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Monday, December 21, 2009
Open Ice: A new play on the Rater

By Sean Allen
Special to ESPN.com

I call it "Player Rater Premium."

The ESPN Player Rater is the gold standard in evaluating how well your fantasy hockey players are performing in relation to everyone else in the NHL, but I have taken things one step further to attempt to provide you with a version of the Player Rater that looks closer at the elite fantasy players in relation to one another.

Basically, I'm applying the principles of the Player Rater to only the top 190 skaters, but for those who like all the details, I'll go a little more in-depth now.

The selection of 190 skaters was done for a couple of reasons. If every team in an ESPN standard league used four of its five bench spots for skaters, that would be 190 skaters owned in every standard league. Also, after I decided to sort the top 190 for selection according to what percentage of ESPN leagues they are owned in, 190 became the exact cutoff for those players owned in more than 50 percent of ESPN leagues.

I took you (the collective fantasy owner brain trust) for your word and pulled out the top 190 players owned, no matter what my own opinion of the player pool. For example, Ales Hemsky may be out for the season, but he is still owned in 57 percent of ESPN leagues and will be included in this study.

Then I made a decision that you may or may not like but I believe will help you better evaluate some possible trades you hadn't considered before to help you climb your standings: I removed plus/minus and average ice time from the data. My reasons for doing so are numerous, but suffice it to say that those are the two categories you are least likely to make up a ton of ground in, and therefore are the two you should pay the least attention to when trying to improve your team. Make sure you double-check those categories before cementing any moves, but I think removing those categories does a better job of showing us which players have been valuable in the categories in which you can make up ground quickly.

Next, after running the data with and without penalty minutes, I decided to cut them from the final product as well. Why? Simply because I figured that if penalty minutes are your main problem in your standings, there are easier and cheaper ways to try and fix the problem than by trading for an elite player who earns production thanks to chipping in some PIMS.

So, we are left with a version of the Player Rater that compares the top 190 players to their own collective totals in the categories of goals, assists, power-play goals and shots on goal. Obviously what we are looking for here is differences between the actual Player Rater and my elite-only version of it, to find some potential trade targets. Position on the Player Rater is indicated in parentheses. Players who did not rank in the top 190 of the regular Player Rater are marked with "NR."

Player Rater Premium -- forwards

1. 10.65 - Marian Gaborik, NYR RW (3)
2. 9.04 - Dany Heatley, SJ LW (4)
3. 8.70 - Sidney Crosby, Pit C (2)
4. 8.48 - Alex Ovechkin, Was LW (1)
5. 7.85 - Ilya Kovalchuk, Atl LW (7)
6. 7.53 - Steven Stamkos, TB C (20)
7. 7.31 - Rick Nash, Cls LW (26)
8. 7.29 - Patrick Marleau, SJ C, LW (6)
9. 7.04 - Dustin Penner, Edm LW (9)
10. 7.02 - Anze Kopitar, LA C (17)
11. 7.01 - Jarome Iginla, Cgy RW (10)
12. 6.98 - John Tavares, NYI C (40)
13. 6.70 - Bobby Ryan, Ana RW, LW (24)
14. 6.61 - Mike Fisher, Ott C (11)
15. 6.49 - Evgeni Malkin, Pit C (5)
16. 6.49 - Jeff Carter, Phi C (27)
17. 6.41 - Mikko Koivu, Min C (21)
18. 6.35 - Corey Perry, Ana RW (13)
19. 6.28 - Ryan Getzlaf, Ana C (15)
20. 6.27 - Stephen Weiss, Fla C (38)
21. 6.27 - Nicklas Backstrom, Was C (12)
22. 6.25 - Zach Parise, NJ LW (8)
23. 6.25 - Mike Richards, Phi C (14)
24. 6.23 - Rich Peverley, Atl C (28)
25. 6.16 - Nathan Horton, Fla RW (18)
26. 6.13 - Brad Richards, Dal C (37)
27. 6.09 - Andrew Brunette, Min LW (47)
28. 6.05 - Henrik Sedin, Van C (16)
29. 6.04 - Joe Thornton, SJ C (22)
30. 6.01 - Brooks Laich, Was C (36)
31. 5.95 - Teemu Selanne, Ana RW (88)
32. 5.94 - Mike Cammalleri, Mon LW (23)
33. 5.93 - Loui Eriksson, Dal LW (29)
34. 5.80 - Alexander Semin, Was LW (25)
35. 5.76 - Ryan Malone, TB LW (19)
36. 5.76 - Martin St. Louis, TB RW (48)
37. 5.75 - Brenden Morrow, Dal LW (30)
38. 5.73 - Brian Rolston, NJ LW (49)
39. 5.73 - Milan Hejduk, Col RW (52)
40. 5.70 - Milan Michalek, Ott LW (85)
41. 5.61 - Ryan Kesler, Van C (33)
42. 5.55 - Tomas Holmstrom, Det RW (65)
43. 5.44 - Mikael Samuelsson, Van RW (45)
44. 5.35 - Wojtek Wolski, Col LW (32)
45. 5.35 - Kristian Huselius, Cls LW (78)
46. 5.32 - Scott Hartnell, Phi LW (54)
47. 5.27 - Mike Ribeiro, Dal C (70)
48. 5.21 - Paul Stastny, Col C (31)
49. 5.16 - Dustin Brown, LA RW, LW (71)
50. 5.13 - Pavel Datsyuk, Det C (55)
51. 5.11 - Matt Moulson, NYI LW (67)
52. 5.03 - Jason Arnott, Nsh C (59)
53. 5.01 - Henrik Zetterberg, Det LW (51)
54. 4.99 - Maxim Afinogenov, Atl RW (84)
55. 4.98 - James Neal, Dal LW (42)
56. 4.96 - Bill Guerin, Pit RW (43)
57. 4.95 - Thomas Vanek, Buf LW (81)
58. 4.92 - Ryan Smyth, LA LW (64)
59. 4.86 - Jonathan Toews, Chi C (35)
60. 4.86 - Shane Doan, Pho RW (83)
61. 4.74 - Vincent Lecavalier, TB C (56)
62. 4.70 - Patrick Kane, Chi RW (39)
63. 4.68 - Derek Roy, Buf C (61)
64. 4.66 - Travis Zajac, NJ C (44)
65. 4.66 - Tuomo Ruutu, Car LW, RW (90)
66. 4.66 - Patrick Sharp, Chi LW, C (46)
67. 4.47 - Michael Frolik, Fla C (66)
68. 4.45 - Antoine Vermette, Cls LW, C (97)
69. 4.43 - Andrei Kostitsyn, Mon LW (100)
70. 4.43 - Phil Kessel, Tor RW (75)
71. 4.42 - Rene Bourque, Cgy LW (63)
72. 4.38 - Tomas Plekanec, Mon C (58)
73. 4.36 - Jamie Langenbrunner, NJ RW (50)
74. 4.28 - Eric Staal, Car C (82)
75. 4.28 - Kris Versteeg, Chi RW, LW (73)
76. 4.26 - Vaclav Prospal, NYR LW, C (74)
77. 4.25 - Daniel Alfredsson, Ott RW (92)
78. 4.25 - Tim Connolly, Buf C (108)
79. 4.22 - Jason Spezza, Ott C (118)
80. 4.16 - Olli Jokinen, Cgy C (76)
81. 4.13 - Jakub Voracek, Cls RW (164)
82. 4.11 - Kyle Okposo, NYI RW (106)
83. 3.95 - Ray Whitney, Car LW (128)
84. 3.95 - Mark Recchi, Bos RW (109)
85. 3.90 - Slava Kozlov, Atl LW (160)
86. 3.89 - Nik Antropov, Atl C (93)
87. 3.87 - Ales Hemsky, Edm RW (99)
88. 3.86 - Alexandre Burrows, Van LW (53)
89. 3.71 - Claude Giroux, Phi RW (107)
90. 3.68 - Michael Ryder, Bos RW (151)
91. 3.66 - Danny Briere, Phi C, RW (141)
92. 3.65 - Drew Stafford, Buf RW (136)
93. 3.63 - James van Riemsdyk, Phi LW (134)
94. 3.55 - Devin Setoguchi, SJ RW (174)
95. 3.52 - Brad Boyes, StL RW (181)
96. 3.51 - David Perron, StL LW (173)
97. 3.46 - David Clarkson, NJ RW (113)
98. 3.44 - Marc Savard, Bos C (178)
99. 3.36 - Martin Havlat, Min RW (NR)
100. 3.29 - David Krejci, Bos C (156)
101. 3.27 - Jordan Staal, Pit C (NR)
102. 3.23 - Daymond Langkow, Cgy C (123)
103. 3.11 - Daniel Sedin, Van LW (114)
104. 3.11 - Derick Brassard, Cls C (NR)
105. 3.06 - J.P. Dumont, Nsh RW (122)
106. 3.00 - Brian Gionta, Mon RW (143)
107. 2.92 - Ryane Clowe, SJ LW (87)
108. 2.89 - Blake Wheeler, Bos RW (NR)
109. 2.86 - Marco Sturm, Bos LW (116)
110. 2.83 - Alexei Kovalev, Ott RW (125)
111. 2.83 - T.J. Oshie, StL C, LW (170)
112. 2.78 - Alex Tanguay, TB LW (176)
113. 2.77 - Joe Pavelski, SJ C (131)
114. 2.77 - Sean Avery, NYR LW (119)
115. 2.72 - Owen Nolan, Min RW (200)
116. 2.64 - Mike Knuble, Was RW (145)
117. 2.63 - Patrik Elias, NJ LW (144)
118. 2.58 - David Backes, StL RW (98)
119. 2.48 - Chris Kunitz, Pit LW (161)
120. 2.46 - Steve Ott, Dal C (NR)
121. 2.45 - Scott Gomez, Mon C (180)
122. 2.38 - Tyler Kennedy, Pit C (NR)
123. 2.30 - Bryan Little, Atl C (NR)
124. 2.22 - Todd White, Atl C (NR)
125. 1.88 - Andrew Ladd, Chi LW (165)
126. 1.85 - Jason Williams, Det RW (NR)
127. 1.80 - Erik Cole, Car RW, LW (NR)
128. 1.72 - Daniel Carcillo, Phi LW (115)
129. 1.68 - Patrik Berglund, StL C (NR)
130. 1.54 - Marian Hossa, Chi RW (NR)
131. 1.28 - Simon Gagne, Phi LW (NR)
132. 0.83 - David Booth, Fla LW (NR)
133. 0.82 - Dave Bolland, Chi C (NR)
134. 0.73 - Johan Franzen, Det C, RW (NR)
135. 0.61 - Milan Lucic, Bos LW (NR)

Undervalued forwards

John Tavares, C, Islanders: It's quite encouraging to see John Tavares jump from No. 40 to No. 12 in this version of the Player Rater, especially considering that he gets better with each passing game. It's gone a bit unnoticed that Tavares is on pace for the highest rookie goal total, by anyone not named Crosby or Ovechkin, since Mikael Renberg's 38 goals in 1993-94. Tavares' almost complete lack of penalty minutes, troubled plus/minus and rookie-typical low ice time combine to bury him in the regular Player Rater. As you can see, his value is much closer to that of a top-10 player if you strip away the excess. As much as the owner of Tavares in your league probably values him, he probably doesn't see top-10 value.

Jakub Voracek, LW, Blue Jackets: Coach Ken Hitchcock's penchant for minimizing young players' ice time and the Columbus Blue Jackets' defensive woes make Voracek look pretty unattractive at No. 164 on the Player Rater. If you need only the skilled categories from him, though, he'll make you quite happy as No. 81 on the P.R. Premium. Voracek is on pace to come awfully close to a 50-point season, and he has room to be even better if Hitchcock would just loosen the reins a little. He shouldn't cost much in any trade but will go a long way to helping fill that eighth or ninth forward roster spot.

Teemu Selanne, RW, Ducks: Due back from a broken hand as early as Jan. 1, Selanne has been a power-play hero this season. Despite being out since Dec. 3, Selanne is still tied for fifth in power-play goals. Selanne has always possessed that knack for the net, and as he is getting on in years, his ability has a tendency to show itself better when his team is playing 4-on-5. Trading for a guy who has a broken hand and is No. 88 on the Player Rater should be relatively easy, considering his value is likely inside the top 25 on a per-game basis.

Overvalued forwards

Zach Parise, RW, Devils: Take away a man's plus/minus, and what are you left with? In Parise's case, a drop from No. 8 overall to No. 22. It's not that Parise is overvalued per se, but if plus/minus isn't your biggest concern, you could parlay him into much better overall statistics in trade. This drop should not be surprising and is highlighted elsewhere by the low values of Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner on the P.R. Premium.

Jonathan Toews, C, Blackhawks: Like the New Jersey Devils' top forwards, the Chicago Blackhawks' elite players gain quite a bit of their Player Rater footing from their lofty plus/minus. Toews drops from No. 35 to 59 across the two versions of the Player Rater. It's only when you look at it this way that you realize that he is on pace for only seven points more than Voracek.

Tomas Plekanec, C, Canadiens: If plus/minus is helping to keep Parise and Toews afloat in the Player Rater, what has Plekanec drop from No. 58 to 72 when we switch to my version? It's the fact that Plekanec's strength becomes more of a weakness when you dip from seven to four categories in the calculation. Almost all of Plekanec's value derives from his 30 assists; he is third in the NHL in that category. In the Player Rater Premium, Plekanec loses value for being a one-category wonder.

Player Rater Premium -- defensemen

1. 5.77 - Stephane Robidas, Dal D (2)
2. 4.82 - Dan Boyle, SJ D (3)
3. 4.78 - Mike Green, Was D (1)
4. 4.52 - Drew Doughty, LA D (5)
5. 4.31 - Shea Weber, Nsh D (11)
6. 4.19 - Dion Phaneuf, Cgy D (10)
7. 4.02 - Lubomir Visnovsky, Edm D (13)
8. 3.99 - Scott Niedermayer, Ana D (31)
9. 3.86 - Christian Ehrhoff, Van D (7)
10. 3.76 - Tomas Kaberle, Tor D (32)
11. 3.62 - Ryan Whitney, Ana D (12)
12. 3.58 - Chris Pronger, Phi D (4)
13. 3.48 - Bryan McCabe, Fla D (15)
14. 3.45 - Joe Corvo, Car D (53)
15. 3.42 - Erik Johnson, StL D (24)
16. 3.31 - Ed Jovanovski, Pho D (28)
17. 3.30 - Michael Del Zotto, NYR D (82)
18. 3.28 - Mark Streit, NYI D (19)
19. 3.27 - Duncan Keith, Chi D (6)
20. 3.15 - Pavel Kubina, Atl D (9)
21. 3.14 - Tobias Enstrom, Atl D (20)
22. 3.12 - Zdeno Chara, Bos D (8)
23. 3.05 - Zach Bogosian, Atl D (42)
24. 2.97 - Cam Barker, Chi D (55)
25. 2.95 - Brian Campbell, Chi D (17)
26. 2.80 - Niklas Kronwall, Det D (39)
27. 2.72 - Sergei Gonchar, Pit D (45)
28. 2.70 - Kyle Quincey, Col D (21)
29. 2.68 - Marek Zidlicky, Min D (37)
30. 2.58 - Alexander Edler, Van D (57)
31. 2.55 - Nicklas Lidstrom, Det D (27)
32. 2.39 - Alex Goligoski, Pit D (33)
33. 2.32 - Ryan Suter, Nsh D (36)
34. 2.29 - Kevin Bieksa, Van D (18)
35. 2.28 - Matt Carle, Phi D (30)
36. 2.27 - Jay Bouwmeester, Cgy D (23)
37. 2.25 - Kimmo Timonen, Phi D (50)
38. 2.20 - Brian Rafalski, Det D (47)
39. 2.19 - Dennis Wideman, Bos D (77)
40. 2.16 - Braydon Coburn, Phi D (68)
41. 2.14 - Brent Seabrook, Chi D (25)
42. 2.04 - Joni Pitkanen, Car D (81)
43. 1.87 - Rob Blake, SJ D (59)
44. 1.69 - Sheldon Souray, Edm D (58)
45. 1.63 - Kris Letang, Pit D (62)
46. 1.57 - Denis Grebeshkov, Edm D (153)
47. 1.40 - Victor Hedman, TB D (86)
48. 1.08 - Mattias Ohlund, TB D (100)
49. 1.08 - Andrei Markov, Mon D (174)
50. 1.06 - Craig Rivet, Buf D (72)
51. 0.51 - Ville Koistinen, Fla D (NR)
52. 0.45 - Cory Murphy, NJ D (NR)
53. 0.38 - Johnny Oduya, NJ D (NR)
54. 0.36 - Shane O'Brien, Van D (114)
55. 0.27 - Paul Martin, NJ D (176)

Undervalued defensemen

Scott Niedermayer, D, Ducks: It's so easy to forget that Niedermayer is still elite if you take away the atrocious plus/minus of the Anaheim Ducks. He's top-10 for assists, shots on goal and power-play goals for defensemen, but until we see him rated without the minus-11, it's not obvious. Niedermayer jumps from No. 31 to No. 8 on my version of the Player Rater. So go out and get him if you need help on defense.

Cam Barker, D, Blackhawks: Barker goes from being No. 55 and almost irrelevant in standard leagues to being No. 24 and a strong defensive starter as we switch from the standard to premium Player Rater. Much of it stems from the fact that Barker is still being given adequate power-play time with the Blackhawks, even though Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Brian Campbell are all options ahead of him. Still, Barker has been the first choice when coach Joel Quenneville has opted for a four-forward power-play unit. The Hawks are only getting stronger with Marian Hossa now in tow, so get Barker while you can.

Michael Del Zotto, D, Rangers: This one is a no brainer, as Del Zotto's minus-12 has plenty to do with him going from No. 82 on the Player Rater to No. 17 on the P.R. Premium. While Del Zotto won't help you in the shots on goal category, as he tends to pick his spots, his power-play production justifies his use as long as you are OK with the plus/minus trouble. Also, it's worth noting that his ice time continue to increase to close to 25 minutes a game from 17 when he started this season.

Overvalued defensemen

Zdeno Chara, D, Bruins: A complete lack of power-play production can be blamed for Chara's limited value on the Player Rater Premium. He is on pace to finish with five goals and two power-play goals over the entire season after potting 19 and 11 a year ago. This team needs a healthy Milan Lucic back and Chara needs Dennis Wideman back on the point with him before this ship will get turned around.

Jay Bouwmeester, D, Flames: Most of Bouwmeester's value on the standard Player Rater comes from his ice time, which isn't always that helpful to fantasy owners looking to move up the standings. Cite his position as No. 23 on the regular Player Rater in talks to trade him away, knowing his value on the P.R. Premium is closer to 36.

Player Rater Premium -- owned in less than 50 percent of leagues

Of course, the one problem with drawing the top 190 names according to ownership, was that many valuable fantasy players are -- for one reason or another -- not popular among fantasy owners. As you can note by the inclusion of Ales Hemsky, Cory Murphy and David Bolland, many fantasy owners just aren't paying attention and are leaving heaps of value on the free-agent pile. With that in mind, I decided to include the top Player Rater Premium players who are owned in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues.

Mason Raymond, Van LW - 6.29 - Owned in 16.5% of leagues
Niclas Bergfors, NJ RW - 5.93 - Owned in 10.7% of leagues
Matt Stajan, Tor C - 5.44 - Owned in 30.5% of leagues
Niklas Hagman, Tor LW - 5.38 - Owned in 33.8% of leagues
Alexei Ponikarovsky, Tor LW - 5.33 - Owned in 46.7% of leagues
Radim Vrbata, Pho RW - 5.28 - Owned in 41.6% of leagues
Ryan Callahan, NYR RW - 5.26 - Owned in 10.4% of leagues
R.J. Umberger, Cls C - 4.98 - Owned in 15.7% of leagues
Martin Erat, Nsh RW - 4.83 - Owned in 17.2% of leagues
Matt Duchene, Col C - 4.64 - Owned in 13.5% of leagues
Raffi Torres, Cls LW - 4.58 - Owned in 2.2% of leagues
Tomas Fleischmann, Was RW, C - 4.53 - Owned in 18% of leagues
Jarret Stoll, LA C - 4.49 - Owned in 22.2% of leagues
Jason Blake, Tor LW - 4.29 - Owned in 30.3% of leagues
Todd Bertuzzi, Det LW - 4.26 - Owned in 10% of leagues
Steve Reinprecht, Fla C - 4.22 - Owned in 33.3% of leagues
Alexander Frolov, LA LW - 4.14 - Owned in 47.8% of leagues
Jason Pominville, Buf RW - 4.1 - Owned in 33.1% of leagues
Patric Hornqvist, Nsh RW - 4.05 - Owned in 2.5% of leagues
Brendan Morrison, Was C - 4.03 - Owned in 34.3% of leagues
Marc-Andre Bergeron, Mon D - 3.93 - Owned in 9.7% of leagues
Lee Stempniak, Tor RW - 3.92 - Owned in 1.7% of leagues
Justin Williams, LA RW - 3.89 - Owned in 19.3% of leagues
Steve Sullivan, Nsh RW - 3.85 - Owned in 5.1% of leagues
Francois Beauchemin, Tor D - 3.83 - Owned in 20.4% of leagues

Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com and the 2008 Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Hockey Writer of the Year. You can e-mail him here.