Ramblings: Summarizing the Eastern Conference – September 28

Michael Clifford



It’s the final draft weekend of the season. Hopefully, you’re ready for your drafts. If you’re like me, when it comes to most things in life, everything’s being left to the last second.

I can’t stress enough how much the Dobber Guide can help in this respect. It gets the reader caught up on all the developments in camp, provides a simple draft list for different league formats, gives important line combinations, and a whole lot more.

In an effort to do my part, I want to give a crash course on players I’ve covered over the last several months. It will cover players I’m high on, players I’m not, and instances where I’ve changed my opinion. This will take a while, so I’ll do half the league for today’s Ramblings and half for tomorrow.

We’ll start with the Eastern Conference.


Boston Bruins

Yahoo’s new standard format reduces the value of Brad Marchand. He’s always been a player to rack up penalty minutes, not hits. Before drafting him late in the first round or sometime in the second, check your league settings.

Ryan Donato is the winger that could bring the most value of the non-top line options if only because it appears he has the inside track to the top PP unit. Jake DeBrusk is going to have a good year but his upside is capped due to power play concerns.

I am out on Charlie McAvoy this year given that he’s being drafted somewhere in the top-100. At that ADP, he absolutely has to be a 40-plus point defenceman with good peripherals. That’s a lot to ask.


Buffalo Sabres

I was cool on Jeff Skinner because my assumption was he’d be on the second line. He’s been with Jack Eichel almost all preseason and this has changed my projections. He has the tools and role necessary to be a top-25 forward almost regardless of format.

If you’re buying on Rasmus Dahlin, just read the section on Charlie McAvoy, and then realize he’s being drafted ahead of the Bruins blue liner. No thanks.

Count me out on Casey Mittelstadt, too.

The steam on Sam Reinhart is starting to get to be a bit much. I don’t think he busts at his ADP but I’ve seen him go inside the top-125 at times. Hard to return a profit there.

People seem awfully confident that Carter Hutton is going to make 55-plus starts this year. That’s a bit confounding when you remember he’s in his age-33 season and has never made 35 starts in a season.


Carolina Hurricanes

There are a handful of rookies I’m targeting in one-year leagues and Andrei Svechnikov is one of them. Don’t be surprised if he plays himself into a prominent role. He may have to spend a couple weeks on your fantasy bench but have patience.

I think people are starting to over-draft Dougie Hamilton. He’s a great real-life player and has top-5 fantasy upside among defencemen if all breaks right, but the Carolina goaltending is still a giant question mark and they could murder his plus/minus. We’re still not sure how much that team, outside of the top line, will score, and it looks like the he’ll split top PP duties with Justin Faulk.

There are a lot of players worth a late-round shot like Valentin Zykov and Martin Necas, but they might be more suited for deeper leagues than standard 12-teamers.

Sebastian Aho is going to have the season we’ve been waiting for from Filip Forsberg.


Columbus Blue Jackets

The injury to Seth Jones has changed a lot and I have no problem drafting Zach Werenski anywhere outside the top-10 defencemen.

Josh Anderson is going to be one of those guys who has a good year but will struggled to be fantasy-relevant because of his role. Pass outside of deeper leagues.

There’s a lot of talk around the elite talent of Artemi Panarin and the breakout of Pierre-Luc Dubois. Not as much talk about their consistent right winger, Cam Atkinson. Consider him a safety valve at right wing once the elite options are off the board.


Detroit Red Wings

If the Detroit power play isn’t a mess (big IF there), Dylan Larkin could have a huge year. The issue is that the puck-moving defencemen are few and far between with Mike Green’s health an issue right now.

In 12-team leagues, there’s not a single defenceman or goalie I’d draft off this roster.

Anthony Mantha should be a target for fantasy owners but has the same issue as Larkin: the upside isn’t there if the power play is a disaster.


Florida Panthers

The preseason has made me do a complete 180 on Evgeni Dadonov. I was worried about the loss of PP time with the addition of Mike Hoffman, which could hurt his numbers even though he wasn’t really reliant on them last year. It appears, though, that it’s Jonathan Huberdeau losing those top PP minutes. Look for Dadonov to improve on last year’s totals.

If you’re in a multi-category league of almost any type, don’t let Vincent Trocheck slide too far. He’s one of the top across-the-board performers in the league. Even if he drops 20 points from last year (which he won’t), he’s a top-50 player. Don’t let him fall beyond that in your drafts.

Funny how just a year ago, everyone was afraid of drafting Aleksander Barkov because of being injury-prone. Now? Not so much. A year can change a lot.

If at all possible, avoid the goaltending here. The team has a brutal schedule to open the year and I’m not sure there’s one guy to rely on.


Montreal Canadiens

Both Artturi Lehkonen and Charles Hudon are deep-league targets. Were I a betting man, at least one of them will be a 20-goal guy this year. I’d draft Lehkonen first but don’t sleep on either.

In shallower leagues, I’m not sure there’s a forward worth drafting other than Brendan Gallagher. And   there’s not a defenceman worth drafting other than Jeff Petry. Gallagher specifically is being severely under-valued in multi-category leagues. He should be a target of everyone.

Carey Price is going to be cheap in drafts, at least as far as goalies are concerned. It’s up to you to decide if he’s good enough to overcome what should be a pretty bad team.


New Jersey Devils

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: when the first week of April rolls around, people are going to wonder how they let Nico Hischier slide in their drafts. Don’t be one of those people. Get him on as many rosters as you can in any format.

Kyle Palmieri may be the second-most under-valued player in standard Yahoo! leagues (next to Gallagher). I don’t like predicting exactly where a player will finish, but if he’s healthy all year, he’s a top-50 skater.

Jesper Bratt is a deep sleeper in case he can make his way to the top line consistently. Also, I think this is the year Pavel Zacha finally shows why he was a top-10 pick in 2015. Enough to be fantasy-relevant in most leagues? No. But his price in dynasty leagues will be a lot more expensive in 8 months.


New York Islanders

If you’re in a league counting plus/minus, Nick Leddy is probably undraftable. Even with a new coach in town, the bottom-half of that forward group is absolutely horrific.

People seem to be drafting Anders Lee as if he’ll fall off the face of the planet. He still does enough in categories like hits and shots to have relevance, and he’ll be a constant on the top PP unit.

Look for a big year from Jordan Eberle. He’ll be attached to Mat Barzal and will finally get those top PP minutes that he couldn’t get last year.

Speaking of Barzal, don’t expect a big improvement on last year. He’s elite, there’s no question about that, but expecting to improve on 80-plus points is asking a lot of any second-year player.


New York Rangers

Draft parts of the top line (Kreider, Zibanejad) and that may be it. Like Leddy, Kevin Shattenkirk could have his plus/minus murdered this year. If he’s healthy, he’ll be productive, but he could easily be minus-25 if Henrik Lundqvist doesn’t go God Mode this year.

Defencemen like Brady Skjei and Neal Pionk can bring good peripheral stats for a cheap ADP for a lot of people. Again, it’s just a matter of plus/minus concerns.

Yeah, draft Chris Kreider. He’s in the same boat as Gallagher and Palmieri in that he’s being severely undervalued in multi-category leagues.


Ottawa Senators



Philadelphia Flyers

A lot is resting on the knee of Sean Couturier. His missing time would open a centre spot on the top PP unit but it would also leave Claude Giroux with a much less talented centre. I’d be worried about drafting either of them this weekend.

Travis Konecny seems solidified as the top-line right winger, but again, will it be with Couturier or Not Couturier?

Nolan Patrick had a very good second half last year and will get talented wingers this year. Maybe he’ll take Couturier’s spot on the top PP unit? Might be worth a gamble late in drafts. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Wayne Simmonds could be in for a rough year if he’s stuck on the third line and without (possibly) those top PP minutes.

In general, there are a lot of things in flux with the Flyers that could change this team’s outlook.


Pittsburgh Penguins

The usual suspects are all in play again. Don’t forget about Justin Schultz, though. He’ll be featured on the top PP unit at times again this year. A healthy year could see Schultz get back to 40 points and he’s very cheap in drafts. He’s more a points-only league target than multi-category leagues, though.

Jake Guentzel’s huge hit totals for a scoring winger put him firmly in play in standard Yahoo! leagues. But he’ll have to be closer to a 60-point guy than a 50-point guy to return his ADP. Can he reach that mark without the top PP minutes? I’m not so sure.

Don’t expect Daniel Sprong to be in the top-6 for the majority of the year. He’ll yo-yo around like most of their wingers.


Tampa Bay Lightning

Brayden Point is locked into the top PP unit and it looks like he might get Nikita Kucherov as a winger at times this year. He’s a burgeoning superstar. Do not be surprised if he cruises past 70 points.

The re-arrangement of the top line could affect JT Miller’s value. There’s a difference between playing with Stamkos/Kucherov and Stamkos/Killorn. All the same, he should be good for 20 goals, 50 points, and a healthy amount of hits.

Do not fret a sophomore slump from Mikhail Sergachev, but do be concerned about one from Yanni Gourde. I think we’ve seen the best we’ll see from the latter.


Toronto Maple Leafs

With the coaching staff deciding to stack the top PP unit, 60 points is firmly in play for Morgan Rielly while 50 points will be a struggle for Jake Gardiner.

There aren’t many players who can realistically threaten the goal-scoring title. Auston Matthews is one of them.

Even with a stacked top PP unit, I think John Tavares is still being over-drafted. I won’t be taking him in the first round. I probably wouldn’t take him in the second round, either.

If you’re holding Nazem Kadri in a keeper or dynasty, the time to trade him would be before William Nylander signs and takes his spot on that top PP unit. Once that happens, and Kadri’s PP minutes are greatly reduced and he’s on the third line with Connor Brown (or whomever), his value will be decimated.


Washington Capitals

I’m not sure there’s anyone being over- or under-drafted on this team. Maybe Nicklas Backstrom in multi-category leagues? That’s about it.

I know Jakub Vrana is a common breakout pick but he won’t get top PP minutes and I think he fluctuates around the lineup. He’s a very talented kid but his ADP is starting to pick up some steam. Just be wary, is all.


Tomorrow is the Western Conference


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