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How to take advantage of the fantasy hockey market inefficiency that is Brent Burns.


As a successful Fantasy Hockey manager, what separates you from the more casual hockey fans (and fantasy league ATMs who contribute to your winnings every year) is your ability to identify things that really matter and jumping on opportunities. Today’s Geek of the Week had something happen to him that matters a great deal and not nearly enough people are taking advantage of the opportunity. Let’s take a further look at Brent Burns.

As a young defenseman who shoots, hits, collects PIMs and puts up points - Brent Burns has always had good fantasy value. During his final season in Minnesota (2010) when he put up 46 points, 170 shots, 133 hits and 98 PIMs, he was probably already a top 10-20 D in most leagues. Since then, he was moved to San Jose where he continued to be a solid contributor but towards the middle of last season a key thing happened – he was moved to forward. It wasn’t just any forward line either, he was moved alongside Joe Thornton. To make things even better, in late August an even more important thing happened for his fantasy hockey value: he was given his D eligibility in Yahoo! leagues.


I could have told you back in May that the potential was there for Burns to have some good hidden value, but things like this aren’t always top of mind. The way I stumbled upon Burns for this week’s article was by doing something as simple as running a Yahoo! standard league in Fantasy Hockey Geek and his name jumped out to me as being incredibly high on the list.


(Yahoo! standard 12 team H2H league measuring G, A, +/-, Shots, PPP, PIM and based on Dobber’s projections for the current season)


FHG RankNameGA+/-ShotsPPPPIM
37 Brent Burns 19 34 0 180 17 63


Based on the Dobber projections, FHG calculated Burns as being the 37th most valuable player (and 10th most valuable D) in a league of this format. At first this really jumped out to me, but when I think about all of the things that Burns has going for him this season, it actually sounds about right. Here’s what really surprised me though: his average draft position (ADP) in Yahoo! leagues is 123, making him one of the most underrated fantasy assets of 2013. He is currently being drafted on average as the 28th defenseman in Yahoo! leagues after guys like Carlson, Hedman, Markov, Enstrom, Gonchar, Timonen – all of whom are fine players in their own right, but none of whom have the upside that Burns does this season.


The Importance of Position


The “thing that matters” with Burns that I alluded to above is his D eligibility. In real life, Burns is playing RW and is probably an average RW in the NHL. Dobber has him for 53 points this season, which in the last 82 game NHL season would have placed him as the 37th most productive RW in the league. That is certainly nothing to write home about and if he only had RW eligibility I would say that his ADP is currently right where it should be (Dany Heatley and Pascal Dupuis are being drafted around there). Using the “What-if” analysis tool on FHG, I ran Burns’ projected value in the exact same league with the exact same output above. Here are the results:


37 Brent Burns 48.8 D 19 34 0 180 17 63
166 Brent Burns – What If? 1.8 RW 19 34 0 180 17 63


You can see that his FHG value goes from 48.8 (37th overall) as a D to 1.8 (which is 166th overall) based solely on the position change. I can’t overemphasize how much his D eligibility matters, but I think the above FHG chart helps to illustrate it. Looking at those values and comparing with his ADP, it seems that the general public is giving Burns a slight bump up the draft board due to his D eligibility but not nearly as much of a bump as his value would warrant.

While his projected 53 points would be a pedestrian total for a RW, it is an elite level for D. In the last 82 game NHL season, only one defenseman had more than 53 points (fantasy stud Erik Karlsson) and only two other D came in at exactly 53 (Brian Campbell and Dustin Byfuglien). All other D in the entire league came in with less than 53 points. Despite this fact – there are still 27 defensemen being drafted ahead of Brent Burns every day in Yahoo! leagues.


I’ve touched on this multiple times in previous articles, most notably the piece on Understanding Your League but I’ll say it again – position scarcity is key in Fantasy Hockey and Brent Burns is a perfect example of why this is true. All 53 point players are not created equally. Burns, the 53 point RW is the 37th best at his position and probably worth drafting in the 11th round. Burns, the 53 point defenseman is in the top 10 at his position and needs to be snagged up much earlier than that. It’s pretty intuitive that a D is more valuable than a RW of equal production, but figuring out the extent of the value that “D” beside a guys’ name provides can be tough. That’s where I rely on FHG.


More on Burns


The move to forward, playing beside one of the best playmakers of all time bodes well for Burns’ offensive production to be sure but (as is the case with most Geeks of the Week), Burns can provide more than just goals and assists:


• Over the course of his career, Burns has accumulated PIMs at a rate of 55 per 82 games.

• In his time with the Sharks, he has shot at an average of over 2.5 per game which is OK for a RW, but again – elite for a defenseman. It should also be noted that in the final two months of last season (after he had been moved to RW), Burns shot at a pace of just under 3 per game (a 243 shot pace).

• If your league counts hits, Burns will help you there too accumulating 1.88 per game in the final two months of last season (a 153 hit pace). I am not sure he can maintain that big of a hit pace but 100 certainly seems attainable.

• As Dobber noted in the Fantasy Guide Burns finished the season with 20 points in 24 games at forward, which is a 68 point pace so there is some upside there too. If his production evolves anywhere close to as quickly as his beard has, then you are in for an absolute homerun.


Playing on Thornton’s wing for an entire season, I could see Burns putting up totals of 60pt, 200shots, 60PIM and 100 hits fairly easily. That’s a pretty decent RW, but it’s a top-notch defenseman.


One Keeper League Thought


If you are in a keeper league, you may want to consider trading Burns mid-season. When he is on pace to become a 60 point defenseman, his perceived value could finally be where it should be in your league but as the ‘What-if’ analysis shows above, if Burns were ever to lose that eligibility your asset would take a huge hit (as seen in the ‘What-If’ analysis). A truly shrewd GM would wait for Burns’ value to rise this year and then swap him out for a similar D who will continue to contribute for year. Historically, Yahoo! has not been great at updating positions (see: Byfuglien’s RW), but holding onto Burns and expecting him to retain his D is a risky proposition. If you are in a one year league then you need to get Burns on your team right now but if you are in a keeper, then I suggest you let his value build and then swap him out for another 50-55 point D and maybe a pick or another player.


Final Anaysis

Burns is a player who has the fantasty hockey eligibility to be a middle of the road RW or an elite fantasy defenseman. Currently the general public is treating him closer to the former, so you need to go out and get this guy to take advantage of him as the latter. I am confident that he will be a top 10 D-eligible player this season and a top 50 player overall, with upside to be even better than both of those numbers. If you can get this guy on a buy-low trade or draft him sometime a few rounds earlier than his ADP then your fantasy team should benefit greatly.


Fantasy Hockey Geek and the tools that it provides is a great way to identify players such as Burns. Most of us likely already knew about Burns situation in SJ and the opportunity in front of him but when you can run your league through a tool like FHG and see players’ values then guys like Burns will jump right off the page for you and you can be sure to be the one who takes advantage of position eligibility and other “things that matter”.


I am always curious to see what types of leagues people are most frequently in (H2H, points, roto) and what categories are most commonly used (PIM, Hits, FW, +/-). If anybody has feedback or questions on a league set-up or player that they would like me to touch on, feel free to drop me a line (@T-Camp) or in the comments below.


More From Terry Campkin:

Geek of the Week - Brandon Dubinsky

Geek of the Week - Radko Gudas

Geek of the Week - David Backes

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Abday said:

ESPN Anyone in ESPN leagues keep in mind Burns is only forward eligible not both.
October 06, 2013
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