schwartz

Who is the better fantasy own - Jaden Schwartz or Brandon Saad?

This week’s Cage Match focuses on two of the youngest players (Jaden Schwartz and Brandon Saad) I’ve covered. And while it seems like the sky’s the limit for both, which one is actually better for your team?

 

Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications

Saad and Schwartz were born three months apart (both are 21) and have played a nearly identical number of NHL games (114 for Schwartz, 113 for Saad) through March 10th. As a former 14th overall draft pick, Schwartz was always a very highly touted prospect, while Saad wasn’t picked until the second round (43rd overall) in the 2011 entry draft.

Both are earning less than $1M (without bonuses) for 2013-14; but Schwartz –having been drafted a season earlier than Saad – will be a restricted free agent this summer, while Saad’s ELC runs through 2014-15. For those in salary cap leagues, Saad’s additional year at a bargain price (he’s in the top eight on Capgeek’s list of NHL bargains, with Schwartz in the top 15) is a huge benefit.

Saad will be an RFA at the same time that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane (plus Johnny Oduya and Michael Rozsival) are set to be UFAs, and Chicago already has over $42M in payroll committed toward the $71.1M cap for 2015-16. It’s clear that in looking at Saad’s future value we should consider the possibility that he’ll be elsewhere after next season, or that if he stays with Chicago he likely won’t be able to count on the potent Blackhawks nucleus remaining fully intact.

As for the Blues, other than goaltending (both Ryan Miller and Brian Elliott will be UFAs), much of their focus during this offseason will likely be on re-signing Schwartz, whom St. Louis – with only $45.4M in payroll committed toward next season’s $71.1M cap - could afford to sign to a lower cost version of a “year eating” deal similar to what Jeff Skinner or Gabriel Landeskog signed as youngsters.

 

Versatility

Saad is a pure winger, eligible this season as both a left wing and right wing in Yahoo leagues, whereas Schwartz is eligible at left wing and center. This has real world and fantasy hockey ramifications, since Saad’s ability to play both wings helps him bounce around various lines and gives your fantasy team options to fill positions with less NHL depth. In fact, Saad’s 43 points put him within the top 18 scorers for both left and right wings, while Schwartz’s 48 points would place him outside of the top 20 for centers. And Schwartz also has only taken 64 draws all year, so he might not help a fantasy team in areas (like faceoffs) where other centers contribute.

Another way to assess their versatility is to look at each player’s even strength linemates. Let’s see what Frozen Pool tells us for 2013-14 (through March 10th):

 

 

13.87%

EV

88 KANE,PATRICK - 20 SAAD,BRANDON - 65 SHAW,ANDREW

12.92%

EV

29 BICKELL,BRYAN - 20 SAAD,BRANDON - 65 SHAW,ANDREW

12.47%

EV

88 KANE,PATRICK - 37 PIRRI,BRANDON - 20 SAAD,BRANDON

 


22.59%

EV

21 BERGLUND,PATRIK - 9 SCHWARTZ,JADEN - 91 TARASENKO,VLADIMIR

13.9%

EV

42 BACKES,DAVID - 74 OSHIE,T.J. - 9 SCHWARTZ,JADEN

12.45%

EV

9 SCHWARTZ,JADEN - 17 SOBOTKA,VLADIMIR - 91 TARASENKO,VLADIMIR

 

Sure enough, Saad’s ability to play both wings has led to him not spending even 14% of his even strength Ice Time with any one line, whereas Schwartz’s most common line is responsible for over 22% of his total even strength Ice Time. And Saad’s versatility should continue to be on full display with Marian Hossa out for another week or two.

Although it’s not necessarily a bad thing to move from line to line at even strength, arguably it can hurt production in that a player is unable to develop the kind of chemistry with his linemates that can lend itself to better scoring output. On the other hand, two of Saad’s three most frequent even strength lines include Patrick Kane, which is reassuring. In contrast, none of Schwartz’s includes Alexander Steen, and two of the three don’t include their other most potent forwards (David Backes, T.J. Oshie), so that arguably hurts Schwartz’s production as much as (if not more than) the fact that Saad bounces around more from line to line. Then again, because Schwartz is producing despite not lining up alongside top Blues scorers, that suggests he’s able to generate offense regardless of the other forwards with whom he takes the ice.

 

Ice Time/PowerPlay (2013-14 through March 10th)

Although there are only 100+ games to examine from just this season and last, we still should be able to get some very useful information here.

 

Season

Total Ice Time per game (with rank among team’s forwards)

PP Ice Time per game (with rank among team’s forwards)

SH Ice Time (with rank among team’s forwards)

2013-14

16:26 (B.S.) – 5th

17:17 (J.S.) – 4th

1:52 (B.S.) – 6th

1:39 (J.S.) – 6th

0:46 (B.S.) – 6th

1:30 (J.S.) – 6th

2012-13

16:27 (B.S.) – 5th

12:28 (J.S.) – 10th

1:31 (B.S.) – 8th

0:16 (J.S.) – 11th

0:51 (B.S.) – 8th

0:10 (J.S.) – 10th

 

Schwartz is getting almost a minute more overall Ice Time than Saad; but if we subtract unproductive SH Ice Time, the difference is only seven seconds (Saad at 15:40, Schwartz 15:47). It’s not too surprising to see similarity in Saad’s numbers from both seasons, since Chicago won the Stanley Cup last season with much the same team so they’re not going mess with what’s working. As for Schwartz, he’s receiving considerably more Ice Time than he did in 2012-13; and depending on how you see things, that’s either a reward for him performing so well or the biggest reason behind him having stepped up his production.

Since their PP Ice Time is so similar this campaign, it makes sense to examine the quality of that PP Ice Time, as not all PP Ice Time is created equal. Here’s what Frozen Pool says:

 

 

39%

PP

81 HOSSA,MARIAN - 20 SAAD,BRANDON - 23 VERSTEEG,KRIS

11.7%

PP

81 HOSSA,MARIAN - 37 PIRRI,BRANDON - 20 SAAD,BRANDON

9.47%

PP

81 HOSSA,MARIAN - 20 SAAD,BRANDON - 65 SHAW,ANDREW

 


20.9%

PP

42 BACKES,DAVID - 74 OSHIE,T.J. - 9 SCHWARTZ,JADEN - 20 STEEN,ALEXANDER

16.12%

PP

42 BACKES,DAVID - 74 OSHIE,T.J. - 9 SCHWARTZ,JADEN

7.76%

PP

9 SCHWARTZ,JADEN - 17 SOBOTKA,VLADIMIR - 91 TARASENKO,VLADIMIR

 

 

Interestingly, the PP situation is almost a 180 versus even strength. Saad is seeing a higher percentage of time on certain PP lines, but neither of Chicago’s two big guns is there alongside him. Meanwhile, Schwartz is bouncing around more on the PP, but his most regular PP shift is spent with St. Louis’ big three. Yet despite this, Saad has nine PP points in 65 games versus Schwartz’s eight in 62. It’s possible that if Schwartz continues to fare this poorly playing with the St Louis big guns, that he could see less PP Ice Time or spend it with lower tier players.

 

Other Metrics/Numbers (2013-14 through March 10th)

 

Season

Shots (per game)

Personal Shooting Percentage

Team Shooting Percentage (5x5)

PDO (5x5)

Offensive Zone Start Percentage (5x5)

2013-14

 

1.92 (B.S.)

2.24 (J.S.)

14.4% (B.S.)

14.6% (J.S.)

9.75% (B.S.)

11.95% (J.S.)

1014 (B.S.)

1047 (J.S.)

62.7% (B.S.)

52.7% (J.S.)

2012-13

 

2.13 (B.S.)

1.11 (J.S.)

10.2% (B.S.)

14.0% (J.S.)

9.62% (B.S.)

8.07% (J.S.)

1030 (B.S.)

969 (J.S.)

56.5% (B.S.)

51.3% (J.S.)

 

What’s interesting about Saad’s numbers is that other than having a pretty high 1030 PDO last season (970-1030 is considered the “normal” range), his year to year metrics are pretty consistent, as have been his production and Ice Time. This gives us more confidence in him being able to at least sustain his current production for the near future, if not to improve upon it.

As for Schwartz, his PDO of 1047 is the highest I’ve seen for any player I’ve covered in Cage Match, and suggests that unsustainable good luck has been at least partially responsible for some of his breakout production this season. That being said, many St. Louis players have PDOs that are well above 1000, so they might just be one of those teams (the Bruins are another) where higher PDOs are somewhat less of a concern. But still, it would be less worrisome to see a PDO this high after Schwartz already had a productive season or two under his belt.

A quick word on secondary stats – both are great for +/- (not surprising given their teams), and neither one is very good in PIM or Hits, although Schwartz might give you 10-20% more production than Saad in either one along with being a decent contributor (for a forward) in Blocked Shots.

 

Who Wins?

When talking about two players in the midst of their first 50+ game NHL season, and who therefore have very little past data and trends to draw from, it becomes an especially challenging task to declare a winner. Clearly Saad’s dual winger status is beneficial, as it gives him versatility at two of the least deep fantasy positions.

But one piece of data might hold the best key to our analysis at this point, and that’s their PDOs. Both players have had a season with a high PDO, suggesting their production in that particular season might be skewing (or did skew) unsustainably high. And although Saad had a 1030 PDO in 2012-13, not only is that still technically within the normal range but he’s also gone on to follow that up with an even more productive output for this campaign (54 point full season pace so far, versus a 48 point pace for last season) accompanied by a much lower PDO. Meanwhile, Schwartz’s 1047 PDO for 2013-14 is quite a bit outside the normal range, and the fact that it’s coinciding with his breakout year is not what his owners want to see.

Plus, the main question mark with Saad might be what might happen when he’s an RFA after 2014-15, with the Blackhawks already having a lot of money on the books and their two megastars poised to be UFAs. But even if Saad ends up leaving Chicago, or stays but sees the team around him become less potent, who’s to say that’ll be a net negative? His Ice Time would likely rise if he stays in Chicago but others depart, and he’ll still have a very solid team around him. If he goes to a new team instead (signing a pretty big contract in the process), he’ll likely be counted upon to be a more vital contributor than he is – or would be - in Chicago.

In the end, Saad is likely the “safer” bet, although Schwartz could end up being the better producer in the near term (i.e., one to three years) if he defies his PDO and continues his more exponential upward trajectory. What I mean by Saad being safer is let’s suppose both players start next season with something like two points in their first fifteen games; the fact that Saad is the more established of the two player would likely lead to him having a longer leash and enabling him to “keep his spot” longer despite a slump. But because Schwartz has only been a top six player for this season, he might be more vulnerable to being pushed down the depth chart due to a prolonged slump (this assumes he doesn’t sign a mega RFA deal in the offseason).

All things considered, if you’re in either rebuild or “win or go home” mode over the next one to three seasons, then Schwartz would be my pick, while if you can’t afford to take chances and need reliable production, then I’d opt for Saad.

 

 

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