Toews

 

If you are an avid reader of the DobberHockey website you probably are familiar with the popular mantra the “magical fourth year”. Just as Russ and I have done last year, we’ll take a deeper look at the numbers to de-bunk or confirm the myth once again.

 

Let’s take a look at the top 10 scorers from this past season and how they have fared in their first four years in the NHL.

 

Name

1st

2nd

3rd

4th

Henrik Sedin

29

36

39

42

Sidney Crosby

102

120

72

102

Alex Ovechkin

106

92

112

113

Nicklas Backstrom

69

88

101

 

Steven Stamkos

46

95

 

 

Martin St. Louis

2

18

40

35

Brad Richards

62

62

74

79

Joe Thornton

7

41

60

71

Patrick Kane

72

70

88

 

Marian Gaborik

36

67

65

40

 


Looking at the table, six of the eight eligible players had an increase from their third to their fourth year. In the case with St. Louis and Gaborik, both players dealt with injuries during their fourth year which might explain the drop in production. They both would have both pro-rated to 54 and 50 points respectively under a full 82-game schedule. I would certainly chalk a point up to support the “magical fourth year” theory.

 

One common point that I noticed with players that had huge jumps in production during their “magical fourth years” is their importance to their respective line ups. The following table illustrates ten examples of gigantic increases in production from players that receive optimal ice-time from their teams during their fourth years.

 

Name

1st

2nd

3rd

4th

Ryan Getzlaf

39

58

82

91

Pavel Datsyuk

35

51

68

87

Zach Parise

32

62

65

94

Ilya Kovalchuk

51

67

87

98

Dany Heatley

67

89

25

103

Mike Cammalleri

8

15

55

80

Jeff Carter

42

37

54

84

Marian Hossa

1

30

56

75

Mike Richards

34

32

75

80

Anze Kopitar

61

77

66

81

 


A lot of the names above are recognizable house-hold names because like the players mention in the table at the top, they too have integrated themselves to play a major role in their respective team’s offenses. With so many players having such a big boost in production in their fourth years it’s truly hard to ignore that there is strong evidence supporting the “magical fourth year myth”.

 

With so much evidence in support of the “magical fourth year”, it would be hard to argue that the myth doesn’t exist. Moving on, now that we’ve established that there is a strong possibility that there is a “magical fourth year” let’s put it into practical use.

 

Below is the list of players who are entering their fourth NHL season this year along with my opinion and projection as to whether they are going to be poised to have a huge breakout year or are they going to be a blip on the radar.

 

Note: I counted every season played as a year of experience whether they played one or a full 82 games. I just couldn’t come up with a fair comparison on where to draw the line.

 

Poised for a huge breakout year


Patrick Kane – If winning the Stanley Cup isn’t enough of an Everest-esque feat for a 21-year old then perhaps a century-point campaign will do the trick. That’s probably the only feat that’s left for the Buffalo-native to accomplish in order to be mentioned in the same ballpark as Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin in terms of impact in fantasy hockey pools. If there is anyone, in this year’s “magical fourth year” class, who has 100-point potential, it certainly has to lie on the young shoulders of Kane. I’m leaning more towards a Getzlaf, Kovalchuk or Parise 91 to 98-point season, but 100 certainly isn’t out of the question.

 

Jonathan Toews – 191 points in his first 222 NHL contests is the stat line for the reigning Conn Smythe winner and if you compare that to the 218 in 211 that new TB GM Steve Yzerman had in his first three seasons it’s not hard to draw a similar comparison between the two. If you delve a little deeper into the stats Toew’s recent 29 points in 22 contests this past post-season compares very favourably to Yzerman’s 18 in 16 back in 1986-87. Granted it was a much more offensively-focussed league back then, but Yzerman cracked the 90-point plateau in his fourth season, so why can’t we expect the same from Toews?

 

 

Poised for a marginal breakout year


Peter Mueller – Last year I mentioned a fellow Avalanche, Paul Stastny to be poised with a breakout year and he finished up with 79 points in 81 contests. This year I’ll follow suit and toss the former eighth overall pick, Mueller, into the mix. He was traded to the Avs from the desert at the deadline last campaign and racked up 20 points in the final 15 contests of the regular season. During his time with the Avs, he averaged 17:50 along with a SOG average of 2.33 per contest. If you read my projections article earlier this off-season, those numbers pretty much fix the mould of a top-15 or a 60-point RWer, so expect just that from Mueller.



Bobby Ryan – The young phenom is headed for RFA status this off-season, but the Ducks have plenty of cap room to match any offers that come their way, so he should remain Anaheim property for the upcoming season. I had a bit of a debate on whether or not I should have slotted him into the same category as Toews and Kane but decided to play it a little safer by pencilling him for just a marginal increase due to the fact that Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are ahead of him on the scoring depth charts. Ryan potted 39 points in 40 home contests at the Honda Center, while potting 25 points in 41 away from Anaheim. Now with over 150 games under his belt, those numbers should begin to start to even out this campaign. Look for a 70-75 point season from the Cherry Hill-native.

 

Sam Gagner – If there was anything to be happy about for the Oilers last season it probably was the development of Gagner in the second half of the lackluster campaign. He finished with 19 points and 87 SOG in the final 28 contests, before being shut down due to injury. If you pro-rate those numbers into a full 82-game campaign it would equate to a 55 points and a 254 SOG season. With Ales Hemsky healthy and the new arrival of Taylor Hall, the trio might form a formidable top-line for Edmonton that is if the Oilers finally stop deciding to give Shawn (minus 29) Horcoff 19 minutes a game. I’d pencil Gagner in for a 55-60 point season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up with 75-plus.

 

Kris Versteeg – Versteeg had himself a decent post-season with 14 points in 22 contests during their Stanley Cup winning run. He’ll be the main beneficiary of the Dustin Byfuglien trade as it pretty much guarantees him a spot on the Hawks’ top-six as well as being a top candidate to fill the void of the 2:40 minutes of power-play ice-time that Buffy left behind. He’ll probably see an ice-time average closer to his 2008-09 numbers of 17:02 than the 15:43 he had last season which will help the offensive production. Playing alongside Toews, Kane or Hossa won’t hurt either. 60-65 isn’t a bad projection for the former 134th overall pick.

 

 

Sitting on the fence


Devin Setoguchi – I’m completely on the fence on this one. Setoguchi had a great sophomore season with 65 points in 81 contests, but completely burned out by following that with a 36-point injury-plagued season. If you consider the Sharks’ offense of Thornton, Heatley, and the newly signed duo of Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski, I just don’t see enough points to be spread around for Seto to be a fantasy gem this campaign. For comparison’s sake the most offensive team in the league last season were the Caps who put up 833 points, while the Sharks put up 700. Brooks Laich was fifth in scoring for the Caps with 59 points. Granted Setoguchi is a bit more offensively gifted than Laich, but with Dan Boyle also in the point mix it would be hard to project anything more than 55 points for the Albertan.

 

T.J. Hensick – Hensick was tied for 14th overall in scoring in the AHL last season with 70 points in 58 contests which makes it mind-boggling why the Avs would move such an asset to the Blues for such a low price in career AHLer Julian Talbot. There have also been a few rumours floating around about Hensick’s work ethic which is never a good thing for a youngster. I currently have the Blues top-six listed as Andy McDonald, Brad Boyes, David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, and possibly RFA David Perron, which might hamper the quality ice-time allotted to Hensick this upcoming season. But if an injury were to befall amongst the Blues’ top-six, Hensick’s production could certainly be fantasy-worthy.

 

David Perron – As mentioned above, motivation seems to be a key factor in the production for players but in terms of skill there is definitely nothing to scoff about with Perron as he tallied 111 points in 87 contests in 2006-07 with the Lewiston Maineiacs (28 in 17 during the playoffs). As mentioned above players who generally have the big breakout seasons tend to be the ones that garner top-line/top PP ice-time and I don’t know if Perron will get that opportunity in St. Louis. I’d give a maximum upside of 55.

 

Mason Raymond – Raymond had a bit of a breakout year last season by potting 53 points in 82 contests but  it’s the four points in 12 playoff contests that scares me. If Raymond can land some ice-time alongside the Sedin twins during the season it might boost his fantasy value, but with Mikael Samuelsson and Alex Burrows in the mix for that highly-coveted spot, I wouldn’t expect anything more than a repeat of last campaign or possibly even a small dip.

 

Derick Brassard – Offense is definitely not something that Brassard lacks as demonstrated by his 218 points in 151 contests from his QMJHL career. The problem is translating those skills into the NHL level. But then again the wicked “Hitch” of the west is dead in Columbus and Scotty Arniel is poised to be the saviour of the offense so that might just be the solution to solve Brassard’s offensive woes. There are also a couple of other factors that could help Brassard this season. One, he spent only 3.52 percent of his total ice-time alongside superstar Rick Nash last season, so if he can up that to say 15-20 percent, his point totals could skyrocket for a comfortable breakout season. Two, he lined up alongside 25 percent of the NHL shifts that Nikita Filatov appeared in last season. So if the “fleet-footed” Russian returns that would be another boost in terms of talented line mates for Brassard. Of course there are also a couple of factors that could hinder Brassard one of which is the depth chart. The Jackets are chock-full of centers with R.J. Umberger, Antoine Vermette, and Sami Pahlsson, which might hinder Brassard’s potential for a “break out” this season.

 

Other Notables

Andrew Cogliano, Martin Hanzal, David Winnik, James Sheppard, Kyle Chipchura, Andrew Murray, Jared Boll, Cody McLeod, Ryan Carter, David Jones

 

Defense


Most of us have heard of the phrase “It takes defenseman longer to develop in the NHL than forwards.” Last season I took a look at a small sample of d-men and there wasn’t a lot of empirical evidence to back the theory of the “magical fourth year” for blue liners. Of course that shouldn’t prevent you from ignoring them completely, so here are a few Western Conference D-men who are entering their fourth year this season.

 

Matt Niskanen – The Stars are in desperate need of some offense from the blue line, and if they aren’t going to go shopping come July 1st, Niskanen could be a good candidate to take on a more offensive role this campaign. Last season he also averaged 2:54 on the power-play per contest which should have definitely equated to more than the 15 points that he tallied. I know a lot of people have given up on him, but if you are in a deep league or looking for a fourth sleeper defenseman, Niskanen makes a great option.

 

Kris Russell – Russell is in a similar boat to Niskanen mentioned above. He’s young and talented while possessing the historical pedigree to be very successful at the NHL level. It’s just a matter of when it all comes together. Russsell held back a bit due to the coaching of Hitchcock, but now with Arniel behind the bench it might just be the trigger that opens up the offensive game for Russell. A 35-point season isn’t out of the question for the former Medicine Hat Tiger.

 

Anton Stralman – Following along the same lines as Russell, Stralman could also be in for a mini-breakout season this year under the new regime in Columbus. He was tops amongst the Jackets blue-liners in terms of power-play ice-time, so if he can maintain that gig he should be in for a solid 40+ point campaign.

 

Sami Lepisto – Lepisto is a bit of a stretch pick, but still possesses some intrigue for the Coyotes this year. In his brief AHL career the Finn has recorded 87 points in 125 contests with the Hersey Bears, which is certainly an impressive feat. The problem is that he sits behind Ed Jovanovski, Adrian Aucoin, and Keith Yandle on the depth charts and that could be a lethal thing for a defenseman, but if JovoCop takes the usual 10-15 games off for injury, it might just be enough of a crack for Lepisto to gain some fantasy value.

 

Check back Thursday for the second half of this article which will discuss the fourth year players from the Eastern Conference. It’s going to be a doozy! Questions or comments? Write them in the section below and like always I’ll be more than happy to discuss.

 

 


Write comment
Comments (13)add comment

Ryan Ma said:

Maaaasquito
... Naw no worries Mabus, I have pretty thick skin unless it's a personal attack with no facts to back it up then I get miffed. I think your comments are definitely fair.

To me I think 4th year is where players tend to surpass the point-per-game + plateau, which is kinda what you're after in a 1 year pools IMO. If you look at the charts it's where those "big named" guys really start to take off. Granted Getzlaf potted 82 in his 3rd year, but 91 in his 4th which gives it that extra umph. Same deal with Kovalchuk 87 to 98, that extra little umph. But on a whole you kinda see the players that cracked the 55-65 point mark in their 3rd years crack the 80 in their 4th year's and that's what I'm after.

Unfortunately there isn't too many from the western conference that are under that category this season. Kane is pretty much a Getzlaf/Kovalchuk example who might go from 88 to 95-100, Toews is probably the only one that has 68 to 85-90 point potential, but his playoff run pretty much put him on the radar that you can't get him for cheap anymore. Mueller and Ryan might be interesting cases if they maintain top-line/top PP time, they both could have point-per-game potential and are worth the risk.

That information is definitely worth it. I'm after the big fish the ones that go from 50 points to 80 points with huge breakout potential. I don't really care if they are a 35 point player and go to 60 point mark, cause to me I can list off 50-60 guys that are in that range and it'll pretty much keep you on par with your competition. It's the 55-60 point players that jump to point-per-game that will gain you an edge over your competition.

Yes I know that only a handful of guys will hit that 80 point mark, but that's what I'm after. Last year I did a similar article and listed Kopitar and Stastny as my big fish and it turned out alright. Pavelski and Eriksson as my secondary fish and Gilbert and Edler as my D. If you were lucky enough to land one or a couple of those guys you probably were ecstatic. So I'm just trying to go back to the well once again this season.
June 30, 2010
Votes: +0

Mabus said:

mabus
... Yea, sorry about that Ryan - was in a surly mood yesterday and this year 4 thing is one of my pet peeves - I just don't see a stronger correlation between increases at year 4 than I do at year 3 or year 5.

15 is absolutely an arbitrary number. I chose it because most of the top names on my list saw at least one jump of over 15 points over their careers, and multiple jumps over 15 points were rare. Also, predicting point increases less than 15 points is much easier through most formulas than the ones over 15 points. Finally, a player's fantasy value is significantly different before the breakout than after, so predicting when this milestone occurs is probably one of the most valuable pieces of information to a fantasy owner.

You are also correct that looking at point change is valuable but provides a different value than the absolute numbers. I just think the average person probably values players based on their previous year's points or a two or three year average with some some sort of "upside" modifier. This is why predicting when someone will hit a new career high is so important. It not only affects a the 2 or 3 year average calculations, it also affects perception of upside.

I don't understand the comment about 80 points though, because it doesn't look to me like 4th years are more likely to pass this mark.

Mabus
June 30, 2010
Votes: +0

Ryan Ma said:

Maaaasquito
... The 26 vs 30 split could be an interesting one.

The 30 could be due to the late bloomers or bigger physical power-forwards?

Also we're not really looking for peak production, because if we're after players at peak production you might be too late... Much like playing with stocks, you kinda want to get the player while they're starting the bump of the curve. You want to grab a player in the 12th or 15th round and equate that to a 3rd or 4th rounder and generally speaking it's during their 4th years.
June 29, 2010
Votes: +0

Ryan Ma said:

Maaaasquito
... RE: Mabus

I think it depends on what your opinion of breakout is. Mine is when a player reaches that point-per-game plateau (80 point mark) or as close to it as possible. Not a lot of players hit that mark (roughly around 20 players hit that mark per season), which is why it starts to separate the fantasy studs from the duds. This article is more about listing off players who have the potential to get to that mark rather than percentage of point increase.

Here's the way I'm thinking about it. Gagner hit 41 points last season, if we're using your numbers of 15+ point increase as a breakout, he really only needs to hit 56 points to consider next season as a breakout. Where as Kane needs 103 in order for that to be considered a breakout. 68 players hit that mark for Gagner's goal, where as 3 hit that mark for Kane's goal. So setting a a target of 15 points as a breakout point I don't think is really fair. Kane's say 95 point production would be much more valuable than Gagner's 55 in fantasy pools. Which is why I'm suggesting that you look at overall production rather than point increase in order to judge success of 4th year players.

Also the age thing could be an interesting find, the problem is if you look at the past 20 years the numbers could be skewed as well as times are changing. Generally speaking the "newer" generation (post-lockout) has resulted in younger draftees being rushed into the NHL earlier and forced to produce at an earlier age compared to the late 90's and early 2000s, where a lot of the youth went through the slower development process. The Sedin's, Lecavalier's, Thornton's, Spezza's have had a much different development process than Crosby, Ovechkin, Kane. Also in the late 90s and early 2000's defense was the name of the game, and now the game is evolving back towards offense which is why you see bigger numbers from younger kids. So it's probably not hard to find that production peaks at 26 for older generations, but if you look at the recent trends (4 of the top 5 scorers this year is under 24 and 5 of the top 10 being under 24) it's trending towards the youth movement.

Keep in mind this is probably more effective for 1-year leagues drafting in Sept. If you are in a keeper league, you pretty much know all of this information already and it's just redundant.
June 29, 2010
Votes: +0

Dicks said:

Dicks
.. Assuming S. Kostitsyn signs with Nashvile, on which of the above lists would you place him?
June 29, 2010
Votes: +0

Ryan Ma said:

Maaaasquito
... RE: Andrew

Definitely the magical breakout year does happen, the problem is when does it occur, I think there is a strong compelling case for 3rd year as well as 4th year, but generally speaking I think the 4th is where we really see the "spectacular" numbers.

If you look at the 2nd chart that's where the solid evidence exists. All 10 pretty much broke into the 80 point (point-per-game) range during their 4th years.

I won't discount year 3 as being a possible breakout year, but I think there's stronger evidence for 4 rather than 3.

But with everything you have to take a case by case scenario and you can't really lump everyone into the same boat. Just wanted to write an article to point out a few 4th yearers to keep an eye on for drafts this season.
June 29, 2010
Votes: +0

Ryan Ma said:

Maaaasquito
... RE: Backstrom/Krecji

I just do my half of the NHL which is the west. Russ does the East and I've given him a list of East players, so he should mention them both coming Thursday.
June 29, 2010
Votes: +0

Rob said:

TheSchwab
Age > Years You guys have the right idea here, but if you look at the metrics involving players hitting their peaks/improving from year to year, its more about the age of the player than the number of years in the league.

If anything, there is more magic as to many forwards (from what I have seen) getting a statistical bump at age 30 than the fourth year. The age 26 is historically a players peak age statistically, but it seems major players receive a bump at 30 as well.
June 29, 2010 | url
Votes: +0

Mabus said:

mabus
... It's a great article, but one I disagree with. Lets pretend you were trying to make the case for a "Magical third year" instead with your first table. 6 of the 7 had larger increases in their third year than they did in their fourth, and the one exception is Crosby, and he was injured. If you want a breakout, from your own chart, look at the third year. My data only goes back 20 years, but the correlation between production and years in the league is weaker than the correlation with age. Also, according to my data, average and median point increases also aren't largest during the 4th year, so the years of service argument is only valid if combined with age or years since draft information.

Is it fair to call a breakout someone that increases their previous best by 15 points? This is what I generally refer to a breakout. If we use that terminology, and I focus on guys that have been top scorers and top recent draft picks in the league, 2nd year breakouts in my table are Stamkos, Toews, Backstrom, Kopitar, Malkin, Staal and Sakic. 3rd year breakouts include Kane, Kessel, Getzlaf, Kovalchuk, Spezza, Zetterberg and Jagr. 4th year breakouts are Carter, Parise, Perry, Nash, Heatley, Datsyuk and Hossa. 5th year breakouts are the Sedins and Lecavalier. Iginla and Thornton didn't break out until their 6th years.

These numbers are also skewed by external factors - for instance, one external factor was the lockout. From this list, Staal, Kovalchuk, Spezza, Heatley, Sedin, Sedin, Zetterberg and Datsyuk all "broke out" the year after the lockout.

If you focus on the 4th year guys, just be aware that they will probably already be on my protected list.

Mabus
June 29, 2010
Votes: +0

Andrew said:

capretto2002
Not what I'd call a prime example. First let me start by saying, you/this site has made me believe in the breakout year and I think this is a great article.

That being said the top chart doesn't convince me itself.
To count sedin going from 39 to 42 points as a break out, it sounds more like steady growth.
To count crosby's 102 as a breakout when he had 102 as a rookie and 120 as a sophomore, sound more like a rebound from a slump in year 3.
Similar deal for Ovechkin, increased by 1 point, not a break out.

I think this chart however might be an example of how the elite-elite talent actually breaks out in year 3. The best of the best figure it out just a little sooner. Ovechkin year 2 to year 3, up 20 points. Backstrom up 13 points, St. Louis up 22 points, Richards up 12 points, Thornton up 19 points, kane up 18 points. Even a number of the guys in the next chart have big year 2 to year 3 jumps, then some of them jump again in year 4.

Just a thought.
June 29, 2010
Votes: +0

Raja said:

Raja
... Great article. I'm curious to know what you think about Krejci too. After reaching 73 last year and his production dropping this year, do you think breaking out to ppg is out of the question?
June 29, 2010
Votes: +0

Chandan Singh said:

June 29, 2010
Votes: +0

lcbtd said:

germant
Backstrom? Great article!

Interesting take on Kane too. I've never really given him much credit which is a mistake I'm sure but he comes across as such an arrogant little jerk. Nothing says you can't let arrogant little jerks help you win hockey pools though so I'll slide him up my draft list ;-)

What about Backstrom though? Are we poised to see something "magical" this year or will he hover around the 95-105 mark?

Thanks!
June 29, 2010
Votes: +0
You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.

busy