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Slappers and Bangers: Fantasy Hockey Analysis of Tyler Seguin and Frank Vatrano

Hey folks, welcome back to Slappers and Bangers, where we look at fantasy hockey through a multi-cat lens; specifically for limited keeper and dynasty leagues. This week we will do a fantasy analysis of two intriguing players, Tyler Seguin and Frank Vatrano. Are we seeing true fantasy hockey breakouts or is regression right around the corner?

For very different reasons the start of the season offers a lot of intrigue for each of them.

Let’s get to it.

Fantasy Analysis of Tyler Seguin, C/RW, Dallas Stars

From 2013-14 to 2018-19, the former first-overall draft pick was the model of consistency. He produced 70 or more points every season. 2019-20 was the Covid playoff bubble and Seguin and the Dallas Stars lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It was in these finals that Seguin suffered a major injury. In November 2020 he underwent arthroscopic hip surgery and labral repair where doctors effectively rebuilt his quad muscle. He played three games in 2020-21 (The Score – source).

You don’t just ‘recover’ from losing almost all of the muscle tissue in your quad. This is a long-haul recovery. Seguin had underwhelming 49- and 50-point seasons in 2021-22 and 2022-23.

There are a couple of red flags with Seguin’s start to this season; first, his 12.7% five-on-five shooting percentage (SH%) is high. To put it in perspective, his career-best five-on-five SH% is 10.58, way back in 2011-12. In the last two years, 6.5 and 7.9%. Expect this to drop.

Seguin is on pace for 64 points. His highest projected total since he had 80 in 2018-19. His five-on-five CF% is the highest of his career. He has found a home on the third line with Matt Duchene and Mason Marchment (58.9% five-on-five linemates). This is one of the best third lines in hockey right now.

Along with a strong CF% are his expected goals for at five-on-five (xG%5v5). It is also an impressive 64.6%.

Of interest, while his scoring is up, his shots per game are down 2.2 per game, compared to 2.5 and 2.7 in 2022-23 and 2021-22. I would have expected to see at least matching shot rates to last year.

The biggest difference is having Matt Duchene on his line as opposed to Ty Dellandea and Radek Faksa last year. This is a significant upgrade. Teams are focusing on Jason Robertson, Joe Pavelski, and Roope Hintz. This creates favorable matchups. That right now, Tyler Seguin’s line is able to take advantage of.

So what gives? These warning signs (five-on-five SH%, low shots per game) suggest puck luck and regression will hit him. Not aggressively, but hit him nonetheless.  Then there’s the possession metrics. They show his line is consistently controlling the puck and offensive chances when he’s on the ice.

If you’re hoping for a 70-point season, you’re likely to be disappointed. His current pace of 64 points is at the high end of realistic. His line is driving the play well enough that it could offset the oncoming regression.  The regression could be off-set if his power-play production surges. Right now it is all but non-existent. So asking for something of relevance is beyond reasonable.

Fantasy Analysis of Frank Vatrano, LW, Anaheim Ducks 

When Vatrano left UMass-Amherst to turn pro in 2016-17, there were high hopes for him. In his first 39 games with the Boston Bruins, he scored eight goals and 11 points. This did nothing to deter optimism.

He followed this up by averaging a goal a game with Providence the following season. Yes, a goal a game! Vatrano had 36 goals and 19 assists in 36 AHL games. Fantasy owners were salivating.

Then he sputtered. He never found his footing in a consistent top-six role. Every year there were glimpses and streaks of higher-end potential. Yet, he could never put it together long-term.

And then in 2022-23, he signed in Anaheim and things began to change. He increased his average ice time to 16:41 and started to produce more consistently. Still, the improvements were more about consistency than production.

But this season he has started hot and has yet to slow down. He’s currently sitting on a point-per-game pace and his 13 goals is one behind the NHL leaders.

Two stats immediately jump out that point to regression. His five-on-five shooting percentage is 11.6%. The last three years he averaged 7.2%. His overall shooting percentage is 19.2%. This is significantly higher than his career average of 10.7%.

Vatrano is destined to slow, but by how much? Where does this fantasy analysis take us?

The Anaheim Ducks were not a good team last year. They’re a much better offensive team this year. Vatrano is also playing higher in the lineup, averaging 18:36 minutes per game; almost a full two minutes higher than last season, which was, at the time, a career-best.

His primary linemates this year have been Ryan Strome and Mason McTavish. McTavish himself has improved significantly from last year. With a CF% of 45.1%, this trio isn’t exactly controlling the play. They’re chasing the puck more than they have it.

In a very small sample size, just over 13 minutes, Leo Carlsson has flipped the CF% to 63.3%. I suspect he’ll see more time with Carlsson, in the games he plays. Vatrano is playing with legitimate top-six forwards. He is being placed in situations where he is consistently expected to score.

The big bright spot is Vatrano’s increase in shots per game. With 66 shots in 19 games, he’s averaging 3.5 per game; significantly higher than his 2.9 per game last year. He’s on pace for 287 shots. Even with regression on his shooting percentage, he appears all but a lock for 35 or more goals. He’s currently on pace for 56. A 40-goal season is very realistic.

His 3.23 Total Points/60 (points per 60 minutes on ice) ranks him 44th in the NHL (compared to players with over 100 minutes played). The five players directly below him are Evgeny Malkin, Tommy Novak, Philipp Kurashev, Aleksander Barkov, and Sebastian Aho. Pretty good company. It will be hard to maintain the pace of Barkov, Aho, and Malkin over a full season though.

So where should Vatrano end up? His goal-scoring is bound to slow down. With that, he will inevitably fall off his point-per-game pace. Yet, he now needs 51 points in his final 63 games to reach 70. This seems very possible. A few things need to continue to go right, but Vatrano is destined for a huge career year. With a career-high of 41 points, this statement isn’t as bold as it first appears.

Vatrano has played himself into a full-time top-six role. He’s making the most of it. A final line of 40 goals and 30 assists would not surprise me in the least.

Hopefully, you were lucky enough to snag him early. His 33 hits make him a valuable multi-cat player. This puts him on pace for 142 hits. Talk about hitting gold on the waiver wire!

That will do it for this week. Thanks for reading

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