We are on the precipice of Ryan McDonagh’s debut with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He had been practicing in a non-contact jersey since the trade but was in a regular jersey for Friday’s practice. He didn’t skate in actual pairing, though, so I wouldn’t anticipate plays in the team’s game Saturday afternoon against Montreal. They’re off until Tuesday after that, which would give him a couple more days to progress, and a soft return game at home against Ottawa to ease him back in. Just in time for head-to-head playoffs (for some)!
Florida has had a revolving door of wingers on the second line all year and it appears Frank Vatrano will be skating alongside Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau on the second line for Saturday night’s home game against the Rangers.
Vatrano posted 39 goals in 43 AHL games in the Bruins system and has long put up stellar shot rates, lending hope that he would be consistent scorer, and thus a fantasy option in the NHL. He was even pretty good for Boston, rate-wise; his 0.78 goals/60 minutes at five-on-five for his career is comparable to names like Mike Hoffman (0.79) and Tanner Pearson (0.77) over the same three-year span. Whatever the Boston coaching staffs saw in Vatrano was enough to overlook the fact that he was showing promise of being at least a middle-six scorer.
Caution needs to be exercised, of course. Again, it’s been a revolving door on the second line, so he might only last a game or two there. Even if he were to stick for the balance of the season, he won’t get top PP minutes, and would likely be pinned to the bench late in games if the team has a lead. That limits production upside. It is a good showcase for next year, though, and the hopes that Vatrano can be fantasy-relevant have once again surfaced.
Remember that Okposo was hospitalized last year for an illness as it related to concussion medication. Let’s hope nothing of the sort happens here again and that he makes a full recovery.
Like Okposo, let’s just hope Hanzal can make a full recovery here.
The Penguins have lost Bryan Rust to a concussion and there’s obviously no timetable for his return. Though not one of the team’s core pieces offensively he was a part of the team’s penalty killing tandems that had seen the Penguins allow the third-fewest power-play goals per minute since Christmas. Though he may not be a significant loss for fantasy owners, it could negatively impact the team’s penalty kill, and thus goaltending numbers, moving forward. Thankfully, once the team gets through the weekend, the rest of their March schedule reads as follows: @NYR, @MTL, @NYI, vs. MTL, vs. NJD, vs. PHI, @DET, @NJD, vs. MTL. That’s pretty soft.
How, exactly, does one go about evaluating the future of Thomas Chabot fantasy-wise as of today?
What stands out immediately is his points per 60 minutes at five-on-five. Among all blue liners with at least 600 minutes played, he’s tied for 22nd. That seems pretty good, right? It’s worth noting that he’s being carried by a lot of secondary assists – he’s accumulating those at double the rate of primary assists – and he’s shooting over 10 percent personally. Even if we exclude secondary assists, his primary points rate is still solid, being in the same range as guys like Brent Burns, Torey Krug, and Zach Werenski. Again, though, that’s being inflated by his high shooting percentage. The regression here would be mitigated by a rise in ice time because he’s still playing just 16-17 minutes a game.
There’s also the Erik Karlsson factor to consider. Chabot has played about 44 percent of his five-on-five ice time with EK. It’s hard to fault Chabot for not racking up primary assists when skating so often with the top puck-moving defenceman in the league.
Moving forward, we must consider Chabot’s role without Karlsson around, assuming that Karlsson is traded in the summer. He will assuredly get more ice time and may well be the team’s best puck-moving rearguard when the 2018-19 season begins, but who is he going to be skating with? His next-most common partner this year is Cody Ceci.
We’re back where we started: how do you evaluate the fantasy performance of a player with high shooting percentage and secondary assist rates, rates which may be mitigated by a rise in ice time, but may be playing with a (significantly) lower-quality player seven months from now? By the eye test, Chabot has been fine. His numbers with Ceci this year, surprisingly, have been fine, so maybe Chabot can carry them next year?
My opinion of Chabot hasn’t really changed much from where it was a year ago. He appears to be the part of a top-pair defenceman in the next couple years. Whatever your opinion was of him a year ago, I’m not sure anything this season has been enough to sway it one way or another.
In Ottawa’s game on Friday night, Jean-Gabriel Pageau played over 20 minutes, scored a penalty-shot goal, and continued to play the top PP unit. He added four more shots on goal with three blocked shots and 10 face-off wins. He’s now averaging over 20 minutes a game spanning his last five games. I hate to say a third-liner is a must-own for the fantasy playoffs, especially one on this calibre team, but if he gets that much usage and you’re in a league that counts face-offs, there are worse options.
Everyone was all excited about Evgeny Svechnikov joining the Red Wings lineup, right? We should have seen this coming: Nine minutes. Detroit called up (arguably) their top winger prospect and played him nine minutes on Thursday night. This is with fewer than five weeks left in a rebuilding season.
That was followed with about five and a half minutes on Friday night. There were no indications of injury.
I shouldn’t, and you shouldn’t, be surprised; Andreas Athanasiou wasn’t even worth a two-year deal to this team, Martin Frk toils away playing on the fourth line for god knows what reason, and it took until half-way through Anthony Mantha’s age-23 season to finally be given consistent top-six minutes without fear of fourth-line relegation.
And yet, I continue to be surprised.
Seth Jones led the Blue Jackets over the Red Wings in that game, by the way, with two goals, including the game-winner. That sets a career-high for him in goals (13) and he continues to add to his career-best points mark (46 now). He added two more shots, two blocks, and a hit. He’s truly become one of the top roto options among fantasy defencemen this year.
Athanasiou scored for Detroit in this one and is now up to, by my rough math, 1.02 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five this year, which leads the team. That would put him among the top-50 forwards league-wide in this regard. He’s ninth among Red Wings forwards in TOI/game at five-on-five this season.
Athanasiou also led the team in goals/60 minutes last year.
An interesting quote from Stars coach Ken Hitchcock came out Friday afternoon:
Interesting comment from Ken Hitchcock on putting Jamie Benn with Radek Faksa and Tyler Pitlick: "Faksa and Pitlick have been very productive players on both ends of the rink, and we’re hoping that they help Jamie be productive also…
— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) March 9, 2018
Benn is well on his way to his second consecutive sub-point-per-game season. Last year there was good reason to believe it took him a couple months to get over his offseason surgery. This season, the Stars are playing a lot more defensively than they have in the past. Spreading out the scoring makes sense but if this is any indication of a long-term solution, and Hitchcock is around for a couple more seasons, it’s possible Benn’s point-per-game days are behind him. I don’t suspect the line combinations will last – they never do in Dallas – but if they do start finding some success and that line stays together, it’s a problem for fantasy owners.
Oddly enough, Jamie Benn scored the game-winner for Dallas Friday night at home against Anaheim. He also assisted on the first goal, both power-play points. He needs one more PPP to hit 20 for the fourth straight season.
John Klingberg had a power-play assist of his own which gives him 20 such helpers on the year. That ties his career-high set in 2015-16.
With six shots on goal, Tyler Seguin is up to 275 on the year and that helps maintain his pace to set a career-high in this regard.
Zach Parise scored in Minnesota’s win over Vancouver, giving him points in six straight games (four goals and two assists). The Wild need the winger to regain some of his old form on a consistent basis if they want to make noise in the playoffs.
Ever wonder what could have been when it comes to Alex Edler in the fantasy game? Remember that from 2009-2012, his 82-game paces were 9 goals and 39 assists (48 points), 23 of those points on the power play, 200 shots on goal, and 38 penalty minutes. For those in real-time stats leagues, throw in 122 hits and 136 blocked shots. In this era of the NHL, that’s an extremely productive fantasy defenceman.
Of course, it hasn’t been rosy for several years now. Since the lockout campaign, he’s played just 312 of a possible 395 games, and 65 games a season just isn’t going to cut it. Beyond the injuries, at times he’s lost the top PP billing to guys like Jason Garrison and Ben Hutton, for example. After posting anywhere from 12-17 power-play assists four seasons in a row before the lockout, he failed to crack 10 in any season from 2013-2017.
There is also the decline of the team in general and it’s not until this season that the younger crop has started to ignite the offence.
You always wonder “what if” with some guys. What if Edler stays healthy all these years? What if the pipeline is replenished sooner with top offensive talent? What if he never loses the top power-play spot?
There are a lot of what-ifs, but those what-ifs also amount to a player who was on the verge of becoming a regular roto stud. The hits and blocks are still there, and the production has ticked up this season, but with only one year left on his deal and him being 32 next month, it’s doubtful he returns to what he could have been: a decade-long just-outside-the-top-defencemen roto asset. A shame, really.