ChrisKunitz

 

 

An indepth look at Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz's fantastic season

It’s always nice when one of your preseason dark horse picks breaks through with an elite season to propel your team to the top while making you look like smart along the way. Today I am going to take a look back at one guy who did just that for me and is currently lighting the league on fire: Chris Kunitz.

 

A week into the season, I wrote about how I thought Kunitz was an absolute steal for me when I drafted him in the 12th round of the Dobber Pro League and wow has he ever proven me right! When I wrote the article, Kunitz was a bit of a scrub grinder who had some finish and happened to play on a great team. He always provided great peripheral numbers, so I identified him as a great sneaky late round pick for somebody who won’t be winning any scoring titles, but who could provide your fantasy team some great value.

Since I wrote the last article and up to Thursday morning (March 14th), Kunitz has scored amassed 35 points in 24 games. How in the world did I see this coming? Obviously the answer is that I am just a complete genius who knew that Kunitz would take his career PPG of 0.69 and almost double it this year.  I wish I could say that that is the case, but unfortunately it isn’t. My original point with Kunitz was that he was good value at his 2011-12 production and I would have been completely thrilled if he had simply repeated last season. Recall how I ran the numbers through Fantasy Hockey Geek and showed his value in this league in 2011-12:

Dobber Pro League (Yahoo! 12-team Roto league: G,A, +/-, PPP, SOG, Hits, GAA, Sv, W)

 

 

FHG Rank

Player

GP

G

A

+/-

SOG

PPP

Hits

27

Tyler Seguin

81

29

38

34

242

15

26

28

Chris Kunitz

82

26

35

16

230

18

180

 

Last season in the Dobber Pro League, Kunitz was the 28th most valuable guy! Me getting him with the 145th pick was a complete steal already so the extra points he is putting up now are just gravy. I can’t claim for a second that I saw something of this magnitude this coming, but I’ll gladly take the extra production on my team. Take a look at Kunitz’ value in the Dobber Pro League so far this season (as of the morning of Thursday the 14th)

 

 

FHG Rank

Player

G

A

+/-

SOG

PPP

HITS

1

Sidney Crosby

12

33

18

94

15

16

2

Chris Kunitz

18

19

22

60

12

63

3

Steven Stamkos

20

18

-2

91

13

38

 

The new scoring-machine version of Kunitz is the 2nd most valuable player in the entire league! The previously 2nd tier workman winger who I drafted in the 12th round has transformed himself into a legitimate fantasy stud. So how in the world has he done it?

 

Opportunity:


Some experts in the preseason actually thought Kunitz’ production would drop this season because of goal scarcity and the fact that Crosby, Malkin, Neal and Letang would all be eating up the points. I referenced in my first Kunitz article how three games into the season he was still playing on PP1 which is something that I always pay attention to. Dobber made a great point in his Advanced Stats article about how opportunity is so critical to a player’s success, and if you identified early that Kunitz was still getting the opportunities it probably paid off. 

 

The Crosby effect


Obviously having Sidney Crosby as your centre is going to help you produce and clearly this is the case for Kunitz. He has averaged .69 points per game over the course of his career. In the last 82 games he has played with Sid, his average has been 0.94.

Looking at last year’s numbers alone you might have expected a good jump from Kunitz: He had 19 points in the 22 games that Sid played in, but managed only 40 points in the 60 games Sid was out.

 

Shooting %


I tend to look at shooting % a lot when analyzing players and doing so with Kunitz would suggest that his current scoring pace is probably not sustainable. Even at his career shooting % though, he would have 27 points this season and still be a top value player. This is one instance where I wouldn’t let an unsustainable shooting % scare you off. His goal scoring rate likely will drop slightly, but he will continue to provide great fantasy value even if he scores a couple less goals over the back half of the season.

Now that we understand a little bit about how Kunitz has transformed himself into a fantasy hockey dynamo, let’s look at some of the things that we can learn from the curious case of Chris Kunitz that will help us stay ahead of the curve on the next player to “pull a Kunitz”:

 

  • FHG (and the math behind it) demonstrates how multi-cat guys like last year’s Kunitz are often worth far more than the value that the general public places on them. Being able to draft players like Kunitz as low as the 12th round will aid you in winning many leagues if you can do it, even if they aren’t able to have a super human season breakthrough like Kunitz did.
  • Peripheral categories are often more reliable than some scoring categories. A player who hits, for example, will always hit – there aren’t really any hitting slumps. If Kunitz happens to go on a two game pointless streak, I know I can still bank on about 4shots, 6hits, 2PIMs and maybe even a +1 or 2. When somebody like Brad Richards, who doesn’t fill up any peripheral categories, slumps, he gives my team nothing.
  • If you take a player like Kunitz and he has an off season, then it doesn’t really kill your team because you took him so late and he would still contribute in a lot of other categories. Even if his scoring would have slipped to a 50pt pace this season, he would have provided great value to me as a 12th round pick in this league.
  • The upside is the real gravy with these guys. You take a well-rounded player like Kunitz, have him break out for a career year and you have yourself a legitimate stud. Scott Hartnell did the exact same thing a year ago. David Clarkson has also shown spurts of tremendous value this season for the same reason. When you take a guy like Teddy Purcell and add 10-15 points of production that’s all well and good but you still only have a decent contributor because of his deficiencies in other areas, whereas if you take a Kunitz, Hartnell or Clarkson and add some offence then you are going to have some serious value.
  • Contrast Kunitz with somebody like Ilya Kovalchuk, who I used as a comparison in the original article. I love Kovalchuk and I watch him every chance I get but what I love more than Kovy is winning my fantasy hockey leagues. Kovalchuk at his elite scoring pace is also quite valuable (28th in the Dobber Pro League last season) but there are two issues with Kovalchuk type players: 


1) If a scorer hasn’t ever contributed to hits/PIMs/Blocks etc then they are very unlikely to start. What I mean to say is you don’t ever find scorers who just have “good hitting years”, whereas there sometimes are hitters who have “good scoring years”. Players like Kunitz can have career years, increase their shooting %, get onto a PP with Sid and Gino and suddenly become the highest performing player on your team. 


2) A down season for somebody like Kovalchuk is catastrophic for your team. When Kovalchuk isn’t scoring, he isn’t doing anything for your team at all. If you drafted Kovy this season then you likely need him to produce at his top end potential just to get fair value for your pick. As of the time that I write this article, Kovalchuk is the 41st most valuable player in Dobber Pro league. In 2010-11 when Kovalchuk scored 60 points, I can pretty much guarantee you lost your pool if you owned him. At least if you pick somebody like Ovechkin or Weber with a high pick and they have a down year on the scoresheet, they provide value in other categories.


  • One other key learning from Chris Kunitz is to pay attention to early season line combinations and powerplay time. I mentioned this already above but it really is one of the more important things to track throughout the season. I used Frozen Pool to help with Kunitz, and also to identify when Jiri Tlusty got on the Staal line and Canes PP1. I snagged Tlusty the day before his first 2 goal game and have been cashing in ever since. Will it keep up? I don’t know, but I will reap the benefits while I can.
  • The final thing that Kunitz taught me this season is that I am going to be hard pressed to ever get him on my team again. I love that a player I profiled stepped up to such a great season and I hope some readers were able to cash in on that, but for me one of the best thing about Kunitz was that his point total was always just low enough to allow me to snag him in the late rounds and benefit from the tremendous value that only some GMs recognize he has. Those days are over for me as he is sure to be a top-2 round pick in virtually every league next season.

 

Chris Kunitz is one of the more interesting stories of the shortened 2013 season and there is a lot to that can be learned from somebody like Kunitz. Through FHG or otherwise, if you can identify guys who provide great value at late draft positions then you are already at an advantage to the rest of the league. If that player also happens to have a bit of offensive upside and some great opportunity given to him, then you could be in for the homerun of your draft! Make sure not to miss out on the next Kunitz and sign up for Fantasy Hockey Geek today! 

 

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Comments (3)add comment

TBone076 said:

TBone076
... Pengwin7 - thanks for the great feedback! And yes, I am sure Semin is paying off nicely for you as well.

TRazzy - I don't personally work the technical side of the site but if you go to this link, somebody should be able to help you with your problem http://help.fantasyhockeygeek.com/
March 19, 2013
Votes: +0

TRazzy66 said:

TRazzy66
Free Trial I have tried to sign up for the free trial with 2 email addresses but I havent received anything. Any help? Thanks.
March 18, 2013
Votes: +0

Pengwin7 said:

Pengwin7
As good as it gets Well written.
I took Kunitz in the first round of a keeper redraft (12-teams, keep 12... 144+ kept) and am so happy he was available. Wish I would have gotten him in my DobberEntrySmythe league draft (but not disappointed with taking Semin either.

Kunitz value is indeed as high as top 3 players in the NHL this year. I think he's #2 or #3 in Yahoo ranks, which excludes HITS, so there's no doubt that he's #2 with the HITS factored in.

Very well, written.
And great insight here about the potential that could have been seen in investing in Kunitz (and other like-type players).

A+, huge thumbs up!!!
March 18, 2013
Votes: +0
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