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 Trevor Moore and Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
Both are off to strong starts. Hopefully, a deeper look at some of the numbers will help us determine if it is real or just fantasy.
Let’s get started.
Slappers and Bangers: Fantasy Hockey Focus
Trevor Moore: LW/RW, Los Angeles Kings
It was the following season 2021-22 that started to get fans excited and had Moore popping up on fantasy hockey rosters. His 49 points in 81 games was something to take note of. Especially when we consider Moore was left sitting on his breakout threshold of 204 career NHL games played.
Moore was my big sleeper for 2022-23. Things didn’t go as planned. An early injury derailed what I hoped would be his coming-out party. As it turns out, the injury only delayed his breakout.
The eye-popping stat from 2021-22 is his 202 shots on goal. He averaged under 11 minutes of ice time in the first quarter of 2021-22. This ballooned to 17 minutes per game in the second half of the year. Needless to say, Moore’s stats are mostly weighted in the second half of the year.
Fast forward to 2023-24. Moore had been stapled to Phillip Danault for two seasons. These two have played over 75% of five-on-five minutes together.
What changes is the third player on their line. This year it has been mostly Arthur Kaliyev and Kevin Fiala. What doesn’t change is the 56% or higher Corsi For his line generates, almost regardless of who the third player on the line is.
Moore’s shooting percentage is almost double his career average. We know this is inflated. Moore didn’t suddenly become a 19.6% shooter overnight. Expect his goal-scoring to slide at some point. Any time a player’s five-on-five shooting percentage surpasses 10%, we need to give pause. For Moore, this is probably a tad high.
Beyond his shooting percentage, the only other statistic that appears high, compared to previous seasons is his points per 60 minutes, 3.4. This isn’t a stat that necessarily means Moore’s production is inflated. When a player breaks out, this number goes up. If anything, it is an indication of what to expect.
I don’t expect Moore to remain at .95 points per game. This puts him on pace for 78 points. Don’t get me wrong, I think Moore’s breakout is for real, but until I see a point per game season, I hedge my bets.
With the inflated shooting percentage, his pace should slide five to 10 points.
The plus with Moore is his shot volume. He’s averaging 2.8 shots per game, or 230 prorated over 82 games. It puts him on pace for a potential 30-goal season.
The Kings are currently the highest-scoring team in the NHL. They roll three strong lines that can score, creating match-up hell for opponents. Moore is also benefiting from this balanced attack.
How much Moore is hit by regression will determine if he ends up closer to 65 points or 75. Either way, Moore is in the midst of a real breakout season.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Carolina Hurricanes
Kotkaniemi was one of the fasted draft risers in 2018. He shot into the top 10 on draft boards and then Montreal added another huge surprise by taking him third overall. Considering Brady Tkachuk went fourth and Quinn Hughes went seventh, this was indeed a shocker.
For the next three years, he struggled to catch up to the speed of the NHL game. Not just physical speed, but to process the game quickly enough. In his second year, this resulted in a 13-game stint in the AHL.
How Kotkaniemi ended up in Carolina is a story of retribution and an offer sheet. Remember, the year before Montreal signed Sebastian Aho to their own offer sheet.
Yet, it wasn’t until 2022-23, Kotkaniemi’s fifth NHL season he started to find traction. He ended the season with 27 points in his final 38 games, including 18 in the last 22. This was the first real sign of offensive consistency in his career.
He has started 2023-24 similar to how he ended 2022-23. With 15 points in 22 games, he isn’t exactly sizzling with offense, but he has been consistent.
The growth of Kotkaniemi has been slow. Over his five-year career, there were periods when people wondered whether he would ever become more than a bottom-six forward.
Coming to Carolina took the spotlight off of him. The Hurricanes were a deep team with established stars. They weren’t a rebuilding team looking at their third overall pick to lead them back to the playoffs. Kotkaniemi got to go and play.
So, what does a fantasy analysis tell us about Kotkaniemi going forward?
Expect further incremental steps forward. Last year he set a career high with 18 goals and 43 points. He is currently on pace for 29 goals and 56 points.
His shooting percentage is higher than his career average at 16%. Although he shot 14% and 14.8% over the last two years, there is bound to be flux from year to year and this isn’t a percentage I would worry about in terms of regression.
He is also on pace for a career-high in shots. Shooting 2.3 pucks per game is a significant increase from the 1.7 shots per game he had in his rookie year. It puts him on pace for 188.
The added 50 seconds in ice time per game is primarily at even strength. Essentially, one extra shift per game. It is not a significant increase by any stretch.
When you look at his five-on-five shooting percentage (8.6%), individual point percentage (65.2%), and points per 60 minutes (2.6), they are all in the normal range. There is no inflated statistic that will cause one to raise an eyebrow and think he is going to come crashing down.
If he does come crashing down, it’ll be due to bad luck, and not due to regression.
Kotkaniemi appears to be the abnormal case of perfectly normal and on a very predictable trajectory for the year.
This is probably the last opportunity to acquire Kotkaniemi below his actual value. Rostered in 61% of Fantrax pools, he’s no longer sitting on the waiver wire in dynasty and keeper leagues. Standard, shallow one-year pools will make up the vast majority of the 39% of pools he remains unowned in. Yet, some still view him as a replaceable asset.
Most likely Kotkaniemi tops out as a mid-60-point player with a 70-point season sprinkled in. Moving forward, he is a safe own, with a safe floor. He just won’t wow you with the scorching hot stretches we see from more elite players.
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading.
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