Draft Analysis, Weekend Trades and Signings

First off, I just wanted to give a shoutout to Peter Harling, Cam Robinson, and the rest of the Dobber Prospects team for some amazing work at the draft (and for Cam for actually dropping a Ramblings to boot – these things don’t take five minutes to write, you know). It was awesome seeing the Dobber brand showing up on the Sportsnet ticker as each big name fell off the board.

As significant as the Dobber presence has been in Dallas, next year might be even better, with the 2019 draft coming to Vancouver! Will Quinn Hughes receive the honor of announcing his brother Jack as the first overall pick and his new teammate? Wait just a minute Canucks fans… you seem to have forgotten about the crummy luck that you have in the draft lottery every year.

By the way, I’m ecstatic about the Hughes pick. I can say that a puck-moving defenseman is something that the Canucks have been missing since, well, ever. I think the one takeaway from this draft – at least the first round – is the type of defensemen that were drafted. After years of teams drafting bigger and bigger, the smaller defensemen were all the rage as teams move toward a faster style that stresses the importance of moving the puck out of your zone and keeping up with the play. Here’s the height and weight of the first seven defensemen drafted in the first round:

Rasmus Dahlin (BUF): 6’ 2”, 181 lbs.

Quinn Hughes (VAN): 5’10”, 173 lbs.

Adam Boqvist (CHI): 5’11”, 165 lbs.

Evan Bouchard (EDM): 6’2”, 195 lbs.

Noah Dobson (NYI): 6’3”, 176 lbs.

Ty Smith (NJ): 5’11”, 176 lbs.

Ryan Merkley (SJ): 5’11”, 167 lbs.

Not one of these defensemen is over 200 pounds, and there are more that are under six feet tall than over. Of course, these are still kids who could continue to grow and should also fill out a bit more. But the trend of blueliners scoring more should continue, while fewer enormous-bodied stay-at-home defensemen will be able to survive in the NHL.

What made this draft fun is that after the first two picks, it didn’t seem to proceed according to plan. It’s easy to criticize Montreal and Arizona on their off-the-board picks, but the fact is that we’re putting faith in 18-year-old kids and perceptions will change. Let’s check back in ten years to find out how these picks really turned out. Maybe these Habs fans will become huge Kotkaniemi fans one day.

There’s certainly a lot to unpack from the past two days, so let’s get started.


I’ll start with a question that was asked to me this weekend. Some keeper leagues have an entry draft in which draft-eligible players can be drafted by teams. So if you have the third pick (or are simply ranking draft-eligible players), who would you choose? Assume Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov will be picked first and second overall. This person was initially thinking Filip Zadina, but with Jesper Kotkaniemi being picked third overall by the Habs, he wasn’t so sure anymore. Should the third overall pick in fantasy drafts be Zadina, Kotkaniemi, or someone else?

Settings and team needs could determine who you pick, but just because a certain NHL general manager decides to go off the board to pick the player he wants doesn’t mean that you also have to. And there’s a reason that the Kotkaniemi pick was considered off the board. Zadina obviously fell down at least a couple teams’ draft boards, but picking a real-life team is different from picking a fantasy team. Zadina says he will “bring the goals” to Detroit, something that he did in the QMJHL (44 goals in just 57 games). If you like fantasy goals on your team, he’s the guy I’d look to add at number 3.

For you (and for my own benefit, since I participate in one of these leagues), I will produce a draft list during the summer of draft-eligible prospects. But I’ve started with those three. Who would you pick after that? Or would you include someone else in your top 3? Remember that if you don’t want to wait and/or require far more detailed prospects analysis, you’ll want to pick up your copy of the Fantasy Prospects Report.  


Dobber himself provided the Fantasy Take on the Ilya Kovalchuk signing, which includes how top-6 forwards in LA might be impacted. I’d expect Kovalchuk to be a decently productive fantasy option next season, but at age 35 he’s already seen most of his peers his age drop off from their prime (or drop out of the league by now). As productive as Kovalchuk was in the KHL (over a point per game over his last two seasons), I can’t help but think that someone like now-34-year-old Rick Nash is a comparable at this point in his career. And Nash isn’t someone you should be reaching for in next season’s drafts. But don’t get me wrong, I’d still rate Kovalchuk over Nash.

Another point I’ll add: After the Kovalchuk signing, the Kings are left with just over $3 million in cap space. They don’t have much work left to do (possibly extend a qualifying offer to Tobias Rieder), but barring any other moves to clear cap space, they probably won’t have enough room to bring back Slava Voynov. And they may not be planning to bring him back.

From The Athletic (this article is free):

Sources indicated that the Kings trading Voynov’s rights is likely the most plausible scenario.

This article, written by Katie Strang, describes both what would need to happen in order for Voynov to be reinstated, as well as the details of the events that led to his contract being terminated by the Kings. Although the 28-year-old Voynov could provide a team with an all-important right-shot defenseman who can deliver some offense, I don’t imagine that his acquisition will go over well with a significant portion of any team’s fanbase.  

With Kovalchuk now off the board, John Carlson getting close to a deal in Washington, and John Tavares still considering re-signing on Long Island, could July 1 be kind of a “meh” day? Diehard hockey fans will no doubt tune in to the programming on TSN or Sportsnet (at least in Canada), but for the most part we’re not talking about franchise-altering players. Lots of over-30s who have had productive careers, though. You can check out the list over at Cap Friendly.

Speaking of Tavares, he is set to meet with five teams ahead of free agency. According to ESPN, those teams are expected to be San Jose, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Vegas, and Dallas. And according to David Pagnotta, the Islanders’ initial offer to Tavares is an eight-year deal worth $88 million.


Dobber also gave you the Fantasy Take on the Calgary/Carolina blockbuster. Fantasy-wise, this trade has a major impact on the Flames’ top line, with the forwards swapping places on it.

As far as the trade goes, I’m going to concentrate on the forwards in the deal.

I really like this move for Elias Lindholm – more so than anyone else involved in the deal. The previous relationship with Peters should result in Lindholm receiving at least a long look with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. There was no real continuity when it came to Lindholm’s linemates last season, but both Gaudreau (1.05 Pts/G) and Monahan (0.86 Pts/G) scored at a higher pace than any Carolina forward. This is a significant upgrade for Lindholm. If Micheal Ferland can score 21 goals while (mostly) playing on that line, then the more talented Lindholm should score at least that many. Lindholm has never scored more than 17 goals in a season.

Conversely, the main reason I decided to take a flier on Ferland last season was his place on the Flames’ top line. Of his 41 points last season, 35 were even strength. And of those 35 even-strength points, only three were without either Gaudreau or Monahan. There could be more turnover with the Canes’ forward group, particularly if Jeff Skinner is traded. But for now Ferland is buried among a large pile of wingers, which means that he should probably only be targeted in leagues that count hits.


One day after being traded to the Avalanche, Philipp Grubauer has signed a three-year contract worth $10 million total (Fantasy Take from Mike). I know one Semyon Varlamov owner that is livid right now, as he was counting on Varlamov again after bouncing back to fantasy respectability last season. Given that Varlamov has started 50+ games in four of the last five seasons even with an injury-prone reputation, I don’t think this turns out any worse than a 50/50 split for Varlamov. But it might be better to bet the under than he will play 50 games again in 2018-19.

This probably goes without saying, but the Grubauer trade all but assures that Jonathan Bernier will be headed to unrestricted free agency. The UFA goalie market is thin (you can check out that group at Cap Friendly), but Bernier should be considered a top-5 option in that group. That probably should net him a goalie timeshare situation of his own at best, with the more likely scenario of him being signed as a team’s backup.

As for the vacant Washington backup goalie job, recently signed goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov is expected to play a lot in the AHL next season. That would make Pheonix Copley the little-used backup behind Braden Holtby. The native of North Pole, Alaska (maybe he has met Santa Claus!) has played in just two NHL games – both with the Blues.  


For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.