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
1. Little-known fact: Nico Hischier was just the fourth teenager since the 2012 lockout to finish a season with at least 20 goals, 30 assists, and 180 shots. The others are Nathan MacKinnon, Jack Eichel and Clayton Keller. Hischier accomplished this with just six power-play points. Assuming he moves to the top unit, there is a lot of production upside here. Not to mention he chipped in 56 hits, which isn’t mind-blowing but won’t hurt a fantasy roster, either. If he’s attached at the hip with Taylor Hall all season, at all strengths, there could be a big year in store. (aug24)
2. Some people may get upset by this, so let’s clear a few things up: I have Yanni Gourde in a salary keeper league, where I’m keeping him. H’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 Nikita Kucherov/Steven 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. (aug23)
3. Elias Pettersson for Calder? He should be on short lists right now, I would think. I’ll predict that it won’t be Rasmus Dahlin simply because of the time it takes for young defensemen to blossom. Casey Mittelstadt is another legit option. As is Eeli Tolvanen, if he can push his way onto a scoring line and the Predators are willing to take the training wheels off.
Dark horse picks? I’m going to say someone from the Carolina Hurricanes. I suppose Andrei Svechnikov isn’t a true dark horse pick. Martin Necas might not be either. But what about Valentin Zykov? Apparently, he is still a rookie. Zykov played in 10 games last season (scoring seven points) while playing just 2 games the season before. I mentioned in an earlier Ramblings that the Canes moving Jeff Skinner could benefit Zykov tremendously. (aug22)
4. It’s fine to view Jesper Bratt’s fantasy value with some suspicion. After all, he was a recent sixth-round pick who stormed out of the gate with 10 points over his first 10 NHL games. The production gradually fell after that, all the way down to just four points over his last 26 games. The slump resulted in his ice time dropping from 15-16 minutes to just 12 minutes over the final quarter, much of which included a drop from two minutes of power-play time per game to virtually none.
Much of Bratt’s success occurred when Kyle Palmieri was out of the lineup. Palmieri missed stretches of time during the first half of the season. But late in the season, Palmieri was back on the top line with Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier, a spot that Bratt had occupied earlier in the season. Not surprisingly, Palmieri had a much more productive second half (30 points) than first half (14 points).
If you target Bratt in a deeper league, he may luck out for you if he’s back on the top line again. But if Palmieri misses time again this season, Bratt should be back on that line and should be a short-term waiver-wire pickup. The power-play time is more likely to be there as well. (aug26)
5. Every year we’ve been waiting for Morgan Rielly to be the man in Toronto and start tossing around big point totals. And every year, it was Jake Gardiner who saw the better deployment. And to be honest, I didn’t blame Mike Babcock. Rielly was able to learn how to play in an all situations role. Gardiner was able to thrive in a sheltered role. He was maximizing his assets.
However, last season saw the two virtually split the top unit deployment and Rielly took that big step forward we’ve all been waiting for. Career highs in assists (46), points (52), shots (182), and PPPs (25). And maybe most importantly, his shorthanded time-on-ice was nearly cut in half.
Now the Leafs welcome John Tavares onto their squad. No big deal, just adding one of the truly premier power play producers and high-end centers in the league. That will add a nice boost to Rielly’s production in all situations. The 24-year-old will be looking to set a few more career-highs in 2018-19. (aug25)
6. Matt Dumba is a guy who just posted one of the more underappreciated 50-point seasons by a 23-year-old in recent memory. He owns the pedigree and performance to leap into the next tier. The Wild blueliner has improved his points-per-game totals in each of his five NHL campaigns. He clicks on what appears to be a sustainable eight percent conversion rate and still hasn’t been given regular top power-play duties.
Minnesota has employed balanced power play units for a couple of seasons now. Ryan Suter has led the blue line in power play time on ice for ages but even his deployment dipped down to two minutes per game for the middle 40 games of the season. When Jared Spurgeon got hurt, Dumba was elevated to the top unit and unsurprisingly looked strong. He had never hit 40 points and had recorded a modest 12 power play points in three consecutive years. However, the difference last season was 37 even-strength points. That number represented the sixth most of any NHL defender.
As mentioned, his metrics were steady and sustainable in all situations. If he can carve out that top unit role away from the 33-year-old Suter, who is coming off a nasty broken ankle, then 50-points may be the floor for Dumba. (aug25)
7. Tobias Enstrom has gone home. The long-time Thrashers’/Jets’ defender has signed with his former Swedish club, MODO. He was immediately named team captain. MODO has fallen on hard times in recent years. Once a SHL powerhouse, the team was relegated to the Allsvenskan in 2016 and hasn’t made the playoffs in the second tier yet.
Enstrom apparently received NHL interest but not enough to stay in North America. Once upon a time, the puck-moving defender was a true fantasy asset, twice cracking the 50-point barrier. C’est la vie. Enjoy Örnsköldsvik – home to Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, the Sedin Twins and Victor Hedman. Not bad for a city with the same population as Campbell River, BC (35,000). (aug25)
8. With Semyon Varlamov now 30 with lots of wear and tear from injuries, the Avalanche planned for the future by trading for super backup Philipp Grubauer this offseason. Grubauer was then given a three-year contract worth $10 million, so unless he’s this season’s version of Scott Darling, he’ll likely be the starter for the 2019-20 season.
But what about this coming season? In case you’re ready to throw in the towel on Varlamov, he actually wasn’t that bad in 2017-18. He posted a very solid .920 SV%, which was eighth among the 32 goalies that played in at least 40 games. This was a better save percentage (albeit marginally) than higher-ranked goalies Andrei Vasilevskiy, Devan Dubnyk, Frederik Andersen, and Tuukka Rask. Assuming he can avoid the injury bug, he could still claim most of the starts. (aug26)
9. The number of starts that Grubauer receives will obviously be tied to how well Varlamov performs. But a scenario in which I could also see Grubauer claim over 50 percent of the starts during the second half would be if the Avs regress to be a non-playoff team again. Nothing ever as bad as the 2016-17 season, of course, but the Avs may decide to look ahead to the future. The more likely scenario is that they will at least be a bubble playoff team, which might give a 60/40 split in starts in favor of Varlamov.
It will be interesting to see how Varlamov’s career progresses after the 2018-19 season. If he has a similar season to 2017-18 and is left as a free agent, he could still be sought after. Free agent goalies tend to be 1A-type goalies at best, as teams prefer to lock up their clear-cut starters long term.
In any situation where it’s anyone’s guess who will be the starter, and the team isn’t terrible, it’s not a bad idea to try to acquire both goalies if your league is deep enough. But if I had to guess who will receive more starts, I’d say Varlamov. (aug26)
10. I don’t think Kevin Shattenkirk will reach 65 points. And he’s not quite 30 yet. But, he should at least be on your list for potential bounce-back players with what I believe will be a safe 40 points (health permitting) with upside for 50.
Ranked at 193 by Yahoo, Shattenkirk is a defenseman that you could pull significant value from as a late-round pick. Because he was playing through an injury, Shattenkirk wasn’t on pace for his best season (41 points over a full 82 games). But, this was a blueliner who recorded a much higher scoring pace (56 points in 80 games) the season before split between St. Louis and Washington. He had also recorded at least 40 points in each of his last six full seasons.
Unless you consider Anthony DeAngelo to be a significant threat, Shattenkirk should be in no danger of being bumped from the first-unit power play. With a mostly youthful defense, the Rangers should lean heavily on their $6 million defenseman. Don’t forget about him in fantasy drafts because he’s not at the point where we can say his production has fallen off a cliff. (aug22)
11. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Antti Raanta is criminally underrated. That is at least partially due to the team he plays for. We tend to associate bad team with bad goalie but in Raanta’s case this is simply not true. Does your league count GAA and SV%? Then you should probably know that Raanta’s .930 SV% and his 2.24 GAA were the best in the league among goalies who started at least 35 games. Maybe he caught lightning in a bottle, you say. Well, Raanta’s .927 SV% and 2.20 GAA are the best among goalies who played in at least 100 games over the past four seasons.
The low win totals obviously decrease Raanta’s value and it’s hard to have much faith that the rebuilding team won’t hang him out to dry. That’s why I wouldn’t put him in the top 10…yet. But, we’re at least at the point where we can say yes, absolutely, Raanta is a dark horse to win the Vezina. (aug22)
12. In the fantasy game, Nino Niederreiter reminds me a lot of Brandon Saad: better than he gets credit for, hasn’t hit his true fantasy ceiling, and coming off about as bad a year as you can expect. The difference is that Niederreiter will be drafted several rounds ahead of Saad. Earlier this month I wrote of the potential for the Swiss Superman to be pushed down the lineup not because of poor play but just the desire to spread the scoring to the third line. Combine that third-line role with a lack of top-end PP minutes and it’ll be another year of Niederreiter’s usage preventing him from reaching his true fantasy potential, or even just exceeding his likely ADP.
13. Before everyone yells at me, I will say this is assuming Henrik Zetterberg doesn’t play this year or is largely ineffective. Should Filip Zadina crack the roster, he’ll be, at best, on the second line. We must concern ourselves with his potential linemates and the ability to get to the top PP unit. They might not split units again if Zetterberg isn’t around. I absolutely love the long-term prospects for Zadina but for 2018-19, I do worry about his usage and his team context. My caveat is that if his ADP comes in around the top-200 rather than the top-150, I’ll have more interest.
14. To his credit, Alex Goligoski does have five consecutive 35-point seasons, one of 15 D-men to have such a current streak and the rest are generally considered fantasy blue line cornerstones. The problem is he got there last year with the help of 12 goals, shooting 25 percent on the power play; he hadn’t cracked double-digits on the PP since 2010-11. He also shot 8.6 percent at five-on-five, a career high. Once those crash, even a modest rebound in his secondary assist rate won’t help on a team still devoid of scoring in the bottom-half of the lineup.
15. There has been a lot of work done on aging curves, so we know Corey Perry is on the downswing of his career. We also know that passers age better than shooters, and shooters better than snipers. At this point in his career, with his shot volume, Perry would need to be a sniper. Remember that Jarome Iginla had a 30-goal, 60-point season and three years later couldn’t crack 30 points. I’d rather draft Ondrej Kase.
16. The Habs acquired Hunter Shinkaruk from the Flames in exchange for Kerby Rychel. Both players were second-half first-round picks back in 2013. Shinkaruk has 79 points in his last 132 games in the AHL. He had 32 points in 63 games for Stockton last year. Rychel has 94 points in his last 144 games in the AHL. He had 30 points in 55 games in his last full AHL season.
If these guys weren’t first-round picks five years ago, would this be news? Maybe either gets a brief look in the NHL, especially Shinkaruk given the lack of talent throughout the bottom-six for Montreal, but this isn’t worthy of much more ink spilled fantasy-wise.
17. Mathew Barzal will still be a star this year but how far back he slips will depend on how Jan Kovar adapts. I think Barzal sticks with the same linemates and the team will try Kovar between Anders Lee and Josh Bailey. If that works out, then that line will be decent with three players hovering around 55 or 60 points. Barzal would then be good for mid-to high-70s playing with Jordan Eberle and Anthony Beauvillier. If Kovar flops, then Barzal has to move up to that line and I wonder how much that changes the way he plays. In that circumstance I’d roll him back to the low-70s. (aug20)
18. I was asked about Brian Elliott and the goalie situation in Philadelphia. When should he be taken? This is a team just primed to anoint an elite goalie. I think this team is now ready to make a weak goalie average, an average goalie good, and a good goalie great. I think Elliott is an average goalie, so being on this team will make him good. But will he be healthy? You can place good money on his being out once or twice with an injury that sidelines him for a month. I don’t think it will be quite as bad as last year when he had just 43 starts. But I have no data to back this – he hasn’t played 50 games in the last six seasons so how can I possibly say differently now? So, I put him in for 49 games in the Fantasy Guide.
Although I have him listed as a Tier 3 goalie for the purpose of drafting him in one-year leagues, Elliott is my favorite from that Tier. If you already have two Tier 1 goalies, or a Tier 1 and a Tier 2, and it’s later in the draft when you start looking for that No.3 goalie, who you can start sporadically, I’d seriously try to target him. (aug20)
19. The Leafs’ goaltending situation after Frederik Andersen? Two top AHL goaltenders – Garret Sparks and Calvin Pickard – on one-way contracts who have to clear waivers to be sent down, plus Curtis McElhinney, who’s coming off a year with stellar numbers. What will happen? Well, I believe a goalie gets moved. But, how long will they carry three?
And speaking of goalies, what about Carolina? How on earth do you project that mess? Either goalie could surprise and have a decent year. Both goalies seem destined to have a terrible one. But if one of Scott Darling or Petr Mrazek regains his form then that goalie gets 60 starts and is a massive dark horse pick. But if they both do the expected and repeat last year’s crap, then you’re looking at 45 games each as they take turns sucking and getting pulled a lot throughout the year. (aug20)
20. Assume Tim Schaller and Jay Beagle are on Vancouver’s fourth line, and Elias Pettersson is on the team for sure. Assume we hardly see Brendan Gaunce and Reid Boucher. And although the advanced stats and increasing ice time with every game seems to indicate that Travis Green really likes Darren Archibald, let’s call him a spare part as well. You still have Tyler Motte, who has been very good in a two-way role for the team but doesn’t need waivers to be sent down. You have Adam Gaudette who is close to being NHL ready and is a great prospect, but again, doesn’t need waivers. Brendan Leipsic, Nikolay Goldobin and Jake Virtanen need waivers to be sent down. So, now what?
Have a good week, folks!!
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