Fantasy Hockey Geek

Geek of the Week: Phil Kessel

They only thing more valuable in Fantasy hockey than knowing who to pick is knowing who not to pick.  With that in mind I am going to focus this week’s article on a player who is being drafted way higher than the value he provides justifies.  This player has caused his NHL GM much grief in the past few years and it looks like he will be doing the same to many fantasy GMs this season.  He may be the ultimate GM killer – Phil Kessel.

Let’s take a look at Kessel’s performance as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs:

Phil Kessel had a very good season in 2011-12, coming in with 82 points in 82 games, he was 7th in the league in SOG and 6th in the league with 37 goals.  He plays the RW which (as I wrote about in my Cole piece) is a scarce position to fill.  Kessel had the 6th highest point total in the NHL last year and his Average Draft Position (ADP) in Yahoo! pools this year is 18.  On the surface, it may actually look that there is some good value with Kessel but with the help of Fantasy Hockey Geek, we can see that not only does Kessel fail to provide value, but as a player picked in the second rounds of drafts he is actually a drain to your fantasy hockey team.  I ran the numbers through Fantasy Hockey Geek in two separate sample leagues to illustrate my point:

(Based on 2011-12 season in a Yahoo! Standard 12 team H2H league, with G, A, +/-, PIM, SOG, PPP as measured skater categories)


(Dobber Pro league settings:  12 team Roto league counting G, A, +/-, SOG, PPP, Hits)

In a Yahoo! standard league, Kessel was the 73rd most valuable player last year.  In the Dobber Pro League format (which counts hits instead of PIMs), Kessel is similarly ranked as the 76th most valuable player.  I used two different league examples to illustrate the point that aside from points and shots, Kessel isn’t close to elite in any other categories; he is in fact a huge hindrance to your team in the categories where he isn’t exceptional.  When I draft a player in the first two or three rounds I need them to be elite and while Kessel does score at an elite level, his performance in the rest of the commonly measured categories is so poor that he simply doesn’t measure up to other elite players in the league.  Let’s look inside the rest of his numbers to explain why:

Hits and PIMs

It is easy to tell from the tables above what Kessel’s largest downfalls are.  Most leagues count either Hits or PIMs as a category (or both) and Kessel is terrible at both.   Not all players are going to be great in all categories (most aren’t), but again a player being drafted that early simply can’t be that bad in so many peripheral categories.  The worst thing about players who don’t perform well in these categories is that they usually don’t improve either.  Some 50 point players become 70 point players but it is highly unlikely for a 15 hit player to become a 50 hit player year over year.


20 players including Kessel had over 70 points last season.  Amongst those players, Kessel’s -10 was dead last.  This was not an anomaly either, Kessel was -20 the year prior and is a combined -38 in his three years as a Leaf. 


Kessel’s 23 PPPs may look like a fairly solid number but remember we are talking about the 6th leading scorer in the NHL.   Every single one of the top 10 scorers in the NHL last year had more PPPs than Kessel.  Kessel’s PPP output is decent but I personally expect more out of a player if I am going to use a top 20 pick on him.

Above, I have illustrated how Kessel’s true value last year was somewhere in the 70s in most l which is well below his current ADP of 18.  Now consider that the low value he provided last year was based on numbers that he put up in a career year!  Kessel’s 37 goals came on a shooting % that was above his career average.  In fact, when you compare Kessel’s last year numbers with his 2010-11 numbers you can see that he scored 5 more goals while taking 30 less shots.  Is this sustainable?  My thinking is that it is not and Kessel’s goal total will likely be closer to a 32G pace next season and he will be hard pressed just to match his career high 45As from last year. 

As GMs, we all decide for yourselves what we think will happen to Kessel’s production next year but I would contend that the best case scenario is a repeat of the 2011-12 season.  Even if Kessel is able to maintain his pace from last year he is currently being over-valued considerably.  He is being treated as a top 20 player but providing the value of a 70-something player. 

I subscribe to the theory that “you can’t win a pool with a good pick in the first three rounds, but you can lose a pool with a bad pick in the first three rounds of the draft” and Phil Kessel is one of those bad picks.  You should steer clear of this guy.  To find the players that you should steer clear of in your own fantasy hockey league sign up for Fantasy Hockey Geek today and avoid those early round GM killers!

Published Sun, Nov 11th, 2012