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
(Ed. Note: We’re just a few days away from the release of the 2018-19 DobberHockey Fantasy Guide, set for this Wednesday, August 1st! Be sure to grab your copy from the Dobber Shop. Don’t worry about the release being so early as it’s constantly updated with new information. There’s a truckload of content throughout our Guide, so give yourself the time you need to prepare!)
1. Johnny Gaudreau leads all wingers in primary assists over the last two seasons but note that Alex Radulov isn’t very far behind. On a team with Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and John Klingberg, I think the fact that Radulov had 72 points last year gets a little overlooked. The additional ice time he received in Dallas compared to his season in Montreal helped boost his numbers across the board, even though his actual shot attempt rate per 60 minutes declined slightly.
Unless there’s some sort of trade for Erik Karlsson, it looks like the Dallas lineup last year will largely be the same this year. They brought back Valeri Nichushkin but he won’t be a big threat to Radulov’s ice time. It does seem possible that Nichushkin grabs the top-line slotting with Seguin and Benn but unless he shows more consistency than his last season with the Stars, it won’t be a long-term solution. I like Nichushkin’s skills a lot but he’s probably better suited to play more sheltered minutes on the second or third line. (july24)
2. 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-nine 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. (july28)
3. It could be tough sledding for Florida prospects for a while. Looking up how many years Evgenii Dadonov has left on his deal, I realized the following: Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck, Jonathan Huberdeau, Mike Hoffman, Dadonov, and Nick 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. (july28)
4. We knew that Rick Nash would probably be a rental player for the Bruins, but do you think maybe the Bruins might want to have Ryan Spooner back? After joining the Rangers, Spooner was sizzling with 16 points in just 20 games. Add that up with his numbers in Boston and it resulted in 41 points (13g-28a) in 59 games, an average of 0.69 points per game. That placed him in line with the likes of Alex Pietrangelo, Evander Kane, Corey Perry, David Krejci, Bo Horvat, and Nazem Kadri.
That group above is where you could feel comfortable drafting Spooner in points-only leagues, but remember that in multicategory leagues, Spooner’s point totals are fairly assist-heavy, as he has never scored more than 13 goals in a season. Spooner’s non-scoring peripherals in particular are also very light. He had to receive Lady Byng consideration from someone, as he took just two minor penalties in all of 2017-18 and only took 24 hits in 2016-17. In spite of the scoring breakout with the Rangers, just two of his 16 points were on the man advantage, and his power-play time actually decreased with the Rangers.
One side note: Spooner is an RFA who remains unsigned and is scheduled for an August 4 arbitration hearing. According to Blueshirt Banter, the deal isn’t expected to be long-term, since the Rangers are on a rebuild and could move Spooner. But assuming he sticks with the Rangers for a full season, you could expect him to hold something like a second-line role with around 50 points. And remember that he’s better in pure points leagues than multicategory leagues. (july29)
5. Quinn Hughes won’t suit up for the Canucks in 2018-19, deciding to return to the University of Michigan instead. Although a tiny part of me would love to see him in a Canucks’ uniform this coming season, this is logically and completely the right move for both Hughes and the Canucks in the long run.
Bringing a teenager into the NHL can be risky. That risk is elevated when the player happens to be a defenseman, and the team happens to be a rebuilding one like the Canucks. Hughes was no guarantee to make the Canucks out of training camp, as the team already has eight defensemen under contract. Hughes will be in a much better position to make the squad in 2019-20, as both Alex Edler and Michael Del Zotto will be UFAs, and Chris Tanev could be traded by then. Ben Hutton and Derrick Pouliot will also be RFAs and the Canucks could easily decide to move on from either if they do not take a step forward this coming season. (july29)
6. Jake 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 defensemen in value. And that’s with a 50-plus point season. When looking through keeper defensemen, if you’re in a multi-category league, Gardiner can probably be left to the side, depending on league depth. (july28)
7. 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 blueliner. A real defensive defenseman, not a face-punching defensive defenseman. 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. (july28)
8. Conor Sheary has a vastly different floor and ceiling fantasy-wise. Dobber said it best in his Fantasy Take on the Sheary trade to Buffalo: “You won’t see Sheary get between 30 and 55 points if he plays 80 games – he’ll either click and top 55, or he’ll sputter and fall short of 30.”
So, just know that if you invest in Sheary that you’ll either hit a home run or you’ll strike out. No middle ground. But, sometimes taking risks on these kinds of players are what you’ll need to win your fantasy league.
Sheary will have the opportunity to line up alongside up-and-coming Jack Eichel this season. But his most frequent center in Pittsburgh was no slouch either – his name is Sidney Crosby. In fact, nearly half of both his even-strength minutes and his even-strength points were on Crosby’s line.
Personally, I think there is significant risk in reaching for Sheary. Sure, there was the ‘breakout’ 53-point season. But he struggled in the playoffs after that, scoring just seven points in 22 games and getting healthy scratched. If you’re curious about 2017-18’s playoffs, Sheary recorded just two assists in 12 games. So, he’s really been in a funk for over a season. A new opportunity with a new team could be exactly what the doctor ordered. But since I’m more of a ‘believe it when I see it’ type, I’ll admit that I’m more bearish on Sheary than bullish. (july29)
9. Something I’ve just been thinking about for this year is Jeff Carter’s value. He lost two-thirds of his 2017-18 due to injury but still managed 13 goals and 22 points in 27 games. That’s pretty good.
My big issue is that he’s going into his age-34 season. The list of centers with 25-goal, 30-assist seasons at that age or older over the last five seasons is as follows: Pavel Datysuk (2014-15). That’s it. That’s the whole list. In fact, Datsyuk is the only center in the last decade to have a season with at least 25 goals and 30 assists at the age of 34 or older. We know of aging curves in hockey. We know that shots and shooting percentage fall off in the late 20s and get worse.
Carter is a shooter. He’ll still get 17-18 minutes a night centering the second line and on the top power-play unit. With Ilya Kovalchuk in town, do some of his shots on the PP disappear? This will largely be a question of average draft position (ADP). He was often drafted inside the top-75 last year. Even if he’s still just inside the top-100, it might be worth passing on him. Once I finish my projections, I’ll have a better idea of where to grab him. This might be a situation where I’d rather be a year early jumping off the boat than a year late. (july27)
10. The Flames re-signed Mark Jankowski for two years with an AAV of $1.675-million. Jankowski’s first full year was 2017-18, a year with 17 goals and 25 points.
I personally had hopes that Jankowski and Sam Bennett could form two-thirds of a solid third line in 2018-19 – they performed well with Garnet Hathaway last year – but the addition of Elias Lindholm could throw a wrench in these plans. If James Neal slides on the top line, and the second line is left as it has been for a couple years, Lindholm seems the logical choice for the third-line center position, pushing Jankowski to the fourth line. It’s good news for Calgary’s depth but bad news for Jankowski’s flickering fantasy value.
There has been talk from the team that Lindholm will go to the top line, Neal to the second line, and that would possibly put Michael Frolik on the third line with Jankowski and Bennett. With the addition of Derek Ryan, this might make some sense. We’ll have to see what Calgary decides to do. For now, Jankowski is still waiver fodder in most leagues.
11. Last year was Brandon Montour’s first full season and he didn’t disappoint with 32 points in 80 games. The moves Anaheim made on the blue line, namely trading Sami Vatanen and letting Shea Theodore go in the expansion draft, opened some ice time for Montour and he responded with a productive season.
It’s hard to see a lot of progression here fantasy-wise, though. It looks like he’ll be playing behind Josh Manson for the foreseeable future at even strength and will be the second option after Cam Fowler for the top PP unit. Expecting more than 19-20 minutes combined between EV and PP time is a bridge too far barring an injury (which did happen to Fowler last year). For most leagues, Montour is a guy who is at best a bench option or more likely a waiver option.
12. I enjoyed last week’s Cage Match piece by Rick Roos, particularly his discussion of Bryan Little. I agree with Rick that 2017-18 was an aberration from Little and with no help coming in the off season down the middle, he’s back to his second-line role, likely between Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine. His PP production may not improve much, but if he can play 82 games again, he’ll improve on those 43 points. He should come a big discount in season-long leagues.
13. With the Hurricanes acquiring Dougie Hamilton, Justin Faulk was assumed to be on the trading block. Yet here we are nearing the end of July and Faulk is still a Hurricane. So, we have to project Faulk as if that is where he will stay. Not only could Hamilton cut into Faulk’s power-play minutes by possibly bumping him to the second power-play unit, but Faulk is also fighting a downward point trend over the past three seasons. That’s not a positive sign for a player who is only 26.
Could Faulk still provide value in multicategory leagues? In spite of another down season, he still finished 12th in shots on goal among defensemen (211). With less power-play time with the arrival of the free-shooting Hamilton, that number could also decrease. He’s arguably still an option as a D5 in deeper multicategory 12-team leagues, particularly those that don’t count plus-minus (he has averaged a minus-21 per season over his past four seasons). But unlike past seasons, I won’t be making a point to draft Faulk again. (july25)
14. Once upon a time, Henrik Zetterberg was a keeper league mainstay, but eventually Father Time catches up to everyone. Keeper leaguers tend to avoid the over-35 crowd like the plague, yet in some cases they can provide some sneaky value. Z is still that kind of player, as he has recorded at least 50 points in each of his last four full seasons. In fact, he has never posted below 0.6 PTS/GP in any season, including last season (56 points, 0.68 PTS/GP).
Don’t reach too much for Zetterberg, particularly in multicategory leagues. The point totals have been assist-heavy for quite some time. Z has not recorded a 20-goal season in six seasons, dating back to the 2011-12 season. There is also the matter of him possibly not playing because of a lingering back issue, which caused him to skip all practices during the second half of last season. Zetterberg has three years remaining on a contract that pays him just over $6 million per season, so it wouldn’t be out of the question for the Wings to LTIR his contract.
Zetterberg probably isn’t worth targeting until more is known about his situation. But if he returns and is healthy, he should again play a prominent role on the Wings, who aren’t exactly loaded with scorers. So, he could be a cheap source of 50 points if he can pull it together for another full season. (july25)
15. A special shout out to Gustav Nyquist. I know he hasn’t really lived up to expectations since bursting on the scene with 28 goals in 57 games way back in the 2013-14 season. The PP production has been what’s holding him back, having averaged just shy of 10 PP points per season over the last three years. The 2018-19 season is the last one left on his current contract, so he could find himself with a new team once head-to-head playoffs hit in March (though he does have a no-trade, so he has control of where he goes). Unless the team moves to a heavily-used top PP unit, it’s hard to see Nyquist as more than a 20-goal, 50-point guy. Not bad for fantasyhockey but certainly capable of more. (july24)
16. Only eight players have managed at least 20 EVEN-STRENGTH goals in each of the last two seasons. Some of those names make sense like Vladimir Tarasenko, Connor McDavid, Evgeni Malkin, Patrik Laine, and Auston Matthews. Wingers Anders Lee and Rickard Rakell are also on the list. The final name? James van Riemsdyk.
Van Riemsdyk has been known more for his power-play prowess over the last couple years as everyone marvels over his hands around the net. That is prolific five-on-five scoring, however. Now that he’s back in Philadelphia, maybe he’ll be made a focal point of the offense where he can average somewhere in the 17- or 18-minute range per game rather than the 15:24 he has the last two years. (july24)
17. These are the top-3 players in five-on-five goals over the last two years: Auston Matthews (55), Connor McDavid (51), and Rickard Rakell (48). That’s not a typo, only McDavid and Matthews have more five-on-five goals over the last two years than Rakell.
There is probably some quibbling to be done whether he’s just a good player skating with a Hall-of-Fame center or a great player skating with a Hall-of-Fame center, but for our purposes, it doesn’t really matter. He doesn’t seem destined to split from Ryan Getzlaf anytime soon and is locked into that top PP unit. I’m curious to see where his ADP lands because there isn’t a reason to suspect a decline coming from Rakell this year barring injury or a terrible streak of unluckiness. (july24)
Athanasiou’s fancy stats indicate that he can really make an impact and put up first-line points on Detroit, perhaps even better than Gustav Nyquist. And he probably deserves that spot over Nyquist. But zero chance that happens. This is another stepping-stone year for Athanasiou. So my answer is Anthony Beauvillier. If Jan Kovar fails to make things happen in the NHL as a top-sixer, then Beauvillier will get his chance. And then, whether or not he makes that chance work is up to him. If Kovar clicks, then Beauvillier is a depth guy again. So, in that sense, Athanasiou is a safer play. I have Athanasiou for 42 points. Nice and safe. So this question becomes: do you want safe, or do you want to swing for the fences? (july23)
19. Jacob Trouba was awarded $5.5 million in arbitration on a one-year deal. He becomes the second-highest paid defenseman on the Jets. I’d feel more bullish about him if he didn’t miss at least 17 games in four of his last five seasons. He saw the second-most ice time on the entire team last season (average per game), but was third on the totem pole behind Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers in terms of PP time. Now that he’s making more than Myers, and the Jets could lose Myers to free agency next year, I think you’ll see that flip-flop. Trouba’s PP time should get a boost. If only I could feel comfortable projecting 80 games out of the guy, I’d feel so much better about him. (july23)
20. You may recall a few weeks ago when I discussed players who have babies and the impact that it has on their season, particularly with their second child (link on that is here). Getzlaf was a great example – his season after his second baby was terrible. Last year, Cam Talbot’s wife had twins. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on what happened to him in 2017-18 after that. Further to this, guess who had a baby on the weekend? Alex Pietrangelo. Guess who else had a baby? Alex Pietrangelo. Also, guess who had a baby on the weekend? Alex Pietrangelo. I’m not repeating myself, the guy actually welcomed triplets into the world! Congratulations to the Pietrangelo family, but let’s look at this from a fantasy hockey standpoint: If you think having three infants in the house in August, September and October will have no impact on his training schedule, then you’ve never had kids.
Look at this way – if Pietrangelo has a great season in 2018-19, then we’ll know he’s a pretty neglectful father! All kidding aside, I think even with a nanny to help, you still love your kids and you want to spend time with them especially during the first few months. It’s going to have an impact. I haven’t reviewed St. Louis for the DobberHockey Annual Fantasy Guide yet, but whatever my formula pits out for Pietrangelo, I’m rolling it back an additional five or six points (and just hope it doesn’t get any worse than that). (july23)
Have a good week, folks!!
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