20 Fantasy Hockey Thoughts
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. Simply put, Marc-Andre Fleury has been a joy to watch during these playoffs. Looking ahead to next season, is Fleury a top-5 goalie in fantasy hockey drafts? For goalies that played at least half of their team’s games (41 games), Fleury posted the best goals-against average (2.24) and the second-best save percentage (.927). The fact that he was sidelined for two months pushed his overall season’s fantasy value slightly below the Vezina Trophy finalists because of a win total that ended up outside of the top 10. So, assuming the Golden Knights don’t make any moves to disrupt the core of their team, I think I’d include Fleury in my top 5 goalies for next season’s drafts. (may19)
2. Fleury’s teammate, William Karlsson, continues his scoring ways and the fact that his breakout season has been extended well into the playoffs bodes well for his fantasy prospects next season, as mentioned in a Geek of the Week from earlier this month. (may19)
3. Tom Wilson may not be a fan favorite outside the Washington fanbase but there’s no denying one thing: he had a monster fantasy hockey season in multi-category leagues. Putting up 250 hits, 51 blocked shots, and 187 penalty minutes, while being able to chip in 14 goals and 35 points is a very, very good year. Even in standard ESPN leagues where hits aren’t counted, he had so many PIMs that he was still a top-50 forward.
That brings me around to 2018-19. What do we do here? If he can replicate this season, there are no issues with drafting him as a top-100 player. The big concern is his usage. He was a nice surprise on the top forward line at five-on-five and that slotting got him nearly 16 minutes of ice time per game. Does he get that slotting again?
Jakub Vrana has played so well these playoffs he’s forced a reluctant coach Barry Trotz to eventually move him into the top-6. Andre Burakovsky is still a very talented forward who’s been battling injuries this year. If he can right the ship in 2018-19, do those two forwards push Wilson down the lineup? Maybe not. Maybe Trotz decides that it’s best to lengthen the lineup and use one of Vrana/Burakovsky on the third line with Lars Eller/Brett Connolly (or whomever) to give them three more balanced scoring lines. Wilson is also an RFA and is undoubtedly going to get a raise on his $2-million that he made last year. Will that factor in?
Wilson’s upside is capped. He’s just not that good offensively without significant help and he won’t get anywhere near the top power play unit barring injuries or severe underperformance by that unit. He can be a Patrick Maroon-type where 15-ish goals and 40 points is a good year. With the peripheral stat stuffing, that’s more than enough. As long as he stays in the top-6, it’s more than doable. (may18)
4. The Eeli Tolvanen situation reminds me of Alexander Radulov back when he was a year or two older than Tolvanen. The Preds were deep at the time, too, and then-coach Barry Trotz was notorious for bringing in prospects slowly.
Radulov earned the job before camp in 2006 (as Tolvanen has), and he earned the job during camp (as Tolvanen will). But Radulov was sent to the AHL anyway. And he embarrassed the league with a ridiculous 18 points in 11 games, forcing Nashville to call him up before he laid down any further beatings. With 11:38 of average ice time – ice time that he had to force, mind you – he scored 18 goals and 37 points in 64 games.
And that’s precisely what you’ll see from Tolvanen. There’s no room for him, he’ll be held down, but he’ll force the matter. I think he even starts the year in Milwaukee and that will last all of three or four weeks. And then his ice time will be held down because they won’t have room for him. But he’ll work his way up the lineup and have spurts of production when injuries happen. Off the cuff, I would guess 35 points in 65 games, very similar to Radulov. And then his ascension up the scoring race starts from there over the ensuing three or four years. (may14)
5. The Rangers haven’t officially announced anything, but David Quinn is expected to become the team’s new Coach. The Blueshirts have over a dozen players with NCAA experience, so the Boston University coach appears to be a good fit.
Kevin Shattenkirk has played for Quinn at Boston University. After struggling with injuries in his first season as a Ranger (23 points in 46 games), Shattenkirk could be in for a rebound now that he has a coach he is familiar with. In addition, Quinn is known for developing defensemen, according to the New York Times. So, that’s something else that works in Shattenkirk’s favor.
Expectations probably shouldn’t be sky high for Shattenkirk, who missed nearly the entire second half of the season after knee surgery in January. Remember that this is a Rangers team that has decided to rebuild and traded away Michael Grabner, Rick Nash, J.T. Miller, Nick Holden, and Ryan McDonagh while Shattenkirk was sidelined. (may20)
6. Word from TSN’s Bob McKenzie that Carolina would consider trading anyone except for Sebastian Aho: Two names in particular that will be of interest to fantasy owners are Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner. Even though both players’ point totals slipped from 2016-17 to 2017-18, the Hurricanes should scoop a decent return should they decide to deal one or both.
One question I was asked during the past season was whether it was time to drop Faulk. I’m assuming this individual played in a shallower league than the one I owned Faulk in, which is a 12-team league that has six defense slots. So, 72 defense slots total in this league. In this particular league format (G, A, +/-, PPP, SOG, HIT, BLK), Faulk was the 55th-ranked blueliner, which still made him employable in my league.
In a standard-size Yahoo league with 12 teams and four defense slots, however, a solid argument could have been made about moving on from Faulk. If you play in a pure points league, Faulk’s value (31 points) was about in line with what his ranking was in the above league. Normally a peripherals beast, Faulk’s multicategory value was driven down by a minus-26 ranking (bottom 10 among blueliners). What saved Faulk from being a total bust was the fact that 19 of his points came on the power play (top 20 among blueliners).
Would a change of scenery help Faulk? It could no doubt raise that plus-minus anchor, unless he lands on a team worse than Carolina. But the offsetting danger is that he would lose some of those power-play minutes that are so crucial to his scoring. Faulk averaged nearly three minutes of power-play time last season, which was over a minute higher than the next-highest Canes’ defenseman (Noah Hanifin). No other Carolina blueliner averaged more than 40 seconds per game with the man advantage. (may19)
7. What about Skinner, you ask? His fantasy value kind of mirrored Faulk’s, except you’d swap shots on goal for power-play points. Despite finishing just outside of the top 100 in points, Skinner finished 11th with 277 shots on goal. That’s the good. The bad, like Faulk, is the plus-minus. Skinner’s minus-27 was bottom-10 among forwards.
Skinner might benefit from better linemates on another team, but the fact of the matter is that fewer pucks went in (37 in 2016-17 to 24 in 2017-18) because his shooting percentage declined from 13.2 percent in 2016-17 to 8.7 percent in 2017-18. With better luck, Skinner might be in line for 30 goals again. Even though it may seem like he’s been in the league for a while, Skinner is only 26, which should make that a reasonable target. He has just one year remaining on his contract, so a team acquiring him would have to be fairly confident that they could sign him. (may19)
8. Elsewhere, McKenzie also believes that Buffalo’s Ryan O’Reilly will be traded sooner rather than later. McKenzie suggests Montreal and Carolina as two options that would make sense for O’Reilly. The way those two teams are constructed, I think O’Reilly would help those teams in real life more than those teams would help the player’s fantasy value.
O’Reilly is basically a known commodity at this point – a second-line center on most teams. So, my take before anything happens is that his fantasy value probably wouldn’t change much with a trade, unless he won the lottery in landing on a line with two high-scoring wingers. (may20)
9. I drafted O’Reilly on multiple teams in 2017-18 because I liked the value he provided as a late-round option (at around the 170th pick for me). What’s not to like about consistent 55-60 point seasons and 20-plus minutes of ice time per game? And if the Sabres improve, then so could his fantasy value, right?
Well, the Sabres didn’t improve. In fact, they earned that first overall lottery pick with a true last-place team. O’Reilly was honest in how discouraged he was about the season. If he spent any time looking at his overall stats, then his career-worst minus-23 would have served as a source of pain. Plus-minus is a stat in both leagues I drafted him in, so eventually I dropped O’Reilly in my shallower league.
But it wasn’t all bad for the Sabres’ center. O’Reilly fired a career-high 230 shots, which placed him in the top 50 among all skaters. He also scored 15 power-play goals, which tied him for third in the entire league. That’s 15 of his 24 goals scored with the man advantage. On a Sabres’ team that was mostly worth avoiding fantasy-wise, that’s not bad. (may20)
10. I can remember discussing last summer the effect that a Steven Stamkos return from his near season-long injury might have on Nikita Kucherov’s point totals, particularly his power-play point totals. Now that the season is over, we can find out what really happened. Stamkos led the Bolts with 15 power-play goals (tied for third in the NHL), while Kucherov dropped from 17 power-play goals in 2016-17 to ‘just’ eight in 2017-18.
But that’s where the decline ended. Of course, Kucherov’s overall point total continued to rise (85 points in 2016-17 to 100 in 2017-18), which more than offset Stamkos cannibalizing the PPG. And if your league just counts PPP and doesn’t separate into PPG and PPA, Kucherov’s overall power-play points increased from 32 in 2016-17 to 36 in 2017-18.
With the Bolts’ power-play percentage improving a single percentage point (22.8 percent to 23.9), there was more than enough power-play wealth to go around for both snipers. If you’ve witnessed their PP, you’ll know that there’s no reason to believe it will slow down next season, barring an injury to one or both. (may19)
11. Brent Burns continues to be far-and-away the best volume shot option from the blue line. Dougie Hamilton was often among the top, and still is, but he’s got company now in guys like Seth Jones and Darnell Nurse. There are other young stars like Zach Werenski and Ivan Provorov who could be knocking on the door soon. Don’t forget a healthy Erik Karlsson. (may18)
12. There was a good read by Joe Smith over at The Athletic a couple days ago on Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy. They basically talked to current goalies like Henrik Lundqvist and Ben Bishop, as well as former goalies like Brian Boucher and Kevin Weekes on what made Vasilevskiy so good this year. Most of the praise came down to two things: athleticism and footwork.
This is a mea culpa. Last summer, I wrote a couple times that I wasn’t sold on him but reading the opinions of others and watching him more this year has changed my mind a bit. Goaltending is a fickle thing, so he could very well be a .910 goalie next year instead of .920. But when I read what is being said about him, it’s hard not to think he won’t have a very successful career. It’s easy to forget he doesn’t even turn 24 years old for two months. (may18)
13. Reportedly, the Arizona Coyotes and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are in discussions for a contract extension. Not that it’s a surprise they’re discussing it, but the fact that terms are reported would at least indicate to me that they’re getting close. OEL turns 27 this summer and has one year left on his current contract.
There had been some rumblings over the last year that Arizona may look to move Ekman-Larsson but outside of a lopsided, blockbuster package, this avenue always made the most sense. He’s a No.1 defenseman currently in his mid-20s. As long as he doesn’t turn into Brent Seabrook, they should be fine. Those with OEL shares in cap leagues, start budgeting to add at least $2.5-million after the 2018-19 season. Whether he’s worth it for you depends on roster construction. (may17)
14. Assuming Arizona signs Jakob Chychrun next year as his ELC runs out, that gives the Coyotes a top-4 of Ekman-Larsson, Jason Demers, Alex Goligoski, and Chychrun through the 2020-2021 season, along with Antti Raanta in nets. With Clayton Keller looking like a gamebreaker, and a bevy of prospects to come, the future is indeed bright in the desert. Don’t discount them short-term, though. If their depth can fill out a bit this season, they’ll make noise in the West. (may17)
15. Lars Eller has 13 points in the postseason and sits fourth on the Caps in playoff scoring. This on the heels of a career-high 38 points. He turned 29 a few days ago. I grabbed Eller in January or February for a late draft pick just as a rental and I’d drop him in September. Again, I’m wrestling with the dilemma of him possibly getting more offensive situations next season because of what he’s doing in the playoffs. If he can get 50 points and help me in the playoffs, then I’d like to hang onto that. Someone talk me off the ledge here; am I being victim of something I preach never to be a victim of: hype from a one-off hot streak? (may14)
16. Ryan Rishaug of TSN said that it appears the Oilers may be looking for a major shake-up. What they end up doing, well, we have another month or so to wait and see. They need depth, they need scoring, they need defensemen. One trade isn’t going to do it. On the other hand, leave it to Peter Chiarelli to trade Oscar Klefbom following a season where he played injured the entire year and had his performance suffer because of it. I want Chiarelli as a GM in my fantasy leagues. (may17)
17. Stuart Skinner signed an entry-level contract with the Oilers this past week. The 2017 third-round selection (78th) has been lights out for Swift Current this season. He’s led the Broncos to a spot in the Memorial Cup after totaling six shutouts and a .932 save percentage in 26 post-season games. He even managed to outplay three-time WHL Goaltender of the Year, Carter Hart, in the WHL finals.
The 6-4 netminder is trending very nicely as a potential starter for the Oilers down the line. Due to his 1998 birthdate, he’ll be eligible to head to the AHL next fall. (may16)
18. The Avalanche are a team on the rise. There’s no denying it. Colorado boasts a stable of U24s such as Nate MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, J.T. Compher, Samuel Girard, Tyson Jost and Alex Kerfoot. The latter of that group stepped in as a rookie performer out of the NCAA and exceeded expectations. His 19 goals were fourth most on the squad and his 43 points sat fifth. The 23-year-old was as a rover on the Avs in 2017-18, seeing action across all lines and in all situations.
However, there are some red flags that fly above the Vancouver native. Kerfoot managed only above one shot-per-game (1.025). That puts his conversion rate at an unsustainable 23.5 percent – the highest such mark of any player with at least 25 games last season. He wasn’t bolstered by an unusually high conversion rate with the man-advantage, either. During the course of his power play time-on-ice (195:25), he scored five goals on 22 shots (22.7 percent).
Another cause for concern was his deployment and production as the season wore on. The final two quarters saw his ice time reduced and his counting stats dropping right along with it. With Jost expected to take a leap forward next season, expect to see Kerfoot continue to see a reduction in opportunity and value. If he’s a player you’ve got on your roster, now might be the time to sell him to another GM. (may16)
19. Nashville’s Ryan Hartman is expected to undergo shoulder surgery and will be out 4-5 months. At best, he’ll be back in the middle of training camp and at worst he’ll miss the start of next season. I’m a big believer in his skill set being valuable in fantasy leagues if given a proper role but this injury is a concern. I really don’t like relying on players coming off significant offseason surgeries. It’ll be a wait-and-see approach as next year draws closer as far as fantasy relevance goes. (may15)
20. Once-promising prospect Ville Pokka has signed to play next year in the KHL. He was the key part of the Nick Leddy deal in Chicago’s trade with the Islanders. They ended up trading him for a depth guy in Chris DiDomenico. Pokka was a second-round pick, 34th overall in 2012. His second season in Rockford, he had 45 points in 76 games – and he went seriously downhill from there, coming nowhere close to that over the ensuing two seasons. (may14)
Have a good week, folks!!
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