Ramblings: Larkin Signs, Rantanen Gets No Love, Deployment Key for Backstrom and Ghost (Aug 11)
The big news of the day was Dylan Larkin inking a five-year contract extension worth 6.1 million per season. That's a nice chunk of change coming to the 22-year-old.
Larkin epitomized the dreaded sophomore slump in 2016-17. After taking the NHL by storm in the first half of his rookie campaign, things turned a little sour for the former University of Michigan standout. He witnessed a dip in goals, assists, points, shots, and time-on-ice. A great deal of that can be explained by his transition to the middle of the ice and the responsibility that comes with it.
2017-18 was the re-emergence. He posted more than double his previous season point totals (31 to 63) and was a force at even-strength. His 53 points at five-on-five were good for 23rd in the league. Wedged between Steven Stamkos and Evgeni Kuznetsov.
With Henrik Zetterberg dealing with age and injury, Larkin is clearly the future for the Red Wings down the middle. He will be looked at to lead the team out of the basement this season. The addition of a Filip Zadina and the continued emergence of Anthony Mantha shouldn't hurt his stock either.
I have this theory about Mikko Rantanen. That he’s the least appreciated 21-year-old 84-point scoring player in recent memory. 84 points as a sophomore. 84!
Sure, he played over 80 percent of his even-strength time next to Hart Trophy finalist, Nate MacKinnon. And sure, he clicked on 16.3 percent of his shots while only taking 2.2 per contest. While those are noteworthy facts, they’re also likely to be replicated in future seasons.
MacKinnon, Rantanen and Landeskog have established themselves as one of the most potent top lines in hockey. There’s little reason to expect the trio to split up any time soon. As for Rantanen’s lofty conversion rate, historically he’s been a very efficient finisher. As an NHL rookie, he scored 20 goals on 133 shots (15%). As an AHL rookie in 2015-16, he scored 24 goals on 140 shots (17.2%).
There appears to be a theme here.
Where he may be in line for a dip is in his power play output. His 35 points on the man-advantage led his squad and were good for the eighth most in the league. The Avalanche climbed all way out of the basement in 2016-17 man-advantage efficiency (12.6%) to eighth in 2017-18 (21.9%). There’s little reason to believe the Avs will be losing effectiveness on the power play. Their young core is only improving. However, expecting Rantanen to repeat his 35 PPPs may be a touch high for the youngster.
His 35 points would have led the league in 2016-17 and factor in as one of the top 15 best outputs from the 2010-2017 seasons. That's elite stuff and difficult to replicate.
Single-season power play point leader (2010-11 to 2016-17)
Meanwhile, his even-strength numbers should remain rock solid. Here's a look at the team's even-strength shot maps with and without Rantanen on the ice. The team generates more shots on goal from more dangerous spots while he's on the ice. Again, this likely means MacKinnon is on the ice as well, but who cares?! Those two are a match made in hockey heaven.
Considering traditional ageing curves, the surrounding talent, and the trajectory of the player and team as a whole, Rantanen should be one of the most-sought-after points-only fantasy players out there. Yet, he gets Rodney Dangerfield-level appreciation from most. His ADP will be very interesting to track this fall. If you can nab him outside of the top 20, get excited.
Over on DobberProspects, I began a series that will pit two (or three) comparable prospects against one another to see who holds the better fantasy upside. The first instalment was Martin Nečas vs Henrik Borgström
How much does Shayne Gostisbehere’s value depend on Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek's ridiculous power play production?
Giroux has a history of racking up massive production on the power play. Over the past five seasons, he’s averaged 34 points on the man-advantage. And his 168 total PPPs over that time are tied for most in the league with Nicklas Backstrom (more on him later). Voracek has been a little more inconsistent, producing 23 power play points in three of the last five seasons. But, he's sprinkled in 33 in 2014-15 and 35 last season.
Gostisbehere saw his average powerplay deployment dip by 15 seconds per night last season. Yet his power play production shot up from a previous career-high of 23 to the 33 he experienced last season. That result led all blueliners and has propelled him to being one of the best fantasy blueliners out there.
For those who concern themselves with Ivan Provorov breathing down Gostisbehere's neck, don’t. Let's say the Flyers decided to promote Provorov to the top unit. The increase in his level of production would pale in comparison to the deficit that moving Gostisbehere off of it would cause. This is a Shattenkirk-Pietrangelo situation all over again. The club will play their players to their strengths. That means Gostisbehere gets all the fun minutes and Provorov remains an all-around stud who is limited offensively due to his deployment.
Until the Philly power play begins to show signs of slowing, Gostisbehere will remain an elite producer.
Have you bought your 13th Annual Dobber Fantasy Guide yet? Don’t waste another second. Do it. Do it now!
A couple of pickums. Who do you prefer?
Will people still consider Nicklas Backstrom a premier asset heading into drafts this season?
Last year, he was the 20th player off of the board in Yahoo leagues. This was after he produced an 86-point campaign in 2016-17. That season, he played around 60 percent of his even-strength minutes next to Alexander Ovechkin. He produced 36 power-play points and hadn’t yet turned 30.
Heading into 2018-19, things aren’t so rosy. His production dipped to 71 points in 81 games. His power play production was the lowest per-game since 2010-11, and he’ll be 31 by the time puck drops this fall. His five-on-five time with Ovechkin was around 580 minutes – roughly the same percentage as the year prior.
The big playoff run will help ease some GM's concerns about taking the Swedish pivot early. However, the emergence of Evgeni Kuznetsov cannot be overlooked. The younger Russian played roughly 475 even-strength minutes with Ovechkin last season. But the two were connected at the hip down the stretch and throughout the playoffs. The results were fruitful.
Backstrom has proven to be a reliable performer. His ability to generate offense away from Ovechkin is admirable. However, it’s not at the same level it could be if he was consistently dishing the puck to this generation’s greatest goal scorer.
With the extreme depth at the centre position, there’s no need to jump up and grab Backstrom in the first two rounds. Hell, I may even wait until closer to the 35 spot to take a swing on him.
Is anyone else a little concerned that Dallas Stars’ new bench boss, Jim Montgomery will be inclined to split his top line to spread out the offense?
We can assume at least one of Jamie Been or Alex Radulov will get to live next to soon-to-be potential upcoming unrestricted free agent, Tyler Seguin next season. But will the other end up driving offense from the second line to help get Jason Spezza and company going?
The Stars top line produced 103 of the team’s 231 total goals. 73 of those goals came at even-strength where the team scored 187 total goals. That’s 40 percent of the team’s offense during five-on-five play. Meanwhile, no other forward cusped the 20-goal or 35-point mark.
The secondary scoring is non-existent in Big D.
It’s certainly a situation to watch carefully. Seguin will reap the best of everything as he’s the focal point of the attack down the middle. The team will also be looking to give him every reason to sign a massive extension before testing the market next July. Benn and/or Radulov could be seeing their even-strength production take a dip next season if they end up away from the top line.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson
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