The Fantasy Guide is available now! I don’t know about right now as in by the time you read this, but very very soon, as in today. Hours, maybe even minutes from now, if it isn't already. To use a tagline from an ad that has stuck in my head since I was a kid, get it or regret it! In case you're waiting patiently by your computer, it'll be available at 3 p.m. ET.
My contribution is the Goaltenders To Watch piece. I won’t give you anything on who my goaltenders are because you’ll have to purchase the guide for that. I’ll say, though, that I had a tougher time picking goalies than I did last summer, when I had a few predictions that turned out well. I’m not going to pick the stud goalies or obvious names here – more like the goalies that could rebound or surprise or be ready to take the next step either now or in a year or two. Of course, it’s about when you’re drafting these goalies, as they probably won’t be the first goalies you select. Value is important.
Also, don’t forget to vote in this week’s Cage Match Tournament, which will be the fourth and final tournament of the summer. This week you’ll be voting on which defensemen will exceed their career best scoring output/rate by 10+ points. There are some interesting names in there, which are mainly up-and-coming blueliners as opposed to veterans.
At the time of writing, Samuel Girard and Brandon Montour are your leaders. That means that the voters believe that Girard is on pace for at least a 34-point season, while Montour will score at least at a 43-point pace. Agree or disagree? Get your vote in. You can also read who I voted for and who others voted for in the thread below. And as per usual, you can also read Rick’s weekly Cage Match for more information on each player.
The Rangers and Ryan Spooner avoided arbitration, agreeing on a two-year contract worth $4 million per season. I won’t write any more about Spooner here, instead referring you to what I wrote about him at the tail end of Bubble Keeper Week for the Sunday Ramblings.
Gustav Forsling is expected to miss the first month of the season after undergoing wrist surgery that will require about 14 weeks of recovery time. After starting the season with four assists in five games, Forsling made it onto one of my fantasy teams for a brief stretch. Finishing the season with 13 points in 41 games, Forsling holds some value in deep keeper leagues.
Mike mentioned Jarome Iginla’s retirement in Ramblings here and here, but I’ll add a couple bits of my own about him that stand out.
I can remember Iginla way back to his junior days with the Kamloops Blazers (the closest WHL team to where I lived growing up). That Blazers’ team that was probably the strongest junior team in Canada during the early to mid-1990s. Iginla racked up 136 points in his final junior season, yet he couldn’t grab the spotlight for himself because of other talented teammates such as Scott Niedermayer, Shane Doan, and Darcy Tucker. That program was instrumental in providing him with the winning foundation that he needed for his Hall of Fame career.
Iggy also set up one of my favorite goals of all time (if you’re American, I apologize in true Canadian fashion for posting this). Listen for Sidney Crosby yelling “Iggy!” at the start. By the way, you'll need to open the video outside this website.
I know many of you come here because this is about hockey and nothing else; however, I’m going to detour into another sport for a moment. This intertwines with hockey, so hear me out. Or skip to the next section if you don’t want to.
As you may already know, the Major League Baseball trade deadline was today, so I was looking around for baseball’s version of the trade deadline programming that we receive in Canada for hockey. You know, TSN and Sportsnet battling it out for ratings. But I couldn’t find anything where a baseball insider was dropping trades similar to what Bob McKenzie and Elliotte Friedman do. All I could find was ESPN radio, which because it’s ESPN seems to concentrate on the same four or five talking points all the time. Today it was everything about LeBron James and what his signing means for the Lakers (uh, it makes them better?) Hasn’t that topic been beaten to death already?
Sometimes the hockey coverage in Canada might seem like overkill. But it would have been nice to see something like this for baseball. There were lot of baseball trades made with a ton of fantasy implications, which I wanted to digest and figure out. Any new closers? Players moving into new opportunities? Who gets bumped out of a starting role? Who gets moved to a better/worse ballpark?
I’m sure many of you also play fantasy baseball, so maybe you were looking around for the same thing. Or maybe you had found it? On Twitter, perhaps?
As a spinoff from Bubble Keeper Week, I’m going to go through players who you mentioned on Twitter that I should cover, yet didn’t fit the criteria of bubble keepers. (I’ll let you in on a secret: Dobber supplied us with a list… and he said that week not to cover any players on that list, which mainly consisted of top 150 players.) I understand that these players may still be bubble keepers to you, though, as fantasy hockey leagues come in different shapes and sizes. So if I didn’t get to your player today, check back again later this week.
Kadri was extremely hot and cold during 2017-18. After a strong first two months of the season (13 points in 17 games), Kadri cooled off to a 12-game pointless drought that lasted all through December. Then it was back to the previous scoring pace (32 points in 41 games). Once all was said and done, Kadri had posted his second consecutive 30-goal and 55-point season.
So with John Tavares now in the fold, will Kadri be able to repeat his production from the past two seasons? The easy take is to assume that he will be shifted toward a more defensive role. Something that is also lost among the Tavares hype is that several other scorers have departed from the Leafs, including Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk. The Leafs’ first and second-power play units logged very similar icetime totals, so a spot should remain on whatever unit Kadri was on (I’ll let a Leafs’ fan weigh in on which one that would be).
There’s also a couple of other factors that could help Kadri during the Tavares era in Toronto. For one, Tavares will help the power play, as his 30 PPP was more than anyone on the Leafs. As well, teams will probably focus on using their top shutdown units against the Tavares line and the Auston Matthews line. This should mean better scoring opportunities for Kadri. With 19 power-play points (fourth on the Leafs), Kadri shouldn’t be going anywhere.
We in fantasy hockey tend to think of the top two lines as the place to be for forwards. But strong teams nowadays focus on rolling three solid forward lines. If Kadri centers the third line, that isn’t such a bad thing. He could have another quietly effective season on a Leafs’ forward group that is one of the deepest in the league.
It was a difficult first season in Montreal for Drouin. Brought in to be groomed as the number one center, Drouin struggled at the position, with a low 42.5% faceoff success rate just one symptom. The adjustment unfortunately also affected his scoring numbers, as he only totaled 13 goals and 46 points to go with a brutal minus-28. For a player that was drafted in the top 100 in most fantasy leagues, that wasn’t much of a return.
So is Drouin an effective rebound candidate? A better question might be whether Drouin will ever be capable of meeting his upside. In spite of the perceived low point total, Drouin reached a career high in assists (33) and only fell seven points shy of his career high from a season earlier. Drouin was also a minus-13 during that 2016-17 season in Tampa Bay. So assist-heavy point totals and poor plus-minus have been a part of his recent history with two different teams.
Given the fact that Drouin might be outside of the top 100 in single-season leagues, he might be a buy-low candidate to consider. To give you an idea, I offered Matt Duchene for Drouin in one keeper league and was turned down. There are more league rule factors at play than what I can describe here, but this particular owner knows the value of what he still has. Either that or he’s not interested at all in Duchene, which is a whole other discussion.
If you believe in a Drouin rebound/breakout/whatever you want to call it, you’ll cite the fact that he is only 23 years old. Maybe you’ll even mention the breakout of his former junior teammate Nathan MacKinnon. Remember that MacKinnon’s value seemed to have hit rock bottom at this time last season. Now he’s an MVP finalist. That’s not to say that will happen with Drouin, but he may have needed a season to adjust to his surroundings. If there is less turmoil in Montreal in 2018-19, that will also help.
More to follow on some other names, as I’ll be rambling a few more times this week…
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.