KevinShattenkirk

 

Who would you rather own in your fantasy hockey league - Kevin Shattenkirk or Ryan McDonagh?

 

This week’s Cage Match examines Kevin Shattenkirk and Ryan McDonough, two young blueliners who sat within the top 20 in defenseman scoring as of November 19. Will they continue their current points pace, and who will benefit your team more by season’s end and beyond? You’ve come to the right place to find out – Cage Match starts now!

 

Career Path and Contract Status

These two US born defensemen have been compared to each other dating back to being grabbed with nearly consecutive selections (McDonagh 12th overall, Shattenkirk 14th) in the first round of the 2007 Entry Draft. Both players also followed a similar path to get to this point in their careers, having played college hockey and then getting less than a full year of AHL seasoning before landing in the NHL for good by 2011-12.

Shattenkirk had played in 32 more games than McDonagh (201 versus 169) prior to this season, mainly due to fewer AHL games. He also held an edge in career points per game, with 0.54 versus 0.355 for McDonagh, although if you go by just 2011-12 and 2012-13 it’s a bit closer (0.49 versus 0.39).

Both players also were traded in deals that came back to bite their original teams, with Shattenkirk coming to the Blues with Chris Stewart as part of a trade that saw Erik Johnson go to Colorado (ouch!) and McDonagh being dealt to the Rangers from Montreal as a key piece of the – brace yourselves Habs fans - Scott Gomez trade (double ouch!).

Even their contract status is similar, as both are on the first season of a multi-year deal. And while McDonagh’s is for six years, $28.2M and Shattenkirk’s for four years, $17M, their per year salary averages are comparable.

 

Ice Time – Past Seasons and 2013-14 So Far

It will be interesting to see what effect (if any) there has been on McDonagh’s Ice Time after the Rangers’ offseason coaching change. Note that Shattenkirk’s 2010-11 Ice Time stats (plus those below for Secondary Categories) are broken into two areas – “Colo” to represent the 46 games he played for the Avs, and “St. L.” for his 26 with the Blues.

 

Season

Total Ice Time per game

Rank among team d-men

PP Ice Time per game

Rank among team d-men

SH Ice Time per game

Rank among team d-men

2013-14

23:03 (R.M.)

19:23 (K.S.)

1st

3rd

2:15 (R.M.)

2:52 (K.S.)

2nd

2nd

3:01 (R.M.)

0:27 (K.S.)

2nd

5th

2012-13

24:21 (R.M.)

21:18 (K.S.)

3rd

3rd

0:38 (R.M.)

2:37 (K.S.)

6th

2nd

2:41 (R.M.)

1:46 (K.S.)

3rd

5th

2011-12

24:44 (R.M.)

21:36 (K.S.)

2nd

2nd

0:37 (R.M.)

2:51 (K.S.)

5th

3rd

3:03 (R.M.)

1:55 (K.S.)

2nd

4th

2010-11

18:44 (R.M.)

19:50 (Colo)

19:50 (St. L.)

5th

4th

6th

0:06 (R.M.)

3:05 (Colo)

2:42 (St. L.)

9th (of 9)

3rd

3rd

1:30 (R.M.)

0:17 (Colo)

0:36 (St. L.)

4th

15th (of 16)

9th (of 11)

 

Despite both players averaging lower overall Ice Time so far for 2013-14 versus last season, things are actually looking up for each of them.

While McDonagh’s overall Ice Time is down over a full minute, he’s actually getting two minutes more time than any other Ranger rearguard. Yet despite this decrease and the fact that his SH Ice Time has crept back over 3:00, McDonagh’s PP Ice Time has nearly quadrupled. So even though his SH Ice Time now comprises 13.1% of his overall Ice Time (up from 11.0% last season), his PP Ice Time has increased by a much higher percentage (now 9.7%, up from only 2.6% in 2012-13).

And although Shattenkirk’s overall Ice Time is down by nearly two full minutes, more than half of the decrease is in the form of lower SH Ice Time. Plus, Shattenkirk’s biggest asset – his PP Ice Time – inched up slightly and not only sits higher than his previous best (2:51) with St. Louis but also represent a very healthy percentage (14.8%) of his overall Ice Time.

The question is whether we should expect these numbers to continue, and my sense is yes for both players. It’d be one thing if McDonagh hadn’t responded offensively to his more beneficial Ice Time mix, but he certainly has, so it’s fair to suspect he’ll be able to maintain the same minutes and perhaps even get more PP Ice Time (perhaps from Michael Del Zotto, who still somehow averages 2:41 per game). For Shattenkirk, the full season presence of Jay Bouwmeester (plus minute eating stalwarts Roman Polak and Barrett Jackman) should allow him to continue to receive highly productive minutes and not worry about either playing much shorthanded or being matched against the other team’s toughest forwards.

 

Secondary Categories

As with Ice Time, it will be important to see how McDonagh is faring in these categories under the Alain Vigneault regime compared to his previous years playing for John Tortorella, who’s legendary for emphasizing Hits and Blocked Shots.

 

Season

Plus/Minus

Hits per game

Blocked Shots

per game

PIMs

per game

Shots

per game

2013-14

 

-2 (R.M.)

+2 (K.S.)

1.0 (R.M.)

0.684 (K.S.)

1.35 (R.M.)

1.316 (K.S.)

0.2 (R.M.)

0.421 (K.S.)

1.65 (R.M.)

2.105 (K.S.)

2012-13

 

+13 (R.M.)

+2 (K.S.)

1.468 (R.M.)

1.146 (K.S.)

1.66 (R.M.)

1.229 (K.S.)

0.468 (R.M.)

0.416 (K.S.)

1.766 (R.M.)

1.75 (K.S.)

2011-12

 

+25 (R.M.)

+20 (K.S.)

1.439 (R.M.)

0.888 (K.S.)

2.22 (R.M.)

1.271 (K.S.)

0.536 (R.M.)

0.741 (K.S.)

1.5 (R.M.)

2.197(K.S.)

2010-11

 

+16 (R.M.)

-11 (Colo)

+7 (St. L.)

1.4 (R.M.)

1.108 (Colo)

0.577 (St. L.)

1.725 (R.M.)

1.391 (Colo)

1.231 (St. L.)

0.35 (R.M.)

0.435 (Colo)

0.615 (St. L.)

0.675 (R.M.)

1.456 (Colo)

1.577 (St. L.)

 

Sure enough, while the absence of Tortorella at the helm has led to McDonagh’s name appearing on the score sheet far more often, it also has come at the expense of his output in nearly every secondary category. And we’re not just talking about a minimal drop, as McDonagh’s Hits, Blocked Shots and PIMs have fallen off considerably. Only his Shots have escaped unscathed, although with his increased offense I was actually surprised to see those were not trending higher. I’m not too alarmed at McDonagh’s -2 rating, as although that number is well below the +18 he’s averaged over the past three campaigns a good part of it has to do with the Rangers’ -8 goal differential this season (compared to +18, +39, and +35 over the previous three) and it should rebound soon enough.

Meanwhile, Shattenkirk’s numbers are tracking his output from last season, other than a drop in Hits to his 2011-12 and 2010-11 levels. But that decrease has been compensated for by an increase in Shots back to the level of those seasons, so his Secondary Category numbers are a wash, which is impressive given his Ice Time decrease.

 

Past Scoring Trends and Future Path

One big red flag with Shattenkirk has been his tendency to start seasons red hot, only to cool off considerably in the second half. Last season he came out of the gate with 14 points in his first 12 games, which means he only scored nine points in his final 36 contests. And if you go back to 2011-12, he began that campaign with 12 points in 17 games, only to finish with 31 in his final 64.

Sure enough, Shattenkirk has hit the ground running again this year, with 14 points in his first 19 games. So will he hit a second half wall yet again? Maybe not. The Blues might be trying to address this issue by cutting Shattenkirk’s Ice Time (particularly his SH Ice Time) in a direct attempt to avoid fatigue, which for all we know could be causing (or at least contributing to) the problem. For what it’s worth, the last time Shattenkirk averaged under 1:00 of SH Ice Time and under 20:00 of overall Ice Time (as he is in both cases this season so far) was 2010-11, and he certainly finished strong then – with 17 points in the 26 games he played for the Blues.

McDonagh has not been plagued by past hot and cold scoring issues, although that’s due mainly to his lower point totals. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens in his case.

 

Injuries and Olympics

Each player missed a grand total of one game throughout 2011-12 and 2012-13. While this is impressive in general, it’s especially so for McDonagh considering the lengths to which John Tortorella asked Rangers defensemen to sacrifice their bodies.

Both also were among the invitees to team USA’s Olympic orientation camp this summer and figure to be good bets to make the final squad, particularly in view of their excellent starts to the 2013-14 season. Of course, if one of them somehow didn’t make the team, then he would benefit by having to play fewer total games and by getting to rest and recharge his engines while the other is in Sochi, although it’s possible that benefit would be offset by the mental pain of not playing for Team USA.

In the end, it’s pretty safe to count on both players making the USA squad and going to Sochi. That will take its toll on them over the course of the full season, although likely in an equal way, as both their teams have 13 back-to-back games.  Of course there’s the issue of Shattenkirk’s past history of poor second half production, which, if it was due to fatigue, could rear its head again this season due to the added games he’ll play in Sochi and even if his Ice Time remains down.  It’s something worth monitoring.

 

Value Vs. Cost

Although Shattenkirk sits not that far above McDonagh in scoring as of November 19th, he was owned in 88% of Yahoo leagues compared to just 47% for McDonagh. While this discrepancy likely has a lot to do with Shattenkirk’s greater success from past seasons, it’s pretty jaw dropping nevertheless, especially when you consider the struggling defensemen (Mark Streit – 79%, Justin Schlutz – 72%, Jack Johnson 60%, Sergei Gonchar 53%)who are owned in more leagues than McDonagh.

This might be a case of the ownership numbers being skewed by one year points only leagues where four or fewer defenseman are started. Either way, I suspect that the gap in their ownership percentages will shrink sooner rather than later, and with that so too will the gap in their value vs. cost.

 

So Who Wins?

When I decided upon this matchup, I thought it would be a close contest. But I hadn’t realized what was lurking beneath the surface for this season; and only after doing some digging could I truly see that Shattenkirk’s Ice Time is beneficially down by as much as it is while McDonagh’s points boost has been accompanied (and offset, in non-points only leagues) by a drop in Secondary Category output. With this, plus data from past seasons, there’s no doubt that Shattenkirk wins in all league formats.

McDonagh’s big edge in “value versus cost", not to mention his future potential, made things close in keeper leagues. But here’s the thing - a lot of this edge is offset by McDonagh playing for a very popular and widely followed original six team. In other words, he’d likely cost you a lot more to obtain than other similarly owned players like Dany Heatley (47%) and Marek Zidlicky (46%), meaning that his ownership percentage is misleading and not truly representative of his cost to obtain, especially in a keeper league.

Overall, I wouldn’t hesitate to put a “buy” label on both guys. I think Shattenkirk’s value is artificially low due to people focusing too much on Alex Pietrangelo. While I’m certainly not saying – yet - that Pietrangelo is the next Nicklas Lidstrom or that Shattenkirk is the second coming of Brian Rafalski, it is a good analogy to highlight since Rafalski all too often was undervalued due to Lidstrom being “the guy” for Detroit just as I believe Shattenkirk is being overshadowed by Pietrangelo.

As for McDonagh, his future is a bit more wide open. He has the tools to be a complete defenseman, and perhaps a true franchise rearguard not unlike a Pietrangelo. After all, there are many examples of true #1 defensemen who – like McDonagh – had were rock solid defensively from day one but didn’t produce huge offensive numbers until a few years into their careers, including the likes of Chris Pronger, Shea Weber, and even recent HHOF inductee Scott Niedermayer. If you think that McDonagh has what it takes to make the leap into elite territory, then you should act to obtain him very soon, as although his price is already higher than it was this time last year it probably will only go up from here.

 

 

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