Teams will be starting training either today or tomorrow and that means we’re in hockey mode now. If you haven’t started your fantasy hockey research, the clock is officially ticking. Head to the Dobber Shop and get your copy of the 2018-19 Dobber Hockey fantasy guide now.
Last night was the televised season opener from Humboldt, Saskatchewan a mere five months following the tragic accident that claimed 16 lives. It was a moving evening and was handled very well by TSN. Let’s hope the families, team, and community can start to put the pieces together after such a devastating event.
Best wishes moving forward to all those affected.
Everyone loves rookies! Those shiny new toys that are the Christmas presents of fantasy sports. What’s in the box? It could be anything!
Here’s the thing about rookies: there is a lot of randomness. Just look at 2017-18: Mathew Barzal had the best rookie year in a decade; Yanni Gourde had 64 points; Brock Boeser could have managed 35 goals on a bad team has he stayed healthy; Mikhail Sergachev cracked 40 points playing 15 minutes a game as a 19-year old defenceman. It’s not to say those things were out of the realm of possibility, as Barzal was always looked at as very talented, Gourde was underappreciated, those who scouted Boeser knew he had a lethal release, and Sergachev was highly-touted. But to expect any one of those things, let alone all four, is unrealistic.
It’s important to be realistic in fantasy drafts. Upside needs to be considered if everything goes right and that’s part of swinging for the fences in the mid-to-late portion of drafts, but picking players based on expecting that upside is a quick trip to 8th place.
With that in mind, I wanted to discuss this year’s rookie crop. I’m not going to discuss every rookie, or even most rookies; you should grab the Dobber Prospects Report if you want a more detailed look at hundreds of players. Instead, I want to look at a handful of players who will be considered in drafts.
Before we get into individual players, do a mental exercise. Think of the all the top rookies from the last few years. Which traits do they share? Think of Barzal, Keller, Gourde, Boeser, Panarin, Gostisbehere, Laine, Werenski, Aho, Marner, and Nylander. (I’m excluding Matthews, McDavid, and Eichel here for obvious reasons.) By and large, those players satisfied at least one of two conditions to achieve the success they did:
- Goal-scoring binge
- Top PP minutes
Predicting a goal-scoring binge is a waste of time (if you want to predict any rookie to shoot 18 percent, go ahead). For many rookies to have success, they need top PP minutes. Keep that in mind as we go through these players.
My projection: 5.1 goals, 16.6 assists, 130.1 shots, 98 hits, 6.2 PPPs
Back in July, I wrote about why I won’t be drafting Dahlin this year. Let’s get into that.
The first question is if Dahlin will get top PP minutes. We can assume that Buffalo will be running a four-forward again this year, so the question is if he will push Rasmus Ristolainen out of the way. Ristolainen is fifth among all defencemen in power play points over the last three seasons, ahead of names like Torey Krug, PK Subban, Drew Doughty, John Klingberg, and John Carlson. Say what you will of Ristolainen as a player in every other facet, he’s been the go-to for years on the PP blue line for the Sabres, and he’s been effective at doing so; Buffalo is eighth in PP goals over those three seasons, two goals fewer than San Jose and three goals more than Dallas, and seventh in PP percentage. Does that suddenly change this year? Why would it?
I’m working with the assumption that Dahlin, barring injury, will not supplant Ristolainen on the power play this year.
So if he’s not on the top PP unit, maybe he’ll have a season like Sergachev, right? Well, Tampa scored 3.15 goals per 60 minutes at even strength last year. Buffalo scored 2.03. That’s 75 fewer goals. Sergachev registered a point on 11.1 percent of all of Tampa’s even-strength goals. If Buffalo’s scoring doesn’t improve, to get to 24 even-strength points like Sergachev, Dahlin would have to register a point on 17.1 percent of Buffalo’s even-strength goals. For reference, Victor Hedman registered a point on 16.3 percent of Tampa’s even-strength goals. You see how silly this is getting.
So what if Buffalo’s scoring does improve? If the team scored 25 percent more goals at even strength, which is a huge leap, they’d still be bottom-10 in scoring if the league’s scoring remains constant. *If* the scoring jumps 25 percent at even strength, do you really want to draft an 18-year old defenceman with limited PP minutes from a bottom-10 scoring team?
I’m sorry, I just don’t see it. He may be the next Erik Karlsson, but to pay off his ADP right now (106) in standard Yahoo! leagues, assuming he doesn’t put up triple-digit hits, he’ll need a season like Alex Pietrangelo had last year. If he does put up triple-digit hits, he’ll need a season like Kris Letang had last year. This is all absurd.
Oh, and about my projection? Does that seem low? Consider this: One (1) (!!!) 18-year old defenceman in the last 25 years has managed 5 goals, 16 assists, and 130 shots in a season.
My projection: 22.2 goals, 23.3 assists, 164.9 shots, 36 hits, 13.9 PPPs
This one is a lot more interesting.
There’s no doubt that Svechnikov has all the tools to be a future superstar. Can he be fantasy-relevant this year?
My projection for the 18-year old sniper-to-be has him just outside my top-150 skaters, so yes, it would seem he should be relevant this year. He comes in as my 38th right winger, but that is going with my data which assigns one singular position. If some of the dual-eligibility right wingers are moved to centre, he’s a starting player in leagues that start three RWs.
The question is the power play time. As I mentioned in my Ramblings on Tuesday, for now, I still have Justin Faulk spending most of his time on PP1 with Dougie Hamilton. I know they ran four-forward PP units last year but with a new coach in town I decided to be conservative. Will Svechnikov be the fourth forward on the top PP unit if that’s what they use, or will it be someone like Victor Rask or Justin Williams.
I currently have Svechnikov as a tweener on the PP. In other words, not a fixture of the top PP unit, but with some exposure.
Svechnikov’s ADP is a lot more palatable than Dahlin’s. He won’t be going in the first 10 rounds of a 12-teamer and can likely be HAD beyond the 12th round. He comes close to returning value at that ADP just off my projection, and he’s definitely a player who can go on a scoring binge and pop close to 30.
My projection: 17.6 goals, 19.4 assists, 11.1 PPPs, 158.9 shots, 27 hits
To be brief: if the Red Wings don’t have Henrik Zetterberg around this year – and it certainly looks like he won’t be – I don’t know how it’s possible to draft Zadina in standard 12-teamers. He won’t be on the top line, which means he won’t be skating with any of Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, or Gustav Nyquist. Who’s left? Frans Nielsen? Darren Helm? Justin Abdelkader? Andreas Athanasiou? I like AA and all, but with them experimenting him at centre, I’m not sure how that works out.
Zadina has the look of a player who will be a prolific scorer in the league, but that’s a 2-3 years down the road. For this year, given his even-strength line mates and split PP time, I don’t want to rely on him. He could always just go on a scoring tear but I don’t want to rely on that, either.
My projection: 16.6 goals, 20.1 assists, 6.3 PPPs, 149.3 shots, 26 hits
Mittelstadt is running into the same problem as Dahlin: if he’s not on Buffalo’s top PP unit, how much value is there?
Consider that last year, Buffalo ran Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo, Sam Reinhart, and Jack Eichel on the top PP unit most of the year. Each of those players had at least 20 PPPs. There were five other forwards with at least 25 total PP minutes, and those five forwards combined for 24 PPPs, and no single player cracked double-digits.
My projection has Mittelstadt for 30.4 even-strength points. That’s a good year! As I mentioned on Twitter a couple days ago, in 2017-18, O’Reilly had 34, Bryan Little had 31, and Mikko Koivu and Kyle Turris each had 30. But if Mittelstatd is stuck on the second PP unit all year, and he probably will be unless there’s an injury, how much on top of those 30.4 even-strength points can we expect?
That’s why I can’t draft Mittelstadt in standard 12-teamer this year. He’s a centre-only designated rookie with no clear path to top PP minutes. His ADP is legitimately around players like Nico Hischier and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Does Mittelstadt have the same upside, let alone floor, as those players in 2018-19?
My projection: 20.1 goals, 32.7 assists, 19.1 PPPs, 166.7 shots, 35 hits
Were I to draft only one rookie this year, Elias Pettersson is the guy.
There is a clear path to playing time on the top PP unit here thanks to the retirement of the Sedins. Assuming the top unit has Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, and Alex Edler, there are two forward spots to fill. Pettersson and Gagner seems to be the likely duo.
Of course, the question is whether the PP can be productive without the Sedins. Vancouver was eighth in the NHL in goals/60 minutes on the power play, ahead of teams like Colorado, San Jose, and Nashville. As long as the top PP unit is heavily-used, though, the PPTOI volume should cushion the blow if the PP efficiency falls off. Last year, Dallas was around 20th in goals/60 minutes and the three pillars of their top unit all had 20+ PPPs. Florida was in the same boat and had three guys at 17+. Buffalo had four players at 20+ even at 22nd in goals/60 minutes. Should the efficiency fall off without the Brothers Sedin, as long as the top unit can push total minutes, they should be fine.
I will admit I’m nervous about Pettersson’s even-strength projection. If he doesn’t skate on the top line, there really isn’t much to help out scoring-wise unless someone like Jonathan Dahlen breaks out. However, if the PP minutes are there – and they should be – it provides a sort of insurance on production.
Pettersson also has centre-only designation and that hurts. The nice thing is his ADP will be at a spot where in 12-team leagues he can be drafted as a third centre, if not a bench option. His skills are undeniable and he should be a lock on the top PP unit. He’s the guy you want as a rookie this year.
I won’t dig deep into him but in 12-team leagues, Eeli Tolvanen is going to be basically free in drafts. I have him projected as a bench winger in leagues of this size, and you’ll be able to draft him as a bench winger. That gives you some flexibility to hold or cut based on his usage after the first few weeks.