This week’s Cage Match focuses on David Perron and Mats Zuccarello, who are emerging as legitimate second tier, 60 point wingers. But which one is more likely to finish the year strongest, and who will give your team more upside in the seasons to come?


Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Hit

For two players who are less than a year apart in age and, as of January 21, were tied in scoring (35 points each) for 2013-14, their paths to get where they are now could not have been more different. Perron was a first rounder who jumped straight from juniors to the NHL and who, despite missing a year’s worth of games due to concussion issues, will soon play in his 400th regular season contest. Zuccarello went undrafted and was signed by the Rangers after successful seasons in his native Norway and 104 points in 90 games for Modo of the Swedish Elite League.

Perron played steady if unremarkable hockey in St. Louis, reaching the 20-goal mark twice but 50 points just once. Zuccarello hit the ground running in New York, with 23 points in 42 games in 2010-11 between AHL stints. But after playing ten Ranger games in 2011-12 Zuccarello inked a deal to play in the KHL, only to be back in the NHL during 2012-13. Barring injury, this season he’ll more than double his career total of 67 NHL games.

Perron is signed through 2015-16 at a yearly cap hit of $3.812M, while Zuccarello will be an RFA after this season, and likely will command a significant raise over his current $1.15M salary. It’s fair to say that by next year their cap hits should be pretty comparable…assuming Zuccarello chooses to stay in the NHL (more on that below).


Ice Time – Past Seasons and 2013-14 (through January 20th)

With Zuccarello having played only 67 career games, his past data won’t tell us too much. In contrast, Perron has plenty to draw from (aside from his injury shortened 2010-11), and it will be important in particular to see if going to the Oilers has resulted in him getting more (and better quality) Ice Time.



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 per game (with rank among team’s forwards)


19:27 (D.P.)- 4th

17:17 (M.Z.) – 4th

3:11 (D.P.) – 4th

2:44 (M.Z.) – 3rd

0:38 (D.P.) – 11th (tied)

0:39 (M.Z.) – 10th


18:00 (D.P.) – 4th

16:25 (M.Z.) – 9th

2:28 (D.P.) – 4th

2:24 (M.Z.) – 7th

0:44 (D.P.) – 9th

0:00 (M.Z.)


18:17 (D.P.) – 5th

10:02 (M.Z.) – 13th

2:39 (D.P.) – 2nd

3:00 (M.Z.) – 5th

0:44 (D.P.) – 9th

0:03 (M.Z.) – 11th


18:25 (D.P.) – 5th

14:10 (M.Z.) – 11th

4:30 (D.P.) – 1st

2:32 (M.Z.) – 5th

0:27 (D.P.) – 9th

0:00 (M.Z.)


Before 2013-14, the Blues tended not to lean on one forward more than others. Given this, it wasn’t surprising that Perron’s Ice Time there was very constant, other than his PP Ice Time in 2010-11, which likely was due to the small ten game sample size. It’s equally unsurprising to see his Ice Time up this season by more than a full minute versus his high during his last three seasons with the Blues, and his PP Ice Time per game having increased by more than 30 seconds versus his past two seasons.

It’s interesting to look back at how Zuccarello was used in his past seasons with the Rangers, including in 2011-12 when he was essentially a PP specialist. Last season his overall Ice Time and ratio of PP Ice Time to total Ice Time was more in line with normal ranges; that has carried into this season as well, although some of his added Ice Time has come in the form of undesirable SH Ice Time.

I’ll give Perron the edge here, since he’s getting more than two minutes of additional Ice Time, of which 30 seconds is on the PP and none is added shorthanded duty. But their percentages of total Ice Time spent on the power play is close (15.7% for Zuccarello, 16.9% for Perron), making the edge smaller than it would otherwise seem.


Other Stats and Metrics (2013-14 through January 20th)


Personal Shooting Percentage

Team Shooting Percentage


Offensive Zone Start Percentage



13.0% (D.P.)

12.4% (M.Z.)

11.03% (D.P.)

7.10% (M.Z.)

1009 (D.P.)

996 (M.Z.)

46.6% (D.P.)

56.4% (M.Z.)



11.9% (D.P.)

11.1% (M.Z.)

7.12% (D.P.)

11.11% (M.Z.)

990 (D.P.)

1049 (M.Z.)

50.8% (D.P.)

64.2% (M.Z.)



18.4% (D.P.)

20.0% (M.Z.)

10.15% (D.P.)

7.41% (M.Z.)

1034 (D.P.)

983 (M.Z.)

47.3% (D.P.)

45.0% (M.Z.)



17.2% (D.P.)

8.1% (M.Z.)

9.86% (D.P.)

6.81% (M.Z.)

1065 (D.P.)

978 (M.Z.)

45.3% (D.P.)

67.1% (M.Z.)


These numbers suggest that both players could indeed maintain their 55-60 point scoring pace. After all, neither one has regression warning signs like an individual or team shooting percentage far above normal (in general, or for them in view of their past data), and both have a PDO that’s well within the “normal” 970 to 1030 range. Plus, the offensive zone start percentage for both falls within their respective highest and lowest numbers for the previous three seasons.

One key point is that although we saw above how Perron is getting nearly two minutes more of Ice Time than Zuccarello this season, the ten percentage point advantage for Zuccarello in offensive zone start percentage means that he can make more of his Ice Time than Perron. Also, Zuccarello’s team shooting percentage is especially low (well below that of Perron) and his PDO sits under 1000 (more than 10 points below Perron’s). If anything, these metrics suggest that Zuccarello might be more likely to see a bigger boost (or less vulnerable to seeing a drop off) in his second half numbers than Perron, wiping away the edge that Perron enjoyed based on Ice Time.


Value vs. Cost

Two players can have equal value when factoring in only their on-ice performance, yet one of them might cost you so much more (in trade or drafting) that his value shrinks considerably, thus making the other player more valuable by comparison. For this reason, it’s most important to see the percentage ownership of each player, as that will be a significant factor in determining a player’s cost. Other factors include the stats discussed above, plus injury history and secondary categories, which in some Cage Matches merit their own separate sections but were not as germane for these players and therefore will be only touched upon briefly below.

As far as injuries, Perron had well-documented concussion issues, but has been symptom free for roughly two full years; and with concussions, the more time that elapses the lower the risk of significant re-injury. But still, because Zuccarello has no major injury history, he gets the edge there.

For secondary categories, Perron is averaging about one PIM and three Shots per game, to go along with 1.25 Hits per contest. And although he’s a minus player this season, he’s less minus than each of the three other Edmonton forwards who sit above him in team scoring. Zuccarello is producing about 1.5 Hits per game, and his half a blocked shot per game average is more than double Perron’s. But he give you only around two Shots and less than half a PIM per game, and is also a minus player. All in all, things are pretty close, with who holds the edge depending on which categories count in your league.

But in looking at value versus cost, the biggest factor is the glaring difference in ownership percentage, with Perron being owned in 69% of Yahoo leagues, which is more than double Zuccarello’s 32% rate. This discrepancy is at least somewhat surprising, given their identical point totals and secondary category statistics that are in similar ballparks. And if you factor in Zucarrello’s 15 PP points to Perron’s mere nine, this becomes a real head scratcher in that either Perron is too widely owned or, more likely, folks just haven’t awoken to Zuccarello’s production. Huge edge in value vs. cost for Zuccarello.


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. Two players who score roughly the same could have different relative value of their points, as influenced by the ownership percentages of their linemates (i.e., more widely owned linemates = lower relative value of points, since more folks in your league will likely share those points). Let’s see what Frozen pool tells us.


































With the exception of Richards, none of Zuccarello’s regular linemates has a Yahoo league ownership percentage that’s at or above Perron’s. Meanwhile, Perron spends a lot of even strength time, and much of his PP time, with the likes of Eberle, RNH, and Hall, all of whom are owned in more than 80% of Yahoo leagues (Hall and Eberle in more than 95%). The reality is that if you own Zuccarello, the points he gets you are less likely to be shared by others in your league, so big advantage again to Zuccarello.


Who Wins?

This looked like a close race until we got to Value vs. Cost and Relative Value of Points, both of which favored Zuccarello by significant margins. He wins – no question about it.

One caveat is Zuccarello’s flight risk as an upcoming RFA, since he already went to the KHL once and if he was to sign there again his keeper value obviously would plummet (just ask folks who owned Sergei Kostitsyn last year or Alex Radulov back in 2011-12). Although Zuccarello’s situation with the Rangers is much different today than it was when he left for the KHL in 2012 and there have been no indications that he’s looking to leave the NHL, it’s sort of like Perron’s concussion history in that you do have to factor it into the overall equation. The good news is this could help you drive down Zuccarello’s price if you want to try and trade for him at this point; but of course on the flip side it hurts you if you’re looking to trade him now, which by the way I think would be a big mistake due to his artificially low value.

As for what you should do if you own Perron, he’s already spending a good amount of time with Edmonton’s best players, so it’s hard to see how things would significantly improve for him in the next couple of years. At the same time, it’s only his first season in Edmonton, so he might naturally do better next year, as he gets more used to his surroundings. Of course if the Oilers trade the likes of Sam Gagner or Nail Yakupov, that could result in Edmonton leaning on Perron even more, although he might also suffer by being put on a lower quality line to balance scoring. If you own Perron, best to probably hold at this point and see if by this time next year he’s doing better. If not, then maybe deal him during a hot stretch to either try and get a player with more upside or fill in other gaps on your team.


Tyler Seguin vs. Claude Giroux 
Patrick Sharp vs. Thomas Vanek   


Write comment
Comments (4)add comment

RizzeeDizzee said:

... @ynotzz - I agree that when push comes to shove he'll almost assuredly end up staying in the NHL, which is why I termed it a "back of the mind" concern in the column. By that I meant you shouldn't really let it worry you too much if you own him, but at the same time if you want to try and get him in a trade it might be a good thing to bring up to try and drive down his price.
January 28, 2014
Votes: +0

ynotzz said:

... It is not about the money for Zuccarello. Russia might be a great place to be for russians, but a norwegian like Zuccarello would stay in the NHL no matter what the contract is (as long as it is a one way deal).
January 27, 2014
Votes: +0

RizzeeDizzee said:

... @ynotzz - very good point. If Zuccarello was set to be a UFA then I think there would be little to no concern. But as an RFA whose rights are owned by the Rangers, what happens if they lowball him and he gets no offer sheet from another team? It's not impossible to have a "back of the mind" concern about him opting to play in Europe.
January 23, 2014
Votes: +0

ynotzz said:

... Zuke only went to the KHL because the he was stuck with a two way contract and didn't have the trust of Tortorella (just look at the decline in ice time from 10/11 to 11/12, which ended up with mostly playing in the AHL. As long as he's on a one-way contract there is no flight risk.
January 22, 2014
Votes: +1
You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.