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. The Isles are blessed to have a replacement top line center waiting in the weeds. Being able to slide Mathew Barzal up the depth chart won't make losing John Tavares any easier but it's a luxury that very few teams have. I was asked recently how Tavares’ decision will impact Barzal. If he leaves, does the elevation up the lineup push the 20-year-old soon-to-be Calder Trophy winner into superstar status, or does it hurt to lose out on playing with such a great talent?
The answer is layered. Tavares leaving will indeed force the upcoming sophomore into a top line role. He’ll be afforded the pick of the winger bunch. But does that mean he simply inherits Anders Lee and Josh Bailey? It seems safe to assume will be Lee on the left side. His style is unique on the team and remains unchallenged for the foreseeable future. The right side is a little hazier. Jordan Eberle lined up next to Barzal for over 70 percent of his even-strength ice time last season and bore strong results. Barzal was on the ice for 41 or Eberle’s 49 even-strength points. Maybe it’s Eberle bumping Bailey down the depth chart next season. And that would coincide with Bailey’s need for Tavares to prop him up.
If Tavares leaves, Barzal will become the No.1 priority for opposing defensive schemes. The kid is an amazing talent, so that focus was bound to come sooner or later, but the insulation Tavares provides at even-strength was massive in Barzal ripping it up as a rookie. The second season can be daunting for some players and losing the team’s best player and captain won’t help that out in any way for Barzal. For that matter, it won’t be too helpful for anyone on the Islanders.
Who knows, maybe we won’t even have to worry about all this (Ed. note: Tavares is currently focusing on negotiations with the Islanders regarding an extension). (june16)
2. How much, or how little, will Rasmus Dahlin cut into Rasmus Ristolainen production in Buffalo? For the life of me, I cannot fathom an 18-year old stepping in to run a top power play unit in the NHL, no matter the level of prodigiousness. For at least this season, I am assuming that Ristolainen’s top PP job is safe. And that’s important, because all his fantasy value outside of hits/blocked shots is derived from the power play; 59 percent (!) of his career production has been with the man advantage. If he loses that, in non-real time stats leagues, he’s waiver wire fodder. (june15)
3. Over the last three seasons, Rickard Rakell has a rate of 1.18 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five. To put that into perspective, Alex Ovechkin is at 1.15, Brad Marchand is at 1.10, and it’s tied with Vladimir Tarasenko. This is over 220 games. It’s not a small sample.
Yet, Rakell is never discussed among the top-end goal scorers in the game, is he? We hear about Nikita Kucherov, Jamie Benn, Filip Forsberg, Tyler Seguin, and Steven Stamkos, all players whom Rakell has a higher goals/60 at 5v5 over the last three years. Yet, we never, ever, hear about Rakell discussed as a top finisher. That’s an advantage for fantasy owners wanting to draft him.
Here’s the issue: The Ducks need someone who can finish on the other side of that top line. It’s all well and good that Rakell can be relied upon for at least 30 goals, and maybe could push 40, but without an influx of assists, he won’t reach the true upper echelon of fantasy value like some of the players named above – 35 assists are good, but 45 assists would be nice. All the same, Rakell is one of the top finishers in the NHL. For those in hits leagues, he gives you lots of those as well. He won’t be a top-50 pick and provides the perfect value opportunity. (june12)
4. At first glance, it sure looks like Montreal paid an awfully steep price to Arizona for a player (Max Domi) coming off a nine-goal season – four of which came via the empty-net variety. However, it had become increasingly clearer that Alex Galchenyuk was not in the long-term plans for the Canadiens. His inability to play the middle of the ice resulted in the organization overpaying to land Jonathan Drouin a year ago (another player who can't play the middle of the ice).
Domi and Galchenyuk are comparable in many ways. Galchenyuk is 24. Domi is 23. The two of them have played at virtually the same production levels in their young careers – both clicking at 0.61 points-per-game.
One thing is certain, though, Montreal gave up the more dangerous goal-scorer. Domi has 36 career goals over 222 NHL contests – 0.16 goals-per-game. Galchenyuk has 108 in 408 games – 0.26 goals-per-game. Both players saw their shooting percentages dip last season but Domi has never been much of a goal-scoring threat in the NHL. Meanwhile, Galchenyuk clicked at just 8.9 percent last season – between four and eight percent lower than any time in the prior three campaigns. (june16)
5. Overall, I think both players will continue to be what we thought they were before the trade. The Coyotes seem more likely to use Galchenyuk at center than the Habs were in spite of already having several centers, for what that’s worth. You could argue that he was unlucky last season, shooting at only 8.9 percent, which would have resulted in nearly 30 goals had he shot closer to his career average of 12.4 percent.
Meanwhile, Domi sounded like he needed a change of scenery, which might come at the right time for the Canadiens, since he now enters his potential breakout fourth NHL season. These are both rebuilding teams (or, at least, supposed to be rebuilding), so it could simply be a matter of which player fits in better with his new club. For all we know, that player could be Domi just as well as it could be Galchenyuk.
In terms of general fantasy hockey value, I’d pick Galchenyuk over Domi – just like the deal. But, as I’ve said before, that may depend on the league format. Galchenyuk is ranked number 97 on Dobber’s Top 300 Keeper League Skaters, with Domi right behind at number 99. So, as much fun as it is to blame Marc Bergevin, the difference between these players might not be as large as you think. (june17)
6. So, it sure looks like Galchenyuk will continue to get looks in the middle of the ice in the desert. Coyotes’ GM John Chayka: “He’s had success playing the center position … I don’t think we’d make this trade if we didn’t think he had the ability to play center.”
The first thing that came to my mind when I read those comments from Chayka was, "What does this mean for Dylan Strome and Clayton Keller?" If the Coyotes plan to line Gally up at center, we'd have to assume it's in the top six. Derek Stepan seems like a lock to get the other top-six pivot position in the short term. Keller played primarily on the wing next to Stepan last season but has long projected as a pivot. Strome played his season in the AHL but has played the middle of the ice exclusively for years.
One of Galchenyuk, Keller or Strome won't be centers long-term. Could be beneficial for their fantasy value in leagues that count positions. Regardless, I like this deal for Arizona and I love the direction they're trending. It's not a horrific deal for Montreal, which has to be considered a step in the right direction. Right? (june16)
7. Even though last season was Milan Lucic’s worst since 2009-10, there is still a chance he can rebound from a sub-40-point season and a single-digit power-play-point total, either in Edmonton or somewhere else. The lack of power-play points was not related to lack of opportunity, as he was regularly used on the first-unit power play. In fact, Lucic went nearly three months without a single power-play point.
Of course, Lucic’s fantasy hockey value should be considered very up in the air at the moment, considering that the Oilers seem to be attempting to trade him. There’s a lot yet to happen this offseason, so it’s too early to pinpoint exactly what his fantasy value would be. (june17)
8. The Carolina Hurricanes are at the top of my wish list if John Carlson doesn’t re-sign with the Capitals. We’ve seen the reports that some shake-ups are coming to Carolina. It seems likely one of (if not both of) Justin Faulk and Noah Hanifin will be traded.
This is a team with loads of cap space both this year and next, even factoring in extension for the likes of Elias Lindholm, Teuvo Teravainen, and Sebastian Aho. They already have Martin Necas in the pipeline, and Valentin Zykov seemed to fit in well at the end of the year. They also have the second overall pick at this year’s Entry Draft, which should be a game-breaking winger. Assuming they bring back some scoring when they trade one (or two) defensemen, they’ll need a reliable puck-mover that can quarterback a power play. Carlson seems to fit that bill.
We have a young team that should improve their scoring talent for next year. It is also a team that, with good goaltending for the first time this decade, could threaten for a playoff position, and has a lot of cap space at their disposal. It seems like the perfect fit for Carlson from a fantasy perspective. (june14)
9. The reported Coyotes/Oliver Ekman-Larsson contract-extension agreement should give fantasy owners a gauge of what to expect for Drew Doughty when he’s a UFA next year. If he doesn’t re-sign with the Kings and hits the open market, there will be a bidding war, and anything close to OEL’s AAV will be a pipe dream. Doughty’s cap league owners should be budgeting for $10-million a season and figuring out whether he’s worth that number in your setup. (june14)
10. A somewhat minor trade this week as the Kings acquired (re-acquired?) goaltender Peter Budaj from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for forward Andy Andreoff. Budaj will presumably be the backup to Jonathan Quick in 2018-19, while Andreoff will … well I’m not sure what Tampa wants to do with him.
This also, presumably, means that Louis Domingue will be the backup for Andrei Vasilevskiy in 2018-19. Domingue was acquired early in the season but only played a dozen games for the Bolts as Budaj was the primary backup. Domingue is an RFA but he will be cheap so this may be a matter of saving a couple hundred thousand on the backup goalie. Anyone with Jack Campbell shares in dynasty leagues, you’re going to need an injury to someone ahead of him now. Kudos to those who hung on to their Domingue shares, though. (june14)
11. Remember those trade rumors about P.K. Subban? Remember how those rumors never, ever made any sense in any possible context outside of an incredibly lopsided trade like, say, Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall?
Predators GM David Poile told TSN’s Pierre LeBrun explicitly that Subban will not be traded. I know we heard that from Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin once upon a time but there’s one key difference between the two general managers: Poile knows how to build a successful roster.
For those hoping the reigns would be turned over to Roman Josi, no such luck just yet. Nashville is still in it to win and trading a former Norris Trophy winner (and current Norris Trophy finalist) who is still on the right side of 30 years old just isn’t in the cards. Moving on. (june14)
12. Corey Perry’s cap hit currently sits at $8.63 million, which makes him difficult for the Ducks to trade. With diminishing returns, Perry is not someone you’d want to invest in a salary cap league. But, does he still hold value in other fantasy hockey leagues?
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been seven years since Perry was fantasy hockey’s top right wing and the Hart Trophy winner. That season, he dominated numerous categories, including goals (50), assists (48), penalty minutes (104), power-play points (31), and shots on goal (290). Since then, the only season he has come close to that total is 2013-14, when he posted 43 goals, 39 assists, a plus-32 ranking, and 280 shots on goal.
Things have gotten decidedly worse since then, though. The 2017-18 season was the second consecutive campaign in which Perry’s goal and point totals declined. Perry has dropped from 62 points to 53 points to 49 points, but his goal total has sagged even further, from 34 goals to 19 goals to 17 goals. The one silver lining is that Perry’s points-per-game average improved slightly from 0.65 in 2016-17 to 0.69, due to his 11 games missed in 2017-18. Moreover, his goals-per-game was around the same. Still, the points-per-game total placed him in the same company as Ryan Spooner, Evander Kane, David Krejci, Bo Horvat, and Nazem Kadri. Useful fantasy players – but none currently carry the same star power as Perry.
Perry’s average draft position (ADP) in Yahoo leagues in 2017-18 was 64.2. Given the group of players around him, Perry should definitely be drafted outside of the top 100 in 2017-18, assuming his situation remains the same. He’s still a useful player in many fantasy leagues but be careful that you’re not paying a premium for the name. (june13)
13. So, if the Sens have no choice but to trade Mike Hoffman, then they won’t be receiving full market value. So, what about Hoffman fantasy hockey owners??? … (meekly raises hand) … For one, we have to let due process play out. It’s too early to assume that something like this will ruin Hoffman’s career. If the guy in the next section could revive his NHL career, then theoretically so could Hoffman even if the allegations are true. Stating the obvious, though, this news won’t help Hoffman’s fantasy value in any way. But, a trade could potentially help it. That trade will be difficult to orchestrate before the draft, given the uncertainty of this situation.
One final thought. Even though I am attempting to cover this story from a fantasy hockey perspective, I understand that harassment – even online – is a much greater societal issue than a fantasy team. And, nothing could compare to the sadness of losing a child. We know that the Karlssons were victims of both this past season, so hopefully they are able to move forward from what has been an unbelievably trying year. (june13)
14. Kevin Fiala is a favourite of mine and many here at DobberHockey. Be wary of his ADP, though. It’s easy to envision him being on every ‘sleeper’ list from St. John’s to Orange Country and thus inflating his ADP.
The young Predator has the look of a true top-six scorer thus far in his young career. Though there have been fits and starts, he really broke through in the 2017 postseason. His 2017-18 campaign, the first real full season he’s had, was a success as he posted nearly 50 points while playing just over 15 minutes per game. He’s locked into his top-six role but the power play opportunity may not be there as his team does have top-end scoring wingers ahead of him. All the same, entering his age-22 season, this forward has the look of a perennial 30-goal scorer. He’s also starting to get noticed in fantasy circles and profiles as someone who will be such a fantasy darling in the preseason that his ADP gets driven up. (june12)
15. Though I’m sure Sabres fans were hoping for more from Sam Reinhart by this point, he’s averaged 48 points per 82 games over the last three years, having done so on the second-lowest scoring team in that span (Vegas excluded). To do that at a young age on such a poor offensive team is a testament to his talent, not a knock against him.
What will determine his value next year is his role. If he can maintain his winger status with Jack Eichel as his pivot, along with the top PP minutes, he can be a 60-point player. However, if they decide to move him to the third line to try and lengthen the scoring in the lineup as they did at times last year, it might be another 45- or 50-point season. The nice thing is it won’t be an expensive price at the draft table, so it’ll be a gamble worth taking. (june12)
16. Being that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has played six 82-game seasons (often less because, well, injuries), is a first overall pick and has yet to produce a 25-goal or 60-point season probably makes his keeper/dynasty owners a little, shall we say, upset. Hold on to some hope, though.
RNH returned to the Oilers lineup on March 3. He was moved alongside Connor McDavid on March 10, where he stayed basically for the rest of the season, a span of 13 games. In those 13 games, RNH played over 20 minutes a night, managed 15 points, and landed just under three shots on goal per game.
The question is: does he stay there? Leon Draisaitl spent some time on the top line but did not stay. Milan Lucic spent some time on the top line but did not stay. It was basically a rotating door on either side of McDavid all year long. RNH may not even be in an Oilers uniform next year. If he is, though, he won’t be expensive in drafts. He’ll be worth taking the gamble.(june12)
17. A few days ago the San Jose Sharks signed the leading scorer of the Finnish Liiga, Antti Suomela. The undrafted Suomela came from out of nowhere in 2016-17, when he scored 45 points in 58 games as a second-year player. Last season, he proved it was no fluke when he picked up 60 points in 59 games to lead all players. The Sharks had signed another high-scoring 24-year-old late bloomer named Joonas Donskoi two years ago, and Suomela’s numbers exceed Donskoi’s. The latter stepped right into the lineup and posted 36 points as a NHL rookie, so could Suomela do the same but better? One drawback I noticed was that Suomela’s numbers seriously dropped off in the postseason, so if he stumbles under pressure he’s not going to make the team out of training camp. So, therein lies the risk. Otherwise, I really like him. (june11)
18. On Ilya Kovalchuk: I like the Kings as a fit but the Sharks? This is a team that I think has done a great job transitioning from a bunch of grandpas to bringing in new blood. Filtering out Patrick Marleau and rolling back the ice time of Paul Martin and Joel Ward, while at the same time bringing in Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc, and adding Evander Kane (let’s not get into the contract – that’s another topic!). Adding Kovalchuk is a positive for any team … but maybe not this one. The Sharks should be focusing on defensemen. I really like the forward corps they’ve put together now and there are a couple of prospects I like who could slot in there a year or two from now. (june11)
19. My favorite team for Kovalchuk is the Islanders. I like this fit for both sides. As bad as this team was last season, we can all agree (?) that they were worse than expected. Worse than on paper – and that’s not even factoring in Mathew Barzal as a sudden superstar. If John Tavares signs, it helps the decision. Imagine:
With Josh Ho-Sang ready to make the jump, and Ryan Pulock ready to seize the PP reins, add in a new coach and this team is a dark horse. But, it starts with Kovalchuk. I know you may have some reservations about ‘Loophole Lou’ (Lamoriello) actually getting Kovalchuk back but, according to Lighthouse Hockey, Kovalchuk has a lot of respect for Lamoriello and is appreciative of how hard Lou worked in order to free him up to return to Russia. (june11)
Pulock’s outlook also depends on a lot of factors. Does he take over the top PP billing from Nick Leddy? Does John Tavares re-sign? Can both Josh Bailey and Anders Lee come close to repeating their brilliant 2017-18 campaigns? None of this is a certainty.
One thing that is likely is that Pulock remains a shooting machine. With his first full year under his belt and just scratching his potential, there isn’t much reason to think he has a shooting decline. As long as he keeps shooting, he should be fine. (june15)
20. BTW: DobberHockey writer and editor Cam Robinson released his Top-130 rankings this past Thursday for the upcoming NHL Draft. Cam has been working tirelessly all year to end up at this point, so I would recommend going through it thoroughly to get a read on more than just the top-end guys. And, don't forget to grab your copy of Dobber's Prospects Report from the Dobber Shop! (june15)
Have a good week, folks!!
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