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. Word came down that Patrice Bergeron is on track to start the season with the Bruins after offseason groin surgery in June. This is the second consecutive summer that the 33-year-old has gone under the knife as he needed a sports hernia repaired last year. Bergeron will skip the team’s trip to China in mid-September but plans to appear in at least a couple of the domestic preseason contests.
Bergeron posted some incredible numbers in his 14th NHL season: 30 goals and 63 points in 64 games. His 0.98 points-per-game represented a career-high, as was his 13.4 conversion rate. The boost in production can be explained by a few causes. His centering arguably the most lethal line in the league with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak is at the forefront. His high conversion rate and a career-high offensive zone start time come next. Last season, Bergeron started 59.4 percent of his even-strength shifts in the fun end of the rink. A far cry from the typical 40 percent he was used to for most of his career. (sep1)
2. Robert Thomas is a curious player this year. There were some quotes back in July that Thomas could legitimately be the No.2 center for the Blues this year, or at least on a line with Ryan O’Reilly. I’m not bullish enough on him to believe he’ll do that but it sure did sound like he’ll have every opportunity to make the team out of camp. (aug28)
3. J.T. Miller begins his first full season in Tampa Bay as a real threat to increase his across-the-board totals. After the deadline deal from the Rangers, the 25-year-old concluded his regular season by splitting time next to Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov on L1 and with Yanni Gourde and Brayden Point in the middle of the lineup.
Those 19 games bore out 10 goals, 18 points, and 45 shots on goal. Just six of those points came on the man-advantage, despite seeing 2:23 of power play time on the top unit. This appeared to be a match made in heaven for the Bolts and for fantasy owners. Until the playoffs came, of course.
In 17 postseason contests, his production dipped considerably. Two goals, eight points and just 32 shots on goal. Four of those points came on the man-advantage where his deployment shot up to 3:33 per night. As the team tried to get things rolling, he ended up on the third line with Gourde and rookie, Anthony Cirelli.
Coming into 2018-19, the questions are plentiful for the former 15th overall selection from 2011. First and foremost is his position in the lineup and positional eligibility. Fantrax has him as a RW/C, while Yahoo has him as a RW. Only ESPN has him as a C/LW option. Drafting him with the expectation that he meshes with Stamkos and Kucherov would mean you’re locking him down as a left-winger on your roster with no assurance that he’ll be given that eligibility. Not straight away at least.
The other option that the Bolts need to look at is if Cirelli isn’t ready to take on the 3C duties, how easy would it be to simply slide Alex Killorn up to 1LW and move Miller to 3C? That would be an even-strength killer to his fantasy value. It would also put his spot as the net-front on PP1 in jeopardy if Killorn found a little magic at evens.
The potential is there for a career-year for Miller. But the moving parts that need to come together are considerable. He'll be a big swing in the top 60 and I'd caution against reaching before 80 on draft day. Likely, he ends up living in the 55-point range that's he seen the previous two campaigns. (sep1)
4. How the Panthers’ goaltending situation will play out is anyone’s guess. Roberto Luongo was by far the better goalie last season (2.47 GAA, .929 SV%) but injuries have been a major concern. Lu was held to 35 games after missing time with both a thumb injury and a groin injury (the more significant of the two). Yet, James Reimer could end up starting more games than Luongo, not necessarily because Luongo will be injured a lot but possibly also to give Luongo more rest in order to be effective. So, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for Lu owners to handcuff James Reimer. Because Reimer could simply end up with more starts.
Compared to Luongo, Reimer struggled mightily last season (2.99 GAA, .913 SV%). On the other hand, Reimer has proven to be a timeshare-level goalie in the past, posting a 2.53 GAA and .920 SV% in 2016-17 and a 2.31 GAA and .922 SV% in 2015-16. If you’re looking in the discount bin for a goalie, you could probably do a lot worse than Reimer. (sep2)
5. Question posed to me this week: Does Mark Giordano’s fantasy value improve with Dougie Hamilton being shipped out of Calgary? During his three seasons in Calgary, Hamilton averaged around 2:25 of power-play time per game. This was slightly lower than Giordano, whose average was closer to the 3:00 mark. In fact, that was the criticism of the Flames in their usage of Hamilton – that he should have been the first-unit guy for what they had invested in him. T.J. Brodie is the other name in the mix and his power-play time was similar to that of Hamilton’s. So, I’d expect Gio to be on the first unit again, followed by either Hanifin or Brodie in the power-play pecking order.
What concerns me about Giordano is declined returns. After a 56-point season in 2015-16, he has settled in as a 12-13 goal, 38-39-point defenseman over the past two seasons. His shot total improved dramatically in 2017-18 (151 shots to 214 shots). However, Gio is turning 35 once the season starts and 35-year-old players don’t tend to have spikes in production at that stage in their careers. So, I’d have to say that despite solid ice time (nearly 25 minutes per game in 2017-18) and power-play time, his numbers probably won’t change much. And neither does his fantasy value. (sep2)
6. Noah Hanifin put pen to paper on Thursday. The restricted free-agent and new Calgary Flame signed a five-year pact worth $4.95 million per. Let’s remember that five million is the new four million – especially when it comes to blueliners. That makes this pretty good value for both sides. Hanifin will be 27 when the contract expires and will be set to join unrestricted free agency right in the midst of his prime. The team gets a young, top-four defender at under five million.
Hanifin has witnessed slight offensive improvements in each of his three NHL seasons. That culminated with 10 goals and 32 points in 79 contests last season. He was sheltered in Carolina, playing third pairing minutes at even-strength and skating on the team’s second power-play unit. A similar deployment is expected in Calgary as he’s immediately reunited with his former Hurricanes’ bench boss, Bill Peters.
It’s always a bit of a challenge to project a 21-year-old, especially one with nearly 300 NHL games under his belt. However, the 21-year-old has never projected as a premier point producer. He’s likely destined to living in the 35-point range for his primes years and be able to supplement the peripheral categories with a few blocks and maybe sniff 100 hits if he ramps it up. (sep1)
7. The Winnipeg Jets signed their top prospect, Kristian Vesalainen earlier this week. The power winger was selected 24th overall in 2017 after seeing time in the SHL. He made the transfer to the Finnish Liiga in 2017-18 and was a force. Twenty-two (2) goals and 43 points in 49 games were good to lead all U22 players in goals and points. His six points in five World Junior Championship games was a nice icing on the cake.
Vesalainen is trapped behind incredibly youthful depth on the wings in Winnipeg. That means he should begin his North American career in the AHL. But, watch out for this player in dynasty leagues. He owns high-end offensive skills and the size to impact the game in different ways than an Nikolaj Ehlers or Kyle Connor can at their size. (sep1)
8. Veteran Lee Stempniak was skating with some Bruins last week. This isn’t to say that the Bruins are on the verge of signing Stempniak, or anything, but it is a signing, or potential PTO, that would make sense. It would be a one-year, low-dollar contract that can easily fit on this roster and provide a bit of punch on the third, likely fourth line. This was just for local players so maybe he’s just getting some ice time in with top competition and Boston isn’t interested at all. Just found it curious. (aug31)
9. This week’s ‘Capped’ from Alex MacLean, which was Part 4 in his team-by-team series of players to buy and sell, made a point about one player in particular that changed my tune a little bit.
I have one salary cap league, it’s a keeper, and I had been thinking about putting in an offer to acquire Jeff Petry. Being that it’s a multi-category league, and he should be the power-play quarterback for the first half of the year, I thought it made sense. Alex’s point, though, that now would be the time to sell on Petry rather than to buy on Petry isn’t one I really considered, and it probably is the right move. Petry will hold a lot of value in multi-category leagues but even for maybe a top-20 defenseman, $5.5-million is a lot in a cap league. If he can be sold for a profit at this point, that’s an avenue worth considering.
10. In your fantasy leagues, look for arbitrage opportunities all Draft long. Arbitrage may be something unfamiliar to even long-time fantasy players. It’s something I’ve written about on this site in previous seasons as well as something that was covered recently by Cam Metz in one of his Eastern Edge columns. To put it simply, it’s identifying a player who can provide a similar value in similar categories to another player who is being drafted much higher. Basically, why waste a seventh round pick on a player if you think a similar option can be had in the 12th round?
This was something I alluded to in a Ramblings back in June on name value and actual production. Whether it be name value, excitement for a young player, excitement for a team, or any other number of reasons, players are over and undervalued all the time. Being able to assess each player on their own expected production and ranking accordingly can help identify these arbitrage opportunities. (aug31)
11. I suppose it depends on how you view the Blackhawks’ lineup: Is the Jonathan Toews line or the Patrick Kane line the first line? Regardless, here I mean the Kane line. I think most people can agree that Brandon Saad/Toews and Nick Schmaltz/Kane are going to be the top-two forward pairs. I want to know who is going to play with Schmaltz and Kane.
The natural option would seem to be Dylan Sikura but Artem Anisimov also played nearly 280 minutes with Schmaltz and Kane last year. We also have to factor coach Joel Quenneville, which means there’s an outside chance that Chris Kunitz could see some time on that line as well. This is like the situation in Tampa Bay where the difference between playing on the second line and third line is a gigantic gap and will have a huge impact on a player’s outlook for 2018-19. (aug30)
12. The loss of John Tavares is clearly huge for the Islanders but it also could mean that Jordan Eberle moves to the top line alongside Mat Barzal, and also to the top PP unit. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing for his fantasy value. Plus/minus will be a concern for this entire team but there is going to be a significant difference in point potential between skating with Barzal and skating with whomever is the second-line center for this team.
I will be very interested to see if Barry Trotz just decides to keep the chemistry of Barzal and Eberle together, or if he sticks with the top-line winger duo of Josh Bailey and Anders Lee. It’ll make a significant difference in how we should view Eberle’s potential for the year. (aug30)
13. When I wrote about power plays earlier this summer, one power play that really stuck out to me was Los Angeles’. There is no doubt they’re going to have a heavily-used top unit, and there is no doubt that, if they’re healthy, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Drew Doughty are going to be locks for the top unit. The question is who will be the fourth player? Do they go with a second defenseman like Jake Muzzin or Alec Martinez? Do they go with a fourth forward like Tyler Toffoli, Dustin Brown or Tanner Pearson? It’s a nice problem to have for the coach because he does have several options, but it could be a nightmare for fantasy owners.
We might not get this answer until late in exhibition season when the roster is nearly cut down to the actual NHL roster but it’s something to monitor for those with drafts that near the start of the season. It could mean the difference in a player having 15 power-play points or five. (aug30)
14. The Oilers have signed Jason Garrison to a PTO. Might not seem like much but remember that Andrej Sekera could miss a significant portion of the season with a torn Achilles and Darnell Nurse remains unsigned. Garrison is a veteran body for training camp at the very least, but I think given the Oilers’ lack of defensive depth he’s got a good shot to make the team. (aug29)
15. Marc-Andre Fleury posted stellar numbers (29-13-4, 2.24 GAA, .927 SV%, four SO) that would have made him a Vezina Trophy nominee had he not been derailed by a concussion for about two months. You might remember that the Golden Knights were forced all the way down to their fifth-string goalie from the WHL, while their AHL/ECHL goalies were dropping like flies. During that time, Malcolm Subban went 7-2-0 with a 2.33 GAA and .924 SV%, and Oscar Dansk went 3-0-0 with a 1.76 GAA and .946 SV%. Hardly a dropoff! Hopefully, you jumped off the train by the time Maxime Lagace took over, as he didn’t prove to be NHL-caliber with a 3.79 GAA and a .872 SV%.
It might seem like yesterday that Fleury was a rookie with the Penguins but he’s now 33 and has dealt with his share of both injuries and rough stretches. He seems to be in a great place now, though. So are the Golden Knights, who finished eighth in the NHL with a 2.74 GAA in their inaugural season. So, I would be okay with drafting Fleury at his average draft position while adding Subban as either a handcuff or a priority waiver-wire add, depending on how deep your league is. (aug29)
16. Something that stands out to me about Jaden Schwartz is his points-per-game numbers. Although he was held to 62 games in 2017-18, Schwartz still recorded 59 points (24g-35a), mainly on the Blues’ top line with Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn. That calculated out to 0.95 points per game, which was the same number as the likes of Tyler Seguin and William Karlsson.
In case you’re wondering why Schwartz is not ranked higher in your multicategory fantasy league, only 11 of his 59 points came on the power play. In fact, his highest PPP total in his career is 15 from back in 2014-15. The Blues were ineffective on the power-play, with only the Oilers sporting a worse power-play effectiveness than the Blues’ 15.4 percent success rate. Schwartz also averaged the second-highest PPTOI among Blues’ skaters. The fact that the power-play game plan is to get the puck to Tarasenko might not bode well for Schwartz’s numbers.
Schwartz might have a reputation of being injury-prone, but he has played at least 75 games in three of his past five seasons. Don’t let that deter you from drafting him at least slightly higher than where he’s ranked by Yahoo, although it might be wise to knock off a few games from a full season in your projections. Dobber also mentioned the above comment in his Monday Ramblings, citing the Band-Aid Boy reason. He had an interesting thought about drafting players who seem to regularly miss a chunk of games as opposed to playing a full season. (aug29)
Carey Price is ranked a fair bit lower on ESPN (goalie number 14) than on Yahoo (goalie 10). Last week, I wrote that I’m probably not interested in Price being my team’s No.1 goalie but would consider him in the No.2 range. It looks like I may be able to do that in the one league I have on ESPN.
John Gibson, meanwhile, is ranked way higher on ESPN (goalie number 6, 41st overall) than he is on Yahoo (goalie 17, 95th overall). I think there are valid concerns about the Anaheim Ducks, chief among them being their aging stars. All the same, goalie 17 seems awfully low for a 25-year old goalie with such a stellar track record. If he starts sliding in your Yahoo drafts and you can legitimately grab him anytime outside the top-10 goalies, it’s too good an opportunity to pass on. (aug28)
18. Everyone has fallen in love with Charlie McAvoy and think that his arrival will spell the end of Torey Krug. Injury issues aside (I have concerns, but I also have concerns about Krug so that’s a wash), McAvoy is not stealing the PP job from Krug anytime soon. I find that fantasy owners get hunches and while these hunches may turn out to be absolutely correct, they almost never do within the timeline they expect. If they think ‘this year’, it ends up being ‘four years from now’. Krug had 37 points in the second half last season! Thirty-seven! It’s true, look it up. Does that sound like someone on the decline? And for those who respond ‘Yeah, but that’s because McAvoy was hurt’ – come on! McAvoy could return as an enhanced cyborg and it’s not going to remove a defenseman from his place on the roster after the guy got 37 points in 41 games to end the season! (aug27)
19. Someone wanted to know my thoughts on Erik Gustafsson. I love this question and immediately made a mental note to answer it here. The 26-year-old has improved steadily in the AHL and thrived last year with 17 points in 25 games. He finally got into the Chicago lineup on January 20 (likely delayed by Jordan Oesterle going supernova briefly before flaming out) and tallied two points. That earned him enough goodwill to keep him in the lineup for another 11 games, but he managed just one point. That got him scratched. Gustafsson returned to the lineup February 19 and stayed in the lineup from that point onward, posting 12 points in 22 games with ice time that eked steadily upward to close to 20 minutes per game towards the end. Impressive!
All Chicago did in the offseason to address their lack of depth on defense was to sign Brandon Manning, who is hardly a threat to Gustafsson. I have him penciled in for 31 points in 67 games and as a strong sleeper for topping 40. Look at the team – Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are in decline but they are still 1-2. After that, competition for PP time is with Jan Rutta, Connor Murphy, Gustav Forsling and Manning (I don’t think the Hawks rush Henri Jokiharju). These are all No.6 defensemen on a lot of teams, as is Gustafsson. But it’s his spot to lose, which is the No.3 guy for PP ice time. (aug27)
20. We heard rumblings about Henrik Zetterberg missing the season but now we have more concrete information confirmed by the man himself. Zetterberg will miss Red Wings’ training camp and is out indefinitely but he is not ready to concede that his career is over. This news makes it seem more likely that he will miss the entire season and even end his career on LTIR. (aug29)
If Zetterberg cannot play, Andreas Athanasiou moves to center. I don’t see Michael Rasmussen in the NHL this year but Filip Zadina’s odds just increased. I really like what this does for Athanasiou, as he moves from third-line winger with minimal PP time to second-line center with secondary PP time. Rasmussen’s odds certainly improve and now he may get a nine-game trial, I just don’t think he’s ready to stick. Dark horse long shot: Joe Veleno. (aug27)
One thing I would like to add is that this undoubtedly solidified Dylan Larkin’s role. Larkin played just under 20 minutes a game last year but with the lack of depth at center now, it’s easy to see Larkin’s role expanding even more. We could see Larkin end up playing close to Aleksander Barkov minutes, which would be around 22 a night. It’s probably not what Jeff Blashill, or any coach, really wants to do but they don’t have a lot of options.
Athanasiou has very solid underlying numbers like controlled zone entries and exits but he’s more of a shooter than a true playmaker. Does he continue his shot-heavy ways, or does he expand his game to be a true all-around center? It’ll be fascinating to watch. He could have relevance in 12-teamers now but as a late-round flier and not someone necessarily to target. (aug28)
Have a good week, folks!!
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