AlexOvechkinEvgeniMalkin

 

Taking a closer look at Team Russia's hockey team for the Sochi Olympics.

 

 

In my ongoing series profiling my Fantasy Hockey Olympic Team Selections, I have covered Team Sweden, Team USA and Team Canada. Today I bring my 4th and final installment: Fantasy Team Russia.

Team Russia Overview:

Team Russia was by far the most challenging fantasy Olympic team for me to compile. The major roadblock is that my selections are based on Yahoo! fantasy hockey leagues, which of course only include NHL players and NHL stats, which means that I am drawing from a talent pool that is more shallow than that which the actual team is drawing from. Team Russia is very interesting in that they have some high end elite talent (maybe more so than any other country), but their talent drop off is steep and rapid. After taking the obvious names (although one of them wasn’t so obvious to actual selection committee), I found it very challenging to find players to fill out the roster. Let’s take a look at the FHG numbers to see how things shook out:

 

Line 1& 2

My first and second lines (as they were with team Sweden) will be made up of high end scoring players who produce on the power-play. As such, to determine who will make up my top 2 lines I created a league in Fantasy Hockey Geek that measures only (G, A, PPP and SOG). Here’s how they shape up.

 

*All data shown is using 2013-14 data as of Dec 19th

 

Player

Pos

G

A

SOG

PPP

FHG Rank

Last Year Rank

Alexander Semin*

LW

13

31

150

9

447

37

Evgeni Malkin

C

9

32

92

19

9

62

Alexander Ovechkin

RW

29

8

169

20

3

1

 

* used last year’s numbers

 

Player

Pos

G

A

SOG

PPP

FHG Rank

Last Year Rank

Ilya Kovalchuk*

LW

11

20

123

14

-

81

Pavel Datsyuk

C

13

14

89

8

62

21

Vladimir Tarasenko

RW

11

5

65

4

381

525

* used last year’s numbers

 

The top two forward lines are without a doubt the strength of the Russian squad, as they boast five of the worlds’ most elite scoring talents.

In Ovechkin and Malkin, you have two of the “big 4” players in fantasy hockey, which is reflected in their FHG calculated ranks of 3rd and 9th overall respectively. This is even more impressive when you consider that each of them have played about 5 less games than all other players. Ovie was the #1 ranked player in the L1 format last year,  (as well as every other year).

Alex Semin hasn’t had the strongest season and he has also missed some time so the numbers I used above are from last season, but you can see from his ranking (37th) that he also has high level upside in the L1 format.  In any leagues that focus on points, shots and PPP a healthy Alex Semin is still a very valuable own. For my money he is a top 10 talent in the league, so despite his inconsistencies I think he should have been a lock for Team Russia. The only question with Semin (warranted or not) is motivation/effort, but with the Olympics being in Sochi I don’t think there is any question that he would have brought his A-game and been a beast for Team Russia. As it turns out, he didn’t make that team but he wasn’t going to be left off of mine.

Ilya Kovalchuk is another highly skilled sniper in the Russian’s top 6. It’s interesting that his value was so low last season though – a little lower than I may have guessed. Kovalchuk shoots at an elite clip, but being slightly below the PPG threshold and having good but not great PP output leaves him in a class slightly below the top 3 Russians. Players like Kovalchuk you have to be wary of in fantasy hockey: when they are producing 85+ points a season, they are doing well enough to make up for where they lack in other areas. When their production dips from great to good though, their value is in serious jeopardy. The FHG math really helps you to understand this.

Pavel Datsyuk is yet another top Russian whose value (62nd) is understated due to injury, but he was the 21st most valuable L1 player last season which is about where he will continue to produce when he is in the lineup. The Magic Man is a thrill to watch and he is silky smooth on the powerplay, but his shot total is a tad below elite, which keeps him outside of the top 20 value players.

After the top five Russian forwards (all of whom are very great fantasy owns), there is a significant drop off. The best fit I could finde for RW2 was Vlad Tarasenko who is a talented winger in his own right, but who hasn’t started to pay dividends to fantasy GMs. With 16 points in 31 games, Tarasenko is the 381st most valuable player in this format and would probably be waiver wire fodder if you were in such a league.

 

D1

For my first pairing D, I used the same criteria as scoring lines 1 and 2. Russia has two ideal candidates for this pairing:

 

Player

Pos

G

A

SOG

PPP

FHG Rank

Last Year Rank

Andrei Markov

D

3

17

65

11

27

9

Sergei Gonchar

D

0

12

47

8

100

45


The Russian’s top pairing on D has some fantasy viable players, but not to the level of the previous three countries I profiled. In fact all six D1 players on the prior teams would be the #1 fantasy D on team Russia.

Andrei Markov continues to be a great fantasy hockey own. If it weren’t for all of the injuries, this guy would be talked about as one of the great fantasy D-men of the past decade. Surprisingly though, he has been able to stay on the ice for over a calendar year now; coming in as the 9th most valuable player in this format last year and at 27th so far this season. Chances are, if you were able to draft Markov this season he is providing you with much better value than his draft position. He has always been a top powerplay performer and he fires a significant amount of rubber as a rearguard so it isn’t hard to figure out why FHG calculates his value so high. I wouldn’t want to put too much stock in him in a keeper league, but in a one year I’d be happy to enjoy the production while I can.

Russia’s lack of fantasy depth starts to shine through more as we make look at the second selection for my top pariring. Sergei Gonchar is an aging star who can still help the powerplay but he is definitely declining rapidly. As the 100th most valuable player this season, his position on the top defensive pairing of a contending Olympic team leaves something to be desired. His shot rate is down and (as of this data set) he hasn’t scored a goal. Gonchar’s days as a viable fantasy defenseman are running out.

 

Line 3

For my third line, I want players who can go against the other teams’ top lines, kill penalties, win faceoffs and block shots. Of course we want scoring for all lines so goals and assists matter but for L3 I am looking more at even strength points as most of the PP time will be going to L1 and L2. In order to find the optimal players for such a line, I entered the following categories into my league in FHG (Goals, Assists, Short Handed Points, Even Strength Points, Blocked Shots, Takeaways, Faceoffs won). Here are the players I selected from the FHG output:

 

Player

Pos

G

A

SHP

ESP

BKS

TKA

FOW

FHG Rank

Last Year Rank

Artem Anisimov

LW

9

6

1

12

24

18

208

95

233

Mikhail Grabovski

C

9

18

0

20

17

16

224

120

400

Nail Yakupov

RW

5

7

0

7

17

6

0

553

248

 

On line 3, Russia’s numbers really start to get ugly. Unlike the US and Canada, Russia simply does not have many players that slot in nicely with the L3 or L4 format.

Artem Anisimov is Russia’s best bet on line 3 as the 95th most valuable player in the L3 format. Anisimov’s shorthanded contributions combined with his ability to win faceoffs as a LW eligible player make him a player who would be worth owning in a league like this. If you have read my previous Olympic articles you will note a recurring theme here: FOW from a player with eligibility other than C and SHP for anybody are extremely valuable. These are two huge things that FHG has taught me throughout this Olympic selection process that I will use to my advantage leagues that measure these categories. That’s what it’s all about, right?

Former Geek of the Week Mikhail Grabovski has seen a spike in production (as I predicted in my feature on him this summer) making him a solid own in most fantasy hockey leagues. As the 120th most valuable player in an L3 format (and similar value in a lot of other formats), Grabo is probably providing you decent value compared to where you drafted him. Again with Grabovski though, he pales in comparison to (for example) Jonathan Toews.

Nail Yakupov is on my team basically because I was grasping at straws to fill out the roster and L3 just happens to be where I could fit Yak. His value of 553 tells you that he isn’t worth owning in this league and in fact he isn’t worth owning in most non-keeper leagues at this point. He simply isn’t putting up numbers in any category. His value last year (248) was better, but I’ll be honest - the only stat that got him on my fantasy Team Russia is the RUS right beside his name.

 

D2

My second defensive pairing is selected using the same criteria as my third forward line

 

Player

Pos

G

A

SHP

ESP

BKS

TKA

FOW

FHG Rank

Last Year Rank

Dmitry Kulikov

D

1

5

0

6

42

13

0

246

406

Fedor Tyutin

D

4

10

0

8

8

34

0

210

86

 

Looking at the FHG ranks for my second defensive pairings, you can see that they aren’t exactly gamebreakers:

Dmitry Kulikov has always had upside and he is actually also a former Geek of the Week, but he is one of the GOTWs who did not pan out. Coming out of the 2011-12 season, I liked him for his ability to put up points and doing it on the PP while adding a good amount of this and shots. His extrapolated stats at the time looked great and I even kept this guy in my main keeper. It has been a rough go for Kulikov since 11-12 though as evidenced by his FHG rank of 246 this season. Sadly for my fantasy team Russia though, he is the best option in this spot. Fantasy Team Russia can only hope that Kulikov returns to his early career pace and starts to provide great value again. As a fantasy hockey GM, you should do the same: keep your eye on this guy because if he ever puts it together, he has the peripherals to be a great fantasy D.

Fedor Tyutin is a player that I often draft late or stream into my lineup depending on the depth of my league. He hasn’t been overly valuable this season (210th), but whenever he is given opportunities because of his oft-injured teammates (ahem Wisnewski), he has managed to contribute in a lot of areas – so much so that he was the 86th most valuable player in an L3 format last year. This isn’t necessarily Olympic worthy, but it us probably “watch-list” worthy if you are a fantasy hockey GM in need of some defensive help (and who isn’t).

 

L4

On my ideal fourth line, I want some bangers who can put the puck in the net but also do some damage to opposing players. The best categories I thought of that best represent this desire is (Goals, Assists, Even Strength Points, Hits and Blocked Shots). Here is who best fit the bill for Team Canada:

 

Player

Pos

G

A

ESP

Hits

BKs

FHG Value

Last Year Value

Nikolai Kulemin

LW

4

5

9

54

25

418

62

Leo Komarov*

C

4

5

9

176

24

-

173

Dainus Zubrus

RW

7

10

17

47

13

202

643

* used last year’s numbers

 

Nikolai Kulemin probably isn’t owned in many fantasy hockey leagues out there, but again I was struggling to fill the roster. It’s interesting though to see his rank of 62 in the L4 format last season. That’s 6th round value! You will likely never be in a league with settings exactly like my L4, but it just goes to show you that different players can have surprising values in certain leagues. With 22 ESP and 122 hits last season, Kulemin was a very serviceable player in a league of this format. I wouldn’t have ever guessed that without seeing the numbers in FHG, but when they are there in front of my face – they make sense.

Leo Komarov is an example of a player who can go from irrelevant to “worth a look” based on one elite category. With 176 hits in only 42 games last season, Komarov was the 173rd most valuable player in an L4 format. This isn’t amazing value, by any stretch, but considering his point total, it may be surprising to think that he would have been worthy of an add in a deeper league. The format of the L4 design, where blocked shots are added and all points counted are even strength moves Komarov into the realm of relevance. Again though, he isn’t close to the C4s on the other squads.

Dainus Zubrus comes on as the 202nd most valuable player in an L4 format which is also much, much lower than so many of the options the other countries have. Zubrus is not worth owning in many fantasy hockey leagues, but he can make for a good streaming option as he contributes to multiple categories and does have dual eligibility. 

 

D3

For my 3rd defensive pairing I used the same criteria as my forward L4

Player

Pos

G

A

ESP

Hits

BKs

FHG Value

Last Year Value

Alexei Emelin*

D

3

9

12

110

47

434

107

Slava Voynov

D

3

12

11

59

35

81

49

 

The third defensive pairing on Russia has a couple of guys who slot in well, just not at the elite level as other countries’ D3.

Slava Voynov actually slots into this format better than any Russian fills their role aside from maybe the top 5 forwards. Voynov’s hits and blocked shots make him a very attractive own in leagues that track these stats, as evidenced by his value of 81 this season and 49 last. I always stress how points from the D are scarce and Voynov provides a good amount while contributing well in the other peripherals.

Alexei Emelin puts up just enough points to not totally kill his value while administering hits at an assassin’s pace and throwing in over a block a game. All of that adds up to a solid value of 107 overall (last season) making him far more fantasy relevant than you may have thought. Again, he simply can’t compare with the D3s on the other countries but it is great that I was able to run the numbers on this guy because yet again I was able to find a guy with fantasy relevance (in certain leagues) by running numbers through FHG.

 

Notable Omissions

The only notable omissions for Fantasy Team Russia are all the players who have spent the past two seasons in the KHL as I just can’t reasonably include them in this analysis. 

 

Conclusion:

If the Olympic gold is going to be won based on the players’ fantasy relevance then Team Russia needs to shorten their bench to about 8 guys in game one. Russia boasts some of the most amazing top end talent in the world and they will surely do some special things out there with the likes of Malkin, Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Datsyuk and Semin. In the real world and fantasy alike these guys are top-notch. Fantasy team Russia is extremely top heavy though and they are in a world of hurt when it comes to depth. Their D is weak and their bottom six forwards are flat out bad fantasy hockey owns. Overall, I would grade Fantasy Team Russia as a C. It would actually be much worse but their top end talent is so, so good it can’t be ignored.

Thus concludes my series of Fantasy Olympic Team selections and I have to say it has been one of the more fun things I have done while writing. I find it extremely compelling to see the names that shake out when going strictly off the numbers and then comparing them to the names that were picked by the actual selection committees. I have to say that in more cases than not, my gut feel is that the names coming from the numbers could hang tough with the real life teams.

The thing I took away most from this process though was the huge impact on players’ values based simply on how I set up my line settings. I deal with this stuff every day, but I still learned a TON about the impact of categories like hits, blocked shots and short-handed points on player’s value. My eyes were also opened to things like FOW from a wing position: I knew this was valuable, but my assumption actually fell far short of the actual value of this nuance. What an interesting and fun way to get a better grasp on a player’s varying value between different formats. I hope you all enjoyed it and I would encourage you all to do something similar with the amazing tools at Fantasy Hockey Geek – you will be a better fantasy hockey GM for it.

 

 


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Comments (5)add comment

T-Camp said:

TBone076
Russian? Hey guys....

Sorry, it sounds like I botched the birth countries terribly. I always was bad at geography (and history for that matter). On the website I used to get players' birth countries I put on a filter that I thought was for Russia, but it was in fact for USSR and included Grabovski et all. While the Russian/non-Russian thing is definitely pretty embarrassing, I don't think it has to take away from the point of this article/series.

Yes, the Olympic team was announced 2 weeks ago but that's the whole point of this series: Let's see how a team picked based solely on fantasy stacks up against the team that was actually picked. That wasn't an editorial miss - that was by design. It is meant to be a fun way to compare the two while gaining some insight into fantasy values.

The secondary idea of the series was to see how players' values can vary depending on what categories you measure. Whether or not Komorov is Russian, the point still stands that he holds significantly different value from league to league. If you were able to overlook the fact that he isn't Russian, you still might be able to gain something from this point.

This is a fantasy hockey article designed to give insight into fantasy hockey. Hopefully I have at least succeeded in doing that despite failing the Geography piece.

T
January 20, 2014
Votes: -1

sanuksanan said:

sanuksanan
... …make that three. Komarov is on Team Finland, but he is a 4th liner, got that part right.

Fully 25% of this Fantasy Team Russia forwards are not Russian!
January 20, 2014
Votes: +0

MaxPower said:

MaxPower
... I take the last comment back - partially. Upon further review, I see that this is a speculative team. Still pointless seeing as the team was announced two weeks ago. And still terrible to include two guys that aren't even Russian.
January 20, 2014
Votes: +0

MaxPower said:

MaxPower
... ...and Zubrus is Lithuanian.

Not only that, but Semin, Komorov, Gonchar, Kulikov and Yakupov aren't on the team.

Considering the Russian team was announced almost two weeks ago, I feel like this was - quite possibly - the worst article in terms of editorial oversight I've seen in a long time. And just plain terribly researched.

Very puzzled it the whole point.
January 20, 2014
Votes: +1

swazzy said:

swazzy
... Sorry but Grabovski is from Belarus, not Russia...
January 20, 2014
Votes: +0
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