Ramblings: The Todd Marchant All-Stars and other musings.
Since it’s my last ramblings of the year, it is time for a little self indulgence, starting with a piece that will forever be known as the Todd Marchant All-Star team. In this piece, I will run down my favourite players from this season who were not All-Stars, like my favourite Oiler growing up. This list skews young but that’s because talent, particularly undervalued talent, skews young in the NHL. These players don’t even have to have much fantasy relevance, although that certainly helps to grab my attention. We will follow the NHL’s All-Star construct in building this roster so we get six forwards, three defensemen and two goalies. But because I don’t watch the games for goalies I’ll be turning those spots into Wild Card slots instead. Maybe I’ll take a goalie or two or maybe I won’t. The 2016-17 Todd Marchant All-Stars:
I’ve got a soft spot for Arvidsson since I’ve been following from when he was drafted back in 2014. I used a late-round flyer on him in a dynasty league. It’s been watching him quickly develop from late-round flyer, to AHL stud, to fourth-line curiosity to first-line gem in the matter of three years. What a whirlwind!
What makes Arvidsson a joy to watch is his relentless play. We all love to watch smaller players “overachieve” but at this point the success of players like Arvidsson, Brad Marchand, Brendan Gallagher, Zach Parise, etc. has built an archetype. Smaller guys built like a pitbull, with a never-ending motor are going to succeed, especially if they are constantly chucking rubber at the net. It also helps to have skills like these:
I would imagine that this will be the only appearance for Pastrnak on the Todd Marchant All-Stars as he is soon to elevate into the top tier in the league. If not for Brad Marchand’s emergence as an MVP candidate, we’d all likely be focusing more on Pastrnak’s breakout season. He didn’t reach 40 goals as I had been trumpeting in the first half but he isn’t that far off.
Pastrnak turns 21 this month but is already one of the league’s top goal-scorers and point producers. Having finally gained the trust to play big minutes, his talent is on full display and he is quickly becoming the fulcrum of the Bruins’ top power play unit, setting up in the Ovechkin spot for one-timers.
Pastrnak’s ever-evolving game and young age means that there is likely another level for him to hit and he’s already set himself up to be a top-30 fantasy pick next season. Maybe he should go even higher!
We know that Pastrnak can make you pay on the rush, beating defenders one-on-one to get to the net, and he’s also got a release to score from farther out but his developing one-timer blast is the skill that’s going to push him to 40 goals one day. Beyond the goal-scoring, Pastrnak has excellent vision that will help keep him relevant as his other skills deteriorate but that’s still a way off. Until then, enjoy the show:
Mikael Backlund has been getting plenty of love in the Selke chase so let’s give his partner in crime some attention. This duo is one of the league’s best. While they were clearly bested in recent head-to-head matchups against Bergeron/Marchand and Crosby+Kids, Calgary’s 3M Line remains one of the league’s top two-way lines. They take on all of the top matchups and come out ahead most of the time, freeing up Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan to feast on weaker opposition.
What makes Frolik and Backlund most intriguing to me is how frequently the pursue offense on the penalty kill. I often lament the unpredictability of shorthanded goals/points in head-to-head leagues but there is a reason that Frolik and Backlund are among the top shorthanded scorers since they were paired together. In the battle of Alberta, they are my nightmare:
Horvat was an All-Star this season but only because the NHL mandates that every team has a representative. I suppose it’s good marketing but if you had forgotten about Horvat’s All-Star appearance, you aren’t the only one, which is why he still fits. He remains in the shadows because of Vancouver’s fall from relevance but Horvat is reason enough to tune in to any Canucks’ game.
Improved speed has placed Horvat into the tier of individuals capable of breaking away on any shift but it’s his work in tight spaces that really makes Horvat a treat. His ability to setup teammates with slick passing is going to help turn Brock Boeser into an immediate hit in fantasy leagues.
Is Horvat the #1 centerman that the Canucks need to go toe-to-toe with the league’s best? Perhaps not but he is part of the solution.
Is it possible to have a breakout season and yet still be a disappointment? You can’t help but feel that this is what Niederreiter has achieved. After breaking out for 46 points in 61 games through the first three quarters of the season, Niederreiter and the rest of the Wild have hit the wall. He has just six points in 16 games this month but he has still cruised to a career high 52 points, setting a new standard for himself.
Niederreiter is a two-way bull, driving play forward at an elite level for a Minnesota team that has otherwise largely been outshot all season long. Watch him man-handle Ryan Ellis:
There wasn’t a cooler play all season than Faksa’s boards slide.
But that’s only part of the reason that he makes this squad. Faksa’s transition from hyped lottery pick, to forgotten prospect, to two-way force is reminiscent of what Backlund has done in Calgary. One of the few players to Corsi positively for a Stars’ team that completely rebuilt its defense, Faksa is going to be a big part of the next contender in Dallas and is a good reason why they aren’t as far off as they might seem. You tune in for Stars hockey to watch Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin but Faksa is helping to keep the trains running on time.
I tune in to Carolina Hurricane games because of my well-documented fantasy hockey lust for Justin Faulk but I frequently come away impressed Slavin, who is undoubtedly Carolina’s top defenseman. He has paired with Brett Pesce to form one of the better defense pairings in the NHL. The Hurricanes seldom lose the possession battle with those two on the ice because of their good defensive skills and smooth puck moving. Slavin won’t always pop out but every now and then he makes a rush up ice that makes your jaw drop.
Speaking of big guys who can move, Parayko is the next step up from Slavin. You’ll see him lead the breakout or take it end-to-end on a nearly nightly basis. His hands are unreal for a 6’6” monster.
Combine those with a bomb from the point, and you can’t help but make comparisons to Brent Burns. Those comps aren’t totally justified. Burns’ ability to chuck rubber from the point is ridiculous. Burns, Ray Bourque and Bobby Orr are the only defensemen to record over 350 SOG in a season.
It would be unwise to put limitations on what Parayko can develop into. He hasn’t yet turned 24 and has his best years ahead of him. With raw skills like Parayko’s, we may as well set the upside as high as what Brent Burns is offering. He might just get there.
This year’s rookie class is insane. Provorov probably won’t get a Calder vote despite being the #1 defenseman on a Flyer team still kind of in the playoff hunt. My love for Zach Werenski is well-established but I don’t know that he has had the better season than Provorov. Werenski’s stats are better but swap their situations and I’m sure Provorov could be a 50-point defenseman. Provorov has had Andrew MacDonald shackled to him for over 60% of his shifts and hasn’t drowned in the process. That’s a Calder worthy performance in most years.
Provorov may never reach his full potential in fantasy because his game is as uniquely geared to offensive production as Shayne Gostisbehere’s but he is the better all-around defenseman. It’s why he is already by far their time-on-ice leader. But in case you are wondering, there are offensive skills lurking:
Gostisbehere can have the fantasy numbers, Provorov’s going to contend for Norris’.
There’s no denying that small goaltenders are just more fun to watch, especially ones as excellent as Saros. I cannot wait to see Saros unleashed for 60+ games in a season to see if he can be the next Tim Thomas but until then, just look at how cute he is trying to cover post-to-post:
Brady Skjei led the Rangers in power play time with McDonagh out but was held scoreless in 25 minutes of action. Considering Skjei has 38 points while skating just 17 minutes per game, there are probably some more layers to his onion.
Jake Guentzel returned to the lineup last night rebuilding the prolific Guentzel-Crosby-Sheary line. Naturally, he scored a goal. Reactivate!
Despite prolific usage, Justin Schultz’s cold streak continues. He has just two points in the last 11 games.
Markstrom showed some flashes this season but we’re coming up on the sort of career sample size where we can be pretty confident that he isn’t a potential #1. The most damning stat isn’t his career 0.906 SV%, it’s his age. Now 27, Markstrom isn’t the young upstart. He’s got a three-year $11M deal kicking in next season. It is safe to say that the Canucks would like to see his surgery/rehab go well.
Ultimately, Markstrom doesn’t appear to be anything more than a stopgap as the Canucks bridge to Thatcher Demko. I suppose that makes Markstrom an Ondrej Pavelec.
Time for this week’s Q+A!
@SteveLaidlaw What does Gallagher's value look like for next season?
If you recall, I was extremely high on Brendan Gallagher coming into the season but once again he was derailed by injuries. He was also bumped off the top power play unit for Alexander Radulov, and sometimes Andrew Shaw, during the Canadiens’ mid-season swoon. Add in the injuries to linemate Alex Galchenyuk and some constant line shuffling, it was a nightmare season for Gallagher.
What I can’t get past are the missed opportunities for him to breakout the past two seasons. Last season he was on the cusp and then busted his hand. Then his hand was mutilated by a Shea Weber slapshot this season. There’s no way this doesn’t have a lingering effect on his ability to finish.
It doesn’t appear that Radulov is going anywhere, which will limit exposure to top skilled players. We’ve seen Gallagher used primarily in a defensive role alongside Tomas Plekanec since Claude Julien took over. That could be his fate. He’ll turn 25 and is an excellent play driver. These are his prime years. Barring a big organizational changeup, I don’t think I’ll be backing Gallagher next season, although he should remain an elite shot producer.
@SteveLaidlaw in a multi cat keeper, I can keep a 10th of any position. Would you keep Oshie or Bishop? I will already keep Matt Murray.
No. They have elite talent at every position. They arguably have two defensemen in Dustin Byfuglien and Jacob Trouba who are better than any defenseman the Oilers currently have. Their top-six forward group is outrageous. If you were building a team All-Star style with six forwards, three defense and one goalie, you’d probably take Winnipeg’s option in the top 10. They should be better. They need improved depth and probably improved coaching.
A lot of folks will say they need better goaltending, which I suppose means they’d need their version of the Cam Talbot acquisition but I’m a believer in Connor Hellebuyck. Improve the system in front of him and his numbers normalize. Not every bad goaltending story is actually bad goaltending.
@SteveLaidlaw My wife left me because of my gambling debts will she ever let me see the kids again? Also, what's Cory Schneider's outlook for next season
It could be a safety hazard if your debts to the Stucci brothers are still outstanding but if a successful fantasy hockey season has you in the black then I imagine the rug rats will be back in your life.
As for Cory Schneider, it’s a bit of a wait and see as to how their summer goes. They could use some upgrades on defense, otherwise I fear it could be another up and down year. He should be more consistent but it’s worth pointing out that goalies just don’t last at the top for very long.
Thanks for reading. This season was a blast. Hopefully we helped you win a league or two. You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.