JiriHudler

 

Who is the better fantasy hockey own - Frans Nielsen or Jiri Hudler? Full breakdown and analysis here!

 

One of the goals of this column is to focus on players who might be later selections in your draft, in hopes of helping you distinguish between two players who both look like 60 point scorers but where one might actually end up with 65-70 and the other only 50-55. With that in mind, this week we’ll examine Jiri Hudler and Frans Nielsen, who both scored at a 59 point full season pace for 2013-14. But which one is the better own for 2014-15 and beyond, and is it likely that either will top 65 points or fall below 55 any time soon?

 

Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications

Hudler, who’s now 30 years old, went from being drafted 58th overall in 2002 to brief tastes of the Red Wings line-up in 2003-04 and again in 2005-06, before finally becoming an NHL regular in 2006-07 (following nearly 200 AHL games). But after three seasons with Detroit, culminating a 57 point effort in 2008-09, he left for the KHL, only to return for the 2010-11 season. Since then he’s scored 50+ points in each of his two full seasons – one with Detroit plus this past season with Calgary.

Nielsen is also 30, and was selected 87th overall in the same 2002 draft. He finally landed in the NHL to stay for the 2008-09 season, after having spent time in Sweden until 2006 and then playing only 15 games with the Islanders in 2006-07 and 16 in 2007-08. Although Nielsen has actually scored at a 0.5 points per game rate or better in each of his full seasons, his 58 points in 2013-14 eclipsed his previous career high of 47 in 2011-12 by a sizeable 11 points, making us wonder if it was a breakout season or perhaps an unsustainably lucky one.

Both players signed a four year UFAs deal after 2011-12, with Hudler moving from Detroit to Calgary and Nielsen opting to stay in Long Island. Hudler’s deal is for$16M, with a yearly cap hit of $4M, while Nielsen’s is for $11M and brings with it a yearly cap hit of $2.75M. It might not seem like there’s a big difference between their salaries based purely on dollar value, but if you think of it in terms of percentages instead, then Hudler earns over 30% more than Nielsen, which is sizeable difference for cap league purposes.

 

Ice Time

Nielsen has been with the Islanders for all four of these years, so we’ll see if his Ice Time has morphed as top six players have come and gone from Long Island. For Hudler, we’ll be able to compare data from his final two seasons with the Red Wings with that of his first two with the Flames.

 

Season

Total Ice Time per game (amount ahead of second highest forward)

PP Ice Time per game (amount ahead of second highest forward)

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

2013-14

18:50 (JH) – 3rd

18:20 (FN) – 4th

3:06 (JH) – 1st

3:25 (FN) – 4th

0:04 (JH) – 12th

2:09 (FN) – 2nd

2012-13

17:09 (JH) – 6th (tie)

18:01 (FN) – 4th

2:36 (JH) – 5th

2:05 (FN) – 4th

0:15 (JH) – 13th

2:26 (FN) – 1st

2011-12

15:40 (JH) – 6th

17:27 (FN) – 4th

2:14 (JH) – 6th

2:29 (FN) – 4th

0:00 (JH)

2:01 (FN) – 1st

2010-11

13:39 (JH) – 8th

17:45 (FN) – 6th

2:14 (JH) – 6th

2:30 (FN) – 6th (tie)

0:00 (JH)

2:59 (FN) – 1st

 

Nielsen’s overall Ice Time has been remarkably constant, with the range between his highest and lowest overall Ice Time being only 53 seconds. That being said, his PP Ice Time jumped by over a minute from 2012-13 to 2013-14 (while his overall and SH Ice Times essentially held steady), so we’d expect a nice increase in PP points to have also occurred, which is something we’ll examine below.

What’s nice about seeing the jump in PP Ice Time is it came after several years of fairly constant numbers, and it occurred in a breakout season for Kyle Okposo. As such, I wouldn’t expect to see Nielsen’s PP Ice Time come crashing back down. In short, Nielsen is at a point where for at least the next couple of seasons it’s safe to figure that his productive Ice Time will either hold steady or perhaps be in line for a small increase.

If you’re a Hudler owner, you have to like that his overall Ice Time has increased each year as has his PP Ice Time in his two most recent years (after holding steady from 2010-11 to 2011-12), ending up with productive Ice Time numbers in 2013-14 that rivaled Nielsen’s, but with next to no SH Ice Time (versus Nielsen’s 2:09). When we see trends like this they’re unlikely to suddenly reverse in general, even less so for Hudler’s since he’s among the higher paid and more talented players on his team. But we also have to realize that at some point these increases will slow down or level off.

 

Secondary Categories


Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2013-14

0.21 (JH)

0.10 (FN)

0.46 (JH)

0.49 (FN)

0.20 (JH)

0.59 (FN)

1.45 (JH)

2.09 (FN)

0.17 (JH)

0.25 (FN)

2012-13

0.52 (JH)

0.25 (FN)

0.38 (JH)

0.48 (FN)

0.12 (JH)

0.98 (FN)

1.33 (JH)

1.94 (FN)

0.19 (JH)

0.21 (FN)

2011-12

0.52 (JH)

0.07 (FN)

0.59 (JH)

0.35 (FN)

0.18 (JH)

0.80 (FN)

1.57 (JH)

1.62 (FN)

0.12 (JH)

0.18 (FN)

2010-11

0.38 (JH)

0.53 (FN)

0.48 (JH)

0.32 (FN)

0.15 (JH)

0.89 (FN)

1.43 (JH)

2.20 (FN)

0.16 (JH)

0.11 (FN)

 

Both players have a glaring weakness – Shots. Not only can these guys hurt your fantasy team if you’re in a league that counts Shots as a category, but the reality is it places a ceiling on their scoring output. Take 2013-14 for example; guess how many players finished among the NHL’s top 41 scorers (i.e., 61+ points) despite averaging fewer than 2.1 Shots per game as both of these guys did? Just two (Joe Thornton and Bryan Little)! But if you look to those who finished 42nd to 50th in scoring (meaning either 60 or 59 points), there were actually three (T.J. Oshie, Milan Lucic, and Ondrej Palat) who averaged 2.1 or fewer shots per game, with another (Paul Stastny) averaging 2.11.FransNielsen

And just to confirm this year wasn’t a fluke, we can see that in 2011-12 (i.e., the previous full 82 game season), there were only four players in the top 40 who averaged 2.1 shots or fewer (Henrik Sedin, PA Parenteau, Valtteri Filppula, and Teddy Purcell), bit five who scored between 63 and 58 points (Mike Ribeiro, David Krecji, Milan Lucic, David Desharnais, and Martin Erat) with 2.1 or fewer shots per game.

What does this mean? It supports the idea that in order to score a lot you have to shoot a lot, as does the fact that none of the four top 40 guys from 2011-12 finished in the top 50 for 2013-14. It also suggests that Nielsen and Hudler might have actually come close to their points ceiling last season, unless they suddenly start to shoot more, which is unlikely given their career numbers.

On the plus side when looking at the Secondary Category data, we see Nielsen’s PP points climbing every season, including in 2013-14 in response to his jump in PP Ice Time. Meanwhile, however, Hudler’s PP points have stayed somewhat flat despite his PP Ice Time climbing steadily, although that’s also a “chicken and egg” function of Calgary having finishing 24th (in 2013-14) and 26th (in 2012-13) in PP conversation % in Hudler’s two seasons with the team.

Both are below average in PIMs and Hits, although Hudler generally has been “less worse” than Nielsen in PIMs. On the other hand, until this past season Nielsen had been a top forward in Blocked Shots; and while his 2013-14 total was still respectable (and leaps and bounds higher than Hudler’s), it was down considerably from years past, which is something to watch closely in 2014-15.

 

Luck-Based Metrics (five on five only, except for Personal Shooting Percentage)

 

Season

Personal Shooting Percentage

Team Shooting Percentage

PDO

IPP

2013-14

15.6% (JH)

15.0% (FN)

11.44% (JH)

8.81% (FN)

1028 (JH)

976 (FN)

72.9% (JH)

83.3% (FN)

2012-13

17.9% (JH)

6.4% (FN)

9.88% (JH)

8.12% (FN)

967 (JH)

989 (FN)

79.2% (JH)

81.8% (FN)

2011-12

19.7% (JH)

12.8% (FN)

11.17% (JH)

8.90% (FN)

1021 (JH)

989 (FN)

64.5% (JH)

75.0% (FN)

2010-11

9.5% (JH)

8.3% (FN)

7.40% (JH)

9.18% (FN)

980 (JH)

1005 (FN)

71.9% (JH)

62.2% (FN)

 

We see a number of mixed signals here. On the one hand Nielsen’s “breakout” 2013-14 season had a very low PDO and a quite reasonable Team Shooting %; but he also posted a Personal Shooting % that was roughly 50% higher than his career average of 10.4%, as well as his highest IPP during this four year period. Given all these competing factors, it’s hard to say whether 2013-14 was or wasn’t a “lucky” season – so let’s call it a wash.

For Hudler, it’s not reassuring to see his highest full season point total since 2008-09 come with his second highest Personal Shooting % and IPP to go along with his highest Team Shooting % and PDO during this four year stretch, particularly with the PDO being right on the upper end of what’s considered normal (i.e., 1030). Yet we also see that his PDO was below the lower end of normal (i.e., 970) in 2012-13, when he scored at just under a 53 point full season pace. Again – conflicting data.

On the whole, it’s not great to see some red flags for both players, especially in view of their concerning Shots totals. But nothing here suggests that either one has greatly overachieved due purely to luck, which is some consolation.

 

Who Wins?

Before declaring a winner, it’s worth stressing that neither player seems likely to hit 65 points this season or down the road, as seeing the data from 2011-12 and 2013-14 on other NHL players who averaged as few Shots as Nielsen and Hudler was not only pretty jaw dropping, but also provided a good basis on which to draw that as a reasonable conclusion.

With that having been said, there’s still the matter of which one is the better choice for your pool. Both were owned in an almost identical percentage of Yahoo leagues (38% for Hudler, 36% for Nielsen) by the end of last season, so both should cost you a similar price going into 2014-15. But if we look more closely at Secondary Category data, their respective values will be influenced by your league’s settings, which in turn might dictate which one is indeed the better choice for your league.

Nielsen does hold a reliable edge in several Secondary Categories (e.g., PP Points and Blocked Shots) and is “less worse” in Shots, which would tilt the scales toward him if your league counts those categories. But as of last season Hudler came with dual wing eligibility in Yahoo leagues, while Nielsen was only eligible in the deepest forward position of center, so all things otherwise being equal that might make Hudler the better choice in points only leagues with positional eligibility, plus other positional eligibility leagues as well.

In the end, let your league settings dictate which one you take, although I might recommend opting for other 50+ point scorers who shoot the puck more (like Kyle Turris or Radim Vrbata, or maybe even Jeff Carter and Patric Hornqvist, whom I covered in last week’s column) instead of either Hudler or Nielsen.

 

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