kreider’s appeared in this column as he’s had a mediocre year in comparison to his 52-goal explosion a season ago. Kreider is pacing for 36 goals and 57 points, both of which would be career highs if not for last season’s supernova of a campaign. Kreider is still running low on the luck metrics (49% IPP, 13.5% S%, 10.3% oiSH%), meaning there should be a 65ish point pace in here somewhere. In fact, Kreider’s on-ice team level stats are the best of his career by a fair margin, meaning there should definitely be more pucks going in the net while he’s on the ice over the back half of the season. All told, Kreider looks like a bit of a buy-low to me if you can make the deal happen.
Bryan Rust, RW – PIT
Ah Bryan Rust. With Sam Reinhart officially embarked on a hot streak, Rust takes over as the player I get the most questions about. Rust has struggled mightily to find consistency this season, in part due to a reduced role: he’s seeing a minute less per game this year and all of that is power play time. On top of that Rust is getting unlucky with an 8.6% S% that is less than 2/3rds of his average over the four seasons prior and a 10.1 oiSH% when he’s been above 12% in each of the last three seasons. I don’t think Rust the player has changed all that much, but you absolutely have to adjust expectations for him at this point given the reduced power play role. I had Rust down for a 71-point pace prior to the season assuming he would maintain a PP1 spot; now I’m expecting him to be around a 60 point pace rest of season.
Devon Toews, D – COL
Toews is the type of defenseman that will always be a bit of a tough study. He’ll go five games without a point, as he did from January 2nd to January 12th. Then he’ll rattle off five points in three games, like he did from the 14th to the 18th. And then he’ll go cold again with no points in each of his last two games. Toews has that built-in upside of playing for a team like Colorado, as indicated by the fact that he ranks 24th amongst all defensemen in raw on-ice Corsi For on the season. Toews has taken a step back from last year’s high water mark in terms of his individual rate stats, but he’s also getting a little unlucky in both individual and team shooting percentages. For the rest of this season, I’m valuing Toews as a 50ish point defenseman.
Jacob Markstrom, G – CGY
Are you asking me to predict goalie performance?
If you know anything about Apples & Ginos you know that predicting goalie performance is not something we are in the business of, always choosing to ride hot hands in net and try to find the next Pheonix Copley when this month’s version goes cold. But if I must give a take on Markstrom, it’s this: he plays for a team that has controlled chances and scoring chances at the second highest rate in the league over the last month, but he is in a clear timeshare with Dan Vladar at the moment. Vladar is getting his second straight start here on Monday night so you might have more information than I do by the time you read this, but I would anticipate a 50/50 split moving forward. That’s enough to keep Markstrom relevant in most leagues, but he’s certainly not been the stalwart #1 netminder you hoped for when you drafted him before the season.
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 Apples & Ginos Discord server for more content and to ask any fantasy hockey questions you may have.