They only thing more valuable in Fantasy hockey than knowing who to pick is knowing who not to pick.  With that in mind I am going to focus this week’s article on a player who is being drafted way higher than the value he provides justifies.  This player has caused his NHL GM much grief in the past few years and it looks like he will be doing the same to many fantasy GMs this season.  He may be the ultimate GM killer – Phil Kessel.


Let’s take a look at Kessel’s performance as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs:





Phil Kessel had a very good season in 2011-12, coming in with 82 points in 82 games, he was 7th in the league in SOG and 6th in the league with 37 goals.  He plays the RW which (as I wrote about in my Cole piece) is a scarce position to fill.  Kessel had the 6th highest point total in the NHL last year and his Average Draft Position (ADP) in Yahoo! pools this year is 18.  On the surface, it may actually look that there is some good value with Kessel but with the help of Fantasy Hockey Geek, we can see that not only does Kessel fail to provide value, but as a player picked in the second rounds of drafts he is actually a drain to your fantasy hockey team.  I ran the numbers through Fantasy Hockey Geek in two separate sample leagues to illustrate my point:


(Based on 2011-12 season in a Yahoo! Standard 12 team H2H league, with G, A, +/-, PIM, SOG, PPP as measured skater categories)




(Dobber Pro league settings:  12 team Roto league counting G, A, +/-, SOG, PPP, Hits)




In a Yahoo! standard league, Kessel was the 73rd most valuable player last year.  In the Dobber Pro League format (which counts hits instead of PIMs), Kessel is similarly ranked as the 76th most valuable player.  I used two different league examples to illustrate the point that aside from points and shots, Kessel isn’t close to elite in any other categories; he is in fact a huge hindrance to your team in the categories where he isn’t exceptional.  When I draft a player in the first two or three rounds I need them to be elite and while Kessel does score at an elite level, his performance in the rest of the commonly measured categories is so poor that he simply doesn’t measure up to other elite players in the league.  Let’s look inside the rest of his numbers to explain why:


Hits and PIMs

It is easy to tell from the tables above what Kessel’s largest downfalls are.  Most leagues count either Hits or PIMs as a category (or both) and Kessel is terrible at both.   Not all players are going to be great in all categories (most aren’t), but again a player being drafted that early simply can’t be that bad in so many peripheral categories.  The worst thing about players who don’t perform well in these categories is that they usually don’t improve either.  Some 50 point players become 70 point players but it is highly unlikely for a 15 hit player to become a 50 hit player year over year.



20 players including Kessel had over 70 points last season.  Amongst those players, Kessel’s -10 was dead last.  This was not an anomaly either, Kessel was -20 the year prior and is a combined -38 in his three years as a Leaf. 



Kessel’s 23 PPPs may look like a fairly solid number but remember we are talking about the 6th leading scorer in the NHL.   Every single one of the top 10 scorers in the NHL last year had more PPPs than Kessel.  Kessel’s PPP output is decent but I personally expect more out of a player if I am going to use a top 20 pick on him.


Above, I have illustrated how Kessel’s true value last year was somewhere in the 70s in most l which is well below his current ADP of 18.  Now consider that the low value he provided last year was based on numbers that he put up in a career year!  Kessel’s 37 goals came on a shooting % that was above his career average.  In fact, when you compare Kessel’s last year numbers with his 2010-11 numbers you can see that he scored 5 more goals while taking 30 less shots.  Is this sustainable?  My thinking is that it is not and Kessel’s goal total will likely be closer to a 32G pace next season and he will be hard pressed just to match his career high 45As from last year. 


As GMs, we all decide for yourselves what we think will happen to Kessel’s production next year but I would contend that the best case scenario is a repeat of the 2011-12 season.  Even if Kessel is able to maintain his pace from last year he is currently being over-valued considerably.  He is being treated as a top 20 player but providing the value of a 70-something player. 


I subscribe to the theory that “you can’t win a pool with a good pick in the first three rounds, but you can lose a pool with a bad pick in the first three rounds of the draft” and Phil Kessel is one of those bad picks.  You should steer clear of this guy.  To find the players that you should steer clear of in your own fantasy hockey league sign up for Fantasy Hockey Geek today and avoid those early round GM killers!


Previous Geek of the Week articles

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allen5938 said:

Kessel I could not agree more with your comments ,In our league we count both hits and PIMs , Kessel barely cracks the top 100. Fortunately it is strangely easy to trade this type of player for a real contributor.
November 12, 2012
Votes: +0

T-Camp said:

Ma! Nice work on the background numbers. The entire crux of my article is summed up perfectly in your line:

"Really he's not providing you much of an advantage over the rest of the other top-10 RW. He's giving you essentially a 2 G and 26 SOG advantage over the alternatives, but at a cost of around 17 +/- points and about 29 PIM..."

Ma provided the numbers to back this line up perfectly. The beauty of FHG, is that it will do this background work for you.

Some other thoughts...

Kwazzie & Sovereign:
You both elude to the use of gut feel and instinct as opposed to relying on the numbers from last year. Maybe Kessel has even more upside? Maybe Lupul for a whole year will help his numbers? I 100% agree that you need to add your OWN predictions and your OWN gut feel into your plan when sitting at a draft table. This is what distinguishes you from other managers.

My article shows what Kessel's value was LAST YEAR. I use prior year numbers because they are indisputable (they actually happened). If you think that Kessel's numbers will vary greatly from last year, then I would say: enter your league into FHG and use YOUR OWN projections for Kessel for next year and see where that ranks him! That's the beauty of FHG, it allows you to continue using your own projections - but it saves you the time and effort of doing the math work to compare from player to player as Ma has done below. I would never advocate for a statistical tool to replace your gut feel and own personal input. What I would suggest, is to use a tool like FHG as a supplement to your knowledge and skill as a GM. Use FHG to analyze your own projections and tell you what impact YOUR projections have on a player's value. Maybe based on your own projections, FHG would say that Kessel is worthy of the 18th overall pick! (but I doubt it :p)

I personally think Kessel won't repeat a point per game pace next year, but I certainly could be wrong. The differing opinions and predictions are the great part of fantasy hockey! FHG is not here to tell you what a player's output will be next year. What FHG does is tell you what a player's VALUE is based on the output that YOU define (you can use last year's numbers, you can use your own projections OR, FHG even has Dobber's projections available to subscribers!)

I just wanted to point out quickly that I don't mean to say Kessel has NO value. I simply mean to say that if you draft him 18th overall (his current ADP), your team could be in a world of hurt in leagues of the format I outlined. The major point of my article is that Kessel at 18 overall is terrible value. If I could get Kessel later on in the draft, I would absolutely have a spot for him on my team....but I certainly will not add him in the 2nd round. I would much sooner add a top end D or G in the 2nd round. To Ma's point - Kessel's output is fairly replaceable. I could get a Pavelski much later in the draft and he would provide similar value to what Kessel provides me. Or even better - Patrick Sharp for example, I would personally RATHER have than Kessel and he is being drafted a round later. I am not saying that Kessel is terrible - I am saying that you can get equal or better value than Kessel LATER in your draft....and for that reason, Kessel's value (at 18 overall) is what is terrible. The player himself is fine, I have no issue with Kessel. I take issue with him being drafted 18th.

Again, I have to agree with Ma. +/- is such a random stat and I would vote to have it eliminated from any pool I am in, but the reality is most pools count it. I sometimes run my FHG numbers and exclude +/- as a category, just to see player's values with it out since it is such an unreliable stat. You could do this for Kessel as well and his value would go up a bit. Although, he does still play for the Leafs so I don't see him being a + player anytime soon!

That's all I have for now guys! I love seeing the fantasy hockey talk carrying on, even though we still aren't playing any games. Everybody has great points and thoughtful insights. Great stuff, and hopefully we see a resolution soon.

November 12, 2012
Votes: +0

Ryan Ma said:

Numbers So I did a bit of work churning out the numbers per position...

So basically I looked at the top 10-14 drafted players per position (some had overlap for players that had dual eligibility) to see what their average contributions are.

Top 14
C: 29.2 G, 46.1 A, +11.8 rating, 38.9 PIM, 21.6 PPP and 236.5 SOG
RW: 30.3 G, 40.8 A, +5.1 rating, 52.8 PIM, 21.1 PPP and 253 SOG
LW: 30.9 G, 34.3 A, +3.5 rating, 54.1 PIM, 20.2 PPP and 256.8 SOG

Top 12
C: 29.9 G, 47.6 A, +11.3 rating, 39.1 PIM, 23.1 PPP and 238.3 SOG
RW: 32.7 G, 42.2 A, +7.3 rating, 50.9 PIM, 22 PPP and 259.1 SOG
LW: 30.9G, 34.3 A, +3.1 rating, 59.7 PIM, 19.3 PPP and 258.3 SOG

Top 10
C: 31.1 G, 47.7 A, +11.6 rating, 40.9 PIM, 23.9 PPP and 237.6 SOG
RW: 34.3 G, 42.7 A, +7.6 rating, 49.4 PIM, 23.1 PPP and269 SOG
LW: 31.8 G, 35.6 A, +1.6 rating, 61.2 PIM, 20.9 PPP and262.5 SOG

So I mean if you look at a stat-line for Kessel,

37 G, 45 A, -10, 20 PIM, 23 PPP and 295 SOG compared to a top-10 RW,
34.3 G, 42.7 A, +7.6 rating, 49.4 PIM, 23.1 PPP and 269 SOG

Really he's not providing you much of an advantage over the rest of the other top-10 RW. He's giving you essentially a 2 G and 26 SOG advantage over the alternatives, but at a cost of around 17 +/- points and about 29 PIM...

37 G, 45 A, -10, 20 PIM, 23 PPP and 295 SOG
30.3 G, 40.8 A, +5.1 rating, 52.8 PIM, 21.1 PPP and 253 SOG

Or if you're in a 14-teamer, he's giving you a 7 G, 4 A, 2 PPP and 42 SOG edge over a comparable top-14 RWer, but once again at a cost of about 15 +/- points, and about 33 PIM...

Now let's compare Sedin (Yahoo! ADP of 2 slots lower than Kessel)

14 G, 67 A, +23, 52 PIM, 27 PPP and 113 SOG
29.2 G, 46.1 A, +11.8 rating, 38.9 PIM, 21.6 PPP and 236.5 SOG

So Sedin would gain, 21 A, +11 +/- points, 13 PIM, 5 PPP compared to the average top-14 C, but it'd cost you 15 G, and 124 SOG...

So I guess the debate would be whether 15 G and 124 SOG would be easier to make up than +15 and 33 PIM... Also which is more of an advantage in your pools, 1) 7 G, 4 A, 2 PPP and 42 SOG or 2) 21 A, +11, 13 PIM and 5 PPP?

There's a lot of people who would argue well you could always just pick up a goon to fill the PIM, the problem with that is that it's not optimal use of your roster spots, when all you're doing is burning up 1 roster spot just to make up 1 category but at the cost of every other category, that's counterproductive.

Don't get me wrong I'm not saying that Kessel is a bad fantasy option, what I'm arguing is that there are "better" alternatives out there, who could make a bigger impact to your fantasy team than Kessel. At 18 he's over-rated, but he's not that bad to be 76th according to FHG either...
November 12, 2012
Votes: +0

Ryan Ma said:

Kessel I agree with Terry,

The problem is what is the relative value that's around Kessel at the draft table. 18th is a bit high, but 76th is a bit low as well. There are plenty of upsides with Kessel, but the main issue is that you don't get a "total package" with him, which makes his 18th overall ranking over-inflated. Yes you might get the G, A, PPP and SOG, but he doesn't contribute in the +/- and PIM categories... in fact he negatively impacts the +/- category which is probably the hardest category in fantasy hockey to actually control/manipulate.

With the areas that he is strong in, there isn't much variation between Kessel and the average player... I don't have the numbers in front of me at the moment, but I would think that if you compared Kessel to the average owned #1 fantasy RW on a team in the league (say top 10-14), there wouldn't be much of an edge in drafting Kessel over another RW.

If you look at the players around him... Parise, Nash, H. Sedin, Spezza, Sharp, Seguin, Staal, Kopitar, Hall and Lucic...

A lot of those alternatives if you compared them to their relative counterparts provide much more of an edge compared the rest of the competition.

For example, Sedin is in a similar situation, with a lack of G and SOG (4 strengths, 2 weaknesses), but the other 4 areas, his strengths are much stronger compared to the alternative #1 Cs (way ahead on A, PPP, +/- and about even for PIM) ... So that to me presents more value even though Sedin is in an easier to fill position.

One of the negatives with FHG is that it majorly penalizes a player if they aren't great at 1 stat. So they could be good at 5 of the 6 stats, but if there's an area where they are extremely weak at it negatively impacts the "whole picture". Which is why Kessel's overall FHG rating is so low... I'd use FHG as a reference to help guide decisions, but I wouldn't base all my decisions solely on the numbers generated by FHG.
November 11, 2012
Votes: +0

Kwazzie said:

... not sure how FHG works but im not sure how they ranked kessel so low even with those stats?
i own kessel in quite a few leagues, and will admit im a leaf fan so i do check on his rating in leagues im in if not an owner. anyways most leagues im in with either identical or close to identical stats as what you used, he ranked top 20-25 players and in most cases more like 17th. You also dont take into account that he had little help the last 20 games of the season after lupul, macarthur, and others all went down with injuries. I think the top line at one point was kessel, bozak, and frattin or something. Kessel still put up points even then, but albeit at a lesser clip. HE'S still bloody 23 years old and overcame cancer, cut the guy some slack. he was scoring 30 goals by himself... this is the break out many had forseen, but they figured he would need a #1 center. He still doesnt have that center but just imagine if JVR becomes that or they do address that need down the road. I dont think this will be his career high, i think 80 mark will be a consistent number kessel can hit. i just dont think you looked at anything other then numbers and while they dont lie most of the time, they dont always tell the whole story. also if your drafting for pims and hits in the 2nd round you deserve to lose your pool. sure kessel is no perry for multi cats, but i would rather have kessel over perry in pts only. If your drafting for scoring and being that RW position has the least depth of the forward positions, then kessel is actually a gem imo to take in the first 3 rounds. based on age and production with upside potentially for more, also even in a cap league as he isnt too grossly overpaid, i would consider him a top 5 player at the RW position hands down.

To each his own tho on opinions i just get the feeling you are a little biased since you didnt really say much positive at all about kessel even after a great year like he had. Yes it was a great year, you dont draft him for pims or hits, is he a giroux? no, nor a malkin or OV, but right after that level of offense is kessel. You draft the player for their strengths and address your shortcomings with that player with goons and hitters.
November 11, 2012
Votes: +0

Sovereign said:

... please excsue the typos. particularly, the 2nd overall pick associated with Kessel's cost, rather than my mis-typed and unedited 2nd rd pick.
November 11, 2012
Votes: +0

Sovereign said:

Little to harsh... I won't say that an ADP of 18 seems a little high for Kessel. But your overall evaluation is a little to harsh.

Lots of things come into play when making draft selections. Production, position scarcity, team need, positional-runs, and good ol' gut instinct. The biggest fact that plays for ANY of us is LUCK! Luck that they person in front of you doesn't select you player, luck that that player meets projections, luck that they do not get injured, and in the case of this year, luck about whether there is a season at all.

We use evaluations and metrics to help guide us in our selections, but sometimes good ol' gut instinct is what serves us best. That is what led Burke to acquire Kessel in the first place, when he was a 22yr 36 goal-scorer, at seemingly great cost. Some used there gut and saw a 22yr scoring 36 goals on a very good team, and a shooting percentage of 15.5% And as much as that player showed promise, the percentage was to high, and unrepeatable. Those who use metrics, rather than a comprehensive valuation will miss tangeable signs value beyond a stat sheet. Evaluating situations plays big roles in our extimations for player projections.

After Kessel was brought to the leafs, the nay-sayers immediately smelled blood. Mostly around the cost, which was an indeterminable 2nd rd pick. But what gets lost, especially after a few years, was that Kessel came from a strong team, to a much weaker one, went from playing secondary minutes against lesser competition to primary minutes against tougher competition. Also, from a team boasting plenty of scoring threats, to a team where he was all but the one-trick pony.

The immediate production and S% drop led a lot of people to jump to the comclusions that the leafs got ripped by Boston. But one thing that they did not pay attention to amidst the flying media excriment is that Kessel still managed to get 30 goals. And his dip in S% had a lot to do with the fact that his SOG grew by over 25% compared to his previous season. The following season would see his SOG increas another 8%, but his S% dip, while scoring more goals (32). Showing, as documented in the media, maturity and growth as well as comfort in his current environment. Last year we saw another step in his development, corresponding with a much better S%. However, as much as the nearly 4% increase in S% seems too drastic, his 2011-2012 S% of 12.5% is not so drastics as it is a slight tick above his career percentage of 10.8%. And a less than 2% increase in a players S% as he reaches 25 and enters his prime is not a big stretch.

Similarly, he has become better defensively, and his +/- has improved, although still not positive. But +/- is much more of a team stat, than an idividual stat, and is traditionally the most fickle stat in fantasy hockey.

Kessel is still a mutli-cat producer, and is far from being a team killer, provided that you are not drafting him with unreasonable expectations for the player he is and is becoming. Expecting PIMs or hits from him is foolish. And he should not be drafted as such. It would be like drafting Bertuzzi, expecting instead of some decent multi-cat scoring supporting PIM and +/-, and expecting him to re-surface to a 70+ player again.

In a one year roto league, Kessel should not likely be drafted so high. But in H2H leagues where his production week to week can be counted on, he holds more value, and team gaffs are less punishing. At his age and production level, he still also holds high value as keeper. History cannot be counted on as a performance indicator for the future, and continues to get a bum rap.

While I don't think that in this instance I agree whole-heartedly with you, you have provided yet another strong article for the best Fantasy Hockey site I've found. It has improved every year, and the coverage and quality of articles such as this, during a lock-out are phenominal.

(Thanks for giving me something to do on a bored Sunday morning).

November 11, 2012
Votes: +0
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