Pastrnak vs. Wheeler, Giordano, Panthers’ Goalies
I usually leave the player comparison articles to Rick, where he breaks it down in every which way with his weekly Cage Match. But I couldn’t help getting into one player comparison that I encountered during my weeks-long auction bidding league. That would be the choice I had to make between David Pastrnak and Blake Wheeler.
My keeper league allows each team to sign one free agent to a five-year contract. I could choose between Pastrnak, Wheeler, and a whole host of other players. Actually, it wasn’t much of a decision. I was able to match any offer on Pastrnak since I owned him last season, plus it makes a whole lot more sense to lock up a 22-year-old player for five years than it does a 32-year-old player. So Pasta was my guy, and I was willing to pay more for him.
I will predict that sometime over the next 12 months, Dobber will definitely move Wheeler down from his #8 ranking and probably move Pastrnak up from his #23 ranking in his Top 300 Keepers. Okay, so the first prediction isn’t exactly going out on a limb, but it tells where things are headed as opposed to where they are right now.
What the ranking does say is that the season that carries the most weight in any keeper league is the one that’s right in front of you. Wheeler scored 91 points last season. Pastrnak scored “just” 80. But if I want to win more championships, I feel like I need more David Pastrnaks than Blake Wheelers on my team.
But what about single-season leagues? Currently Yahoo has Pastrnak at 12 and Wheeler at 18, while ESPN has Wheeler at 8 and Pasta at 11. Aside from his recent 68-assist, 91-point campaign, Wheeler’s career high is 78 points from two seasons before. So there is quite a bit of variance as to where his point total could end up. If you’re wondering where the spike in points came from, look no further than the power-play totals. Wheeler finished second in the NHL with 40 PPP; before that, his career high was 21 PPP.
One stat where Wheeler is a known commodity is goals, where he has ranged between 23 and 28 goals over the past five seasons. This may come as a surprise to you, but Wheeler has never scored 30 goals in a season. Remember, he was a late starter for a first-round pick, as his rookie season didn’t happen until he was 22. But the magical fourth season happened right on cue (64 points in 80 games, his first season in Winnipeg). So in a way, he’s taken on a different curve from other high first-round picks, which should make his age a little less concerning.
In spite of the Jets’ elite-level offense and top-level power play (23.4% success rate, 5th in NHL), I wouldn’t expect Wheeler to hit 90 points again. However, 25 goals and 80 points are very real targets.
Pastrnak had a lower point total, yet he is only entering his fifth NHL season. He also has the benefit of a higher goal total (34 and 35 over the past two seasons), which matters because goals are harder to find than assists in multicategory leagues. Both players take similar shot totals (about 250), and let’s assume Wheeler posts a slightly higher power-play point total (30) than Pastrnak (25).
I think this comes down to the type of league that you play in. If you’re in a pure single-season points league, then I would look toward Wheeler. In a multicategory single-season league, I might also go with Wheeler, but it’s even tighter and it really depends on the categories. Anything keeper, though, and it’s Pastrnak all the way for me.
One other thing: If you’re worried that Patrice Bergeron’s recovery from groin surgery might spill over into the start of the regular season and cut into Pasta’s production, don’t be. In the month that Bergeron missed (from February 26 to March 24), Pastrnak scored 17 points (7g-10a) in 13 games with Riley Nash as his main center. Granted, Nash has moved on to Columbus, but it also serves as proof that Pastrnak is a strong enough player on his own.
Don't forget to pick up your Fantasy Guide, if you haven't done so already. I should also mention that inside the draft guide is a coupon code for a $7.99 discount off the Fantasy Hockey Geek Draft Kit, which to me is a must if you play in a multicategory league. Enter all your league settings, use Dobber's projections, and away you go choosing the players that will help you conquer your league exactly the way it's set up.
Question posed to me this week: Does Mark Giordano’s fantasy value improve with Dougie Hamilton being shipped out of Calgary? Well, for starters, we know that the Flames have big plans for the defenseman acquired in return. A few days ago, Noah Hanifin was signed to a six-year contract with a cap hit of $4.95 million. Hanifin was mainly a second-unit power-play option during his time in Carolina, since Justin Faulk owned the first-unit power play. But there’s a possibility for increased usage for Hanifin in Calgary. We’ll have to wait and see, but remember that Hanifin is a player that new Calgary coach Bill Peters is familiar with.
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. TJ Brodie is the other name in the mix, and his power-play time was similar to that of Hamilton. 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 in spite of solid icetime (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.
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.
There’s not much in the way of news to speak of. But there was an interesting at-length interview with John Tortorella on the state of the Blue Jackets from The Athletic. A few takeaways:
Seems as though he’s cleared the air with Jack Johnson after Johnson signed with Pittsburgh and commented that he wanted to be a part of a winning culture, causing Torts to fire back. Not really any fantasy implications, as Johnson shouldn’t be on your radar at all.
Joonas Korpisalo will need to earn his playing time, even with the fact that he needs to clear waivers to go to the AHL and Bobrovsky’s uncertain contract situation. Bobrovsky is a top-5 goalie, so I can’t Korpisalo making a major fantasy impact unless Bob gets hurt.
Zach Werenski played through a torn labrum (shoulder) and basically couldn’t use his left arm. Because of the offseason surgery, Werenski should be considered questionable for opening night.
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.