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Finding Value at the Center Position

September 10, 2019   Left Wing Lock Staff   0 Comments


In part three of a five-part series on finding value in your fantasy hockey draft, today's article will focus on centers. Part I in this series discussed left wings while Part II discussed right wings. Specifically, we're interested in using the Yahoo average draft position (ADP) to not only determine the best players to target in your fantasy hockey draft, but also when to target them. The assumptions made in this article include the following: (1) you're in a Yahoo standard league, (2) your league has 12 managers, and (3) your league is not a keeper league.

Manager Behavior

Before we jump into the details of which centers are undervalued, it's important to get a handle on how managers are behaving in their fantasy hockey drafts so far. In the image below, you'll see exactly how many centers are drafted in each round of a standard draft (on average). Unlike the draft patterns for left wings and right wings, centers are coming off the board quickly in this year's drafts. There are almost as many centers (9) being selected in the first two rounds than left wings (5) and right wings (5) combined.

Finding Value at the Center Position
Finding Value at the Center Position

Player Rankings and ADP

At leftwinglock.com, we create annual fantasy hockey draft kits which marry your scoring settings with our projections to generate customized player rankings. This exact type of draft kit was used by our team to defeat the fantasy experts at NHL.com and includes sortable spreadsheets filled with projections in 25+ categories for over 600 NHL players. For the purpose of this article, we generated the customized player rankings for NHL players that can be drafted as left wings in the Yahoo fantasy hockey system. We then compared these player rankings to the player's ADP (average draft position) to determine which players are undervalued (it's never wise to draft on rank number alone). That is, we're looking for players who our draft system ranked highly and whom managers are overlooking.

Below, you'll find a table of 15 players who are eligible at center and are being undervalued by managers in fantasy drafts (there are many more listed in our draft kit). If a player has appeared in a previous positional value article, we opted not to list them again here. Detailed comments for some of these players can be found below the table.

Finding Value at the Center Position

Steven Stamkos TBL C 4 15.4
Evgeni Malkin PIT C 9 33.1
Jack Eichel BUF C 12 38.8
Elias Pettersson VAN C 22 44.7
Sean Monahan CGY C 25 80.3
Nicklas Backstrom WSH C 38 89.0
Vincent Trocheck FLA C 55 161.6
Jonathan Toews CHI C 56 136.5
Mathew Barzal NYI C 58 134.8
Ryan O'Reilly STL C 59 107.7
Dylan Larkin DET C 68 131.1
Bo Horvat VAN C 74 163.0
Ryan Getzlaf ANA C 83 170.7
Pierre-Luc Dubois CBJ C 102 163.9
Ryan Johansen NSH C 103 171.3

Evgeni Malkin - With lots of talk of Evgeni Malkin having a down year last season, you may be tempted to jump early on the Penguin superstar. Resist this temptation. He can be drafted (with value) if your timing is right, but you should be aware of a few factors that could limit a big rebound year (beyond the fact that he's 33 years old and plays a physical style). First, Malkin's IPP was 91% in 2018-2019. For each Pittsburgh goal scored with Malkin on the ice, he was awarded a point 91% of the time. Malkin's career IPP is noticeably higher than typical forwards - but 91% is not normal and it is not repeatable. A more reasonable IPP expectation for Malkin is about 80% (this suggests that Malkin could see a drop of about 11% in even-strength points). According to Rob Rossi, Malkin butted heads with Coach Mike Sullivan over lack of playing time when the opponent's net was empty. If you've used our draft kit in the past, you can understand the basis for this gripe: Sidney Crosby has seen his stats slightly inflated in recent years due to his frequent usage in extra attacker situations.

Sean Monahan - Monahan is currently hanging around drafts until about the middle of the 7th round. This means that approximately 20-25 centers are coming off the board ahead of him this year (see chart above) with his ADP sitting at 80.3. Given that only 15 or so centers will typically produce points at Monahan's level, we think there is value to be had with drafting Monahan this year. Player rankings take you part of the way toward a draft-day strategy, but we strongly recommend using them in concert with ADP. Why draft Monahan early when you can wait until the middle of your draft? Be sure to check out our YDIFF system in the draft kit for advice on how to use player ranks with ADP to perfect your draft-day timing.

Vincent Trocheck - On opening night of the 2018-2019 hockey season, Vincent Trocheck was owned in 100% of Yahoo leagues (99% of ESPN leagues) and had an ADP of 84.0 (44.9 in ESPN leagues). If you drafted Trocheck near the 7th round last year, things fell apart early with an ankle injury in November that caused him to miss 27 games. Trocheck enters this season with depressed raw totals across the board due to two factors: (1) he missed one-third of the season and (2) he was rather unlucky in a few important metrics. We'll focus on the latter since games played are not a predictable quantity. Florida's team shooting percentage - EVSH% - (with Trocheck on the ice) was a dismal 6.6%. Trocheck's individual point percentage (IPP) was just 50% - this means that Trocheck was awarded a point just 50% of the time that Florida scored a goal (with Trocheck on the ice). That's remarkably low given that Trocheck's career IPP is 69%. Putting these two metrics together is telling: Trocheck earned points at a lower-than-usual rate on Florida's lower-than-usual goal scoring rate. That's a one-two combination of bad luck, but it's exactly the type of thing you need to be looking for when trying to find value in your draft. Will Florida score at 6.6% in 2019-2020? Will Trocheck's IPP sit at just 50%? Will both of these things happens simultaneously? The answers to these three questions are: unlikely, unlikely, and really damned unlikely. Where are we finding this useful data for fantasy hockey research? Try out our new Skater Comparison Tool!

Dylan Larkin - Of the four players we've focused on in this article, Dylan Larkin leads them all in shots per 60 minutes and ranks second in hits per 60 minutes. Combine that with the fact that he leads this group in even-strength ice time totals and you have a center that produces strongly in two separate categories. Not unlike Trocheck, Larkin's numbers suffered last year due to a low team EVSH%. There are also concerns that the lack of depth in the Detroit lineup leads to Larkin facing the toughest competition on a nightly basis. Given his top line minutes and top power play unit usage, Larkin is worth the gamble of the 11th round pick it would cost you to draft him.

Customized Player Rankings

If you're looking for a chance to draft players with great projections that are being ignored by the other fantasy hockey websites, then consider downloading one of our fantasy hockey draft kits this season. You won't be disappointed. While this article focused on the Yahoo standard scoring system, our customized draft kits can handle just about any scoring system you throw our way. You'll find plenty of draft day steals.

For over 13 years, you've trusted Left Wing Lock as a reliable source to bring you accurate starting goalie information, line combinations, and player news alerts. That same passion and dedication fuels us as we create the best fantasy hockey draft kits available. We invite you to let us build your customized fantasy hockey draft kit for the 2019-2020 season. Order your kit today!

An NHL player involved in this analysis. Click player name to visit player profile page.
The current NHL team for this player.
The official position designation for this player in the Yahoo Fantasy Hockey system.
The rank assigned by Left Wing Lock for this player in this specific scoring system only.
The average draft position for this player in the Yahoo Fantasy Hockey system.

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