Bubble Keeper Week is just about wrapping up here. Again, thanks to the wonderful community for making this a fun week for everyone to come out and talk about their keeper problems. See, someone does care about your fantasy team!
Be sure to check tomorrow’s Ramblings because I think Ian will be doing a quick wrap-up of some names of interest to him, or that we may have overlooked this week. If you have some questions for him, throw them his way on Twitter.
The 2018-19 Dobber Hockey fantasy guide drops Wednesday August 1st! Be sure to head to the Dobber Shop and pre-order your copy today. Get in early to soak up all that fantasy goodness through the dregs of August.
During a media availability yesterday, Corey Crawford indicated he may not be ready for training camp. Keep an eye out for updates as the summer wears on.
The Caps signed Tom Wilson to a six-year extension with a cap hit just under $5.2-million. That's per year.
Though I’m not sure there will be much fantasy relevance, I’m a little surprised no team has signed Tobias Enstrom yet. His 50-point seasons are a thing of the distant past, but he’s still a pretty good defender, and a lot of teams can use a good left-handed defensive defenceman. A real defensive defenceman, not a face-punching defensive defenceman.
I’m not just being hyperbolic here. These are the heat maps of shots allowed over his last two seasons with the Jets, from HockeyViz. The darker the blue, the fewer the shots compared to the league average:
Maybe he will return to Sweden after all, as had been reported earlier this summer. It’s hard to imagine an NHL team couldn’t use what he brings, and likely for very cheap.
Jake Virtanen signed a two-year deal with the Canucks carrying an AAV of $1.25-million. The 6th overall pick from 2014 had 10 goals and 20 points in 75 games last year while playing a shade under 12 minutes a game.
There is not a ton of reason to be optimistic as Vancouver fans. Trevor Linden stepping down as President of Hockey Operations, at the end of July, is weird timing. Then we find out this:
Farhan said with the top prospects coming in ownership thought if a couple holes could be filled they could contend for a playoff spot. Linden didn’t agree.
— Taj (@taj1944) July 26, 2018
At least Linden seemed to have an honest assessment of the team. This team really needs guys like Pettersson, Gaudette, Lind, Hughes, Juolevi, and Dahlen to all pan out not just as NHLers, but as top-half of the roster-type NHLers. If not, there could be a few more very lean years ahead.
All that aside, Virtanen did show well last year despite the lack of raw counting stats. I wrote about him briefly in April as well as mid-March and not too much more needs to be said than what was said in those articles.
With the Sedins gone, the entire forward roster is wide open outside of Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser. Anyone could play anywhere at any time. There’s no reason for this team not to be a true meritocracy wherein whichever player is exceeding gets the ice time. If he can play this year with the consistency he finished last year, he could jump to 16 minutes a game and crack the 20-goal barrier. Whether he plays with that consistency is up to him.
It’s funny to see the Artemi Panarin trade talks persist. I do wonder what the Blue Jackets will do here. If he’s not committed to signing another deal, it would be painful to trade him, but they’d almost have to. A player of that calibre would get a haul that could help the team over the next 4-5 years with the very good group of young guys they have. With the Leafs bolstered, the Lightning as dangerous as ever, Boston still strong, the Cup champions, and the two-time champs all in their Conference, they may need to be realistic of their chances for a Cup this year.
A very hard decision has to be made either way. I don’t envy the Blue Jackets brain trust on this one.
Over my last few Ramblings, I’ve mentioned Evgeni Dadonov in probably all of them. Most were bubble keeper questions. Despite popping off for 28 goals and 65 points in his first full season in the NHL, he’s a worthy debate as a keeper in some leagues.
Let’s set aside his point totals for a second. Let’s look at everything else.
Among 367 players in my sample (500-plus five-on-five minutes in 2017-18, data from Corsica), Dadonov ranked 258th in blocked shots per 60 minutes. In that same sample, he was 344th in hits per 60 minutes. Long story short, if you’re in a league that counts hits and blocked shots, he’s detrimental in those categories.
He had eight penalty minutes in 2017-18. Over his final three seasons in the KHL, he had 53 in 165 games. If he got to 25 penalty minutes, that’d be a huge total for him, and still no real help in leagues that count PIMs.
There is the possibility (probability?) that he loses his top PP slotting to newcomer Mike Hoffman. Though he only had 13 PPPs last year, no forward outside the top PP unit had more than seven, and even those seven were from Nick Bjugstad who got some sparse top PP minutes. Should Dadonov be pushed off the top PP unit, he probably falls off to 5-6 PPPs. Not only does that make him a virtual nothing in that category for roto leagues, it drops his overall production under 60 points.
On the bright side, Dadonov was among the team leaders in shot rate at five-on-five, trailing only Bjugstad among regulars. He also had an injury in the first half which may have depressed his rates somewhat. Without getting too excited, though, he also shot 13.8 percent. That’s high. Even if that falls off to just 11 percent, which would still be well above the league average, he could lose 4-5 goals.
Dadonov shouldn’t lose his top-6 slotting at five-on-five but he will probably lose his power play time. He doesn’t contribute in peripheral categories and his five-on-five shooting percentage should tail off. The loss of PP time and regression in shooting percentage alone could knock 10 points off his total.
Being a 55-point winger with minimal power-play time in the NHL is worth $4-million. I’m not saying he’s a bad player or anything of the sort. What this is meant to highlight is that it really depends what type of league you’re considering him for a keeper. If it’s a points-only league with more than a few keepers, he should be in consideration. Once we get into deeper points-only keeper formats, it’s a bigger question mark. Once we get into leagues that count several peripheral stats, he can probably be left off the keeper list.
While I’m thinking of bubble keepers who don’t provide much for peripheral stats, how about that Jake Gardiner?
Last year, Gardiner had the 45th-most blocked shots among all defencemen at five-on-five. The thing about that is every defenceman ahead of him played fewer minutes except Brent Burns. On a 60-minute basis, he was in the bottom-half of regular used defencemen. Gardiner may move into a penalty-kill role due to the loss of Roman Polak (if someone has seen something from off-season chatter from the coaching staff or something, post it in the comments). If he doesn’t, improving on the 103 blocked shots last year will be difficult.
He’s also seen his hit totals decline under the tutelage of Mike Babcock, bottoming out at 51 last year. For real life hockey, that’s a good thing. He’s focused more on puck recovery and transitional play than he is on just hammering guys. That’s what a coach should want from a player with his skill set. For fantasy hockey, it’s not helpful in the hits column.
Gardiner is going into his seventh full NHL season. He has played at least 79 games in five of them and has yet to crack 140 shots on goal. Last year was a four-year high with 133 and that’s still well short of what we want for fantasy hockey. From the work I did earlier this off season in rising shot totals, we want our fantasy defencemen over 170, even more if they don’t contribute much for hits/blocks.
The penalty minutes aren’t terrible but a low-30s mark isn’t really helpful. He’d need to add another 10-15 for him to contribute positively.
Aside from the link above on rising shot rates, I also looked at fantasy-relevant totals for things like penalty minutes, hits, and blocked shots. The average fantasy defenceman should have around 54 PIMs, 128 hits, and 144 blocked shots, give or take a few in each column. Consider that Gardiner falls well below everywhere from shots, to hits, to PIMs, to blocked shots, and it’s pretty clear how much value he has (or doesn’t) in multi-cat leagues.
Aside from assists, Gardiner really doesn’t do much in the fantasy game. The power play likely remains status quo, which means around 15 PPPs. He could see a slight decline in assists because of the career-high secondary assists he set but it won’t be a big drop. He can still cross the 40-assist threshold.
But that’s it. Gardiner can get you seven or eight goals and a pile of assists. That’ll play very well in points-only formats. But in leagues that count peripheral stats, he won’t give as much as people may think. Just for an example: in my points league that counts peripheral stats, he was just inside the top-40 defencemen in value. And that’s with a 50-plus point season.
When looking through keeper defencemen, if you’re in a multi-category league, Gardiner can probably be left to the side, depending on league depth.
While I have the Florida Panthers on my mind, it could be tough sledding for their prospects for a while. Looking up how many years Dadonov has left on his deal, I realized the following: Barkov, Trocheck, Huberdeau, Hoffman, Dadonov, and Bjugstad all have at least two years left on all their contracts. Jared McCann has two years on the deal he signed. Presumably, if all goes well, left/right wing on the third line are the only spots up for grabs that could have fantasy relevance.
I was just thinking of Henrik Borgstrom, Aleksi Heponiemi, and Owen Tippett. They are certainly talented enough where they could earn a roster spot but in the short-term, nothing is a given. They will get there eventually, but it could be a couple years before they have any real fantasy impact.
I’m not really a guy that targets prospects in one-year fantasy drafts. The list of guys I’ve targeted over the years in their age-18 season can probably be counted on one hand.
On the other hand… I’m finding it really hard not to get enamoured with Andrei Svechnikov.
I know, breaking news. Svechnikov is good. The thing is, it’s not really that hard to envision him with a top-9 slotting and top power-play minutes this year. My one concern would be that they stick Victor Rask on the top PP unit as they did at times last year. But if Svechnikov shows in camp to the level he’s capable and starts impressing with that shot of his, I find it hard to believe any coach would not give him the power-play minutes for him to succeed, even if it’s a month or so into the season.
Maybe this is all wishful thinking. Maybe he’ll bounce around the lineup and they limit his exposure in his first year. Or maybe they let him play his game, give him 15 minutes a night, and he puts up a 25-goal season.
Someone talk me off the ledge for this year, please.