Time is flying. It’s been a little over three weeks since the Dobber 2018-19 fantasy hockey guide has been released, which means we’re just a little over three weeks away until the start of training camps. If you haven’t purchased your copy, head to the Dobber Shop right now! We have projections, articles, and a whole lot more waiting for you.
There was a report that came out Tuesday evening from Jonathan Bernier (no, not that one) in Le Journal de Montréal that Sean Couturier had re-injured his MCL, the one he injured during their first-round series with the Penguins. This was further expounded upon by David Isaac, a Flyers writer for the Courier Post. He did not explicitly say the injury had reoccurred, but that Couturier had indeed returned to the Flyers’ training facility in Voorhees. His inability to report on the injury was because the Flyers would not comment just yet.
This situation was clarified Wednesday afternoon:
#Flyers say Sean Couturier will miss four weeks with what is reportedly a re-injury to the MCL in his right knee. That puts him at Sept. 19, the fourth of six preseason games.
— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) August 22, 2018
This is kind of bad news for fantasy owners. Re-injuring a knee ligament is a huge concern, even if the team says it’s just a one-month injury and he should be back for the start of the regular season. It makes me nervous to draft both Couturier and Claude Giroux.
Last week, I had a Ramblings covering one player from each team that I would likely be targeting ahead of most for this year’s drafts. On Tuesday, half the league was covered with one player from each team that I would likely be avoiding in drafts this year. This will cover the second half of the NHL.
Remember that a lot of this is tied to ADP. In fantasy sports, whether season-long or daily, value is the predominant factor. A player likely being able to, or in this case likely not being able to, return a profit on draft investment is what matters most. Also, things could change once we get more solid ADP data, or someone is injured, traded, or demoted. This is just as of this moment.
This column will cover skaters only and is for standard Yahoo leagues.
Nashville Predators – Ryan Ellis
Last week I covered at length why I probably won’t be drafting Ellis this year. As I’ve alluded to, it’s not because he’s bad or won’t be fantasy relevant, it’s about his ADP.
I will say this: his rankings right now might put him in my range. He’s currently the 122nd-ranked player on Yahoo and NHL.com has him at 116. My concern had been that he’d sport at top-100 ADP. I’ll have a better idea of where I’ll draft him once we get more reliable ADP data and my projections are finalized but a top-125 player could be palatable.
New Jersey Devils – Will Butcher
This is where the league will matter. If we were talking about points-only leagues, I would have significant interest in Butcher. But it’s not a points-only league, we need to consider hits, shots, plus/minus, and goals, all four being major concerns. He averaged just 16 minutes a night last year and though he should earn more minutes this year, I don’t see him jumping from 16 a night to 20-21 a night. He’s probably going to be drafted as a third or fourth defenceman in 12-team leagues and I’d probably only draft him as a bench defenceman. He’s a great talent, I just don’t know if the peripheral stats will warrant his draft position.
New York Islanders – Josh Bailey
Most people are expecting a step back for the Islanders wingers this year because of the loss of John Tavares. Except, at least at five-on-five, I’m not sure going from Tavares to Mat Barzal will be a significant downgrade. The problem for Bailey is he might not stay on the top line; there’s a very real possibility that Jordan Eberle jumps to the top line and Bailey is playing with Jan Kovar or Brock Nelson. Anders Lee will probably be fine in fantasy this year, especially in formats such as this, but Bailey will take a huge step back. Even at his likely discount, I will be passing.
New York Rangers – Mats Zuccarello
I am very much a fan of Zuccarello so this is more a question of lineup slotting. By Corsica’s expected goals for, the line of Kreider-Zibanejad-Buchnevich was one of the best in the league last year (seriously, ahead of lines like the top lines in Edmonton, Toronto, and Pittsburgh). They were fine defensively as well, believe it or not. With a new coaching staff, I think Pavel Buchnevich gets another shot on the top line and with it the demotion of Zuccarello down the lineup. With lower-quality line mates, it’ll be hard for Zucc to reach the fantasy heights of which he is capable.
Ottawa Senators – Erik Karlsson
There are enough red flags here. The team will be awful which is going to absolutely murder his plus/minus, possibly worse than last year’s -25. Even a rebound in goals won’t be enough to make up the deficit. He’s not one to rack hit totals so that’s two categories where he will be a hindrance. Even as a third-round pick and the likelihood of 60-plus points, it’s not enough to make up what he will lack elsewhere. This is a guy you trade for mid-way through the season when there are only 20 or so games until the trade deadline and the owner wants to move on, not a guy you draft.
Philadelphia Flyers – Claude Giroux
Were I to be drafting today, Giroux would not be on my list, especially when he’s likely to be a second-round pick. This is a guy who might not manage 200 shots or 40 hits and is coming off a season with a 17.6 percent shooting, where his previous career-high was 14.8 percent back in 2010-11. Not that I think he’ll be abysmal, but even a 25-goal, 75-point season, with his lack of certain peripherals, won’t be enough to return value. Combined with the uncertainty with Couturier, it’s a pass.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Jake Guentzel
Guentzel will probably be a top-100 pick and will be drafted there without top power-play minutes; unless Patric Hornqvist suffers a lengthy injury, he’s not losing his spot. Consider this: last year, in this format, even with his hit totals, Guentzel was just inside the top-150 players. Assuming constant peripheral rates, he probably needs to be a 60-point player just to break even on a top-100 draft pick. In other words, without top PP minutes, we need Guentzel to increase his production by 25 percent just to break even. If we get some sort of indication he’ll be on the top PP unit, this equation changes. For now, he’s being drafted at his likely ceiling.
San Jose Sharks – Logan Couture
Whenever shooting percentages spike, it’s worrisome. Couture set a career-high last year with 16.7 percent. His three-year average before that was 11.7 percent. He was used more often in a defensive role last year and that likely continues this year. Even with a career-high 34 goals he finished just inside the top-100 players. Unless fantasy owners think he can improve on last year, he, like Guentzel, will likely be drafted at their ceilings (for different reasons).
St. Louis Blues – Tyler Bozak
He’ll come cheap in drafts but there’s just not much reason to buy into him this year. He’s not a player who contributes in peripherals so he’s reliant on point production. He may get the chance to skate with guys like Alex Steen and Patrick Maroon, which is fine, but he won’t be on the top PP unit, a unit which will be heavily-used. In Toronto, he was at least in a split-PP situation, and his particular PP unit was lethal. That won’t be the case in St. Louis. A 40-point player with no peripherals is an easy avoid.
Tampa Bay Lightning – Yanni Gourde
Some people may get upset by this, so let’s clear a few things up: I have Gourde in a salary keeper league where I’m keeping him, he’s a good player, and he’s obviously in a good situation with the upper-tier offensive prowess of Tampa Bay. I can’t help but feel, though, that last year was a year where everything went right for him: he shot over 18 percent(!), he registered a point on over 73 percent of goals scored by the Lightning at even strength when he was on the ice (third-highest among all their regular forwards), and the team scored at a higher rate on the second unit power play when he was on the ice than the first unit when Kucherov/Stamkos were on the ice. Even a step back to 20 goals and 30 assists, which would still be a really good year for him, will result in a big loss from his likely ADP.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Jake Gardiner
Vancouver Canucks – No one
This might be a cop out, but there’s no one that I’m really avoiding because there are only a handful of guys I’d want to target. I’m fine with Brock Boeser in the fifth or sixth round (probably), Bo Horvat somewhere outside the top-10 rounds, and Alex Edler even later. Maybe a late-round flier on Elias Pettersson. Those are all reasonable to me, and outside of that quartet, I don’t know if I’ll target another Vancouver skater in 12-team leagues.
Vegas Golden Knights – William Karlsson
I know, this is obvious given his shooting percentage. Anyone with even a basic working knowledge of fantasy hockey will understand that. Beyond the shooting percentage though is the plus/minus; he was plus-49 last year. That was the highest plus/minus for a forward since 2002-2003 and no forward since the 2012 lockout had even managed plus-40, let alone nearly plus-50 (H-Ref’s Play Index). That is going to crater. Even if Karlsson doesn’t regress massively in goal-scoring and still manages to score 30-35 tallies, his plus/minus could easily cut in half. I’d rather draft Jonathan Marchessault.
Washington Capitals – John Carlson
In a season where everything broke the way of Carlson, and he managed career-highs in goals, assists, and shots, he was still just outside the top-50 players in this format. He’ll likely be drafted as a top-75 player, which means he’ll more or less be expected to replicate his 2017-18 season. Call me skeptical that he can do it.
Winnipeg Jets – Jack Roslovic
Another player who should be fairly cheap in drafts, I will say I’m a fan of his long-term prospects. For now, though, he’ll be stuck in the bottom-6 and likely off the top PP unit. That’s enough to make me stay away for 2018-19. It will be a different story a year from now.