Ramblings: The Postman Delivers But The Breadman Assists; Wilson On Fire – December 9

Michael Clifford


It was the Artemi Panarin show in Newark on Friday night.

After his team fell behind 2-0 on goals from Marcus Johansson and Brian Boyle, Panarin had three primary assists on three second-period goals for Columbus. The prettiest of the three was probably on Scott Harrington’s goal where Panarin finds him as the trailer through a solid backcheck:

He added a fourth assist, on the power play no less, in the third period on Alex Wennberg’s game-winning goal, and his fifth assist on Zach Werenski’s late tally. Five goals for Columbus, five primary assists for Panarin. Truly a night that is hard to top.

Once Panarin’s shooting percentage comes around (he’s under 9 percent right now despite being over 15 percent in his first two years), he’ll be fine as a fantasy asset. Power-play points are still an issue, and that will limit his upside, but getting to 20 goals and 60 points seems reasonable.


For those frustrated Cam Atkinson fantasy owners, maybe grab a big sip of coffee before reading the following tweet:

Now you get to clean the coffee off your computer screen! Or an unfortunate stranger if you were on a commute.

I don’t know what Jackets fans think, but Atkinson didn’t stand out to me in a bad way in any game of theirs I’ve watched this year. He hasn’t been scoring, but he hasn’t also been a liability. That I’ve noticed, anyway.

Regardless, maybe now is the time to inquire to a panicking Atkinson owner? If his shooting percentage increases, he can still push for 25 goals. Getting 20-ish goals the rest of the way would be a big win for what he would cost in a trade. It never hurts to ask.


Make it back-to-back games with goals for Nicklas Backstrom:

Both he and Alex Ovechkin have been on fire since being reunited. Now, I don’t want to attribute everything to that – remember when the whole team was on fire for the first two weeks of the season? – but as long as they keep rolling, it’s only good for the fantasy value of each player.

Tom Wilson continued his recent hot streak with a goal and an assist in the third period. The final four minutes, really, as this was a 2-2 game with 3:30 left on the clock.

I suppose as long as Wilson is on the top line, he has value in fantasy leagues that count PIMs. Count me dubious that he has much production value, though, recent hot streak aside. From 2014-2017, Wilson was 178th out of 202 forwards in primary points per 60 minutes at five-on-five, sandwiched between Dwight King and Adam Lowry. Before saying that it’s all due to line mates (some is, I will grant that), note that guys like Chris Stewart, Antoine Roussel, and Dale Weise all out-produced him on a per-minute basis, some by a lot (Roussel by over 30 percent, for example). He’ll stay there as long as the goals keep coming, but as soon as those fall off, he’ll be back in the bottom-6. That’s not a bad thing – he’s fine as a fourth-line winger, third line in a pinch. I just don’t see him working out long-term on the top line.


Speaking of Marcus Johansson’s goal, here it is:

Johansson returning to the lineup should be a boost on both sides of the puck for this team, and make their lineup a little longer. I do have doubts for him as a fantasy asset. He had a career-high 58 points last year, partly due to playing on a heavily-used top PP unit for the Capitals leading to 19 power-play points. If he plays on the second line in New Jersey and his PP time is split between two units, a 50-point/82 games pace is as much as we can expect.


Friday night marked the return of Andre Burakovsky to the Washington lineup. He started and finished the game on the third line with Brett Connolly and Lars Eller.

This was a year of high expectations for Burakovsky from the fantasy community. With Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson no longer on the roster, two top-six forward spots opened up, and he was expected to be on one of the top two lines. He had been playing with Nicklas Backstrom and TJ Oshie before his broken finger, and that trio was crushing it to the tune of a 57.4 percent adjusted shot share and 53.5 percent expected goal share.

Count me among the interested to see what the lineup looks like in a week or two. While Burakovsky’s old line was performing very well, the duo of Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin was getting shredded defensively. Once Oshie returns from his current injury, does Trotz return to Burakovsky-Backstrom-Oshie? Does he leave Ovechkin-Backstrom-Wilson together? Burakovsky won’t see top power-play minutes unless there’s an injury, but he’ll have moderate fantasy value once he makes his way back to the top-six. How much he has will depend on which line mates he ends up with, and the settings individual leagues (plus/minus could be an issue).


The game of the night was undoubtedly Vegas-Nashville. We had six total goals, 83 total shots, a back-and-forth overtime, and of course (PK) Subban vs. Malcolm Subban.

Vegas managed a 2-0 lead on goals from William Karlsson (of course) and James Neal (no way he wasn’t scoring in his return to Nashville). Nashville fired him three straight goals from Calle Jarnkrok, Viktor Arvidsson, and Nick Bonino. Vegas tied the game with the goalie pulled on a deflected shot from Erik Haula.

Honestly, this game was a lot of fun, and hopefully we see them meet in the playoffs.

On the Jarnkrok goal, I want to point something out. In the first five seconds of this video, watch Filip Forsberg one-hand a waist-high puck down to his feet, and away from a pressing Vegas checker:

What a special player.

There was nothing really particular in this game to point out. Arvidsson had a couple points, as did Nate Schmidt (two assists). Schmidt and Mattias Ekholm tied for most minutes in this game with 28:08. In fact, no Vegas skater had more than 21 minutes played. Schmidt was a beast.

This was just a very fun game to watch. More of this please.


At the other end of the spectrum, Chicago absolutely laid waste to Buffalo. It was a 3-2 overtime win, sure, but Buffalo wasn’t really controlling this game at any point. The final shot tally was 51-28 Blackhawks, and Chicago had 70 percent of the score-adjusted shot share at five-on-five. Robin Lehner was the reason this game was 3-2 and not 8-2.

Buffalo actually led this game going into the final four minutes of the third. They promptly gave up a short-handed goal to Tommy Wingels to force overtime. On the power play this year, Buffalo has scored 11 and allowed eight against. They’re plus-3 on the power play two months into the season.

Small, meaningless quirk that I would not have noticed had I not been watching hockey every Friday night: on Fridays this year, the Sabres have been outshot 211-160 in six games, but are outshooting teams 743-711 on every other day combined (someone please double-check my 1 AM math).

Gustav Forsling had three points including the game-winner in overtime.


Corey Crawford started Friday night’s game for the Blackhawks, meaning he missed just three games with injury. I’m sure the team is happy to have him back seeing as they gave up 11 goals in those three games, losing them all.

It can’t be overstated how much he means to this team. He has a .922 save percentage going back to the lockout season (that’s 274 starts!), and his .930 this year has helped this team stay in the playoff race early on when they were porous defensively. Fantasy owners rejoice, and pray no further injuries come.


Minnesota and Anaheim played a fairly boring game. It’s kind of to be expected given what we’ve seen from the Wild this year and Anaheim’s injuries, but sometimes those types of games can be wild and wide-open. This was not.

Matt Dumba scored the overtime winner on a cut across the net. It was a huge game fantasy-wise for him as he had the goal, six shots, five blocked shots, and four hits. Jason Zucker had a goal, an assist, and four shots. 

Once the Ducks are healthy, keep an eye on Ondrej Kase. He had an assist in this game, giving him 11 points in 17 games. He has 11 goals and 26 points in 70 career games playing pretty much fourth line minutes. Hopefully he can stick around in the top-six, there's some skill here that the team could use up front. 


Can we take a moment to appreciate how good Jason Zucker is?

From the start of the 2014-15 season, Zucker is just outside the top-10 in goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five. His mark of 1.06 has him 11th, between Evgeni Malkin (1.07) and James Neal (1.06). This year, he’s finally been given some power-play time, and Zucker is well on his way to his first 30-goal season. Remember, last year when Zucker set a career-best with 22 goals, just one came with the man advantage, and he averaged 15 seconds of PP time per contest. He’s over two minutes per game this year and he’s doubled his career PP goal output as a result.

Beyond just appreciating Zucker is the fantasy hockey (and fantasy sports lesson) in general here: player values are often at the whims of coaches. Had Zucker been given 2-3 minutes of power-play time last year, he may have cracked 30 goals and 60 points. Instead, he wasn’t, and he finished with 22 and 47. This was the case with Brandon Saad in Columbus, is the case with Nikolaj Ehlers in Winnipeg, and to a lesser extent Jason Spezza in Dallas. The line between being a good fantasy asset and a great fantasy asset is often power-play opportunity and equally often we have no idea how it will shake out until we see it in games.

This kind of brings me back to the point of Burakovsky. Working under the assumption from before the year that he wouldn’t get much PP time without injury, what, exactly was his upside? Well, two players have cracked 60 points with 10 or fewer PP points in any of the previous three seasons, and they maxed out at 61. Even in a great offensive year at five-on-five, expecting more than 50 from Burakovsky would have been foolish. We are seeing Zucker really break out thanks to PP time, but he and Burakovsky should serve as cautionary tales. Power-play production makes or breaks most fantasy seasons, so keep expectations in check unless you’re sure a certain player will get the minutes he needs. 


A quick update on Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler:

This team needs both of these guys to come back and be the players they can be, desperately.


Everyone remembers the injury scare at the end of last year for Kyle Okposo. Those problems seem behind him, but maybe new ones have cropped up:

Harrington also tweeted this:

Though the Sabres as a collective have been an affront to offensive prowess, it has been surprising that Okposo has been pacing for a little over 10 goals this year after tallying on Friday night.

Hopefully this is nothing, but it’s something to keep in the back of your mind in case Okposo pops up on your waiver wires. Give it a little bit of thought before just grabbing him, especially with him on the fourth line of late.


I heard a quote the other day – I think it was from a Panthers player? – that Aleksander Barkov was already a top-5 centre in the NHL. I decided to run a brief Twitter poll just to see what some of my followers thought, but limited it to just the Eastern Conference:

This isn’t fantasy-related directly, but it is interesting the public perception here. Thoughts, Dobber heads? 


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