Ramblings: Thoughts on Marner, Point, Scherbak, Puljujarvi, Hutton, Hart, Nylander and Schmaltz (Aug 13)
The Fantasy Guide was released on August 1 and has already been updated three times since. The last being August 8 when I put rookie indicators in the draft list and added UFA notes to the Guide. Buy the 13th annual Fantasy Guide here. These little August updates I do just to keep things fresh until September hits and training camps start and the real updates start flying in. Long-time readers will know that I’m all over these, you can count on me.
Mitch Marner versus Brayden Point? Wow…this one caught me completely off guard on Twitter last week when someone asked that and I found the question very odd because the answer was so obvious. But when I publicized my Tweeted response it turns out that the answer really wasn’t obvious at all. There are people there who worship at the altar of Point! Recency bias at its best right there. Sometimes fantasy owners can get completely blinded by it. Thankfully, there is me here to educate!
Before I begin, I want to make one thing absolutely clear before all the Point lovers start piling it on me. I like Point. I’ve always liked Point, I even had him ranked sixth in the Fantasy Prospects Report (the rankings for that month you can find here – June of 2016). I got emails saying I overrated him in the FPR, but I explained that he was a sure-fire NHLer, strong likelihood of scoring line, will make the NHL sooner than you think, and just a very safe keeper pick all around. (As an aside, you can see Marner at No.3 on that same list, but not my point)
Point made a big splash that season with 40 points in 68 games, and he jumped to the next level last year with 66 points. Marner made similar strides, debuting at 61 and then 69 points. A lot of poolies who don’t follow careers and trends from the age of 17 onward, but instead just see the NHL data, can fall victim to this. Point had an upside in the FPR that year of 80+ points. So there is still room for more out of him still. But right now he is perfectly on track for what I envisioned him to be – a guy who seems to have a 60-point floor, an 80-point ceiling (maybe a tad higher) on a great team. Until he hits his prime, he’s probably going to hover around 65 to 70 points. Everything he’s doing and has done so far is pointing to this. I love it when prospects follow nice trajectories like that. It leaves little doubt. At least in my OCD logical mind. And he can reach his upside with a little help from great linemates.
Marner is also following his trajectory perfectly. Everything is hitting the right notes at the exact time I would want to see it. I had him in that 2016 FPR at a 90-point ceiling and 76-point 3YP. That’s extremely high for a 3YP on a prospect, I almost never do that with a player and this is because I was extremely bullish about him. This was his upside before Tavares was even being dreamed about by Toronto fans. With Tavares there, oh my goodness this guy could shoot past 95 points. Normally I call Marner the driver – and I still might. He doesn’t need the help of great linemates because he is the great linemate. But with Tavares there, you have two drivers.
So to me, when I was asked that question, I felt the answer was as obvious as the nose on Brad Marchand’s face. Marner is on track to regularly reach levels that maybe 10 other players hit. Point is on track to regularly reach levels that maybe 50 other players hit. So you have your answer. And then you factor in Tavares on top of the obvious answer that you should already have reached and it’s just a no-brainer.
I really like what the Sabres did this offseason and honestly, doesn’t everyone? Most fans were disappointed by what Buffalo produced last season because they had been expected to take a step forward in their rebuilding and instead they somehow went backwards. This time they add Rasmus Dahlin, Jeff Skinner, Casey Mittelstadt, Carter Hutton and Patrik Berglund among others, losing only Ryan O’Reilly. So is this enough to make them a winning team? I think this makes them an 80- or even an 85-point team, which makes Hutton a potential 30-win goalie. Will Phil Housley ride him like a true No.1? That’s the main question. The secondary question – will he be another Scott Darling? Hutton has had a 40-game season before, but that was in 2014. I think there will be some growing pains here, and the situation reminds me a lot of Edmonton’s back when Cam Talbot arrived. He had a horrible start and Anders Nilsson seized the starting role for a month or so. But Talbot took it back and a big reason is because he was paid to do so. He had the contract and was crowned starting goalie, and when a team does that – then he’s getting all the possible starts. And as you saw with Carolina (and St. Louis) last season, they will keep giving the goalie starts even at the cost of making the playoffs. If you’re deemed to be the starter, amid much fanfare (and dollars) – then you’re getting the starts. Long story short, although Linus Ullmark is a good goaltender and perhaps he is even better than Hutton – he’s not going to take the starting job. Not this year, and probably not ever. Long term there might be something with Ullmark as a future starter somewhere, but for this year and likely next, his odds are slim.
A couple of you asked me about where I think William Nylander falls in terms of his AAV. And everything I’ve heard about negotiations is that he wants a long-term contract. And frankly the Leafs would be crazy not to go along with that. He’s certainly going to exceed $6 million, so the question on your mind is likely – will he reach $8 million? Here’s what I think. If he signs for five years, then they may be able to get him for $6.25. If he signs for eight years, then you’re probably looking at an AAV of $8. I’ll come in south of the middle with my guess and say six years and $6.75 AAV.
How should you treat Restricted Free Agents when it comes to drafting them? I would treat them as if they’ve signed, because they will. A player holding out is so rare these days, you may see one this year at the most. RFAs of note: Noah Hanifin, Ondrej Kase, Sam Reinhart, Nick Ritchie, Shea Theodore, Josh Morrissey, Darnell Nurse and of course Nylander.
Jordan Schmaltz is another interesting one because you just know he’s going to be pushing for not only a one-way deal, but one with a big enough cap hit that it helps his chances of getting into the lineup regularly. His qualifying offer was for $1 million and I’m assuming was a two-way Q.O. He’s probably hoping to get just that in a one-way deal, whereas the team is probably okay with giving him a one-way deal, but would probably want him to take less to do it – maybe $750,000. If he signs for a number like that, than he may as well be on a two-way deal because teams have no problem with burying a contract like that in the minors. At $1 million the team hesitates a little longer and gives the player more leash.
If Erik Karlsson gets traded I think Thomas Chabot tops 45 points. If he sticks around until Christmas then my expectation for Chabot is closer to 35. He’s Ottawa’s second-best PP QB option right now, even over Chris Wideman.
Another young defenseman, Sam Girard, is in a different situation and has a different kind of skill set. I think he’ll need to be eased into the role as Tyson Barrie’s heir apparent. I’d expect baby steps this year and next, perhaps a trajectory similar to Ryan Ellis (though without the injuries).
These are questions I received on Twitter Sunday, by the way. Someone asked for my opinion on Nikita Scherbak and Carter Hart. Scherbak is a skilled player with second-line upside and perhaps he could even be a first liner on a weak team such as Montreal. But he gets hurt too often. He’s been hurt more often than healthy ever since he turned pro and I don’t have very high hopes for him. But he’s on the team that needs his skill set the most. If he could just string together 80 games then he could surprise this year. But there’s no way I would bet even $10 bucks on that.
As for Carter Hart, I guess what’s really being asked here is – “Hey, next summer Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth both become free agents, so will Carter Hart be the No.1 guy?” I certainly think that’s possible, even though it’s rare these days to see a 21-year-old grab the reins like that. Carey Price is the last one I can think of – and that goes for 22 and 23-year-olds as well. I think the Flyers will have a good year and if Elliott can play 50 games (he hasn’t done that in seven years though), then the team may re-sign him for two years. In which case, Hart would become the backup goalie in the middle of 2019-20 and then by the middle of 2020-21 he’ll take over as the starter. That puts his wait time at 1.5 years until the NHL, and 2.5 years until he actually helps you in fantasy. That being said, both Elliott and Neuvirth are injury prone and Alex Lyon has to clear waivers to be sent down – so I’m curious to see what he does as the likely No.3 goalie for this season.
Jesse Puljujarvi. A victim of being drafted too high. Had he been drafted 12th overall in 2016 most fantasy owners would consider him a top prospect to own. Before his 20th birthday, he played his 93rd NHL game and scored his 13th career goal. What were you looking for, exactly? As I outlined in the Fantasy Guide, Puljujarvi took on much tougher minutes last season, possibly the toughest among forwards in terms of not seeing strict offensive zone starts and facing stronger competition. And he came away smelling like roses. What’s more, his 5on5 S% indicated that he was the victim of tough puck luck in terms of putting points on the board. So as a 19 year old he was one of the rare defensively responsible Oilers and even though his teammates shot just 6.6% when he was on the ice, he still got 20 points in 68 games. I think he is a safe bet for 35 points this year and has an outside shot at 55. My long-term projections for him remain exactly where they always were and consider him a serious buy-low in keeper leagues.
I started watching this, and ended up getting sucked in for the entire thing…(the Darling blooper reel begins at 4:00)
Also, in case you missed it, I posted different rankings in five of the last six days. Check out all the Rankings here.
See you next Monday.