20 Fantasy Hockey Thoughts

Mario Prata


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. Josh Morrissey seems to be jumping up much more offensively than I remember through the regular season, in particular during the second round.

I’ve written on the young Jet in the recent past so I won’t dive in much more here, but the one thing holding back is across-the-board fantasy value will be the power-play minutes. He’ll be behind Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba (assuming he’s re-signed, which he should be), and Tyler Myers for one more year. Despite being able to put up very good peripheral stats, he won’t have a Byfuglien-type season just yet. Give it a few years, though. There is a lot of upside here in real-time stats leagues; over the last two years, he’s averaged 100 shots, 142 hits, 153 blocks, and 23 points.

As a 21- and 22-year old playing just 20 minutes a game. He should be handed more minutes next year which means more production in the hits/blocks category. (may10)


2. If a team needs immediate scoring help, Habs’ Max Pacioretty should be at the top of the list. He had a down year in 2017-18 that eventually ended with injury but he’s still one of the most consistent scorers of this generation with five consecutive 82-game seasons with at least 30 goals. The problem is his expected goals at five-on-five took a dip for the second straight year. Is that a product of trying to fit with Jonathan Drouin? Just a down year with Phillip Danault? He just never seemed to mesh with anyone this year. All the same, the Oilers should be familiar with trading low on a proven goal scorer who just had one bad year, but maybe they’re looking for someone with more term as Pacioretty is an UFA after 2018-19. (may11)


3. With Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner both 50-plus point scorers last season while dominating the power-play time among Leafs’ blueliners, I wouldn’t expect Travis Dermott to have a major impact fantasy-wise next season. However, if the Leafs decide to phase out 37-year-old Ron Hainsey (one year left on his contract), then Dermott might even be able to break through with some top-four minutes. Then there could be something there.

Because of his solid offensive upside, Dermott is listed as the No.2 Leafs’ prospect at Dobber Prospects (see his profile here) and Dobber Hockey’s No.17 fantasy prospect defenseman. (may13)


4. Something that could be fantasy hockey relevant for the Predators: How they decide to deploy their goalies next season. Pekka Rinne has one more year left on his contract and he will be 36 when it ends. Even though the Preds should be poised to make another run next season, I wonder if Juuse Saros is groomed to be the starter beginning in 2019-20. That doesn’t mean he’s given the starting role outright next season but if he at least stays on his current pace then expect something like 30-35 games.

Not to take away from what should be a Vezina Trophy season for Rinne but his playoff failures (particularly during the Winnipeg series) have to be on the mind of management. If Rinne regresses to the point in which Nashville is as concerned about its goaltending situation as it was going into Game 7 against Winnipeg, then I wouldn’t be completely shocked if Saros is the playoff Game 1 starter next season, similar to the Braden Holtby scenario in Washington.

For what it’s worth, Saros posted a 1.05 GAA and .952 SV% in limited action during the playoffs. Granted, this was mainly mop-up duty, but remember he also played most of Game 7 after Rinne was given the hook early and for the third time in that series.

As for Rinne, I don’t have any projections for next season other than what’s in my head. However, I’m probably going to let someone else pay what it’s probably going to cost to draft him, knowing the cost associated with drafting the likely defending Vezina Trophy winner. (may13)


5. Capitals’ John Carlson has been a bit of an up and down player over the course of his career. However, there has been no questioning his offensive contributions on what has been a monster of a power play unit for the last five seasons. Top-end blueliners you can lean on are very valuable. (may12)


6. Ondrej Palat has quietly been one of the best players for the vaunted Tampa Bay forward corps. Going into Sunday action, the Czech winger was up to nine points in 11 games while starting 44.57 percent of his draws in the offensive end. The trio of Brayden Point, Tyler Johnson and Palat has been a nightmare to match up against. They can shut down top lines and create offense quickly and effectively. (may12)      


7. Could Dougie Hamilton really be on the move again? For some reason, his name is popping up in trade rumors. This seems insane considering Hamilton is a bona fide top-pair, 24-year old defenseman signed through his prime at a very reasonable cap hit. Alas, it was insane that he was traded the last time.

As a Hamilton keeper owner, seeing him in a different franchise that will play him 24-plus minutes a game rather than the 20:20 per game he’s averaged in Calgary would be nice. He’s as consistent as they come among fantasy hockey blueliners and his upside still hasn’t been reached. Calgary desperately needs to re-stock the prospect pool, particularly among their forwards. That’ll be hard to do without a pick until the fourth round in this year’s draft. Maybe Hamilton for a good scoring winger and a couple lesser picks makes sense. Again, though, it seems crazy to trade him. We’ll see. (may11)


8. The Shiny New Toy is a thing in any fantasy sport, hockey included. Fantasy owners will be keenly aware of Eeli Tolvanen’s upside as the notion will be beat into submission in a cascade of ‘Breakout Target’ articles. The thing is, it seems the top-six is pretty locked in Nashville with their left wingers. It is possible he supplants Kevin Fiala but that probably won’t be the case coming out of training camp.

Had Tolvanen been a fixture of the playoff push like Fiala was last year, maybe it inflates his draft-day price even more. That he can’t crack the lineup, though, might be good news for those who want to keep his ADP reasonable. All the same, it won’t take much more than a couple exhibition game videos to get the fantasy owners riled up. We can wait and see how much he’ll eventually cost but my initial lean is this will be a situation to avoid come September. (may11)


9. Pens’ general manager Jim Rutherford on Daniel Sprong next season: "He should be a regular on our team." Dynasty owners everywhere: rejoice!

Sprong has nothing left to prove at the AHL level, posting a point-per-game mark last year to go with 32 goals in 65 contests. The 21-year-old could help inject some offense in a team that struggled to score in the regular season at five-on-five. Two things here:

First: keyword should. Lots of things should happen. People should be nice to each other. The Oilers should require fewer than three rebuilds to be a perennial playoff threat. Whether or not they will happen, well, who knows what the future holds.

Second: even if he does end up on the roster, what’s his role? Does he get fairly consistent top-six minutes like Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel have in the past? Does he play a third-line role with Derick Brassard to help lengthen the scoring in the lineup? He won’t be on the top power play unit, that is certain.

Regardless, it’s good news that the GM even says should than outright says something like, “he has to work his way onto the team,” or, “we’ll give him a look.” A full offseason of training and a full camp with the main roster will help Sprong take the next step. I’m excited and I know fantasy owners are, as well. (may10)


10. Even though Joe Thornton’s production wasn’t bad when he was healthy (36 points in 47 games), he has to be considered a significant injury risk going forward after tearing ligaments in both knees.

Is it possible that Thornton slowed Sharks’ linemate Joe Pavelski while he was in the lineup?

  • Pavelski until January 23 (Thornton’s last game): 34 points in 47 games (0.72 PTS/GP)
  • Pavelski after January 23 (Thornton out for the season): 32 points in 35 games (0.91 PTS/GP)

This mattered for Pavelski owners because they drafted him expecting the post-Thornton points-per-game numbers. But prior to Thornton’s injury, Pavelski was on pace for 59 points.

As much as Thornton says he wants to be back with San Jose and is willing to take a pay cut to be back, there’s always the possibility that he could be playing for a different team next season. Or, not at all if the knees don’t hold up. And as nice as it would be to see Thornton return for one more season in teal, him not returning might actually make sense for the Sharks. (may09)


11. Cory Schneider is likely to miss training camp after having hip surgery. Recovery times aren’t set in stone, so Schneider’s five-month recovery time could change. But it’s also possible that we could see more of Keith Kinkaid to start the season in New Jersey. (may09)


12. Minnesota’s Jason Zucker is an interesting case. Over the last five seasons, there are 178 forwards with at least 4000 minutes of five-on-five time. Out of those 178 forwards, he’s tied for 11th in goals per 60 minutes with Jamie Benn and James Neal. He’s ahead of names like Patrick Kane, Tyler Seguin, John Tavares, and Phil Kessel. Remember, that’s not a small sample. That’s over 4000 minutes spanning five years and Zucker’s not just among the good goal scorers, he’s among the elite. It’s really quite something.

The question becomes, what do we do with this information? A new GM in Minnesota is coming but most of the core is around for at least one more year. Zucker himself is an RFA, so maybe they dangle him in a trade to shake things up? Maybe they trade someone else. Maybe nothing changes. I wouldn’t fret too much until both the draft and free agency have come and gone.

Regardless, Zucker seems like one of those guys who will fly under the radar this coming September despite a very good year. It’s doubtful he’s inside the top-100 and after that it’s a matter of where he slots in rankings. (may08)


13. It’s easy to forget Devils’ Taylor Hall had a three-year stretch that saw 168 points in 173 games, so being close to a point-per-game wouldn’t be a huge surprise. Coming in at 1.22 points per game – one of five players to manage at least 1.2 points per game this season and one of seven with 75-plus games played to do so since the 2013 lockout – is a deviation.

Here’s the thing: nothing was terribly out of line for him at five-on-five. The Devils shot 10.3 percent with him on the ice; he had two seasons in Edmonton where the Oilers shot 10 percent with him on the ice. He scored 1.06 goals at five-on-five, not a career-high. He managed 2.38 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five, just the third-highest mark of his career. His assists per 60 minutes were nowhere near his career bests. Realistically, the five-on-five production wasn’t the reason for his superb output.

The difference was on the power play, where he set a career-high with 37 power play points, by far a career best (his best prior to this year was 21, way back in 2010-11). He had 33 PPPs in 207 games over the previous three years combined.

This is where it should be noted that the league-wide power-play conversion rate (20.18 percent) was the highest since the 1980s. The Devils shot 19.1 percent with Hall on the ice on the power play, by far a career high for him. Even with the league trending to more efficient PPs, he still led the league among forwards with 200 minutes on the man advantage in this regard. It’ll be very, very difficult (read: unlikely) he repeats 37 power-play points.

Hall can still be a point-per-game player and the progression of Nico Hischier will help keep him an offensive star. Expecting a repeat of this year seems misguided, however. (may08)


14. One thing that is getting a lot of run that shouldn’t be is the idea that Vegas is some sort of ‘misfit’ team. Consider:

James Neal has scored 20 goals in each of his NHL seasons. He has one 30-goal season and one 40-goal season. Before getting to Vegas, he was tied for 13th league-wide in goals per game for his career. He’s literally one of the top goal scorers of the last decade.

Jonathan Marchessault was coming off a 30-goal season himself and was long hailed by pockets of the hockey community as a player who just needed a legitimate shot in the NHL.

Reilly Smith had two 50-point seasons in four full NHL campaigns, cracking 20 goals twice.

David Perron had three 20-goal seasons from 2009 through 2014. The two seasons he didn’t manage 20 goals were the lockout season and the year he played just 10 games due to injury.

Colin Miller and Brayden McNabb were both defensemen who, like Marchessault, were often praised by certain corners of the hockey world as guys needing a legitimate opportunity to be consistent contributors.

Shea Theodore was a first-round pick and a guy long coveted by just about any team in the league. Anaheim had to make a hard choice about which d-men to keep. They were going to lose someone good.

Marc-Andre Fleury had one bad year before he was supplanted by Matt Murray. He was a .917 goalie in the six seasons prior to that.

No, there were no legitimate superstars like a Sidney Crosby or a Nikita Kucherov, but there were a lot of both very good NHLers and guys undervalued by the 200 Hockey Men. Of course, no one, present company included, expected them to be this good. Calling them misfits is, however, at best, not understanding the quality of the players they actually drafted, or at worst a purposefully misleading description. (may08)


15. In the end, was Rick Nash worth Boston’s price of a) putting Danton Heinen in the press box and b) Ryan Spooner, Ryan Lindgren, Matt Beleskey’s contract, a first pick in 2018, and a seventh in 2019? Nope. But we knew that immediately. As we do with most trade deadline deals and most July 1st signings. (may07)


16. As a GM, I would only target the truly unattainable (for most of their career) players on July 1st. This year that would be John Tavares and John Carlson. Last year, I don’t think there was anybody. Every other player, I’d ignore. Let other GMs shoot themselves in the foot. Because three years after a big signing, we always see either fans flooding social media with pleas for a buyout … or just bad contracts that are untradeable but that fans wish were off the books. Every single one. So, I would just chase the franchise players only. The guys who are safe from looking bad in four years. And then later in July, I would sign one or two depth guys on the cheap to fill other needs. Honestly, you just build through the draft along with smart summer or early-season trades when there is no pressure. That’s how you rein in spending and not enough GMs practice it. Dobber for GM! (may07)


17. If you need any convincing why it’s not a good idea to spend like crazy on free agency, tell me if you think any of these expensive 2016 free agency signings significantly improved their teams: Kyle Okposo; Troy Brouwer; David Backes; Milan Lucic; Frans Nielsen; Loui Eriksson; Andrew Ladd.

Only one of these players (Backes) played for a playoff team, and he’s already one of the most searched buyouts on Cap Friendly. The best signing that offseason – by far – was Eric Staal signing with the Wild for three years at $10.5 million. Those are the kind of contracts that teams need to sign.

I’ll agree with Dobber’s take on free agency except for one minor point: It’ll take just two years, not three, before fans will be searching for buyouts on many of these players.

What I’ve learned from this that I can apply to fantasy hockey: If you play in an auction league, avoid bidding wars unless you have money to burn. It’s probably not the end of the world to have a bad contract or two on your team but aim to have as many great value contracts as you possibly can.

In a salary cap league, the perfect time to bail on many of these players would have been right after they signed those contracts. Something to consider for the upcoming group of UFAs. Just because NHL teams sign them for big money doesn’t mean you have to. (may09)


18. Another example: a first, second and third-round pick for Tomas ‘press box’ Tatar. That’s a hefty price to pay to acquire a popcorn server. Plus the Golden Knights now have to pay Tatar $5.3 million per season the next three years. (may07)


19. One thing that we could see, if John Tavares signs elsewhere, is fantasy owners bailing on the Islanders wingers. Honestly, though, if Mathew Barzal continues on the trajectory he showed in his first season, why stay away from the Islanders top line?

At the least, Anders Lee should be a mainstay of the first trio, if anything to pump up his trade value by the deadline. Even before his 40-goal season, he averaged 26 goals per 82 games for his career. Barzal seems plenty capable of keeping him in the 30-goal range.

Tavares signing with another team would be a nightmare for Islanders fan but could be good news for the value-hunting fantasy owners. (may11)


20. It should be worth noting that Jake DeBrusk was another Bruins forward who had a very strong postseason. I’m a big fan of his playoff upside and I love that his regular season floor is still very good. His ceiling isn’t the highest – maybe 65 points one day depending on how he works with future linemates – but he’s a good steady player in terms of production who turns it up a notch in the postseason. Something to remember for future playoff pool drafts. (may07)


Have a good week, folks!!




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