I’m taking a small break from my rankings (don’t worry, I’ll have a bunch of posts coming out next week) to start compiling sleeper and bust posts.  Now that some other outlets are posting their rankings, I’m able to gauge who I’m going to be the high man on and who I’m going to be avoiding.  Dylan Larkin is ranked outside of the top 100 everywhere else, yet I have him as the 40th best forward, which should put him somewhere between 50th and 60th overall.  Maybe it’s unfair to call him a sleeper, but he’s certainly undervalued by quite a bit.  So what makes Dylan Larkin an incredible value in drafts this year?

Let’s expand on the notes I have on Larkin in my rankings post.  I don’t think people realized how good Larkin was last season because Detroit was an afterthought.  They weren’t at the dead bottom of the standings so people didn’t take notice of them in the tank race, but they were never in playoff contention.  Detroit was one of the teams I watched the least last season because they were a tough watch outside of the first line.  Larkin scored 52 points at even strength, a total that put him in the top 20 in the NHL, and ahead of superstars such as Crosby and Tavares.  His possession numbers had a nice bump despite taking on a tougher role and going against harder competition.   His game breaking speed allows him to thrive at even strength putting pressure on opposing defensemen.  Nothing in Larkin’s underlying numbers say that his 63 points were fluky.  If anything, it shows that there is additional upside.

In Larkin’s first two seasons, he averaged a shooting percentage of 10%.  Last season, he shot 6.9%.  Not so nice with that decimal point in there.  This wasn’t caused by his rise in shot rate, as evidenced by Larkin shooting 10.4% as a rookie in a very similar sample.  Now, we don’t necessarily know that Larkin is a 10% shooter in the long term, because 160 games in his first two seasons isn’t enough of a sample size to make that judgment.  However, I think it’s safe to assume we see him push back up towards that mark.  That would put Larkin in the 25 goal range, and that’s if he has neutral luck.  If Larkin has good luck this year (or another jump in shot rate), we could see 30 goals.

Larkin set a career high with seven power play points last season.  That number is comically low.  I don’t care if Larkin’s skill set is somewhat minimized with the man advantage, he should score at least 15 power play points with regular time.  The return of Thomas Vanek and the possible addition of Filip Zadina could help their top unit quiet a bit.  The growth of Anthony Mantha should also help Larkin as his linemates improve around him.  Perhaps Larkin will be more disciplined this season causing his 61 PIM to drop back down, but it’ll still be in a respectable range.

To summarize, we have a 22 year old player who made a huge jump last season at even strength.  He had incredibly poor luck on the power play, and also shot a lower percentage than normal.  Despite being unlucky, he still posted 63 points.  I’m not saying Larkin is going to make a massive jump like Hall or MacKinnon, but it doesn’t take much of a jump for Larkin to post numbers very similar to Panarin and Barkov, but with more penalty minutes.  Fingers crossed that the Red Wings power play improves, because if it does, Larkin has a great chance to hit 75+ points while being a positive contributor in all categories.

  1. Shitwolf says:
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    I got faith buddy… I will draft Larkin for sure! what round would be a good target for him?

    • Viz

      Viz says:
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      @Shitwolf: I want to wait a bit to see where his ADP is settling, but my guess is that you can get him in round 7-8 pretty safely.

  2. Dan says:
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    I’m starting a new keeper league and I wanted your opinion on a trade I just made! The format is 14 teams, you draft 30 rounds of players with at least 1 NHL game and then a minor league draft with 15 rounds where drafted players with 0 NHL games are eligible. You can keep as many players as you want from year to year.

    I initially got the 1st minors pick, and instead of drafting Dahlin or Svechnikov I made the following trade…

    I got pick 37 (3) in the NHL draft and traded away pick 101 (8)

    I got picks 9 (1) and 37 (3) in the minors draft and traded away picks 1 (1) and 57 (5) in the minors draft

    I figured getting another 3rd round pick and moving up a few rounds in the minors draft was a big enough return for the 1st minors pick. Should be a ton of good players available in the 3rd round of the main draft.

    Thanks? Thanks!!

    -Dan

    • Viz

      Viz says:
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      @Dan: Hmm, this is very close. I think I would lean towards doing the trade as you did, but getting Svechnikov (who I would have took 1) for his entire career is incredibly appealing. That said, you give yourself the big upper hand in year one having an extra third, and you should get someone who is a great keeper there too, so the more I think about it, the more I like the trade.

      • Dan says:
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        @Viz: Yeah man, I can’t wait to see how this draft goes. Aside from trades and newly drafted players, you’re basically stuck with your roster, so the draft is so important. Categories are G, A, PTS, PP+SH PTS, and Shots for skaters (5) and GAA, Save%, W, Saves for goalies (4). It’s head to head format with daily lineup changes. Based on that, any advice?

        I have picks 12, 17, 37 (one I got in trade), and 40 in first four rounds. Can change, but thinking about going forward at 12 (maybe Barkov, Eichel, Pastrnak, or Marner), then a young dman who will QB a PP for a while at 17 (maybe Ghost or Jones), then have to get a goalie somewhere too. They seem pretty valuable with 4 categories compared to 5 for skaters. Thinking Vasilevskiy, Hellebuyck, Murray, and Gibson pretty valuable.

        Thanks so much for your input and any thoughts – want to make sure I have a good draft!

        • Dan says:
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          @Dan: In first 3 rds that is

        • Viz

          Viz says:
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          @Dan: It seems incredibly important to get volume from your goalies with the inclusion of saves as its own category. I would carry a bunch of them; quantity is more important than quality in head to head.

          As for a draft plan, that is very early for one of those defensemen, or honestly a defensemen in general. With points being its own category as well, your league is completely driven by forwards offensively. Defensemen who play the PP and have good shot rates will be helpful, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t be shocked if something like 90 of the top 100 skaters are forwards, if not even more. I could maybe see a guy like Hedman or Karlsson being worth it in the second or third rounds (or Burns obviously), but that’s about it. I’d be planning on loading up on forwards and taking a defensemen when the value is right more than targeting them. It also depends a bit on how many guys you are starting each night, but your setup is very much geared towards forwards and getting as many goalie starts as possible.

          • Dan says:
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            @Viz: You can start 12 F, 6 D, and 2 G each day with 10 bench spots and I believe a max of 6 goalies on your roster.

            That’s very good input on the dmen, perhaps I should take a wait and see approach on when they start getting taken. Being a Flyers fan, and knowing how good that team is going to be for many years moving forward and that Ghost is assured of being that PP QB, I feel like he’s a good addition in a keeper league but I can probably get him later than I was initially thinking.

            Will be very interesting to see how high guys like Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin go as they’re in the later years of their careers. With that extra 3rd I could just really go for it this season.

            • Viz

              Viz says:
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              @Dan: Ah okay, so being able to start 6D changes that a bit more. I’d still be inclined to go forward heavy, but I’d still sprinkle a few defensemen in the early to middle parts of the draft, and take some gambles on your defensemen for your bench.

              That’s a very good point, and I think you’ll see guys like them drop a bit, but not too much. However, it wouldn’t shock me if you could get someone like, say, Blake Wheeler with a 3rd, and he’d be massive for you in the short term. You’re in a great spot, and as I said before, I like that trade you made more and more as time goes on.

              • Dan says:
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                @Viz: thanks Viz! Really appreciate all your help

                • Viz

                  Viz says:
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                  @Dan: Any time!

                  • Dan says:
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                    @Viz: Since you were helping figured I’d let you know how it panned out! With that extra pick I got in the trade, I took Barkov! So far I’ve gotten…

                    12 – Crosby
                    17 – Hall
                    37 – Barkov
                    40 – Barzal
                    45 – Allen

                    I think it worked out!

  3. Fungazi 2.0 says:
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    Does this Larkin breakout come with a Mantha explosion on the side?

    • Viz

      Viz says:
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      @Fungazi 2.0: I think so, yes. I’m not going to do a sleeper post on him two years in a row, but like Larkin, a lot will come down to what they do on the power play. He’s already a very good player at even strength. 60 points with 60 PIM is a pretty realistic outcome.

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