Scott Hartnell set career bests in a number of categories in 2011, including Goals, Points, +/-, Shots,
Power Play Goals, and Shooting Percentage. It was unquestionably his career year, which might make
fantasy owners optimistic that he could repeat that success except for one thing…he just turned 30
years old. I’m going to come right out and say it—I probably won’t have Hartnell on any of my fantasy
teams this year. That’s not to say I don’t think he’ll have another good year, but by the time I would
draft him (maybe in the seventh round or so) he will probably be long gone. I wrote recently about the
importance of getting value in every pick in your draft, and while I think Hartnell will have a fine season
next year, I don’t think he can replicate his 2011-12 numbers, but he will be drafted as though he could,
which makes him a candidate to return negative value. Last year he was drafted in the ninth round (ADP 88.1 ESPN, 89.9 Y!,) and this
year it’s a safe bet he will be selected quite a bit higher.
If you owned Scott Hartnell on your team last year, you don’t need me to remind you what a great
season he had. While skating alongside future NHL 13 cover boy Claude Giroux and everyone’s favorite
mercenary Jaromir Jagr, Hartnell scored 37 goals, with 16 of them coming on the man advantage. Only
James Neal netted more power play goals than Hartnell. He also fired 232 shots on goal, good for sixty
more than each of the last two seasons.
Although not known for his skating prowess, Hartnell adds to his fantasy value by virtue of his physical play—he led the Flyers with 188 hits and was second on the team in PIM with 136 (43 minors was far and away the most for Philadelphia…second place was Zac Rinaldo with 30).
While he plays a ton of games every year (he has missed only five games in the last three years,) he does not get a ton of assists, never tallying more than 30 in a season, meaning his value is largely dependent on his goal scoring.
His ability to produce in all fantasy categories really does make him a unique player, but as I am expecting some regression in most of those categories, coupled with the fact that he will certainly be drafted very high in drafts, I think he will have a difficult time returning appropriate value.
When we look at the advanced stats, we can track Hartnell’s transition into more of a scoring threat. In his first year with the Flyers he had an OZ% of just under 46, the last two years it has been closer to 53. In addition, his move to the top line with Giroux is reflected in his giant jump in Corsi Rel, going from -0.5 in 2010-11 to 9.6 in 2011-12. What makes Hartnell’s career numbers more impressive is that he faced tougher competition last year than any other year since he has been with the Flyers (QoC data do not go back earlier than 2007-08.)
As mentioned, Hartnell scored sixteen power play goals last year, after burying eighteen in the last three seasons combined. You like to see that he has scored 20 or more even-strength goals in three of his five years in Philly, but I will be very surprised if he can replicate all those power play goals. Eric T over at Broad Street Hockey recently wrote a great piece about Hartnell’s sustained power play performance … but let’s be realistic. After averaging 5.8 power play goals a season, a guy puts up 16 and I don’t know about you but I am certainly going to hedge and bet on regression to the mean. 5.8 may not be completely fair because it goes all the way back to when he was 18, but even looking at 2005-06 through 2007-08 when he scored 10 in each of those three years, it’s quite a jump to get to 16. The point is that you don’t want to wager a high draft pick to find out if he can catch lightning in a bottle again, it’s just bad policy.
The Flyers said goodbye to Jaromir Jagr and Matt Carle this offseason, and traded James van Riemsdyk to Toronto for blueliner Luke Schenn. As a result, their roster figures to look a bit thinner next year than it did in 2012. As of this writing, there are a few free agents that have not signed yet, so it’s possible that Shane Doan or even Rick Nash could be sporting the orange and black next year. If anything major happens, I’ll update this post. However, with Philadelphia losing more than they gained this offseason, I would have to guess that opposing teams will be able to key in on the Flyers’ top line a bit more, making it tougher for Hartnell to put that biscuit in the basket.
I said it earlier, but I want to reiterate: I like Scott Hartnell. I hope he has a good year. But I do expect some regression in his shooting percentage, and therefore his goal output. He has never had more than 30 assists in a season, so it’s fair to say his value is determined by whether he scores closer to 30 goals or 40. He’s 30 years old and he just had the best year of his career, so the smart move would be to let someone else draft him unless he starts to slide too far. Rob Vollman’s historical comparisons put Hartnell in around the 30-30 club, which is about what I would expect next year. Thirty and thirty with a bunch of PIMS and 200+ shots is definitely a fantasy asset, but not in the second round, where ESPN’s Sean Allen has him in an early ranking. Hartnell is the type of player who could provide good value if he is drafted appropriately, and I would gladly scoop him up in the seventh round…maybe even sixth. I just think that reaching for him in the second or third round is a risky move because of his regression candidacy, and if you take risks in fantasy hockey and they don’t work you, you’re gonna have a bad time.
What do you think? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter, @Hashtag_Hockey.