It seems there is always a debate on who should go first overall in your fantasy league. This season is no different, as we have two superstars pitted up against each other. Either player will be a slam dunk decision, but The Hockey Writers’ new “Versus” segment will help you decide which one is better for your fantasy team. Enjoy!
After leading the league in scoring for two straight seasons, Connor McDavid was dethroned by Nikita Kucherov in 2018-19. He ran away with the Art Ross, finishing with 12 more points than second-place McDavid.
However, it was McDavid’s third straight season with 100+ points and he became the fifth player to record three 100+ point seasons before the age of 22. Kucherov has had two straight seasons of 100 or more points and with all the firepower the Lightning have, he could surpass the century mark again.
In terms of fantasy hockey, these point totals are very important. Depending on your league settings, other categories may influence your decision as well so let’s take a deeper look at how the two compare for fantasy purposes.
For our standard scoring settings, we will base the stats off of goals (G), assists (A), penalty minutes (PIM), game-winning goals (GWG), and power-play points (PPP).
Goals and Assists
Both players are threats to score; they have excellent shots and are equally deceptive when distributing the puck. Kucherov has more around him in terms of talent and this leads to better matchups defensively, giving him more options to spread the puck around. But, because of McDavid’s skill set, both guys can score at a high rate.
In terms of PIM, McDavid is the Oilers best player and their captain; they need him on the ice. He rarely gets into any altercations and is one of the smartest players with his stick so he does not receive many penalties. Kucherov does not wear a letter for the Lightning and gets fierier when things don’t go his way so he is more susceptible to taking minor infractions and being undisciplined.
For GWG, the Lightning are the better team so there are more opportunities to tally those. Tampa Bay has won 116 games in the past two seasons, while Edmonton has only been on the winning side of the scoreboard 71 times. But that has not stopped McDavid as he has registered 16 GWG to Kucherov’s 15. Even though there is a higher chance of Kucherov scoring a game-winner because his team is better, there are more weapons on the Lightning and the puck is spread out a lot more.
With all the skill on the Lightning, their power play has been one of the best over the past two seasons. In 2017-18, they were third in the league at 23.9%, scoring 66 goals and last season they were first at 28.2%, scoring 74 goals. The Oilers have been a different story over the past two seasons, as they were last in the league during the 2017-18 season at 14.8%, scoring 31 goals and ninth at 21.2%, scoring 47 goals in 2018-19.
The Tampa Bay power play is almost unfair with all the weapons they deploy. Kucherov had an astounding 48 PPP last season and has registered at least 30 PPP in the last three seasons. McDavid tallied 33 PPP last season on an improved Oilers man-advantage, but when they were last in the league he only registered 20 PPP. Until we see more consistency out of their extra-man unit, we will give the nod to Kucherov.
For advanced scoring formats, we will factor in short-handed points (SHP), shots on goal (SOG), time-on-ice (TOI), hits, and blocks.
Time on Ice
Last season, McDavid led all forwards in TOI, averaging 22:50 minutes a game. When you have as much talent as he does and you are on the ice for more than a third of the game, you will have opportunities to score. Even though he does not have ample support like Kucherov does, he creates his own offense. The more ice time he receives, the more of a threat he is for fantasy purposes.
When it comes to SHP, Kucherov does not kill penalties while McDavid does. And as previously mentioned, whenever McDavid is on the ice, he is a threat to score. Even when he is down a teammate.
Shots, Hits, Blocks
For the other peripheral stats (SOG, hits, blocks), all three of them are pretty even when comparing the two. With no major advantage for either player, these three categories will be a wash.
Who to Pick
Kucherov’s surroundings are primarily the same as last season, the Lightning just need to re-sign restricted free agent, Brayden Point. He almost became a victim of an offer sheet, but it has been reported he wants to stay in Tampa Bay.
McDavid’s supporting cast on the ice is primarily the same, with the exception of Milan Lucic being shipped out for James Neal. The biggest change happened behind McDavid, as Dave Tippett was named head coach of the club over the summer. Tippett is known for implementing a structured, defense-first system, so it remains to be seen how this will affect his point totals, but it is something to keep in mind during draft day.
The final criteria to base your pick off of is position eligibility. While McDavid has the most talent, he also plays center, a position that most would consider easiest to fill. Kucherov is a right winger, a position that is harder to fill with the type of talent he possesses.
In a one-year league, we are leaning towards Kucherov as the first overall pick because of the new bench boss behind McDavid and position requirements. If you are drafting a keeper league, then McDavid would be your guy. He is younger and has the most potential of any skater with the skill he oozes.
All stats were taken from https://www.hockey-reference.com/