Hello everyone and welcome in for another article. This is the fifteenth 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 Miro Heiskanen, Aaron Ekblad, or any other elite young defensemen across the league. Let’s get it!
Miro Heiskanen, D – DAL
Heiskanen is a clear top tier #1 defenseman in the league, currently ranked seventh in the league in average time on ice and tenth in points. While he hasn’t scored a goal in his last ten games, Heiskanen has racked up nine assists in that span and is on a 68-point pace for the season. Heiskanen is currently sporting the best shots/60 and individual Corsi For/60 (iCF/60) marks of his career, and his on-ice numbers have taken a huge jump this year. You could argue that Heiskanen’s 11.6% on-ice shooting percentage (oiSH%) is probably a touch inflated, but overall I find it hard to see a reason to doubt Heiskanen as a 60-65 point defenseman for the rest of the season.
Aaron Ekblad, D – FLA
I think it’s plenty fair to call Ekblad’s season to date a disappointment, as the star Panther blueliner is on just a 48-point pace through 41 games this year. That disappointment is only accentuated when reflecting on fellow Panther rearguard Brandon Montour’s 70-point pace to date. But frankly, I have no concerns with Ekblad for the remainder of the season. There’s the solid-if-unspectacular banger stats, but then there’s the eye-popping shot totals. Ekblad has averaged five shots on goal across the last five games that he’s played in full (he left the Jan. 21st contest against Minnesota after just 1:50 of ice time).
The Panthers continue to be a team with gaudy underlying statistics and poor efficiency, but given the talent on the roster (including Ekblad himself), I don’t see how it’s possible that the team doesn’t break through at some point in the near future and begin to convert at a significantly higher rate. Ekblad is a strong buy for me.
Artemi Panarin, LW – NYR
There are actually some interesting parallels to Ekblad here with Panarin, where the team context is very strong but an inability to convert has hamstrung the counting stats. Panarin’s current 9.8% oiSH% would be the lowest of the past four seasons by nearly 3.5%, an astounding number in totality. In situations like this, I’m almost always going to default to assuming that the percentages will rebound at some point, and that makes me very interested in acquiring profiles like Panarin and Ekblad.
Panarin’s 9.3% individual shooting percentage is a far cry from the 14%-plus he’s averaged over the past four seasons, so it’s not just that he needs to rely on teammates improving their conversion rates – he has some control over a potential goal-scoring rebound here as well. I’m always willing to bet on discounted superstars with weak luck metrics in any individual season and Panarin fits that bill to a tee currently.
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW – STL
I’ve got a bit of an axe to grind with Tarasenko. After a stellar 2021-2022 campaign in which his shots/60 and iSCF/60 rates rebounded to peak levels, I bought into the view that the borderline elite version of Tarasenko was back. This year, Tarasenko has regressed in those categories just enough to make his counting stats quite uninspiring. A 64-point pace is not going to cut it for a player of Tarasenko’s caliber, and while he is getting a little unlucky with just a 10% shooting percentage, the fact remains that Tarasenko is simply not living up to the standard he set for himself a year ago.
While the rumblings have not been there for some time, we do know that before the 2021-22 season Tarasenko wanted to be traded and with the Blues trending further and further from a playoff spot game by game that wish could potentially be granted (albeit a couple of years late). Even if that does come to pass, I’m not going to be overly bullish on Tarasenko’s prospects unless it’s a true smash spot. The unfortunate reality is that the majority of players traded at or near the NHL trade deadline underperform their season-long numbers in their new environment. That’s enough to make Tarasenko a sell for me if and when he does get traded.
Teuvo Teravainen, RW – CAR
Things were looking pretty dicey for Teravainen a few short weeks ago, as he bottomed out with a game in which he skated just 11:36 and was mired in the bottom six of the Carolina lineup. Fast forward to the end of the month and Teravainen is skating with Sebastian Aho at even strength and on the top power play unit. I’m still somewhat concerned with Teravainen’s lack of consistency when it comes to generating shots and chances of his own, as he’s put up three games of three or more shots and three games of one or less shots in the last seven. But Teravainen has eclipsed the 17 minute mark in each of his last four games and it’s tough to imagine that he won’t put up points as long as this deployment lasts. Right now, I’m viewing Teravainen as a deployment-dependent player: as long as he remains on L1 and PP1, he stays on my roster. If one or both of those things go away, it’ll be time to re-evaluate.
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.