Ramblings: Fantasy Prospect Report, Ilya Kovalchuk, & Vegas and the Mental Game

Cam Robinson

2018-06-01

 

The big news of the day is the release of Dobber’s 12th Fantasy Prospect Report. This is the prospect bible when it comes to fantasy hockey. If you’re reading this, you should already have one in your cart and heading to the till.

 

Top 50 prospects outside of the NHL, 2018 Draft Rankings, reports, upsides and comparables for any and all relevant prospects from all 31 organizations. It’s gold, Jerry. Gold!

 

You can get it here.

 

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Speaking of prospect stuff…

 

 

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For some reason, the NHL schedule-makers are not friends of mine. They simply refuse to give me any hockey on my Rambling days. And so, here were are once again, left to listen to me rattle on about any number of topics.

 

Let’s start with the return of a former superstar.

 

 

 

Much has been made about the potential return of Ilya Kovalchuk. The former 50-goal man has finished up his contract with SKA St. Petersburg and is searching for a home in a cushy NHL city. The now 35-year-old winger unsurprisingly found success on the KHL’s powerhouse squad, averaging 24 goals and 57 points in 52 games (1.09 points-per-game over 262 contests).

 

Word around the campfire is that Kovalchuk and his agent are keen on negotiating with a New York-based club (and we’re guessing it won’t be the Devils). The Rangers have long been a team that targets elderly, former greats. However, the direction Jeff Gorton and co. have been steering the ship appears to favour the draft and develop model. Outside of appeasing Henrik Lundqvist, there’s little reason to believe the Rangers are looking to contend in the next couple of seasons.

 

That leaves the Islanders, who Lou Lamoriello has just taken control of. Their number one concern will be bringing John Tavares back into the fold and adding a big-time goal scoring threat to his wing wouldn’t hurt the wooing process. The whispers have been getting louder that this would be the exact chip the Isles will try and throw at JT to convince him to stay.

 

My question is: How much impact can we expect from Kovalchuk?

 

The recent history of greats returning to seek former glory isn’t a lengthy one. There’s Jaromir Jagr as the gold standard. The Czech wizard returned from a stint in the KHL at age 39. He played at a 64-point pace during the first three years of his celebrated return and brought more than his value to each squad.

 

Alex Radulov returned to the NHL after an eight-year hiatus (plus a cup of coffee with Nashville sprinkled in) as a 30-year-old. He’s played at a 65-point pace in the two seasons since – with the tasty 72-pointer this past season. He was also five years younger than Kovalchuk will be and landed on a power play unit featuring Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and John Klingberg. Pretty primo stuff.

 

 

His final two seasons in St. Petersburg saw him produce 1.27 points-per-game in 111 contests – the finest showings of his five-year KHL stint. He produced these figures on some sustainable metrics. He averaged 4.05 shots-per-game and converted on just under 12 percent. All while playing 19:30 minutes a night.

 

 

If we plug these metrics into Rob Vollman’s NHL equivalency model, Kovalchuk’s final two KHL seasons translate to an average of 76 points per 82 games. That’s not bad from a 33/34-year-old. This formula isn’t fool-proof but offers an estimation for comparison.

 

We’d like to assume that Kovalchuk won’t be returning simply to enjoy the nightlife in a city like New York, but rather he’ll sign somewhere where he’ll have a chance to chase that elusive Stanley Cup. If that’s the case, then he should be provided with ample surrounding talent and positive deployment.

 

Where he goes in fantasy drafts will depend on his landing spot and how people view his potential. But judging him on his KHL performance, his NHL pedigree and his (hopeful) desire to win, he should be valued as a potentially impactful winger to add to the fantasy ranks.

 

 

 

 

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That’s about as good as OEL can ask for. If he doesn’t accept that offer, you’d have to imagine he’s pretty set on at least testing the waters in July 2019. The Yotes have had more than their fair share of struggles during his eight-year career, but the light is starting to show at the end of the tunnel.

 

This will be an interesting situation to watch, as Arizona would assuredly deal the all-star defender before the deadline next season if they’re convinced he won’t re-sign. The payoff would be large. Extra-large.

 

You never know, he may even become a chip that’s dangled in a few weeks at the entry draft.

 

 

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I’ll just leave this here.

 

 

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How much credit should the psychological aspect of Vegas be given? This is literally a team constructed from the island of misfit toys that have come together as the ultimate underdog. It’s galvanized. It’s energized. It’s inspired.

 

So what happens next season when they are no longer the plucky underdog, but (potentially) the reigning champions? Does it leave players a little more content? A little less inspired? A tick less energized?

 

When attempting to forecast an evaluation on Golden Knight players for 2018-19, we cannot simply look at the numbers. They will share a portion of the story – like William Karlsson all but assuredly seeing a dip in conversion metrics, but it won’t paint the whole picture.

 

A player that I’ve been asked about a handful of times is Erik Haula. He went from being a fourth line centre on a bubble playoff team to anchoring the second line and second powerplay unit on a powerhouse. He scored 29 goals and 55 points in 76 games.

 

Recording career-highs in goals, assists, points, shots on goal, hits, powerplay goals, power play points (18 times as many as his previous career-high) and time-on-ice is groovy for a 27-year-old. But is this a mirage or a trend to come?

 

 

It’s difficult to assess his previous work as his role is completely different than it was at any time during his tenor with the Wild. But is that role secure? Vegas will be players in free-agency this summer. If they fail to land the big fish in John Tavares, that doesn’t necessarily mean Haula is safe as the 2C long-term.

 

The Golden Knights made two very astute draft picks last June in selecting Cody Glass (6th overall) and Nick Suzuki (13th overall). Both players are tremendous talents. Both players are centres. Neither is able to be sent to the American league next year due to the CHL-NHL agreement and it can be argued that at least one of them will be given a very long look at cracking the lineup as soon as this fall.

 

Long-term, Glass and Suzuki present major obstacles to Haula maintaining his offensive deployment. If you’re a Haula owner, it’s a situation that needs to be watched very closely.

 

Another situation to keep an eye on is psychological aspect of the entire Golden Knights’ squad. This is a team that could be ripe for an extra slow start out of the gate next fall. The Stanley Cup hangover is real. And this version may hold extra drowsiness.

 

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I've been doing a series of articles on DobberProspects comparing closely ranked players for the upcoming Entry Draft. This past week was a two-part deep dive into the "consensus" top four centres – Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Rasmus Kupar, Barrett Hayton and Joe Veleno.

You can read them here

 

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That’s all for this week. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3

 

 

 

 

 

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
EVGENI MALKIN PIT 5 4 7 11
ADAM FOX NYR 4 1 6 7
JAKUB VORACEK PHI 6 0 10 10
NATHAN MACKINNON COL 5 2 6 8
MIKA ZIBANEJAD NYR 29 25 19 44
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 24 16 20 36
KEVIN FIALA MIN 11 9 7 16
EVANDER KANE S.J 7 5 5 10
KYLE CONNOR WPG 7 8 2 10
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS EDM 17 8 16 24

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency VGK Players
23.6% WILLIAM CARRIER TOMAS NOSEK RYAN REAVES
20.2% JONATHAN MARCHESSAULT REILLY SMITH PAUL STASTNY
18% NICK COUSINS NICOLAS ROY ALEX TUCH

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