The next fantasy faceoff features two stars in two different places in their careers. One is on the rise while the other is already in his prime. Regardless, they are both solid additions to any fantasy hockey squad. I’m talking about Elias Pettersson and Vladimir Tarasenko.
Pettersson finished the 2018-19 season with a Calder Trophy and Tarasenko finished with a Stanley Cup. Both have the hardware, but who should get your pick? THW is here to make that decision a little easier. Let’s go!
Pettersson and Tarasenko were very similar in regards to point totals in 2018-19. In fact, they were separated by only two points. For fantasy hockey, that is super close, especially when you get to your pick on draft day. However, there are many categories that influence decisions. Let’s compare the two in those categories to decrease your stress level when you are on the clock.
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 have excellent wrist shots and slap shots, so goal scoring will not be a problem with these two. However, Pettersson has the potential to add more assists to his totals this season than Tarasenko. He will have J.T. Miller or Micheal Ferland on his left side, which is an upgrade from the options he had last season.
Having said that, Tarasenko has surpassed 70 points three times already in his career. Pettersson cannot boast that type of production, yet. But, according to NHL.com’s projections, Pettersson will finish ahead of him with 77 points compared to Tarasenko’s 73. So it could be a toss-up in this category.
When you look at PIMs, both players do not visit the sin bin that often. Tarasenko may be the more physical of the two but he does not take a lot of penalties as a result of it. When you look at the numbers, Pettersson had 12 PIMs last season while Tarasenko has averaged 21 PIMs in his career, with 37 being his highest total back in the 2015-16 season. So it’s best not to base your decision of who to choose on PIMs. But if I had to choose, Tarasenko wins this round.
For GWG, the St. Louis Blues are the better team and the defending Stanley Cup champions. So, Tarasenko will have more opportunities to generate GWGs. However, his career high for this stat is only eight (back in 2016-17).
Pettersson, on the other hand, had seven GWGs in his rookie season on a team that missed the playoffs. The nearest contender was Bo Horvat with three. In fact, Pettersson was only three away from the NHL leader (Phil Kessel). The Canucks are an improved team too, so GWGs should be easier to get for the Swede as well.
Power Play Points
Here’s where it gets dicey. Pettersson and Tarasenko both finished the 2018-19 season with 22 PPP, so history will not help us here. To attempt to break this tie, let’s look at the quality of players at their disposal and team power play success.
The Canucks’ power play has fluctuated over the past two seasons finishing 22nd in 2018-19 after a 9th-place finish in 2017-18. With more weapons this season in Quinn Hughes, Miller, and Ferland, Pettersson should have more opportunities to unleash his killer shot on the man advantage.
The Blues’ power play has had similar fluctuations. In 2018-19 they finished 10th after an abysmal 30th place finish in 2017-18. This coming season could be different as Craig Berube is the head coach from the outset. Tarasenko will have the same personnel available to him on the man advantage this season, so I see similar totals from him.
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, Pettersson averaged 18:04 TOI, which was amongst the leaders on the Canucks. When he is on the ice, things seem to happen even when he’s by himself. He can beat players one-on-one and his creativity is off the charts. So, the more time he’s on the ice, the more chances he will get. Going into 2019-20, he is the defacto number one center. I see him getting close to 20 minutes this season.
Tarasenko averaged 18:24 TOI last season, very similar to Pettersson. With almost the same roster returning for the Blues, I don’t see that changing. So I give the edge to Pettersson here.
In terms of SHP, both players do not kill penalties. With how smart Pettersson is, he may end up killing them in the future. However, I don’t think Canucks head coach Travis Green will give him that task this season.
Shots, Hits, Blocks
In terms of these stats, both players are pretty close in blocks. The difference comes in shots and hits. Tarasenko has averaged close to 300 shots per season in his career, while Pettersson only had 144 last season. Now, the sample size is small, but Tarasenko is a pure shooter, while Pettersson is a playmaker first. So, the former will easily outpace the latter.
In terms of hits, Tarasenko has become more physical recently, dishing out 177 of them over the past two seasons. To put that in perspective, he only had 82 over the two seasons previous to that. Pettersson on the other hand only had 44 hits last season. I don’t see him getting more physical in 2019-20. However, Tarasenko is poised to build on those totals, as he is rounding out to be a very effective 200-foot player.
Who to Pick
Tarasenko’s linemates will remain the same this season as Ryan O’Reilly and Brayden Schenn help complete the trio. However, Pettersson will get another threat on his left side to go along with restricted free agent sniper Brock Boeser. All the Canucks need to do is re-sign him.
Coaching stays the same on both teams, except Berube is the head coach of the Blues from the outset of training camp. Time will tell if Tarasenko’s deployment changes as a result. He was one of Berube’s key contributors to the Stanley Cup win in June. He may, in fact, become more important to the Blues’ attack this coming season.
The final area to look at is positional eligibility. Pettersson is a centerman, which is a pretty easy spot to fill. Tarasenko is a right winger with a shooter’s mentality and the potential to score 40 goals. That is hard to come by in most leagues.
In a one-year league, go with Tarasenko due to his ability to provide numbers in multiple categories. If you are drafting in a keeper league, Pettersson is the obvious choice as he is younger along with the potential to put up 100 points in his prime.
All stats were taken from https://www.hockey-reference.com
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.