Fantasy Hockey: Investigating Some Oddities From the First Half

Duncan Keith has taken 102 shots this year, but he hasn't found the back of the net. Which other wonky first-half numbers should you know, and will they go a different way in the second half?

It is hard to believe that we are at the halfway point of the season.

Every year, crazy numbers just come out of nowhere, and this year is no exception. These statistics can be eye popping and mind blowing. They range from advanced metrics to the most basic numbers.

The idea for this piece is to dig a little deeper into why things are going the way they are. While some of these oddities may not be fully explained, there at least will be some context to the numbers.

First, let’s begin with the list of players with no goals. Does that have a daily fantasy impact? For sure, it does. These are players who have appeared in a minimum of 10 games and haven't put one into the net.

Doughnut Club

Overall, there are over 600 players in the NHL who have at least one goal, but Duncan Keith and Ryan McDonagh aren't part of that group. While they are productive in other ways, the doughnut in the goal column is certainly having some impact on their fantasy value.

Keith has played in 43 games, racking up 22 assists while taking 102 shots on goal. He was averaging 7.5 goals per season before this year. He is taking 2.5 shots per game, which is slightly elevated from his career numbers. If one takes out the goals from the equation, this deducts 90 fantasy points or about 1.1 daily fantasy points per game. That is assuming an average season and FanDuel scoring.

His minute burden at his age is the real story here. Keith is approaching 35. Should the defenseman be playing 25 minutes a night? Probably not. The Chicago Blackhawks' first-unit power play has suffered to the point where they are 26th (16%) in the league. Would a reduction in minutes and responsibility help? Well, it can't hurt much. The only way Chicago will find out what it has in others is by thrusting them into bigger roles. They did decrease the role of Brent Seabrook, and that worked well possession-wise (tops in the league).

McDonagh has 18 assists in 38 games, totaling 58 shots on goal, but he has regressed worse as the season has progressed. As a matter of fact, in his last nine games, he has zero points of any kind. The defenseman has just eight shots in the previous seven contests.

Constantly playing 25-plus minutes a night in a system where defensive voids seem to be cavernous does not help. Despite that, McDonagh has slightly above-average team metrics, but his giveaways are elevated. His zone starts are down near his career lows (offensive zone just 42.6%).

In recent weeks, McDonagh has pressed for a goal to the detriment of the rest of his game, which impacts his daily fantasy floor as he's had less than seven FanDuel points per night in that span. Most New York Rangers defensemen are barely touched these days in daily fantasy, and McDonagh isn't an exception.

Trying to Explain William Karlsson

There have been a few cases of players who have ridiculously exceed shot percentage expectations this year. One is Josh Anderson from the Columbus Blue Jackets as Anderson nearly tripled his.

But William Karlsson (now with the Vegas Golden Knights) is in another stratosphere.

Karlsson is playing with Jon Marchessault and Reilly Smith, and the wave of confidence is blinding. He leads the entire league with a shooting percentage of 25.9% (minimum of 50 shots). He has an astounding 22 goals on just 85 shots. His even strength PDO is just less than 103, which is under the aforementioned McDonough's mark.

This sounds absurd, and yes, you are reading this correctly.

Marchessault and Smith have speed to burn, and Karlsson can keep up with them. The Vegas top line has relative possession percentages of six to seven percent above the team average. They benefit from having a defense that prioritizes rushing the puck up the ice and supporting the forwards often. Karlsson always had an above-average release and shot. He's never really had the linemates to compliment him. He does now. Yes, the results have been a runaway success and regression is expected. However, this is not a total fluke.

Karlsson probably won't wind up with 44 goals and 72 points when all is said and done this year. On the other hand, around 35 goals and 65 points are a reasonable possibility. Given his two previous full years, is this the perform storm of a third-year breakout? That likely explains most of it.

The bottom line is that Karlsson is riding a wave so big that even when it crashes, it won’t be earth shattering. His shot rate may creep up even more over the second half. Playing five minutes per night more than his career average has not affected him yet, and at 25 years old, it may not impact him much the rest of this season.

The Vegas top line has been one of the top surprises of daily fantasy this season, and they should keep rolling in the second half.