It’s Thanksgiving weekend in America and with it comes the unofficial end to the first quarter of the season. The standings are still wacky, and so are some of the scoring leaders, but it’s far enough into the season where what we see now is close to what we’ll get in the future.
There have been some incredible performances to start the season so far and that’s really pushed the stock of certain players up. The same can be said for the guys on the opposite end of the spectrum, who have been miserable and see their stock falling.
We wanted to highlight those two extremes. Guys who see their stock rise and fall is typical hockey lexicon, but rarely do you see it quantified, mostly because it’s generally difficult to quantify a player’s total value at any given point.
During the pre-season we used a statistical player model based on Game Score to predict how good each team would be. Since they were based on how good each player was projected to be, why not check in with how good those players are currently projected to be and how that compares to their pre-season value? The model is based on a weighted average of a player’s last three seasons, with this current season carrying the most clout, which means that some good or bad early season returns can seriously move the needle for player value.
Based on Game Score, here are three players who have seen a big time stock rise over the first 20 games of the season, and three players who have seen their stock drop.
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
Pre-Season Value: 1.89 wins
Current Value: 2.59 wins
Before this season, I doubt many people really knew how good Pastrnak was, but he’s putting the hockey world on notice right now. During the pre-season his value was already higher than most would expect, but he’s blown that out of the water to start the season scoring at a point-per-game clip and crushing the opposition on the shot clock. Being on a line with the Bruins super duo of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand (which should be nicknamed The Best Line in the League because it is) helps, but Pastrnak is great in his own right. Since he’s entered the league he’s 10th overall in 5-on-5 points-per-60. Yes, 10th overall. In the whole league. This season has been his coming out party and he’s now legitimately one of the league’s best wingers.
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Pre-Season Value: 2.80 wins
Current Value: 3.54 wins
Okay, it probably seems a bit silly putting Connor McDavid on this list. We all knew he would be amazing to start the year, but there was always a small bit of uncertainty considering he had only played 45 games. He’s cast away any doubt and he is genuinely right there with Sidney Crosby as the league’s best player as the two hold the same (and the highest) Game Score value per 60 minutes. Whether you agree with the model or not, there’s definitely an argument to be made that the two are at least very close and that he’s been even better than last season. This year, McDavid is clicking at a 105 point pace, an almost 20 point increase from last season, he’s firing more pucks on net, and he’s easily Edmonton’s best possession player. It won’t be long until this is McDavid’s league for the taking.
Conor Sheary, Pittsburgh Penguins
Pre-Season Value: 0.59 wins
Current Value: 1.10 wins
Another Conor moving up in the world, but obviously he’s nowhere near the same stratosphere as the other guy. Playing with Crosby has its advantages and Sheary has done well exploiting them. The undersized winger has nine points in 13 games this year, almost equaling his mark from last year in 30 fewer games. Whether that’s entirely the Crosby effect or not, Sheary still looks very good early in the season and is holding his own on that line. His shot rates are very good and he’s a very responsible two-way player. He’ll never make any headlines for his play behind the superstar talent on Pittsburgh, but he’s quietly a very effective player that can play anywhere in the line-up. A valuable cog in the Pittsburgh machine.
Honourable Mentions: Jonathan Marchessault, Panthers; Michael Grabner, Rangers; Ryan Dzingel, Senators
Anthony Duclair, Arizona Coyotes
Pre-Season Value: 1.22 wins
Current Value: 0.71 wins
You could put any number of Coyotes players here and it could still work, but Duclair is the best candidate. Just three points in 18 games and barely registering more than a single shot per game, it’s been a rough season for the 21 year old who has gone from 16 minutes per game to 13 this year. Perhaps expectations were a bit high after a 44 point season, but that year was built on an unsustainably high 19 percent shooting percentage. This year he’s at 4.5 percent, which should regress higher, but it would help if he had more than 22 shots in 18 games too. Duclair is also having big struggles in the shot rate game and all those problems combine into the biggest value loss over the first 20 games.
Alex Steen, St. Louis Blues
Pre-Season Value: 1.61 wins
Current Value: 1.20 wins
Fresh off signing a brand new four-year contract worth $23 million, Steen is continuing his decline. He’s 32 now, so it’s not all that surprising, but the fall has not been graceful. In three seasons he’s gone from a 70 point guy, to a 60 point guy, and now a 50 point guy. His relative Corsi percentage in that same span has dropped from 1.7 to -1.7 to an ugly -10.1 this yea,r according to Corsica. At 1.61 wins he was still a top line player, but his recent play has bumped him down to second line status. He’s still valuable, but that value keeps shrinking with each passing year. Don’t forget he isn’t exactly the most durable player either. Perhaps the Blues should’ve waited until the season finished before signing that contract because Steen’s play has not been very inspiring, nor is it worth what his next contract entails.
Brandon Dubinsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
Pre-Season Value: 1.25 wins
Current Value: 0.85 wins
Fresh off a disappointing early exit from the World Cup for the United States, Dubinsky gets to be a part of an exciting Blue Jackets team that is finding ways to win despite being mostly written off to start the season. It’s too bad Dubinsky hasn’t been the reason for that success in any shape or form. Let me put it this way: Dubinsky is shooting above his career shooting percentage, but has just two goals in 16 games. That seems almost impossible, but it’s really happening and it’s because his shooting rate has been cut in half. He’s got 18 shots this year, just over one per game, while firing more than two per game in each of his last three seasons. In all those years he’s been a 50 point player, but if he can’t find a way to get more chances it’s very unlikely he reaches that this year. It would help if he was at least driving play, but he has the second worst Corsi on Columbus, and one of the worst relative ratings in the league.
Honourable Mentions: Andrew Ladd, Islanders; John Klingberg, Stars; TJ Brodie, Flames