Rambling about Matthews vs. Laine (again), the Sharks, minor notes from around the league and more …


I’m finding a surprising amount of resistance so the idea that Auston Matthews should be the first overall pick in this year’s keeper league draft. So now the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Matthews was winning as the top dog for the better part of two years before a few smart scouts said – “Hey, wait a minute. Patrik Laine is pretty awesome. And in fantasy hockey he put up as many or more points than Matthews.”

At first, many fantasy owners resisted the idea, but then it started gaining steam. Then Jesse Puljujarvi was drafted fourth by the Oilers and he started getting into the mix as well. Until we reach today, a fine day in mid-to-late July. I have a conversation online or offline with many different people from all walks of life and it’s been awhile since I’ve heard somebody say: “I’d take Matthews first.” In fact, one guy asked me which one he should take first and I said “Matthews, then Laine.” And he said “LOL – no way, it’s Laine or Puljujarvi! Which one of them? Matthews is better for real hockey not fantasy!”

I’m here to help you reel it back in. Hold on there, compadre.

I am open to the idea of Laine becoming the best fantasy asset of the three. I’m open to Puljujarvi as the best fantasy asset of the three. And I’m open to Matthews becoming the best asset of the three. In fact if I were to lay odds that, looking back from 2030 at their careers we would say Player X had the best numbers for fantasy hockey (points only), I would lay these odds:

Matthews: 40%

Laine: 35%

Puljujarvi: 22%

Someone else in the ’16 field: 3%

Matthews is still my top pick, but I wouldn’t shoot myself if I was ‘stuck’ with second pick thanks to some lottery system or whatever. He’s a safe player who has a ‘floor’ of 70 points and a ceiling of close to 100. He’s had some comparisons, points-wise, to Anze Kopitar, who had 81 points in a defensive system before. Laine is a lesser Alex Ovechkin. He’s never going to score 65 goals, but maybe he’ll score 55 and get 85 points. But his ‘floor’ is 35 goals and 70 points. Puljujarvi looked like a 70-point player (potentially) to me, but his value spikes because of who he’ll potentially play with. Just like Gretzky pushed Jari Kurri’s points upwards by at least 25%, Connor McDavid could do that to Puljujarvi.

They all look great. I wouldn’t laugh at any of them going first. But Matthews is still my guy. He’s the best player, has the highest ‘without help’ upside of the three, and he’s the safest pick. And don’t worry about the team he’s on, he’ll get 60 points this year or more – mark it. Doesn’t matter who he plays with.


Jason LaBarbera has announced his retirement at the age of 36. He finishes with a 62-73-20 record, 2.85 GAA and 0.907 SV%. His best season was in 2007-08 with Los Angeles when he was 17-23-2, 3.00 and 0.910. But that was the only season in which he got into more than 30 games. He will be the goaltending coach for Calgary of the WHL.


Some minor moves that you may have missed this week that won’t impact your league in any way but it’s July so you may find it marginally interesting…

Kyle Chipchura signed to play in the KHL

– Nathan Lieuwen signed with San Antonio of the AHL. That’s Colorado’s affiliate so if Varlamov gets hurt (likely) and either Pickard or Spencer Martin get hurt (possible), we could see him. Good landing spot for a fringe goalie who is hoping for a couple more NHL games in his career.

Viktor Tikhonov signed to play next season in the KHL. He came over from the KHL along with Artemi Panarin to play for the Blackhawks last season, giving the NHL a shot. Which one do you think enjoyed more success?

– I missed this completely, as I was away on the weekend: Josh Jooris has signed to play with the Rangers on a one-year deal. It’s a two-way deal, so this is a depth signing. His NHL ($600k) and AHL ($350k) are fairly close – it’s a contract designed to encourage teams to keep him or make him a frequent call-up.

Jordan Schroeder was placed on waivers in what is an interesting situation. Schroeder filed for arbitration, which is weird because he’s not really a regular on the team. But I guess he wants to be taken seriously. It’s hard to believe that he’s only 25 years old, it seems like he’s been a minor-leaguer forever. Anyway, he’s going to be looking for a one-way contract and who can blame him? So the Wild put him on waivers to show him and the arbitrator that teams will have no interest in him even if he’s available for free. That would likely get them the ruling they are looking for (i.e. a two-way contract).

– The Devils signed prospect defenseman Reece Scarlett to a one-year, two-way contract. I think he can make the team as a seventh defenseman, but at least this year will have no fantasy impact. You can read more on him here.

– The Stars signed Matej Stransky to a one-year, two-way deal. He had been playing his way off the radar as a pro but had somewhat of a bounce-back year last season in the AHL. It’s not enough to put him in the running to make the team though, barring a miracle camp. You can read more on the 23-year-old Stransky here.


Matt Nieto signed a one-year deal on the weekend and we didn’t touch upon it. He’s a skilled player with top-six upside, but it will never happen. Unfortunate, but he’s a victim of a numbers game and he’s not skilled enough to squeeze onto a scoring line. Here are the legit scoring line players on the Sharks:

Joonas Donskoi, Joe Pavelski , Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Mikkel Boedker, Tomas Hertl. And there’s your top six. I don’t think Patrick Marleau fits anymore. He’ll be 37 this year and coming off a 48-point season. Third line! Here are the prospects who will soon hit that top six:

Nikolai Goldobin, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc

And here are the players, in order, who I think can fill the top six in a pinch. When desperate.  In order:

Marleau, Chris Tierney, Nieto, Melker Karlsson, Tommy Wingels

As you can see, for Nieto to ever get into the top six he would need four players ahead of him to get injured. More, if any of those three prospects make the team.


Patrik Laine – yes, he's good: