Those who have been reading my articles or who have had discussions with me about value in fantasy hockey have probably heard me go on about positional relevance on multiple occasions. Depending on your league set-up, scarce positions like D and RW tend to have more value than a more deep position like C, even though centers do tend to get more points (except in leagues with FOW, where centers close the gap).
As a result, my strategy in a draft is often to load up on the scarce positions early and fill out the more plentiful positions later. The thing is we do need to fill our rosters with centers eventually, so I’ll often get the question “If I am drafting all of these RW and D so early, who is going to fill my center slots now that all of the other managers have scooped up Richards, RNH, Backstrom etc?” Today I am going to profile a center who is a perfect example of value that can be found much later in drafts: Mikko Koivu.
Koivu is one of those guys who was injured last year and has subsequently fallen off many GMs radar. I am not a huge proponent of stacking up on Band-Aid Boys and Koivu is indeed a certified member, but at the price he is going for right now he still offers a ton of value. Mikko is currently being drafted as the 59th center and 158th overall player in Yahoo pools. This is way too low for a player with his skills, upside and opportunity in the coming season. Running the numbers through Fantasy Hockey Geek, you will see Koivu’s value from last year wasn’t all that great:
(2011-12 stats for a 12 team Yahoo! league measuring G, A, +/-, SOG, PPP, Hits)
Koivu was the 143rd most valuable player last year, which was obviously significantly impacted by the amount of time that he missed. It is worth noting however, that even in a year where Koivu struggled with injuries his actual value was slightly higher than his current Average Draft Position (ADP).
To get a better idea of what he will be worth in the coming season, let’s take a look at Koivu’s numbers over the past few years:
You can see from the above that Koivu’s injury riddled 2011-12 season was uncharacteristically poor, which explains his current ADP. Look at the preceding three years though, in particular ’08-’09 & ’09-’10 when Gaborik was still on his wing. Koivu was a very solid contributor across all categories and certainly worthy of being picked well before the 16th round.
As more of a play-making center than pure goal scorer, Koivu still manages to put up good shot totals. There were only seven centers in the entire league last year that put up over 45 assists and 190 SOG. Koivu accomplished this feat three consecutive seasons prior to last. Koivu has also demonstrated an ability to provide good +/- numbers on bad Minnesota teams and he is a solid contributor to PIMs and Hits. If your league happens to count FOW, then Koivu’s value goes through the roof; in 2008 he was 2nd in the league in FOW and in 2009 he was 3rd. Playing only 55 games last year, he was still 39th overall in FOW!
Now, fast forward to the coming season and look at Koivu’s situation. He now has two high-end wingers flanking him and a top end defenseman in Suter that should help with Koivu’s already solid power play production. Injuries will always be a concern with this guy but let’s assume he can play around 70-75 games and return to his ’08-’11 form. I don’t think it is a stretch at all to see Koivu put up 20 goals and 65 points while bringing his shot and PPP output back up to previous levels.
Now that we have done all of the GM work (the assumptions, the projections, the research ) we have a good feeling for what Koviu’s production could be this year. What is his value though? This is why the What-If tool at Fantasy Hockey Geek is my #1 favorite tool in fantasy hockey. I can go in, enter my league settings and generate player rankings based on last year’s data (or I could use Dobber’s projections since I’m a sibscriber, or even use my own projections). After I have all of this plugged in, I can run a scenario based on whatever projections I want to see and FHG will display the new true value of the player.
Check it out:
You can see in my scenario above that Koivu’s FHG value rises from 26.8 to 80.3. His new value would have ranked him as the 24th most valuable player in the entire league! (All other players using actual 2011-12 stats and Koivu using my personal projections above). A player achieving the output in my scenario would have been more valuable in this league than centers like Brad Richards, Joe Pavelski or Patrick Kane! A great draft strategy would be to intentionally “miss” on these bigger names in rounds 3-6 and draft Koivu in the 10th-12th. What you would end up with is a center who is actually more valuable than the other three that you passed on and you would still have the high pick to spend on a scarce position higher in the draft.
Koivu is a perfect example of how the What-If analysis tool can take your management skills to the next level. Often times default player rankings (on Yahoo! or otherwise) are based on prior year performance and the players’ ADP reflects this ranking. If you think that you know of a player who may have a big swing in production from year to year you can just plug your own projections into the tool and determine that player’s exact value in your league. You should be spending your time as a GM identifying these types of players and figuring out who you think will see a production spike next year. When you have done that, let FHG save you the time of doing the math work and instantly tell you exactly how much value you have managed to find. Try finding a guy who you think is due for a spike and put him into the What-If Analysis tool at Fantasy Hockey Geek and see what kind of value you can come up with!
I personally believe that Mikko Koivu will be the steal of many drafts this year. He is a multi-cat, first line center who now has first rate wingers playing on what should be a top end power play. Despite all of this he continues to fly under most GMs radar. Snag him with a late pick and watch your team reap the rewards. To find some value of your own, sign up for Fantasy Hockey Geek and plug your personal hidden gems into the What-If tool and see just how much upside you may have discovered!