20 Fantasy Hockey Thoughts

Mario Prata


Every Sunday, 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. I was targeting Cody Ceci as a potential sleeper two seasons ago but the Sens decided to groom him for a more defensive role instead, where he has failed to reach 20 points over the past two seasons. Now he’s expected to take on first-pairing minutes and could also add a few more points as a result.

If your league is deep enough and also counts both hits and blocked shots, then Ceci is an option. Ceci was the Senators’ runaway leader with 171 blocked shots and finished second on the team to Mark Borowiecki with 163 hits. Ceci has an outside chance of reaching 30 points, particularly if he earns additional power-play time because of Karlsson’s departure.


2. I didn’t give Martin Kaut much of a chance to make the Colorado roster this year, or even next, but it is looking as though the team really wants him to succeed quickly and they are giving him every opportunity to do so in camp. He’s played on the right wing on Colorado’s second line with Tyson Jost and Alex Kerfoot and is apparently doing well.

He’s eligible to play in the AHL this year and the belief is that he will be sent there but will be one of the first callups when injury strikes. Similar to the thinking with Mikko Rantanen back in his post-draft year when he played nine games with the big club and tore it up in the AHL.


3. I am much higher on Oscar Klefbom than most. I get that recency bias is a thing and Klefbom’s 2017-18 was miserable. He was also battling a shoulder injury that flared up before the season even started and nagged him most of the year. He looks to be healthy now, though, and is locked on the team’s top power play unit. If that Oilers PP can right itself, Klefbom is in line for 40 points with 200-plus shots. He’s a steal right now by his ADP. (sep20)


4. The only thing Jacob Trouba needs to be a top-30 defenseman is to stay on the ice. Health has been an issue for him in his young career, but if he can manage even 75 games, he can easily be a 30-point guy with strong peripherals even without top PP minutes. That type of player – and we can add guys like Colton Parayko, Ivan Provorov and Aaron Ekblad to the list – is valuable. (sep20)


5. As most of you know, my work and love of prospects usually ends up poking its greasy little head in my Ramblings over here at the main site. But today, I’m going full bore. We’re going to dive into the 2018-19 Calder Class and take a stroll down a few avenues: The best case, the worst case, and the likely result scenarios. This will be projecting the top rookies in the fantasy landscape from a points-only perspective. Here are a couple for 20 Fantasy Thoughts:

Martin Necas was something of a surprise to crack the Hurricanes’ roster last season. He lasted a single game and went back to the Czech Republic where his game flourished. He was sensational at the World Junior Championships, looked strong at the Worlds, and appears ready to take on true minutes in Carolina this year.

The Good, 23-35-58: The good happened last spring when Carolina landed the second overall selection in the 2018 draft. That assured the club elite goal scorer and dynamic winger, Andrei Svechnikov. The two teenagers are likely to begin their careers on an exciting second line together, and Necas should be feeding the Russian on the power play for the next decade.

If Necas can find immediate chemistry with Svechnikov at even-strength and land a spot on the team’s top power play unit, a sniff at 60-points is within reach.

The Bad, 13-19-32: As the broken record continues to sing, if the deployment isn’t there, nor is the production. If Necas slips to the third line and drops down to a far less potent second power play unit, it could be a season spinning his wheels.

The Likely, 17-28-45: The likely scenario sees the 19-year-old lock down a second line role with rotating wingers and finds some success. The fish will be fried during the man-advantage where he should see a good chunk of time on the top unit with stretches down on PP2. (sep22)


6. Ryan Donato seemed to score goals at will in his junior season in the NCAA. The 22-year-old torched the competition to the tune of 26 goals in 29 games to lead the NCAA in goals-per-game. He even managed to score five goals in five games for the Americans at the Olympics.

The Harvard alumni turned pro at the end of his campaign and tallied a quick five goals and nine points in 12 NHL regular season games. He saw his ice cut and eventually saw the press box during the playoffs. However, he’s been pegged by many to challenge for the Rookie of the Year due to his ‘advanced’ age and likely position in the Bruins lineup.

The Good, 30-25-55: Here we go again with that darn deployment thing. The top line is closed for business for the foreseeable future. But there is a window to slide onto the Bruins deadly top power play unit. As it stands, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Torey Krug are welcoming a young stud. Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk and Donato will all be gunning for it. Let’s say Donato takes the bumper spot and makes hay. A 30-goal season wouldn’t be outrageous.

The Bad, 15-15-30: No top power play deployment. A spot on the third line.  A difficult time getting rolling. These outcomes are plausible and if they occur, forget about 30-goals, 30 points may be difficult to hit.

The Likely, 24-20-44: Donato is a polished enough player that brings an element to the team that has been lacking outside of L1. He should get ample opportunities to be the triggerman in the middle six as the Bruins are looking to employ three scoring lines. At worst he’ll see the same role given to him on the second unit, but likely moves into that cushy top unit for stretches too. With the fifth spot on the Bergeron unit being sought after by young players, there is bound to be ups and downs and rotations aplenty. (sep22)


7. Real-time stats like hits and blocked shots are very important to fantasy value. Hits are now part of Yahoo! standard leagues and hits/blocks are becoming more and more prevalent. I wanted to provide a handful defensemen to target late in drafts. Once the top-40 or top-50 defensemen are off the board, pickings get slim, and guys that can help in these categories can help fill the void left by more offensive defensemen that might leave a void in one or both. Someone like Erik Karlsson doesn’t provide a lot of hits, while Oliver Ekman-Larsson doesn’t provide a lot of blocks. Filling these stats later is paramount to a balanced fantasy hockey roster. Here are three for 20 Fantasy Though        

– While we just have a one-year sample to work with here, Robert Hagg’s real-time stats were incredible for just 70 games at 18 minutes a night. He managed 100 blocked shots and a massive 238 hits. He finished top-10 in the league in hits, just 40 back of Nikita Zadorov despite playing over 220 fewer minutes. A full season at 19-20 minutes a night should only help not only replicate but improve those numbers.

Jakob Chychrun may be a popular pick among some people but the fact remains by average draft position (ADP) across the major sites, he’s not being drafted with any regularity even in 15-team leagues with six defensemen on the roster. For his career (118 games), Chychrun is averaging 119 hits and 127 blocked shots every 82 games. The concern about knee issues and his readiness for the season are legitimate questions but he’s not a guy who will really have any cost on draft day. In 12-team leagues, you can literally get him with your last pick. If things don’t look rosy after the first few weeks, you can cut bait and hit the waiver wire. But, if things go right, he can put up 30 points with triple digits in both real-time stat categories.

– I’ve written about Stephen Johns a couple times this year but I wanted to note him again because I’m cooling off a little on him right now. Dallas’ preseason game a couple days ago against St. Louis had Miro Heiskanen skating with John Klingberg and then a defense pair of Esa Lindell and Julius Honka. That could conceivably be the top two pairs for Dallas, which means less ice time for Johns. He’s still cheap in drafts so it’s not a season-killer if he doesn’t pan out. We’ll see how the defense pairs slot here soon. (sep21)


8. Miles Wood probably isn’t on your draft list in standard-sized fantasy leagues but he finished fourth on the Devils with 19 goals last year and also led them with 84 penalty minutes. If his numbers are similar this season, then there’s a chance that those in leagues that count goals and penalty minutes could take a flier on him. (sep23)


9. Sam Reinhart has been quietly productive on a very bad Buffalo team in his young career; riding shotgun with Jack Eichel both at five-on-five and on the power play, as both start to enter their primes, should be a huge boon for the team. Right now, I have him as a starting right wing (RW) in 12-team leagues that start three right wingers, coming in as RW33. If the Sabres can start producing more at even strength, he has 60-point upside. Just be wary of over-drafting him; I would not take him in the first 10 rounds of a 12-team league and he might climb there in some leagues now that he’s signed. (sep20)


10. I don’t believe that Aaron Dell would steal starts from Martin Jones outright. Jones has played in at least 60 games for three consecutive seasons. Only two goalies (Cam Talbot, Devan Dubnyk) have played more games and only three goalies (Braden Holtby, Pekka Rinne, Devan Dubnyk) have won more games over that three-year span. That’s the definition of a goalie that you can leave in your lineup and don’t have to constantly check Goalie Post to find out whether he’s starting.

But, here’s where Jones becomes average. Over that same three-year span for the 42 goalies that have played at least 100 games, Jones is 24th with a .915 SV%. He is, however, ninth with a 2.40 GAA. So, if save percentage is more of a function of the goalie’s ability, and goals-against average is more of a function of the team’s ability, Jones is an average goalie who plays for an above-average team. So, if Jones is traded to a team below the Sharks in the standings, his fantasy value takes a hit.

Simply put, Jones gets the job done for the Sharks. Plus, he has led his team to a Stanley Cup Final and has the much bigger more long-term contract compared to Dell. That won’t stop Dell from being one of the league’s better backups, though. It’s possible that Dell could start more games down the stretch if the Sharks lock up a playoff spot early in a Pacific Division that has a lot of question marks throughout. Moreover, I don’t think Erik Karlsson trade raises each goalie a tier unless your fantasy league only counts wins, which the addition of Karlsson should be good for. Karlsson is a solid defensive defenseman but remember that he was a minus-25 last season and is coming off an injury. So I don’t honestly believe his addition will improve the ratios of each goalie much, if at all. (sep23)


11. What a toolkit Elias Pettersson has on him. Never mind keeper leagues, you might want to get on this guy in single-season leagues. I’ll mention that the Canucks are trying Pettersson as a center and he’s listed on Yahoo as a center, even though he spent much of last season in the Swedish Elite League as a winger. His chances of succeeding in the NHL quickly are better on the wing, although the Canucks will be better served to take a long-term approach. (sep19)


12. Chris Wideman is a very easy defenseman to overlook. Although he’s never scored more than 17 points in a season over his three-year NHL career, he was scoring at a half-point per game pace (eight points in 16 games) before a torn hamstring ended his 2017-18 season. Wideman was also an AHL standout with 112 points over his last 148 AHL games and the league’s top defenseman in 2014-15. Wideman averaged only 11 minutes of ice time per game and may end up as a third-pairing blueliner again, but there could also be some second-unit power play time in his future. He’s a potential sleeper in very deep leagues.


13 I’ll admit that I got sucked into purchasing shares on Tim Heed after he took the NHL by storm with seven points over his first 10 games. After that, he recorded just four points over his last 19 games while spending some time in the AHL. If I had known that Erik Karlsson would have been traded to San Jose, then I probably wouldn’t have kept him. As it stands, I could see Heed as a seventh defenseman that is frequently healthy scratched but will see second-unit power play time when he’s in the lineup. The offensive potential is there but you simply can’t rely on him being in the lineup on a nightly basis. One comparable that I have in mind from the Sharks’ divisional opponents is Brad Hunt in Vegas. (sep19)


14. For now, it appears that Elias Lindholm will be both on the top line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, as well the top power play unit. Lindholm’s upside is tied to his usage. That can be said for most non-elite players. If Ondrej Kase or Kailer Yamamoto are on their respective teams’ top line, they are instantly fantasy-relevant and must-owns. If they’re on their respective teams’ third lines, not so much. Same here for Lindholm.

You won’t have to pay much in drafts to find this out, though. Yahoo! has him ranked well outside their top-200 players and he’s being consistently drafted outside the top-50 right wingers. You can draft him as a bench option and slide him into your starting lineup. Maybe he lasts just two months on the top line. Maybe a month. Regardless, the draft investment is so minimal that even if he’s bumped down the lineup by American Thanksgiving, he can be dropped to the waiver wire and replaced easily. If he stays there most of the season, there is a player with a lot of profit potential to be had.

Remember this about Lindholm: he posted back-to-back seasons with 150-plus shots, 95-plus hits, and 40-plus points all while averaging 10 PPPs a season. He can easily be a 50-point player with some additional PP time on a skilled top unit while providing reasonable shot totals and healthy hit totals. Buy him at his current price and continue buying him even if his price rises a few rounds. (sep18)


15. All summer I’ve been railing against drafting Rasmus Dahlin where he’s being taken – often inside the top-100 players – mainly based on the fact that he wouldn’t get top PP minutes for the Sabres. Without those top PP minutes, there just wasn’t much upside, especially considering the quality of the team.

Well, this week, it was Dahlin, not Rasmus Ristolainen, on the top PP unit. It was a mostly-full roster, too, with Eichel, Jeff Skinner, Kyle Okposo, and Casey Mittelstadt all playing. Assuming Sam Reinhart is the fourth forward, Dahlin may be in line to at least start the year on the top PP unit. He’s still overvalued but it’s a good sign for Dahlin backers. (sep20)


16. Josh Anderson has the talent to score 30 goals in this league but if he’s on the third line with Brandon Dubinsky as his center and not on the top PP unit, he’s probably undraftable outside of deep leagues. He’s a guy to monitor as the season progresses. (sep18)


17. One thing that is always worth discussing in fantasy hockey is the concept of third wheels. Those guys who skate with two elite (or near-elite) talents and reap the rewards of doing so. The laundry list of players to take full advantage of this in the last four or five years is lengthy. Just think of skaters like Jiri Hudler, Vladislav Namestnikov, Sven Baertschi, Josh Bailey, Kyle Connor, and so on. All good players (in their own right) but their fantasy value went to another level when slotted alongside top talents.

There’s always a risk with drafting these players. If a guy goes from top line/top PP unit to third line/second PP unit, his value goes from high to nil. Sometimes, the supposed third wheels don’t work out; names like Brett Ritchie and Andre Burakovsky come to mind. I haven’t given up on either as far as fantasy value is concerned for the future, they just haven’t worked out as hoped in the past.

All the same, we know what the upside is. We saw a 70-point season from Hudler. We saw Namestnikov tear it up for a few months last year. We saw Kyle Connor go from the AHL to a 30-goal scorer in one year. If the right guys get the right slotting, even for a few months, their fantasy value is enormous.

I thought it’d be worth discussing some of these third wheels. This will focus mainly on guys I think are undervalued right now and worth the gamble at the draft table. As always, things can change in the preseason and ADPs can get inflated. This is just as of right now. (sep18)


18. It looks like Jordan Greenway is being tried at center and he isn’t doing too bad there. Generally, prospects who are natural centermen start off on the wing unless they are the cream of the crop. Obviously, Greenway is just that. The Wild are also using Mikael Granlund on the point on the power play, which is interesting. That means Jared Spurgeon won’t rake in Ryan Suter’s lost PP points and instead the team will roll with the Granlund / Matt Dumba duo. Assuming the experiment works, of course. But I don’t see why it wouldn’t.


19. Columbus beat writer Aaron Portzline had this to say about Vitali Abramov’s chances of making the roster, given that the forward corps is deep when it comes to one-way contracts: “The challenge ahead of Abramov is steep. He needs to prove more than his NHL readiness; he needs to prove he can play and produce in a top-nine role, which does not appear readily available. He’ll likely need to do that at the AHL level first.”


20. So, the Victor Rask injury is even more serious than we thought. He didn’t just slice his fingers in the kitchen and require minor surgery, he sliced tendons and required major surgery. Coach Rod Brind’Amour says he will be out “months for sure”. Because Rask was one of the key centermen on the team, this has an impact on several players.

Martin Necas goes from ‘a pretty good chance’ of making the team to ‘a near-lock’. Ditto for Lucas Wallmark, who must clear waivers to be sent down. I bumped up Wallmark’s projected games played in the Fantasy Guide. I bumped up Necas’ production expectation. This also puts Janne Kuokkanen and Aleksi Saarela firmly on the map. I still don’t have them making the team but now I think they will get in a dozen games (or more) early in the season.

If Necas were to crash and burn, then Sebastian Aho will have to be taken off the wing and put at center. And that would shift things around quite a bit.


Have a good week, folks!!


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