The St. Louis sophomore is primed for a big 2013-14 campaign. Read on to find out why.
I generally advise poolies to avoid St. Louis forwards (or at least to tread carefully on draft day). Why? Well, for one, the Blues have a number of top six forwards – definitely more than six. And because of this depth, it is tough to project who will receive the prime offensive minutes on any given night. And for two, Ken Hitchcock teams are generally not among the league leaders in offensive production
However, I think Schwartz is primed for a big offensive breakout this season.
Reason #1 – Opportunity
Schwartz averaged 16 seconds of power play ice time per game in 2013 (45 regular season games). The top two left wingers in St. Louis last season – Andy McDonald and David Perron – averaged 2:31 and 2:28 per game, respectively. And neither of them will be ahead of Schwartz this season on the depth chart. McDonald has retired, and Perron was traded to St. Louis for Magnus Paajarvi, who projects as an elite checking/two-way winger.
Additionally, Schwartz ranked 10th on the Blues in total ice time per game last year, averaging 12:28 per contest. Expect both of these numbers (PP ice time and total ice time) to increase dramatically this season. And more ice time doesn’t always preclude better offensive numbers, but it sure doesn’t hurt.
Schwartz also ranked fifth on the Blues last season in per-minute even strength offensive production. An even more impressively, he was second only to Chris Stewart in per-minute goal production (0.802 goals per 60 minutes of even strength ice time). He definitely made the most of his limited offensive opportunities, and that is about all you can ask of a rookie forward.
Reason #2 – He’s ready for tough minutes
Schwartz didn’t have his hand held much last season, even as a rookie. He played the eighth toughest minutes of any Blues forward (he’s not out there checking the Getzlafs and Perrys of the West yet, though), and he was only sixth among Blues forwards with the highest ratio of offensive zone starts (at 51.3%, while fellow rookie Vladimir Tarasenko was close to 70%).
Hitchcock expects his top line to be able to play against any line in the NHL, and the ability to play without the puck will help Schwartz land a spot on one of the scoring lines in St. Louis as a second-year NHLer.
I could see Schwartz lining up with Backes and Oshie (just as he did last year) on either line one or line two, creating one of the better two-way forward units in hockey. He brings a lot of skill to the table, and like most of the other St. Louis forwards, he also brings a lot of tenacity every single time he steps over the boards. When I was browsing the archives for a picture of Schwartz for this post, it seemed as if every picture involved him hitting someone, getting hit, or mixing it up along the boards or near the opposing goal. There is a very Parise-like quality to his game.
And the Blues will want to pair Derek Roy, their only playmaking center, with Chris Stewart, their best natural goal scorer. Schwartz could end up on that line, too.
Schwartz finished 11th in hits, 12th in blocked shots, and 20th in PIM on the Blues roster last year. He has a long way to go before he becomes a multi-category stud in fantasy hockey. But his offensive numbers should make him a valuable player to own as early as this season. And in keeper leagues, his value is only going to increase in the near and medium term future. If he sees a steady dose of top six minutes, I could see Schwartz finish in the 15-20-goal, 40-50-point range in 2013-14.
There will be plenty more of sleepers (just like Schwartz) in the 2013-14 DobberHockey Fantasy Guide, released on August 1st.
The beauty of an online (PDF) release, and what separates us from the competition, is that we are able to update the DobberHockey Guide throughout the rest of the summer and right up to puck drop in early October.
Other guides released in magazine format have to be written and submitted for publishing in late June with quick updates on free agency in early July.
As we all know, a lot can still happen in August and September. How about a strong training camp from a bubble player or a rookie? How about a late summer trade or signing?
The fantasy impact(s) of these moves can be significant, and we will have you covered.
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