This week, the Eastern Edge views Frans Nielsen and Andrew MacDonald to see how they rate so far in this young season.
Last week I watched a New York Islanders game where Frans Nielsen really showed me that he has some serious skill. Then later on in the week, I watched another Isles game where he wasn't quite as noticeable. That said, let's delve into the numbers and see what the crystal ball has in store for Nielsen's fantasy-worthiness index.
Over the past two seasons, Nielsen has finished fourth in team scoring after John Tavares, Matt Moulson, Brad Boyes/P.A. Parenteau (a.k.a. JT's other wingman). The 29-year-old Danish center scored at a 50 point pace last season, recording 29 points in 48 games. The year before that he finished with a career best 47 points and in 2010-11, he scored 44 points in 71 games, a 51 point pace.
This season, Nielsen is off to a fantastic start, recording points in six of eight games so far, while receiving the third most average time on ice (18:22) amongst forwards, after Tavares and Kyle Okposo. He is also playing on the top power play unit, garnering an average of 3:30 minutes per game. Three of his eight points have come with the man advantage.
Last year, Nielsen finished with the sixth most average power play time per game and the season before, he had the fifth most on the team. That resulted in his best campaign to date, scoring 15 of his 47 points via the power play.
Another indicator people like to use to forecast performance is shooting percentage. So far this season, Nielsen is shooting a career high 0.222. His career average is 0.096. He is also on course to surpass his career best in shots on goal of 156, with a 185 shot pace.
What about Michael Grabner's two game suspension potentially affecting Nielsen? According to Frozen Pool, Nielsen has taken 74 per cent of his even-strength shifts with Josh Bailey and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Nielsen is owned in only 21 per cent of Yahoo! leagues.
When Lubomir Visnovsky was knocked out of Sunday's match against Carolina, it was Andrew MacDonald who logged a season high 30:25 minutes. More importantly, he played 5:18 minutes on the power play. Those additional minutes paid dividends as he recorded his first point (assist) of the season, which was scored on the man advantage.
The Isles power play scored twice in five opportunities, so look for the man advantage units to stay the same for at least another game or two. For those thinking Matt Donovan will get a shot at showing what he can do on the power play, he has only played in five of the Islanders eight games and was a healthy scratch for the Carolina game where Visnovsky was concussed.
Even when Donovan is in the line-up, he is only receiving an average of 15:53 minutes per game, including 1:21 with the man advantage. He started the year by playing 19:34 minutes in his first game, but has struggled to earn more ice time. In the game before his healthy scratch, Donovan recorded 13:32 minutes of ice time.
In writing a piece (Eastern Conference Sleepers) for Dobber's annual guide, I opined than MacDonald might be an attractive value pick in salary-capped leagues due to his potential to fill in on the power play. Last season, MacDonald received more ice time than anyone on the roster and the third most power play time on the team amongst defensemen behind Streit and Visnovsky.
Another statistic that may surprise, is that heading into last night's action, MacDonald led the entire NHL in blocked shots with 26. If you are in a deep league, especially a salary-capped one, MacDonald might be a decent short term fill-in while Visnovsky is on the injured reserve.
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