KyleOkposo

 

Who is the better fantasy hockey own - Kyle Okposo or Bryan Little? Fantasy Hockey Cage Match!

 

 

This week’s Cage Match examines two wingers (Kyle Okposo and Bryan Little) who finally look to be on their way to meeting the longstanding expectations of poolies. But are their hot starts for real (especially Okposo’s, which sees him sitting among the top ten scorers in the NHL!); and which one will end up benefitting your team more? Cage Match is here to help guide your team to victory!


Career Path and Contract Status

Okposo, 25, had already played over 300 NHL games entering this season, having landed in the NHL in 2008 only two years after being selected 7th overall in the 2006 draft. Little turns 26 on November 12th, and like Okposo was a top pick (12th overall) in the same 2006 draft. But Little has nearly 100 more career NHL games under his belt, thanks not only to getting his first taste of the NHL a season earlier but also because of staying more consistently healthy than Okposo (more on this below).

Their scoring track records are comparable, with Okposo having a career points per game average entering this season of just under 0.61 and a career high of 52 points in 2009-10 (his second NHL season), while prior to this campaign Little’s career high was 51 in 2008-09 (also his second NHL season) and he sat at a .56 points per game average.

Things are also pretty similar with respect to their contracts, as both are currently signed to five year deals with their original clubs. However, Okposo’s is for only $14M, expiring after the 2015-16 season and with only one year (2015-16) that will see him earn more than $3.5M, while Little is on season one of a $23.5M deal in which this is the only season that will pay him less than $4.75M.

It was interesting – and somewhat surprising – to see that Okposo and Little have this much in common in these areas. Clearly neither player holds an edge so far.

 

Ice Time – Past Seasons and 2013-14 So Far

Here’s where we can see if the similarities between the players continue, or if notable differences begin to emerge.

 

Season

Total Ice Time per game

Rank among team’s forwards

PP Ice Time per game

Rank among team’s forwards

SH Ice Time per game

2013-14

19:47 (K.O.)

19:57 (B.L.)

3rd (K.O.)

2nd (B.L.)

3:32 (K.O.)

3:14 (B.L.)

3rd (K.O.)

2nd (B.L.)

0:05 (K.O.)

1:56 (B.L.) – 4th

2012-13

16:57 (K.O.)

19:47 (B.L.)

5th (K.O.)

2nd (B.L.)

1:32 (K.O.)

2:32 (B.L.)

5th (K.O.)

3rd (B.L.)

0:06 (K.O.)

1:32 (B.L.) – 2nd

2011-12

17:04 (K.O.)

20:13 (B.L.)

5th (K.O.)

1st (B.L.)

1:40 (K.O.)

2:45 (B.L.)

6th (K.O.)

1st (B.L.)

0:05 (K.O.)

1:30 (B.L.) – 6th

2010-11

16:34 (K.O.)

18:27 (B.L.)

8th (K.O.)

4th (B.L.)

2:32 (K.O.)

2:28 (B.L.)

5th (K.O.)

4th (B.L.)

0:29 (K.O.)

1:42 (B.L.) – 4th

 

Okposo had remarkably consistent year-to-year Ice Time numbers over the past three seasons, with only his PP Ice Time in 2010-11 sticking out as an aberration. But lo and behold Little’s numbers over the past two seasons have been remarkably constant as well. Only when we look at this current season do we begin to see some major differences, mainly with Okposo.

While Little’s PP Ice Time is trending higher so far in 2013-14 some of that is due to the Jets sitting just outside the top ten in PP opportunities. Also, not only has Little’s 2013-14 overall Ice Time been comparable to what he received during each of the past two seasons, but his increase in PP Ice Time has been disadvantageously offset by a jump in SH Ice Time. In fact, if you look at his overall Ice Time minus his SH Ice Time for 2013-14, it’s actually down from his past two seasons.

This is in huge contrast to Okposo, who’s trending much higher in all key Ice Time areas. In fact, compared to the past three seasons, his overall Ice Time is up nearly three minutes, and his PP Ice Time versus the past two seasons has more than doubled! And he’s still getting virtually no unproductive SH Ice Time.

As poolies know all too well, Ice Time and point production can be a chicken and egg situation in that you usually need one to get the other. So I wondered if Okposo’s Ice Time increase so far this season is similar to what happened in the past two campaigns when Okposo had temporary hot streaks. It turns out that last season when Okposo had a stretch of six points in four games, he received more than 18:09 of overall Ice Time just once. Similarly, when he finished 2011-12 with ten points in his final nine games, it wasn’t due to a huge spike in overall Ice Time, since only twice did he receive more than 17:47.

The fact that Okposo is responding so well to unprecedented Ice Time this season bodes well not only for his Ice Time to stay at that level, but also for him to actually maintain his improved production. And if those things both happen, then Okposo’s start to 2013-14 will represent a break out performance, rather than just ending up as yet another short lasting hot streak.

As for Little, he’s clearly not in as uncharted territory in terms of Ice Time, which makes it more likely that what we’re seeing now is just a hot streak that won’t continue. Very big edge here to Okposo.

 

Injuries

While last season was the first in which Little didn’t miss any games, he also managed to get through each of the previous four seasons with only between three and eight games missed per campaign.

As for Okposo, he missed no games last season, just two in 2009-10 and just three in 2011-12; but he played only 38 in 2010-11 and 65 in 2008-09. While two injury-plagued seasons out of five certainly is not great to see, the fact that he played in nearly all the games in the other three seasons means he isn’t venturing into Band-Aid Boy territory…….yet. Even still, clear edge to Little here.

 

Secondary Categories

These numbers should provide good bases for comparison, since Okposo and Little played a similar number of games each season except for 2010-11, but coincidently Little played exactly twice as many games as Okposo that year.

 

Season

Plus/Minus

Hits

Blocked Shots

PIMs

Shots

2013-14

 

+6 (K.O.)

+3 (B.L.)

15 (K.O.)

10 (B.L.)

4 (K.O.)

7 (B.L.)

14 (K.O.)

10 (B.L.)

33 (K.O.)

32 (B.L.)

2012-13

 

-2 (K.O.)

+8 (B.L.)

48 (K.O.)

32 (B.L.)

21 (K.O.)

19 (B.L.)

38 (K.O.)

4 (B.L.)

101 (K.O.)

84 (B.L.)

2011-12

 

-15 (K.O.)

-11 (B.L.)

51 (K.O.)

44 (B.L.)

33 (K.O.)

13 (B.L.)

46 (K.O.)

26 (B.L.)

152 (K.O.)

162 (B.L.)

2010-11

 

+3 (K.O.)

+11 (B.L.)

31 (K.O.)

41 (B.L.)

16 (K.O.)

31 (B.L.)

40 (K.O.)

33 (B.L.)

72 (K.O.)

158 (B.L.)

 

It’s well apparent from this data that neither player is going to lead you to victory in any of these categories, although in most cases their output wasn’t dismal either. That having been said, Okposo should give you a bit more in Hits and holds an even bigger edge PIMs, while Shots and Blocked Shots are both a wash. Little’s only advantage has been in plus/minus, although that might be a thing of the past if the Islanders continue to improve while Winnipeg spins its wheels. Small edge to Okposo here.

 

Windexiness


Season

Total Points Scored

Stretches of four or more games with zero points in each game

Stretches of four or more games with at least one point in each game

Total number of two point games

Total number of three or more point games

2012-13

24 (K.O.)

32 (B.L.)

3 (K.O.) – 4, 4, 6 games

1 (B.L.) – 6 games

1 (K.O.) – 4 games

1 (B.L.) – 6 games

3 (K.O.)

6 (B.L.)

1 (K.O.) - 3 pts

1 (B.L.) – 3 pts

2011-12

45 (K.O.)

46 (B.L.)

3 (K.O.) – 4, 5, 6 games

4 (B.L.) – 4, 5, 5,,6 games

3 (K.O.) – 4, 4, 5 games

4 (B.L.) – 4, 4, 5, 5 games

8 (K.O.)

11 (B.L.)

1 (K.O.) – 3 pts

1 (B.L.) – 3 pts

2010-11

20 (K.O.)

48 (B.L.)

2 (K.O.) – 4, 5 games

2 (B.L.) – 4, 4 games

0 (K.O.)

2 (B.L.) – 4, 5 games

2 (K.O.)

11 (B.L.)

2 (K.O.) – 3, 3 pts

0 (B.L.)

 

What stands out is that in the past three seasons these two players have scored three points in a game a total of only six times between them (seven if we count Okposo’s recent three point effort). And when you consider that during these seasons only once (Little in 2011-12) did either one have stretches of four plus games with points or without points, you’re looking at two similarly non-windexy players.

 


 

Relative Value of Points

Points are more valuable for a fantasy team when they’re not shared by other players owned in your league, since those are the kinds of points that can cause actual movement in the standings. In looking at this area, it’s a good opportunity to examine the Frozen Pool data for each player in 2012-13 and to focus on the trends for this season thus far.


2012-13

 

52.48%

EV

12 BAILEY,JOSH - 51 NIELSEN,FRANS - 21 OKPOSO,KYLE

16.06%

EV

26 MOULSON,MATT - 21 OKPOSO,KYLE - 91 TAVARES,JOHN

6.55%

EV

40 GRABNER,MICHAEL - 51 NIELSEN,FRANS - 21 OKPOSO,KYLE

6.39%

EV

40 GRABNER,MICHAEL - 21 OKPOSO,KYLE - 16 REASONER,MARTY

38.81%

PP

12 BAILEY,JOSH - 51 NIELSEN,FRANS - 21 OKPOSO,KYLE

22.39%

PP

10 AUCOIN,KEITH - 40 GRABNER,MICHAEL - 21 OKPOSO,KYLE

 


64.7%

EV

16 LADD,ANDREW - 18 LITTLE,BRYAN - 26 WHEELER,BLAKE

9.4%

EV

80 ANTROPOV,NIKOLAI - 16 LADD,ANDREW - 18 LITTLE,BRYAN

48.86%

PP

16 LADD,ANDREW - 18 LITTLE,BRYAN - 26 WHEELER,BLAKE

12.27%

PP

12 JOKINEN,OLLI - 16 LADD,ANDREW - 18 LITTLE,BRYAN - 26 WHEELER,BLAKE

9.77%

PP

80 ANTROPOV,NIKOLAI - 16 LADD,ANDREW - 18 LITTLE,BRYAN

 

2013-14 (games through November 4nd)

 

45.65%

EV

26 MOULSON,MATT - 21 OKPOSO,KYLE - 91 TAVARES,JOHN

20.55%

EV

21 OKPOSO,KYLE - 91 TAVARES,JOHN - 26 VANEK,THOMAS

12.75%

EV

40 GRABNER,MICHAEL - 21 OKPOSO,KYLE - 91 TAVARES,JOHN

59.88%

PP

26 MOULSON,MATT - 51 NIELSEN,FRANS - 21 OKPOSO,KYLE - 91 TAVARES,JOHN

23.95%

PP

51 NIELSEN,FRANS - 21 OKPOSO,KYLE - 91 TAVARES,JOHN - 26 VANEK,THOMAS

 


29.56%

EV

16 LADD,ANDREW - 18 LITTLE,BRYAN - 40 SETOGUCHI,DEVIN

23.76%

EV

9 KANE,EVANDER - 18 LITTLE,BRYAN - 26 WHEELER,BLAKE

23.01%

EV

16 LADD,ANDREW - 18 LITTLE,BRYAN - 26 WHEELER,BLAKE

74.48%

PP

16 LADD,ANDREW - 18 LITTLE,BRYAN - 26 WHEELER,BLAKE

 

I’m sure no one reading this is surprised to see that Okposo’s blazing hot start to 2013-14 has coincided with finally seeing regular PP and EV shifts with John Tavares. Sure, the Islanders have toyed with pairing Okposo with Tavares in the past, but only in spurts and almost never on the PP. With Okposo having produced while lined up next to Tavares for the first chunk of this season, it stands to reason that he’ll be able to keep that spot until and unless the line begins to seriously falter.

As for Little, on the power play he remains where he’s been for the past few seasons – alongside Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler. But while he’s still cumulatively spending 50% or more of his even strength shifts with Ladd and Wheeler, it’s no longer always on the same line, as Evander Kane and Devon Setoguchi have factored into the mix. This is an interesting development which might partially explain why Little’s scoring is in uncharted territory so far in 2013-14.

The only real downside with Okposo being paired with Tavares and either Matt Moulson (before the recent Sabres/Islanders trade) or Thomas Vanek (after the trade) is those guys are owned in nearly all fantasy hockey leagues (as of November 4th, Moulson is 96% owned in Yahoo leagues, Vanek 99%), making Okposo’s points less valuable. But with Okposo sitting in the top ten in scoring, that’s an issue his owners are more than happy to deal with. Plus, with Wheeler and Ladd being owned in 75% and 86% of Yahoo leagues respectively (Kane is owned in 96%, but Setoguchi only 8%), his points are being shared in most leagues as well.

 

So Who Wins?

First things first – it’s highly unlikely that Okposo will be able to continue producing at his current pace, let alone finish the year as a point per game player. But 70+ points is not out of the question given the gains he’s made in Ice Time and his upgrade in linemates.

The picture is cloudier with Little. On the one hand, he’s still getting essentially the same Ice Time, which would suggest that his hot start is just temporary. But he’s also seeing shifts with forwards other than Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler, which might be giving him a spark that could stretch longer into the season and help him up his production.

We can gain some additional insight on both players by looking at another area – shooting percentage. Eight of Little’s 13 points so far this season are goals, and he’s firing at an entirely unsustainable 25.0%. Even if he both matches his career high of 18.0% when he scored 31 goals and 51 points in 2008-09 and continues playing with linemates other than Ladd and Wheeler, the shooting percentage and Ice Time data tilts the scales toward his stats coming back to earth. Don’t get me wrong – he still might end up besting his career high of 51 points, but don’t look for more than 55-60.

And while Okposo also has a higher than normal shooting percentage of 12.1% as of right now, that’s less inflated compared to his career numbers than Little’s. Plus, only six of Okposo’s 13 assists (13 is tied for third in the entire NHL) thus far have been secondary assists, making it less likely that his helper total is a total fluke.

Little owners probably should kick the tires on trading him in hopes of landing a player who’s a more likely bet to finish above 60 points, which Little has yet to do and probably won’t achieve this season. As for Okposo, as hard as it might be to deal him now while he’s red hot and as concerned as you might be about him turning into a star after you trade him, it’s probably a good idea to look into moving him. After all, if you can get a surefire 70+ point player in return for Okposo, can you really say no? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

 

Recent Cage Matches:

 

Jeff Skinner vs. Nazem Kadri 
David Desharnais vs. Tyler Ennis 
Dan Boyle vs. Kimmo Timonen   

 

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