In my hockey travels today, I happened upon an article by Pete Jensen at NHL.com with a fantasy hockey slant and an early top 100 ranking for forwards for the 2018-19 season. Pete’s stuff is generally good read if you are fantasy hockey inclined and interesting in many cases even if you are not.
In this case, I found the article interesting in terms of measuring distribution of true first line scoring talent by team. Since fantasy hockey is largely focused on scoring, fantasy hockey rankings are a decent even if not perfect proxy for scoring. To be clear, that is not to say that a scoring-focused fantasy hockey slant correctly measures a players’ overall value, but it is decent for a back of the envelope measure of raw offensive fire power.
Where Hurricanes players land
The Hurricanes did not place a single player in the top 50 and placed only Sebastian Aho at #62 and Teuvo Teravainen at #76 in the top 100. Jeff Skinner was only in the ‘just missed’ category. First, I think it is fair to debate whether the Hurricanes were short-changed. Because of his short but impressive track record and room for upside, I would rate Aho higher than 62. And even coming off of bit of a down season, I would have Skinner in the top 100 of an offense-only ranking.
But nonetheless, the rankings do represent one view of how the Hurricanes top players stack up offensively across the league.
How the Hurricanes stack up against other teams
At an average level, it breaks out like this…
The NHL has 31 teams which means that a top line across the league would make for 93 forwards. So to be ‘average’ in this ranking, a team should place three players in the top 93 and ideally evenly spaced out between the top and the bottom of the list. Based on that simple measure, the Hurricanes are short a first line forward. In addition to that, if you break things finer and consider 1-31 as #1 forwards, 32-62 as #2 forwards and 63-93 as #3 forwards, the Hurricanes lack a #1 forward and their #2 forward is in the bottom of that range.
Again, I think one could debate the individual rankings, but at the same time I do not think it is necessarily off base to say that he Hurricanes are short a top line forward.
Each of the last four teams standing in the Eastern Conference playoffs had at least three of the top 93 forwards. Washington has 4; Pittsburgh has 5; Tampa Bay has 6; Boston has 3. Despite being light on quantity, Boston maybe makes up for it by being top-heavy with three of the top 16 players.
Bridging the gap
Many Canes followers are high on the team’s prospect pool and reinforcements on the way from Charlotte for the 2018-19 season. I think this optimism is justified and has the potential to boost the team’s scoring depth. But at the same time, when one looks at the type of players who are on the list, I think it is asking a lot to project a medium-ish prospect stepping up from the AHL level to join these ranks. While it certainly does happen in the NHL, building playoff plans upon this happening is a high-risk strategy. No doubt, Andrei Svechnikov could be a wild card because of his high-end talent, but again, he represents more of a wild card with upside than a solid plan that the team should bank on.
The question then is where could or should another higher-end scoring forward come from? Do you count on a sizable rebound from Jeff Skinner to make a dent in the goal scoring deficit? Does Elias Lindholm have another gear higher than the depth scoring ceiling that he has bumped up against so far? Does the team need to add a veteran offensive talent from outside of the organization to fill the gap and win now while the youth continues to develop? Is it possible to just generate enough additional offense with improved depth scoring such that another higher-end forward is not a necessity?
The questions are many. What do you see as the answer to more scoring?
Poll first and discussion after that…
1) How would you address the dilemma of building from within and leaving NHL ice time for youth but not relying too much on unproven players?
2) What is your plan A, plan B, plan C, etc. for boosting goal scoring for the 2018-19 season?