We’re almost done with preseason – it’s far too long – and the last draft weekend of the season is ahead of us. For those drafting this weekend, get the edge you need by getting your copy of the 2018-19 Dobber Hockey Fantasy Guide from the Dobber Shop! Everything is updated so you have the most recent information necessary to get a leg up on your league mates.
A couple injury notes.
Corey Perry will be out most of the regular season with surgery to his meniscus and MCL. Official timetable is about five months, which would bring him back for March. I suppose if there’s good news for the Ducks it’s that he could be back for a playoff run.
Fantasy-wise, this could be big for Ondrej Kase. Corey Perry was basically the big obstacle between Kase and potential top line and top PP minutes. Whether they follow through with that or not is another question, but it at least opens the door of possibility.
Seth Jones will miss at least a month with a knee injury. He should be fine afterwards, but this also gives a clear path for Zach Werenski to assume his mantle on the top PP unit. It’ll be interesting to see Werenski’s ADP this weekend.
Interesting read from Travis Yost on Tage Thompson. He takes a dive into some shot generation and expected goal rates from his time with St. Louis.
Going into the preseason, all the hype in Buffalo seemed to surround either Casey Mittelstadt or Rasmus Dahlin (and deservedly so). While Dahlin has looked fine in the limited action I’ve seen him play, the general reaction from writers and fans is how impressive Thompson has looked. He’s played his way to the top line at times and while I think he settles into the third-line role with Sam Reinhart back, it is very encouraging for Buffalo and their fans.
Thompson likely has a ways to go before he’s fantasy-relevant for people not in keeper/dynasty leagues. He’s still fighting with talented players for coveted roles and has to surpass some of those same players to get the top PP minutes. All the same, it’s nice to see him wow fans and writers alike in a good way.
Preseason hockey, for the most part, doesn’t mean much fantasy-wise. The vast majority of roster spots are spoken for, and the ones that aren’t don’t usually carry much fantasy relevance. As long as the players make it through camp healthy, we’re just looking forward to the start of the regular season.
It doesn’t mean that preseason is to be entirely dismissed. Throughout the summer, assumptions have to be made about roles; which players are on which lines and which power-play units can significantly increase or decrease fantasy value.
I wanted to take the time to go through some players whose fantasy value has changed based on preseason roles. Of course, this is always subject to change, but it’s where we stand as of today. These will only be players who seem to have either forced the coach’s hand or have a lock on a certain role. There are players like Daniel Sprong, Valentin Zykov, or Roope Hintz that have seen their roles fluctuate drastically so it’s not worth cementing them in one spot or another.
Despite the goal-scoring dropping off drastically from 2016-17 to 2017-18, Maroon posted one more point last year (43) than two years ago (42). After signing with St. Louis, it seemed he was destined to skate on the third line with Jaden Schwartz and Robby Fabbri slotting ahead of him. That has not been the case almost the entirety of camp.
Including Tuesday night’s game, Maroon has seen extensive time on the top line with Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko. This has also included some time on the top PP unit, though as I mentioned to Steve Laidlaw a few nights ago, I’ll believe he’s a lock on the top unit when I see it in the regular season.
Even without those top PP minutes though, Maroon can provide a lot of value in leagues that use peripheral stats. Whether it be penalty minutes (168 over the last two seasons), hits (339 over the last two seasons), shots (just over two per game over the last two seasons), Maroon can bring it across the board. He’s posted back-to-back 40-point seasons with just 13 PPPs mixed in. Those top PP minutes aren’t necessary but would be nice.
Even just repeating last year’s numbers would mean a return on draft-day investment as he’s often being drafted around spot no. 200. If he can put up a handful more stats across the board with some additional ice time compared to his downturn after the trade to New Jersey, he can return much more than just his ADP investment.
The drum that I had been banging all offseason was that many of the Leafs players, from John Tavares to Jake Gardiner, would be over-drafted. A big crux of my argument was that the Leafs had typically split across two PP units the last few years, and if that continued, no one player would rack up the PPPs because of the split ice time. Also, the uncertainty of how Mitch Marner’s unit would produce with the losses of Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk factored in.
Well, all that has changed. Mike Babcock has shown in practice, as well as in an entertaining soundbite, the likelihood that he would stack the top PP unit with Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, Nazem Kadri, and Morgan Rielly. Things may change once William Nylander is signed but that is the top unit for now.
Last year, Rielly spent most of his power-play time on the Marner PP unit, by far Toronto’s more productive PP quintet. Rielly managed 25 PPPs on that high-scoring unit while Jake Gardiner spent most of his time on the Auston Matthews PP squad. Gardiner managed as many total points as Rielly (52) but relied a lot more on even-strength secondary assists (17 to Rielly’s 5) than PPPs (15). Suppose those secondary assists tank and Gardiner loses a lot of PP time to that stacked top unit, how likely does it seem he repeats anywhere close to 52 points?
Having all their top guns on one unit might be great for their power play as a whole, and guys like Matthews and Rielly in particular, but this is a big problem for Gardiner’s fantasy value. Gardiner relies on assists for fantasy value, and a decline in PP assists as well as secondary even-strength ones could tank his fantasy performance.
With the uncertainty in Ryan Kesler’s health this year, things seemed wide open for Steel to assume third-line duties for the Ducks. They could slide Adam Henrique into Kesler’s role, keep the top line together, and allow a couple young guys like Steel and Ondrej Kase on the third line in a sheltered role.
He has been moved around the lineup, but Steel has been pretty much a constant for the Ducks in the preseason. He has not been someone necessarily moved down the lineup, but he’s spent time with Kase, Corey Perry, and Rickard Rakell at times.
The fact that Steel might make the Ducks roster isn’t necessarily a surprise. What is a surprise is how the coaches seem to view him; He’s not being stuck solely in a minimal role skating with lesser players. He’s lined up, at times, with the top wingers the Ducks have. Whether that continues through the season is unlikely but it does bode well for now.
There are always a handful of players that seem to force the coach’s hand and plays his way onto the team in preseason. Yamamoto definitely fits this bill.
When I released my rankings a couple weeks ago, I wrote that I had Yamamoto playing half the season with Connor McDavid and one-quarter with Leon Draisaitl. My expectation at the time was that he would, indeed, force the hand of Todd McLellan and not be relegated to the bottom-6 and a pithy fantasy season. Yamamoto is, at worst, their second-most talented right winger and could be the breakout star the Oilers need to bring some scoring from the wings.
Power-play units could be a mess all year for the Oilers but I’m at the point where I feel confident that Yamamoto has not only played his way onto the team, but into a scoring role at even strength. As I type that, it feels like famous last words. Don’t let me down, Todd.
By the way, Jesse Puljujarvi has looked fantastic in preseason. Yes, I know, ‘it’s preseason’ but there’s no way the coaching staff hasn’t noticed, either. The issue is that Ty Rattie seems locked as Connor McDavid’s right winger with Yamamoto or Tobias Rieder on the second line. Puljujarvi may be so good that he’s relied upon to bring scoring depth rather than as a running mate for one of the team’s top centres.
What the Flyers’ top-6 would look like with the addition of James van Riemsdyk and the emergence of Konecny was uncertain. It seemed Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier would be on the top line, Nolan Patrick would centre the second line, but beyond that, there were four players (JvR, Konecny, Voracek, Simmonds) for three spots in the top-6.
It appears Konecny has solidified his spot on the top line.
Now, that’s nice, but we’re still waiting for word on Sean Couturier’s status. He left practice a few days ago with trainers and nothing has been released since. If he’s good to go, that’s a big bonus for Couturier. If he’s not, that’s going to be an issue for both his and Giroux’s fantasy value.
All the same, it feels like we’re a year away from having ‘where does Konecny fit among the top young players in the game’ conversations. He had a great year in 2017-18 by several underlying metrics and looks to be in position to improve his raw production numbers this year.
That Konecny has taken a top-6 spot from Simmonds isn’t good news for the latter’s fantasy value, though he’s always been PP reliant anyway. What the PP looks like when the season starts is anyone’s guess.
Judging by what the Blackhawks have done this preseason, I wouldn’t expect any consistent forward combinations beyond Nick Schmaltz skating with Patrick Kane. Alex DeBrincat is likely to stay with Jonathan Toews as well but I feel better about the former pair of forwards than the latter. But expecting any sort of consistent usage from Dylan Sikura, Artem Anisimov, or Brandon Saad is going to be a fool’s errand.
It also looks like they’re pretty high on Adam Boqvist, given he ran the top PP unit for them a couple nights ago. He got sent back to junior but obviously made a good impression. They’ll need him sooner rather than later.
Eeli Tolvanen had also been seeing some PP1 time and Eeli Tolvanen has also been sent down, but to the AHL. He'll be back up this season.