Here every Sunday until the start of the 2018-19 regular season, we'll share 20 Fantasy Thoughts from our writers at DobberHockey. These thoughts are curated from the past week's "Daily Ramblings".
Writers: Michael Clifford, Ian Gooding, Cam Robinson, and Dobber
1. Here’s the thing with Artemi Panarin’s 82-point season: nothing was really out of line percentage-wise: His overall shooting percentage in 2017-18 (11.8 percent) was lower than his first two seasons (over 15 percent), his on-ice shooting percentage at five-on-five (his team’s scoring rate) was 7.54 percent and that’s completely normal, and his individual points percentage was a career-high, but it’s not surprising he’s in on more goals when he’s the primary offensive playmaker instead of playing with Patrick Kane.
When you consider how much the Columbus power play struggled this year, maybe Panarin can even improve on the 21 PP points he had and surpass the 82 points? As long as the ice time stays consistent to this year’s, I think a point-per-game player sounds right.
2. Yanni Gourde’s average draft position (ADP) should be fascinating next season. He’s a good player who has earned his middle-six role with the Lightning. There’s no doubt about that. But his percentages, both personally and the team’s on-ice, were both pretty high. I’m not buying he maintains a 25-goal, 60-point pace next year. Will he go in the first 10 rounds (120 picks)? We’ll see. I don’t think it’ll be enough of a discount to warrant drafting him.
3. What a monster. Dustin Byfuglien has a history of ramping up his game in the playoffs from his time in Chicago and it sure looks like we’ll be seeing that dominant player much more frequently this spring.
Big Buff’s regular season was somewhat disappointing by his lofty standards – thanks in part to some injury issues, but he still played at a 53-point pace and plugged the peripheral categories with aplomb. Byfuglien will be 34 this month and that may scare some people away from him in fantasy hockey drafts next season but there still appears to be some gas in the tank.
4. The 2017-18 season was a disaster for most Rangers skaters but it was a solid second campaign from Jimmy Vesey. He had 28 points. Not exactly great. But he did manage 17 goals, one more than his rookie year, and did so with a shooting percentage drop.
The 24-year-old winger progressed in a lot of ways from his first to his second season. His goal rate went up, his expected goal rate went up, his shot rate went up, his primary point rate went up, and for good measure, he improved his penalty differential.
All told, Vesey had a pretty good year. His role is yet to be determined for next season and he’s a RFA to boot, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
5. Without knowing who his linemates will be, it’s hard to project what Arizona sophomore Christian Dvorak can do fantasy hockey-wise next season. Assuming Derek Stepan and Clayton Keller stick together, and Dylan Strome remains at center, there may not be much for Dvorak to play with next season. Playing a third-line role for a (likely) low-scoring team doesn’t bode well. For now, his only appeal is in deeper leagues.
6. Tomas Hertl and Joe Thornton both need new contracts next year but I’d be surprised if the Sharks don’t try to figure out how to keep Evander Kane around and stay under the cap. He’s looked very good since the trade and seems to have great chemistry with Joe Pavelski. With his stout shots, hits, and PIM totals, and playing with elite players on an elite power-play unit, things would be shaping up for a career year. Hopefully his ADP doesn’t climb too much.
7. It was a very up-and-down season for the Flames’ 21-year-old Sam Bennett. He started the year with zero points in his first 15 games, went on a tear in the middle of the year that saw 13 points in 14 games from November 28th through December 28th, and registered one point over the final four weeks of the season. Even in leagues that count hits, that kind of inconsistent production made it hard to rely on him in fantasy.
Bennett led the Flames in expected goals per 60 minutes. His mark of 0.92 was also top-25 league-wide among forwards with at least 500 minutes played. His problem was his shooting percentage, managing just over 7 percent at five-on-five after being close to 10 percent over his first two seasons.
Here’s the interesting thing: he barely shot while on the ice on the power play. Among the league’s 214 forwards with at least 100 minutes of power play time, he was 209th in individual shot attempts per 60 minutes. The only players who shot less often were Nick Foligno, David Desharnais, Travis Zajac, and Zack Smith. Not only did Bennett underperform his expected goals at five-on-five by a pretty significant margin, but there was no chance he’d make up the difference on the power play shooting as little as he did.
The 2018-19 campaign will be his fourth, and you know we love our fourth-year breakouts here. He’ll have a hard time being consistently productive in leagues that don’t count hits as he’ll likely be third line/second power-play unit, but don’t sleep on him in deeper leagues. A jump in shot rates on the PP could help get him close to 20 goals and 40 points.
8. Obviously, Jesse Puljujarvi’s 12 goals and 20 points in 65 games aren’t enough for fantasy hockey. It’s hard to put up a big fantasy season with 13:22 in ice time per game, though. He also played just 12:21 over his final 30 games of the season. No one is going to produce being used as a fourth liner.
Was Puljujarvi a consistent presence game in and game out? No, but very few Oilers were. The fact the club cut down on his ice time as they were playing themselves out of the playoffs is lunacy. They should have been giving him 16-17 minutes a night to try to build him up for 2018-19.
Next season will be Puljujarvi’s third. Edmonton doesn’t have a better scoring winger on the roster (assuming you consider Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins centers and not wingers). His shot-share numbers were good, his production rates were good, and his shot rates were good. My bet is they go looking for a scoring winger this offseason (LOL) and that worries me for Puljujarvi’s usage next year. He’s good. He can probably be very good. You wouldn’t know it the way the Oilers treat him, though.
9. The news came out that Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko will be out 4-6 months recovering from shoulder surgery. That is, uh, pretty bad. Four months would leave him a month until training camp. Six months would have him return sometime after the regular season has started.
A couple of weeks ago, I mused that Tarasenko’s ADP would probably fall from where it was in 2017-18 and that I would be a buyer. Now, I’m not so sure. He’s clearly an elite talent and going into his age-27 season, I wouldn’t expect much in the way of a decline in skills. But I loathe drafting players coming off serious injuries like this. Injuries which don’t let players have a regular offseason. I suppose a shoulder surgery is better than a knee or a hip surgery but it’s no small issue all the same.
10. When looking at right-wingers, its expected you can lock Nikita Kucherov, Patrik Laine, Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane and Blake Wheeler ahead of Tarasenko, and then you’re left with options such as David Pastrnak, Jakub Voracek and William Nylander in that next tier. If you can nab Tarasenko as the eighth or even ninth RW off the board, you take that swing all day.
Expect a slow start due to such a lengthy period of inactivity this summer but watch him come on strong to finish next year. Tarasenko is a player to target at the right spot or wait to pounce on in a trade mid-season from a frustrated owner.
11. Jet’s Patrik Laine is a guy whose ADP should be fascinating next year. Can he go in the first round? He’s probably already one of the top-3 goal scorers in the league and he’ll only be in his age-20 season. He was a second-round pick last season in most fantasy leagues. He’ll definitely find his way into the first round, right?
12. One goalie situation that should be a timeshare next season: the Florida Panthers. Roberto Luongo has confirmed that will be back for his 19th NHL season. If you think that the 39-year-old Luongo is too old to be a starter anymore, consider that his ratios (2.47 GAA, .929 SV%) were significantly better than those of James Reimer (2.99 GAA, .913 SV%). Contract-wise, Luongo still four more years at $4.53 million, while Reimer has three more years at $3.4 million.
13. In spite of their struggles, Braden Holtby and Cory Schneider are likely to be back as their teams’ starters next season. But like Carey Price, fantasy hockey owners won’t have nearly the amount of faith that they had entering the 2017-18 season. Of the three, I’m still tempted to rank Price the highest because he has the strongest foothold on his team’s starting job, even though his team is in the worst shape of the three. Right now, anyway. Maybe I rethink that over the summer; after all, I am allowed to change my mind because I don’t need to make this kind of decision until September. Fantasy rankings are not a stationary object.
14. A lot has happened this past season that no one in their right minds would have believed. The Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche making the playoffs. Claude Giroux reaching 100 points. Nathan MacKinnon reaching 95 points. William Karlsson scoring 40 goals. Carey Price with a goals-against average of over 3.00. Not even the fearless forecaster would have predicted those ones!
15. In terms of truly unexpected happenings from the start of the season until now, where would Philipp Grubauer and Keith Kinkaid starting Game 1 of the playoffs for their the Capitals and Devils, respectively? Each team is starting the goalie that has played better this season.
Kinkaid has one more season under contract after this one, so I could also see the Devils trying to make it work with a pure tandem while he’s under contract (alongside Schneider), but the Capitals will have a decision to make in the offseason with Grubauer, who will be an RFA. The Capitals are right up against the cap, so trading Grubauer and sticking with Holtby for the final two years of his contract might be an option that they are forced to strongly consider.
Factor in the John Carlson potential-UFA situation and it’s really hard to know what the Capitals will do with Grubauer. So we’d really have to wait until the end of the playoffs and the offseason to know where to project Holtby’s value for next season.
16. Ilya Kovalchuk has expressly made his desire to return to the NHL previously known, so it’s a matter of where he lands, not if he leaves the KHL. A lot of people are going to project how many points they see Kovalchuk racking up and I just don’t know how to go about it.
Here is a guy who left the NHL in his age-29 season and who just turned 35. Since the 2013 lockout, only one player aged 35 or older has managed at least 70 points (Joe Thornton, 2015-16 with 82). The highest-scoring winger was Martin St. Louis with 69 in 2013-14. Keep in mind that St. Louis did that playing nearly 21 minutes a night. Wherever Kovalchuk signs, there’s no chance he plays 21 minutes a night. We have to remember that over his final two seasons, Kovalchuk was playing over 24 minutes a game in order to be a point-per-game player. No team is going to give him anywhere close to that. He won’t be over 20 minutes a game, for that matter.
I love Kovalchuk as a player, and I’m getting excited to watch him again in the NHL, but we should feel fortunate if he can get 17-18 minutes a night. At that level, I’d be hard-pressed to project him for more than 60 points. We have all offseason to figure this out but that seems about right for now.
17. Down in the AHL, Chris Terry won the scoring title with 70 points in 60 games. He also led with 32 goals. The highest scoring rookie was Winnipeg’s Mason Appleton, with 63 in 73 games. Pittsburgh prospect Daniel Sprong was next with 61 in 62. Rookie defenseman Sami Niku (also a Winnipeg prospect –damn!), had 53 points in 73 games. Sprong should crack the Penguins next year, though I’m thinking closer to December before he makes the jump for good. The other two are a year away. And I only say that because the Jets are so deep and can afford to let them simmer.
Between the pipes, Garret Sparks led the way with 1.81 and 0.936 numbers. But much of that is the product of coaching and coaching style. Compare it to the other Marlies goalie Calvin Pickard – 2.25 and 0.920. Not as stellar, but still very good (Top 6 in the league). Now let’s look at another example in San Antonio: Ville Husso is a quality goaltending prospect who went 15-13-5, 2.32 and 0.926. Very stellar numbers despite the modest win total. And it becomes more impressive because the other goalie on the same team – Spencer Martin – was 14-15-4 (similar record), but 3.10 and 0.893. That’s huge. And that’s how we can surmise that one goaltender is quite better than the other and that it’s not the coaching style and defensive team beefing up the numbers. In fact, they probably drag Husso’s numbers down if anything. If I’m in a keeper league, I’m taking a real close look at getting my hands on Husso. Not only because of his success this season but also because of Jake Allen’s failure. If Allen implodes again, then Husso will come and take that job by next February.
While I’m on the subject, Cal Petersen (23-11-2, 2.30 and .918) looks like the heir-apparent to Jonathan Quick. He’s another good one to tuck away in case Quick has another one of his ‘hurt-all-season’ seasons.
18. Frank Vatrano has eight points in 16 games since becoming a Panther but he collected four of those points in the final three games of the season. He’s injury prone but if he can stay healthy, he can provide a secondary scoring option for the Panthers – likely third line, second PP unit next year.
19. Jonathan Quick just won the William Jennings Trophy and as a Quick owner in one league I’ll be shopping the hell out of him this summer. Besides the fact that Quick gets hurt – seriously hurt – a little too often for my taste, but I just don’t believe in the Kings. Were it not for a career season out of Anze Kopitar, they wouldn’t be anywhere near the playoffs.
20. It was a rare, under-the-radar post-trade-deadline move on March 21, but Edmonton may have landed themselves a good one when they acquired forward Cooper Marody from Philadelphia for a third-round draft pick.
The former sixth-round pick is 21 years old and has dominated college hockey for the University of Michigan. His transition to the NHL, points-wise, should be similar to that of Drake Caggiula. Marody currently sits 144 on our Fantasy Prospects List but moves up closer to the Top 100 with this trade and the news that the Oilers signed him to an ELC.
Have a good week, folks!!