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Slappers and Bangers: Fantasy Hockey Analysis of Evgeny Malkin and Gustav Nyqvist

This week, we will run a fantasy hockey analysis on two veteran players.

The first, Evgeny Malkin, is in the twilight of his career. For several years, we’ve expected the wheels of regression to fall off. Is this finally his downswing at age 37 (turning 38 in July)?

The second, Gustav Nyqvist, is having a career year. Nashville agrees with Nyqvist. In our fantasy hockey analysis of Nyqvist, we will hopefully answer the question of whether he can sustain this production moving forward.

Let’s take a look…

Slappers and Bangers

Fantasy Hockey Analysis of Evgeny Malkin, C, Pittsburgh Penguins

With three Stanley Cup rings, a Hart, a Conn Smythe, a Ted Lindsay, two Art Ross awards, and a Calder, Malkin is a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. He has done it all.

Experts have predicted for the past several years that Malkin will begin to regress and his production will start to drop off. Well, at ages 35 and 36, Malkin produced back-to-back point-per-game seasons. So much for those predictions.

Ahh, but Father Time comes for us all at some point.

As the season has worn on, Malkin seems to be wearing down. February and March are usually the typical points of the year when Malkin misses time due to nagging injuries or body soreness. The dog days of the season have never been kind to Malkin.

Over the first 42 games, all seemed normal. He was producing just below a point per game clip, .86 (36 points in 42 games), and was just below recent season averages in shots on goal, at 2.71.

Since then, in game 43, forward, Malkin’s production has waned. Drastically so. In his next 17 games, his production dropped to .59 points per game, and his shots on goal dropped to 2.18 per game. In his last nine games, he has five points and only 12 shots on goal.

With such a significant drop in production and Malkin’s injury history, the drop is likely related to a nagging injury more than age-related regression.

Superstars like Malkin rarely fall off a cliff. The decline is often kinder and slower.

There’s been a slight drop in his individual point percentage from previous years, about 8.5% lower than the last two. There has been a bigger drop in his individual point percentage on the power play, about 16% lower than last year. With the extended struggles of the Penguins power play this year, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

Over the last nine games, Malkin’s expected goals per 60 minutes are down six percent from even the third quarter.

This all lends itself to something beyond Malkin’s natural decline.

Most owners are writing Malkin off. He won’t be free to acquire, but he won’t cost much more than a late draft pick either.

The first half of 2023-24 is more indicative of the regression I expected, a 15% drop. Moving into next season, another 10-15% drop in production from that should be expected. That would move Malkin from an 82-point player to a 58-62-point player.

Remember, he’s been an elite player for two decades. Don’t rule out the prospect of defying the regression model one more season. Go into next season expecting 60ish points and hope for 70-plus.

Fantasy Hockey Analysis of Gustav Nyquist, LW/RW, Nashville Predators

Well, who saw this coming?

Sure, if you rewind the clock to 2014-15, we might have predicted Nyquist producing at a .89 point per game pace. But we didn’t and it’s not.

It’s 2023-24 and Nyquist is a career .63 PPG forward. It is not common for 34-year-old forwards to explode into a career year. Yet, that is exactly what we have here.

When Nyquist burst onto the NHL scene in 2014-15, he put p 47 points in 57 games. I was just getting back into fantasy hockey and Nyquist was all the rage. His encore season, 27 goals, and 54 points was very respectable, just 15 to 20 points less than we yearned for.

We all drafted him too early, sat on him too long, and crossed our fingers too hard at some point over the next four years. And eventually moved on, submitting to the reality this season would never come.

Nyquist is on pace for his first career 70-point season, 72.6 to be exact. Yet he’s only rostered in 61% of pools.

Unlike Frank Vatrano, whose success has been in large part to receiving a regular top-six role and a significant boost in power-play time, Nyquist is seeing ice time in line with his career averages and a 20% boost in time on the power play. In fact, in the last four years he spent with Detroit he also received more than a 50% share of time on the Red Wings’ power play.

His shooting percentage is only slightly elevated at 14.6%, but his shots per game, at 1.9, are below his career average of 2.1.

There isn’t anything that sticks out as a red flag. His points per 60 at 3.0 is about it.

His individual point percentage is normal. So is his five-on-five shooting percentage.

The real driver is his linemates. He has spent 650 minutes (and counting) on the Predators top line with Ryan O’Reilly and Filip Forsberg.

Luckily, he’s signed for a second year with the Predators.

I’ve probably established by now I am conservative in predictions moving forward. I enjoy players with a safe floor and upside. Nyquist is already providing his upside at this point in his career.

The past eight years of performing below expectations do have a lasting effect. It would not surprise me to see teams offload Nyquist in the off-season to make room for a graduating prospect.

You don’t mess with chemistry like this. Nyquist should come cheap if you go kicking tires on him. The return would be more than worth the cost. Even if he dips in production next year, Nyquist should still provide 60-plus points.

I for one will be sniffing around Nyquist this summer. In one-year leagues, he will almost assuredly drop further than he should. His resume will speak louder than his recent performance. Stash Nyquist in your elephant memory bank for 2024-25.

That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading.

Follow me on X: @doylelb4

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