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 Blues got a steal of a deal by signing Robby Fabbri to a one-year contract worth less than a million dollars. Just goes to show how much an injury can cost you, in this case financially. It was Fabbri’s second ACL injury and he hasn’t played a game for the Blues in 17 months. So, the risk is obvious. But, we all know how good he is and every one of us fantasy owners have him written – in permanent marker – into St. Louis’ top-six.
If he plays 80 games, he should flirt with 65 points. But, therein lies the problem – will he play 20, 40, 60 or 80 games? The Fantasy Guide that picks the correct amount of games will have the most accurate Fabbri projection. And there is no formula on earth that can do that, it’s just blind luck but that’s how us prognosticators get graded! That’s why I push the other features of my Guide – more than just projections. Anyway, with Fabbri you know what you’re getting, and I think his points-per-game in this improved St. Louis lineup will be around 0.8. He’ll start slow and finish strong. (july4)
2. The Chicago Blackhawks most recent first-round selection, Adam Boqvist, has signed with the London Knights of the OHL for next season. Boqvist was a high selection for the Knights in the 2017 Import Draft but decided to stay in Sweden last season. There, he ended up bouncing around between the top junior league (SuperElit), the second tier (Allsvenskan), and the top professional circuit (SHL). Boqvist struggled to gain traction in the pro ranks but dominated his age group at international events.
This move is terrific for London and OHL fans in general and for the Hawks. They get to have their top prospect marinate on the small ice, in a tremendous program, and close to the organization where they can have more influence. The 2018 eighth overall selection has infinite potential as a point-producing defender. He’s the type of player that Chicago is desperately searching for now that Duncan Keith’s tooth has gone long.
3. Whichever team Erik Karlsson ends up on (including Ottawa), the forward corps will all see a major boon. Just insert the top forwards from whatever team and assume they’ll each see a healthy uptick.
The same should go for the goaltenders, as well. While Karlsson gets tabbed as an offensive defenseman, that shouldn’t indicate that his defensive prowess is troubled. He possesses the puck at an extreme rate. The more your team has the puck, the fewer opportunities the opposition will have against. The 28-year-old has never posted a negative relative CorsiFor percentage at even-strength. In his previous four seasons, he’s clicked at three percent or higher. He’s also pretty good with some other possession metrics, too. The real kicker comes via the top fantasy defenders. This is where it may get ugly … Read on here … (july7)
4. Anyone who reads my Ramblings knows I’m a fan of Anaheim’s Ondrej Kase. He put up solid underlying numbers in limited minutes as a rookie in 2016-17. His 2017-18 season saw him pop 20 goals in just 66 games, playing fewer than 14 minutes a game. In fact, he was the only player to score at least 20 goals with fewer than 1000 total minutes of ice time in 2017-18. And he didn’t do it with a sky-high shooting percentage either, coming in at 13.7 percent.
Just how good has Kase been over the last two years in doing the little things to help generate offense? He’s been, uh, all-world good … Read on here … (july6)
5. Perhaps why Colin Miller seems like such a bargain for a 40-point defenseman is that prior to 2017-18, he had never scored more than 16 points in a season over his previous two seasons (only 61 and 42 games played in those two seasons). If he can maintain this production, then his new contract (four-year, $15.5 million) could be a steal for Vegas as they attempt to build on their unusually successful first season. Upon being selected by the expansion Golden Knights, Miller’s ice time increased about three and a half minutes per game, with a power-play ice time increase of over a minute per game.
Of course, one ongoing concern for Miller owners is the growing presence of Shea Theodore on the first-unit power play. During the playoffs, Theodore averaged more power-play time (3:01 power play TOI/GP) than any other Vegas skater, including Miller. Theodore possesses higher offensive upside, so I’d lean toward him as the blueline option should Vegas go with a 4F-1D format on the first-unit power play. Still, Miller should be a solid option again next season now that he is a fixture on the Vegas defense, particularly in multicategory leagues that count hits. (july8)
6. Andreas Athanasiou is kind of a special case. He’s great at generating offense, whether it be getting in or out of the zone with control or using his flat-out breakaway speed to elude defenders. He’s not a particularly strong playmaker but given Detroit’s inability to score in recent years, having a guy who can break open a game single-handedly is nice to have.
It’s a matter of how he’s used. Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill, as fantasy owners know, isn’t very kind to young players not named Dylan Larkin, so Athanasiou could be anywhere from the first line to the fourth line on any given night. All the same, Athanasiou saw his shot rate jump into the top-20 across the league last year, just behind names like Kevin Fiala and Evander Kane. Shooting as much as he does with his skill set should bode well for him crossing 20 goals next year. How much further he goes beyond that is up to Blashill. (july6)
7. In Boone Jenner, the Blue Jackets locked up one of their core forwards but not the one maybe fantasy owners (and Blue Jackets fans) were hoping. There is still the question of the Artemi Panarin contract situation but once Zach Werenski and Oliver Bjorkstrand are extended (the former has one year left on his ELC), the young core of this team will be around for another few years at least.
Jenner has been a fan favorite for fantasy hockey owners for those stout hits totals alone. Four of his five seasons have seen totals of over 200 hits and the fifth season was 102 hits in an injury-shortened 31-game campaign. Add in 15 or so goals with very good shot rates and Jenner has all the tools necessary to be a very valuable multi-category performer.
The question is whether Jenner can get back to the 30-goal plateau, or something close, as he did in 2015-16. Read on here … (july6)
8. The Montreal Canadiens were dealt a significant blow when the team announced Shea Weber would be undergoing knee surgery, which would keep him off the ice for 5-6 months. Best guess right now is to not expect him in the lineup until Christmas.
While the P.K. Subban-Weber trade has been debated since it occurred, the fact is Weber was still a good defenseman nonetheless. However, after missing four months of games last year and three months this year, the Habs are now looking at Weber not playing a full year again until his age-34 season. At which point they’ll have seven more years with an AAV over $7.8-million. Not great.
Good news for Jeff Petry’s dynasty owners, though. He was really good for fantasy purposes once Weber left the lineup in mid-December, posting 31 points in 49 games (17 of those points on the power play), averaging over 24 minutes a night, and over 2.5 shots per game. He also had 82 hits and 88 blocked shots in that span. I suppose if the Habs want to be bold they can hand those PP minutes to Victor Mete but given how good Petry was, I don’t see that happening. Petry’s average draft position (ADP) will be interesting. Assuming Weber can return sometime around Christmas, he will probably be slotted back on the top PP unit, relegating Petry back to the second unit. Fantasy owners might only get a half-year from Petry in that cushy slotting, and even then, it’s not guaranteed he replicates his success down the stretch in 2017-18. (july6)
9. The Flyers have signed RFA goalie Alex Lyon to a two-year extension. Because of the team’s issues with injured goalies, Lyon managed to get into 11 games for the Flyers. He figures to start the season in the AHL, although don’t be surprised if you hear from him again in 2018-19. Michal Neuvirth is a Certified Band-Aid Boy and Brian Elliott hasn’t played 50 games since the 2010-11 season. But, before you get too excited about Lyon, remember that the Flyers have Carter Hart, who should get a long look in the AHL this season. (july8)
10. I really like the Robin Lehner signing for the Islanders (Mike Clifford breaks it down with his thoughts here, which I agree with). The Isles have two of the best goaltending prospects in all of hockey with Ilya Sorokin and Linus Soderstrom, but neither will be available this season and likely not next year either. So, they need a stopgap to get them to 2020. A Thomas Greiss – Robin Lehner tandem is probably just as mediocre as it was last year with Jaroslav Halak instead of Lehner. Except Lehner is clearly signed to be a backup rather than a 1A, and to me that takes the pressure off both goaltenders. And with Lehner’s injury track record, each time he looks to be stealing that No.1 job he’ll pull a groin or something and Greiss’s job becomes safe again.
I think the two of them will enjoy moderate success in a 51-31 split. If Lehner impresses, as he seemed to in the second half last season, then his next contract could be another shot as a No.1. Between January 7 and March 10, over 19 games, Lehner posted a 0.912 SV%, so he is capable of stringing together decent numbers on a bad team. (You can use our fast goalie calculator and set custom dates to get his stats in any of the player profiles – Robin’s is here). (july4)
11. The Islanders also acquired Matt Martin from the Leafs for nothing. Eamon McAdam went the other way but that was just so the Isles wouldn’t be adding a contract under their allotted 50. So, it was just a free player, giving the Leafs more cap room.
Life isn’t over for Isles fans. I think they were a 14th-talented team last year that underachieved. Losing John Tavares just knocks them down to maybe 20th. Their goalie tandem is okay and under Barry Trotz I think we’ll be shocked by how much Lehner’s and Greiss’s numbers improve. If Ryan Pulock and Josh Ho Sang take the next step towards stardom, they’ll have a good defense corps, and the forwards aren’t horrible:
Anders Lee – Mat Barzal – Josh Bailey
Ho Sang – Brock Nelson – Jordan Eberle
Andrew Ladd – Valtteri Filppula –Anthony Beauvillier
Leo Komarov– Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck
* With Martin and Tom Kuhnhackl as extras
With Top-5 coaching, this team will surprise. It will over-achieve, as I stated above it’s a 20th talented team (just off the top of my head) but I wouldn’t be shocked if they push for a playoff spot just from coaching alone. How many times did Barry Trotz do that with Nashville when they didn’t have much talent? (july4)
12. Since Ryan O’Reilly became a top-line player for Colorado back in 2011-12, he has posted six straight 82-game seasons of at least 55 points. He is one of just 13 players with six straight 55-point seasons, the others are: Patrick Kane, Alex Ovechkin, Jamie Benn, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Claude Giroux, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, Joe Pavelski, Tyler Seguin, John Tavares, and Blake Wheeler. Basically, O’Reilly has been among the consistently elite in fantasy production for several years, though without the upside.
O’Reilly’s fantasy value will come down to role, usage, and power-play time. Assuming O’Reilly stays in the top-six in St. Louis, he’s looking at playing with Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Robby Fabbri, David Perron, or Alex Steen. They also have Jordan Kyrou and Klim Kostin knocking on the door. It’s night and day.
It’s hard not to imagine O’Reilly being used in a defensive role, top-line assignments when the team has last change, as well as a bevy of D-zone draws given his faceoff prowess. My concern is that O’Reilly doesn’t skate with Tarasenko or Schwartz, but rather Steen, Dmitrij Jaskin, or Perron, and is used to eat all the tough minutes while allowing Brayden Schenn’s line to be a go-between and Tyler Bozak’s trio is given the sheltered minutes. That last statement is almost assured. Not that defensive assignments are anything new to O’Reilly, he’s built a career off them. Just that there is a difference between playing tweener minutes with Tarasenko or playing tough minutes with Perron.
O’Reilly has never been much of a roto contributor. Outside of leagues that count faceoff wins, there isn’t much to offer. That means few PIMs, hits, or blocked shots. He has started shooting more in recent seasons and that’s not an aberration; his individual shot attempt rate at five-on-five has climbed two straight years. His value lies in either points-only leagues or leagues that count faceoff wins. But, things are looking very bright indeed. He should be able to at least replicate his 2017-18 season provided he plays 80 games and has a realistic chance of cracking 70 points for the first time in his career. (july3)
13. James Neal signed a five-year deal with the Flames. You can read Dobber’s analysis here. All I’ll say about this for now is that Calgary did a good job bolstering their forward depth (even if it was at the expense of an elite defenseman in Dougie Hamilton) but this could be a headache for lineup combinations all year. It seemed like Elias Lindholm was the guy to slot with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, and then quotes came out that Matthew Tkachuk might play the right side. Now, throw Neal into the mix. Outside of Monahan/Gaudreau on the top line, and Mikael Backlund centering the second line, I’m not sure if any particular combination is going to be reliable. (july3)
14. It was always a near-certainty that Joe Thornton would return to the Sharks. Thornton, now 39 years old, is coming off significant knee problems in each of the last two years. You hate to say this might be it, but it’s a wonder how many years he has left given all these issues.
It’ll be curious to see Thornton’s usage. After the acquisition of Evander Kane, the trio of Kane, Joe Pavelski, and Joonas Donskoi was downright dominant in limited ice time together. The duo of Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture seem like a lock to stay together, so will Thornton be used in a lesser role at five-on-five? Or, will he be right back to the top line, pushing Donskoi down the lineup? Can Thornton play over 18 minutes a night at this point? Questions without answers just yet. (july3)
15. The Habs turned themselves into possible Cup contenders after … I’m sorry, I can’t keep going and keep a straight face. Habs fans: keep the faith. All big-league teams go through down times like this, just hang in there. Montreal brought back a fan favorite in Tomas Plekanec and added a decent depth winger in Joel Armia. I wouldn’t mind Kenny Agostino as a possible ‘next PA Parenteau’, except the Habs don’t have a John Tavares to turn Agostino into a Parenteau. So, that AHL experiment doesn’t look promising. I do like Montreal’s draft selection of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and their focus should be on prospects and picks. They should use the Ryan O’Reilly deal as a blueprint for what they should try to get back for Max Pacioretty. (july2)
16. The Red Wings refuse to go into full rebuild mode, opting instead to tread water. Re-signing Mike Green and bringing back Thomas Vanek strikes me as pointless, though Vanek can be traded at the deadline for some assets. But, Green? As for Jonathan Bernier, I think he makes a sneaky-good add because I think he can become Detroit’s starter by next year. In 2018-19, however, it’s hard to have a good starter when the team doesn’t win many games. But, keeper leaguers take note: I feel that Bernier found his starting job, he’ll just have to outplay Jimmy Howard and prove it. (july2)
17. I feel like, in order for the Blackhawks to be serious contenders again, then they need to effectively replace the two rocks on defense in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. So, I’m not sure why Chris Kunitz was signed. I get bringing in veteran Cam Ward to help stabilize the net, which was a big issue last year. And Brandon Manning is just their usual low-minute defenseman signing that they do every year. But, there’s no magic savior on defense in the free agent market. They’re stuck trading for a solution. It’s a good thing Henri Jokiharju is coming soon – he’ll be a stud worthy of the top pairing. As I write this, Chicago has the least cap room in the NHL at about $2 million. (july2)
18. Jaroslav Halak is a great backup, and as good as Anton Khudobin was last year, I think Halak is even better. I think Boston’s depth signings were solid (Joakim Nordstrom, Chris Wagner), while adding John Moore gives them five enviable defensemen plus two more good bottom pairing guys. The Bruins didn’t have to do much because their rookies did so well last year and now they have added Ryan Donato. (july2)
19. Well, what can I say? The Sabres are no longer going to employ a bunch of AHLers to fill out the roster. Casey Mittelstadt has allowed them to trade Ryan O’Reilly, which injects three players into the roster in place of one. If you add in the Conor Sheary acquisition and the Rasmus Dahlin draft pick and I’d say the Sabres get the Gold Medal for most improved team over the past month. I’m not sure Carter Hutton is an upgrade to Robin Lehner but at least he stays healthy – and I really like Linus Ullmark, so I think the team will be covered in net. (july2)
20. I’ve always liked Anton Rodin as a prospect but his bad luck with injuries derailed his development and the Ducks are too deep for him to crack the lineup, barring a couple of key injuries to top-sixers and disappointing camps from top prospects. They also signed a good depth defenseman in Luke Schenn, and a No.4 goalie in Jared Coreau (I think Kevin Boyle is a promising prospect goalie who is probably a better option than Ryan Miller if he ever gets a chance to show it). (july2)
Have a good week, folks!!
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