Slapshot Fantasy

Fantasy Hockey: Has Vintage Pavel Datsyuk Really Returned?

The 2015-16 season is quickly becoming known for the year of personal milestones.

Just a few weeks after Alex Ovechkin reached 500 goals and Sidney Crosby tallied his 900th point, Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk joined Crosby in the 900 points club. Datsyuk accomplished the feat on Valentine’s Day, when he recorded three points, including two goals, against the Boston Bruins.

It was Datsyuk’s second three-point game of the season, which was a feat the center seemingly did all the time in his younger days. He might not be the same player he once was, but the 37-year-old Russian is proving with his recent surge that he has plenty left in the tank to still be fantasy relevant.

Talent has never been a problem for Datsyuk. Injuries, on the other hand, have been a major issue.

He played just 63 games last season, which is actually high for the Red Wings center. That’s the most games he has played over the last three years. Datsyuk could still play more than 63 games this season, but he did miss the first 15 contests of 2015-16 because of an ankle injury.

Assuming he suits up every night for the remainder of this season, which is a pretty big assumption, Datsyuk has missed 110 games over the last six seasons. He hasn’t played a minimum of 80 games since 2009-10.

Still, this February, Datsyuk is proving that when he is on the ice, he can be very dangerous. In the last six games, he has six goals and 10 points with a plus-four rating. The 37-year-old has scored at least a point in all six of those contests and has four goals in the last three games.

As encouraging as this recent streak is, it is worth asking whether Datsyuk is truly back or if this is just a flash in the pan? He wasn’t exactly on fire prior to those six games. Half of his goals and nearly one-third of his points this season have come since Feb. 6.

In the first 36 games this season, Datsyuk had six goals and 24 points.

It’s foolish to believe the 37-year-old will continue his current pace. He has a scoring percentage of 25.0 percent in the last six games, which is absolutely not sustainable. This makes Datsyuk a prime sell-high candidate.

Still, if owners prefer to hold onto the old superstar, there are reasons to be optimistic that he can continue to play well down the stretch. First, his shots per game are way up in February. This month, he is averaging 4.25 shots on goal per game. In the last seven contests, Datsyuk has a five-shot, a six-shot and two seven-shot games.

Like his shooting percentage, those numbers aren’t sustainable either, but he could certainly continue to get about 3.0 shots on net per contest. That’s an improvement from the 2.26 shots on goal per game he averaged through January.

As a result of the higher shot totals, Datsyuk is creating more scoring chances. The chart below indicates his number of high-danger scoring chances are also increasing.

Courtesy of War-on-ice.com

Maybe most importantly, his Corsi For percentage is up too. Datsyuk has always been a high possession forward. He has a 58.2 Corsi For percentage this season, but in each of the last four games, and in seven of the last 12, he has been above 60 percent.

These totals might be a surprise to fantasy owners, but they really aren’t to his teammates.

“He’s Pavel Datsyuk,” Henrik Zetterberg told the Detroit Free Press. “I don’t think anyone is surprised. He is playing the way he always has been. Even as he gets older in age, he keeps playing the way he always has.”

To conclude, Datsyuk isn’t really back because he didn’t really go anywhere. He’s just been a wounded star over the last several years. As long as he remains healthy, feel free to continue plugging him into the lineup.

 

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