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NHL Fantasy: Evaluating goals above expected to predict trends in the second half

We should be halfway through the season by now, but because the NHL has postponed so many games due to COVID-19, teams have completed just 43% of their schedule on average.

The second “half” of the season will be jam packed. Teams have to make up over 100 games and even with the February Olympic break available for rescheduled games, it will be a grind for a lot of teams.

It’s going to be tough, but it’s also an opportunity for those players who have struggled to start the season to turn their luck around, and also an opportunity for players who started hot to regress back to the mean. We break down candidates to bounce back and to cool down in the second half based on goals above expected.

Players who could bounce back

1. Viktor Arvidsson

Arvidsson was traded to the Los Angeles Kings and was a dark horse breakout candidate heading into the season. He was supposed to play on a line with Anze Kopitar, but Arvidsson hasn’t performed nearly as well as many expected.

He has nine goals on the season but has generated 12.56 expected goals, currently sitting at -3.56 goals above expected (GAx). That mark is 27th worst in the NHL and Arvidsson should see some regression in the second half. He’s only 39% rostered so keep an eye on him. If he’s owned, Arvidsson is an easy player to throw into a trade as a sweetener to get a deal done if you’re making moves ahead of the deadline.

2. Travis Konecny

It’s been a rough stretch for Konecny the last little while. After 61 points in 66 games in 2019-20, he had just 34 points in 50 games last season and 19 in 34 games this season. However, his ice time is improving lately with two games above 18 minutes in the past six games.

He has five goals on the season and has generated 9.63 expected goals. His -4.36 GAx is 10th worst in the league and is due to come back up to the mean at some point. With increased usage, Konecny is a great candidate to take a flier on. He is just 28% rostered right now.

3. Kevin Fiala

Fiala seems to come up a lot on lists like this, but all signs are pointing to him just needing a bit of puck luck to turn things around this season. Fiala is 43rd worst in the NHL at -3.11 GAx on the season, scoring seven goals and 10.11 expected goals.

Minnesota is soaring which provides stability for Fiala, and he’s still available in 31% of leagues right now. He shoots a ton and plays on the top power play unit, so Fiala is a great buy-low candidate in trades right now. It might take a bit more to trade for him but a bounce back from Fiala in playoff weeks could be huge.

Players who could cool down

1. Filip Forsberg

I’ll preface this by saying I own Filip Forsberg in every fantasy league I’m in. He’s been phenomenal this season when he’s played, and it will be very hard to part ways with him unless a great trade offer rolls in. However, Forsberg is currently second in the entire league at 10.76 GAx this season. He has an incredible 18 goals, but has generated only 7.24 expected goals at all strengths.

Throughout his career, Forsberg has been a plus GAx player, but not nearly by this margin. Nashville has been a great team but has gotten to where they are with solid defending and goaltending. Their offense could very easily slow down and Forsberg is an easy pick for someone who could cool down in the second half.

Not saying you should trade him, but if he does start to trail off, it would not be a huge surprise. He’s 85% rostered so chances are you can’t get him in your league, but if you are a Forsberg owner maybe consider trade offers for him and pull the trigger if the price is right.

2. Andre Burakovsky

The Avalanche are an incredible team and have gotten scoring from all over their roster this season. Burakovsky has been phenomenal this season so far. He has 14 goals, but has only generated 5.2 expected goals, resulting in a GAx of 8.8. This mark is fifth highest in the NHL.

Burakovsky has actually been a very effective shooter the past few seasons. Last season he finished with 19 goals on 9.11 expected goals for 9.98 GAx, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing that he’s fifth in this statistic. What is concerning is how much higher his pace is compared to his career high. He’s on pace to finish the season at 22.65 GAx, a number that just seems too high to be true.

Another player it is very hard to part with but it’s very possible his shooting percentage returns back to normal in the second half. Sell as high as you can if the deal is right.

3. Tyler Bertuzzi

Bertuzzi has scored at an impressive clip this season, putting up 17 goals in 30 games so far. He’s only generated 9.87 expected goals though, and his 7.13 GAx is 13th in the NHL.

Over the course of his career, Bertuzzi has operated just above expected, but nowhere close to the nearly 27 GAx pace over 82 games. The Red Wings have overperformed in the eyes of many this season and they could slide back to expectations in the second half, Bertuzzi along with them. Another solid sell-high candidate if you can swing it

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