Friday night was set to be Kailer Yamamoto’s ninth game with the team, which meant another game in the lineup and he has a year burned off his entry-level contract. He was a healthy scratch, though, so his status moving forward is still up in the air. There is no doubt his role has been greatly minimized in the last few games he’s played, which doesn’t bode well to stay with the big club.
Edmonton beat the Devils 6-3 at home on Friday night.
It didn’t take long for Edmonton to get on the board, as quick passing from Mark Letestu to Connor McDavid on the power play led to an early Drake Caggiula goal. The recent power play shakeups have seen The Drake (love The Drake) skate on the top PP unit, which makes him interesting from a fantasy perspective. It would be nice if that lasted, but who knows what will happen if this team keeps struggling. After Ryan Strome made it 2-0 on a deflection, Taylor Hall, in his return to Edmonton, scored off the rush on a nice driving play by Miles Wood. He was booed following the goal, which, what?
The teams exchanged goals about five minutes into the second period as Jesper Bratt tallied for the Devils and Oscar Klefbom scored his first of the season on a knuckle-puck that fooled Cory Schneider. It was probably one that Schneider would like to have back. It did give Patrick Maroon an assist, though, extending his point streak to seven games. A late-period goal from Milan Lucic would give the Oilers a 4-2 lead and it was cruise control from there. Leon Draisaitl added a goal with about seven minutes left in the third to salt things away. New Jersey would add one that led to a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins empty-netter.
McDavid had three assists while Nugent-Hopkins and Caggiula each added a goal and an assist. Cam Talbot saved 30 of 33 for the win while Cory Schneider stopped 36 of 41 in the loss.
Nashville took a 5-3 win on the road from Anaheim on Friday night. Nashville had a two-point effort from Roman Josi, who added six shots on goal and two blocked shots for a monster fantasy night. PK Subban had an empty-netter for the Preds with three shots of his own, adding to the solid night from the Predators blue line.
Pekka Rinne saved 35 of 38 shots in the Nashville win while John Gibson let in four on 29 shots in the Ducks loss.
Scott Hartnell scored early in the game on a nice feed from Roman Josi giving him his fourth of the season. Hartnell is now on pace for a 25-goal season. Remember when he signed for $1 million? That was wild. Josi added a goal late in the period to give him his third multi-point game in just 10 contests this season.
Matt Irwin and Antoine Vermette exchanged goals early in the second period for their respective teams with Viktor Arvidsson scoring late to give the Preds a 4-1 lead. Ondrej Kase had an assist on Vermette’s goal, giving him eight points in 10 games this year, putting him second on the Ducks in production. He’s a very good hockey player, and hopefully Randy Carlyle can give him some more minutes more regularly.
No one on Anaheim had a multi-point effort on the three goals, but Jakob Silfverberg did score a third-period goal for the Ducks, adding seven shots on goal. The Silfver Fox now has 44 shots on goal, and if he can start climbing towards the 10.1 percent shooting he had last year, could start filling the net. He has never been a high-conversion shooter, though.
Just as a small aside, Darren Dreger of TSN dropped this late last night:
It’s fun to try to figure out the pieces here, though I suspect Cody Ceci was the sticking point.
It happens to every fantasy owner, in every sport, every year. A player has a great start, going a couple weeks or a month looking like a different person. People think to themselves, “well, maybe this is the year!” And to be fair, sometimes it is. Players have career-years without much explanation beyond good fortune. It can be players that are already great playing like generational talents like Patrick Kane’s 106-point season. It can be players that are very good producing like great players as was the case with Jakub Voracek’s 81-point campaign. And it can be guys coming out of nowhere to have that one magical year like David Clarkson scoring 30 in 2011-12. Whatever the cause, it does happen. Players have career (or wildly unexpected) years, and fantasy owners that stick by them reap huge rewards.
Most of the time, though, players fall off, sometimes considerably. PDO is a hell of a drug, and percentages are the mystery pill handed to you at a rave: you’re better off not entertaining the idea of it. Sometimes people do anyway.
Here are some players off to great starts, putting fantasy owners to the test. I will note that I’m not going to include players for the specific purpose of saying, “John Tavares won’t shoot over 25 percent this year.” Dobber readers are smarter than that.
Dylan Larkin – 2 goals, 11 assists, 27 shots on goal
After a very disappointing sophomore campaign, the 21-year old centre is off to a great start this year with 13 points in 14 games. What is even more encouraging is that he’s playing over 19 minutes a game. Yes, a couple of those minutes are on the penalty kill, but this was a guy who was buried on the fourth line at times in 2016-17, so to see his coach trust him in all three phases bodes well for ice time stability.
One concern here is that shot rate. It has declined in both seasons since his rookie year, and he’s now averaging slightly under two shots per game. What is nice to see, though, is that on a per-minute basis, his individual shot attempt rate is up from last year even if his actual shot on goal rate is down. Hopefully it’s just a small-sample issue causing the discrepancy between shots he takes and the number that actually end up on target. If that normalizes, once his own shooting percentage climbs (and it should), the goals will come.
The biggest problem, though, are all the assists. He’s on pace for 65. He won’t get to 65. Both his first-assist and second-assist rates are about triple what they were for the first two years of his career. The team is also shooting over 10.5 percent when he’s on the ice, and that will fall as well. To hammer home how far ahead he is out of last year: he’s two-thirds of the way to his five-on-five assist total from last year (12) this year (8) in just 14 games. At this rate, he’ll match his total from 2015-16 in about five weeks. Surely, this start is not to be believed.
The goals will come around but the assists will fall off a cliff. I know Detroit fans will hate to hear this, but if he gets to 50 points this year, it should be considered a success. The team doesn’t draw many penalties, and he doesn’t get much PP time as a result. Relying on man-advantage points, then, is a bad idea. It might be time to shop him in one-year fantasy leagues and seeing what kind of return he can get. He’s a top-50 roto skater right now in standard leagues, and he won’t be close to that by the end of the year.
Clayton Keller – 9 goals, 6 assists, 53 shots on goal
I get that the natural inclination to see a rookie averaging over a point-per-game through the first month of the season is to scream “SELL.” Follow me on this fantastic voyage.
He’s shooting 17 percent. That’s high. I very much doubt he’ll shoot 17 percent for the balance of the season. But is the regression worth selling? As always, the return is important. If you can wrangle what you think will be a top-25 skater or top-10 goalie ROS, then sure. If not, maybe wait.
Keller is averaging 3.79 shots on goal per game. That rate has him tied for ninth among forwards in the league. Not among rookies, or among teenagers. All forwards. This is the entire list:
That’s pretty good.
Part of that is a function of all his ice time; he’s tied for 10th in the league in five-on-five ice time per game among forwards, and is averaging nearly 20 minutes a game total. He’s still among the top-50 forwards in shot attempts per minute (minimum of 100 minutes played), and that, too, is a good sign. If he can keep up his shot-per-game rate, even if he shoots at half the conversion rate he is now, he’d still score about 22 goals over the balance of the season.
There is also his line to consider. With Derek Stepan and Max Domi alongside, the Coyotes generate 72.8 shot attempts per 60 minutes at five-on-five. That’s top-10 across the league in shot generation (minimum 50 minutes together), and ahead of the top lines from teams like Tampa Bay, San Jose, and St. Louis. A line that plays that much per game, and generates that much offence, is not to be ignored.
Adding to that last point: his line mates are shooting a combined 3.6 percent. Stepan and Domi have three goals on 83 shots. If (when) Keller’s goal rate falls off, it’ll hurt his value, but those of his line mate’s should climb soon. To that end, even if Keller were only to score 20 goals the rest of the year (*only*), he’s on pace for 35 assists as it is. That will undoubtedly improve as the shot percentages of Domi and Stepan rebound.
I would hold onto Keller unless, as mentioned earlier, the return is too large to ignore. There is a reasonable path for him to score 20 goals and manage 35 assists from this point forward. That’s a lot to give up with the shot rate he can give in addition.
There are more to add to the list, but those two stuck out to me. Here are a few players I’m keeping an eye on:
Phil Kessel – Hey, a point per game is a great start to the year. It is concerning, though, that over half his points are power-play assists. Yeah, I get the Penguins PP is lethal, but he’s on pace for 44 PP apples. He is landing over four shots on goal per game, though, and that shooting percentage should climb from the 6.5 percent where it sits. Can a rise in goals mitigate the loss in power-play production?
Jack Eichel – A lot of people, yours truly included, were hoping Eichel could be a point-per-game player this year and he has been so far. That’s good! He also has 35 shots on goal in 13 games. That’s a lot less good. It’s easy to see where the shots are going – Evander Kane leads the league in shots per game with over five – but it’s concerning for Eichel’s fantasy value. Kane isn’t typically a high-percentage shooter, and a lot of Eichel’s value will be tied to assists if he’s only averaging 2.6 shots per game.
Dustin Brown – From 2014-2017, Brown shot 6.2 percent, which wouldn’t be bad for a defenceman, were he a defenceman. That rate is 13.6 percent this year. It’s not like it’s unforeseen as he did shoot 11.6 percent from 2010-2013, but to have such a big turnaround at age 33 is truly remarkable. The Kings have tried to create more scoring chances this year, so that could be a big factor. He’s also playing a monster 21:34 per game so far. That volume should give him a good floor, but can he keep that conversion rate? I’m not sure.