Ramblings: Summarizing the Western Conference

Michael Clifford



Today is the last Saturday without regular season NHL for a long while. We’ve survived the offseason and the too-long preseason. It also means it’s the last draft weekend, so if you’re in need of a quick reference for your drafts, head over to the Dobber Shop to grab the guide. There may be too much to take in just one day but the accompanying projections and draft lists can help in a pinch.


Many promising young stars have been cut from their NHL team in recent days and the most recent was Lias Andersson being sent to the Rangers’ AHL affiliate. The top-10 pick from 2017 will have to wait to get back to the NHL after finishing the season with the Rangers last year.

There is nothing to panic about fantasy-wise unless you drafted him in one-year leagues. Not every teenager can step into the NHL in their first year or two. Whether he earned a spot in the NHL to start the year is another question, but this isn’t some sort of indictment on his long-term fantasy value.  


With Seth Jones injured, Markus Nutivaara was skating alongside Zach Werenski in practice yesterday. The latter was confirmed to patrol the top PP unit, but this could give Nutivaara some ancillary value in deeper leagues. He’s also a name to keep in mind for those that play DFS.


St. Louis deployed some interesting power play units in practice yesterday:

Now, whichever unit has Vladimir Tarasenko is the de facto PP1, but the way the talent is split leads me to believe this could be a split-TOI situation for the Blues, at least to start the year. Not that the top guys were overly reliant on PP production last year but this could be an issue for upside this year.


Yesterday I started my round-up for those with their drafts this weekend. My Ramblings through the offseason and preseason have comprised of tens of thousands of words and expecting people to have read and remember them all is unrealistic. I’m going to go team by team and review some notable players I’ve discussed, which will include their outlook for 2018-19.

Today is the Western Conference.


Anaheim Ducks

With the recent injury to Corey Perry, the door for Ondrej Kase to get those top PP minutes has been kicked down. He may not skate with Ryan Getzlaf a lot but if he gets those top minutes, improving on last year’s production seems likely.

Rickard Rakell continues to be undervalued in standard Yahoo! leagues. Not many wingers can provide 30 goals, 30 assists, 3 shots per game, and triple-digit hits. Rakell is one of them.

Ryan Getzlaf can push a point per game but don’t just focus on his assist totals. He can provide two shots per game and triple-digit hits. If you’re avoiding drafting a top centre early, he’s one to grab later in drafts.


Arizona Coyotes

The injury to Alex Galchenyuk has muddled a lot of things. With the existing injury to Christian Dvorak, this is not a team deep down the middle and we’ve seen talk about Clayton Keller or Vinnie Hinostroza possibly sliding to the middle.

Speaking of Keller, don’t be surprised if he pushes past 70 points, even if Galchenyuk misses a couple weeks of the season.

Jakob Chychrun is a guy to target in deeper drafts who can not only provide real-time stats like solid hits and blocks, and perhaps to get to the 30-point mark.

Antti Raanta should be a late target in net for a lot of people.


Calgary Flames

In all formats, Johnny Gaudreau ranks as one of the highest players on my list. Not many players can threaten 90 points, but he can, and can do so at a wing position, even without hits or blocked shots.

Mark Giordano is one of my favourite targets outside the top-12 defencemen. He had to share PP duties with Dougie Hamilton last year and does not have that threat this year. The additions of Elias Lindholm and James Neal should add more scoring and help Giordano surpass 40 points again.

Matthew Tkachuk looks primed for a big year in all formats but even more so in leagues counting hits or PIMs.


Colorado Avalanche

Beyond the usual suspects, one guy to watch is Tyson Jost. I’m not sure he’ll have much relevance in most leagues, but in deeper leagues, he should be the fourth forward on the top PP unit. He’s cheap source of PP points going very late. Again, only for deeper leagues.

Be wary of drafting Gabriel Landeskog too high in multi-cat leagues. Last year is probably as good as it gets. Expecting improvement beyond that is asking a bit too much.

If you miss out on guys like John Klingberg, Shayne Gostisbehere, and John Carlson, drafting Tyson Barrie is just fine. He should pass 50 points again.


Dallas Stars

We know all about the top stars (pun very much intended). Don’t be shy to grab either Tyler Seguin or Jamie Benn in the second round. This team, thankfully, won’t be the Ken Hitchcock Dallas Stars. Look for them to get back to being fun to watch again.

Jason Spezza’s health is always a concern but he has the inside track to getting back on the top PP unit.

Valeri Nichushkin, on the other hand, doesn’t look like he’ll be featured on the top PP unit anytime soon. I love his talent but we’ve been down this road before and he’s already a bit nicked up in the preseason. Look elsewhere.

The defence corps is going to be a lot of fun to watch this year. Don’t be surprised if Miro Heiskanen has a Calder-worthy season, though his true fantasy relevance probably won’t be very high just yet, even if he does skate with Klingberg.


Edmonton Oilers

Given the goings-on in the preseason, Ty Rattie is going to be a popular pick. We’ve seen a lot of wingers fall off Connor McDavid’s line in his brief career. I’m more focused on drafting Jesse Puljujarvi late. Surely, he has to eventually make his way to the top PP unit, right?

I also am a fan of Kailer Yamamoto but his promotion to the top PP unit seems unlikely.

Oscar Klefbom is one of the more under-valued defencemen in drafts. He’s regularly going outside the top-30 defencemen and he’s more than capable of 200 shots and 40 points.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being available around pick 100 and having multi-positional eligibility seems like a very nice option. Let’s just hope that 2017-18 doesn’t rear its ugly head and have a lineup shuffle every other game.


Los Angeles Kings

To me, Anze Kopitar is one of the most over-valued players in standard Yahoo! leagues right now. He had a career year pretty much across the board and came in around player-20. He’s being often drafted around player 30-35. Expecting him to nearly repeat last year is what his ADP is demanding. I’d rather draft Jeff Carter 100 picks later.

A lot of people I’ve seen have Ilya Kovalchuk in the 60-point neighbourhood. I think, for the most part, this is people (present company included) saying, ‘I really don’t know how this is going to go.’ We give our best guess and move along. He’s a risk.

I really hope Tyler Toffoli bounces back but he should be locked out of the top PP unit. Not that he’s often found himself there in the past, but it’ll continue to hinder his fantasy upside.


Minnesota Wild

The word is out on Jason Zucker and he’s going with frequency in the top-10 rounds of a 12-team league. There’s nothing wrong with that, though. He’s a discounted Rickard Rakell.

Eric Staal is being drafted like he’ll repeat close to last year. Maybe not quite 40-plus goals, but it seems 30-plus is the expectation. I’m not sure he’s worth his ADP. This is another instance where I’ll wait and grab someone like Jeff Carter, or even Mika Zibanejad or Nico Hischier.

I don’t have a particular issue with where Matt Dumba is being drafted, but I don’t think there’s a lot of profit to be had, either. He’s fine as a second defenceman in that he shouldn’t bust, but he won’t take another huge leap, either.

I’m a believer in Mikael Granlund’s career turnaround. You should be too.


Nashville Predators

Eeli Tolvanen being sent to the AHL (temporarily) is not what early drafters were hoping for but this won’t last long. He’ll be back sooner rather than later.

I believe that Kevin Fiala forces his way to the top PP unit. In fact, he’ll take another step altogether. Look for him to push 30 goals.

Everyone is waiting for the year Filip Forsberg pushes a point per game in a healthy season. I’m willing to bite this year.

I’m not one buying the half-season sample from Ryan Ellis last year. He can be a 40-point guy but expecting more than that from him is expecting too much. Draft accordingly.


St. Louis Blues

The revamped offence has a lot of things up in the air but Patrick Maroon looks locked on the top line and may even get some top PP minutes. He’s far too cheap in multi-category leagues right now.

There aren’t many players who can threaten for the Rocket Richard Trophy and Vladimir Tarasenko is one of them. Being able to draft him in the third round is a gift, it doesn’t matter the format. He looks healthy which is all that matters.

Last year was probably the high-water mark for Alex Pietrangelo. I don’t like drafting established players and expecting more out of them than the previous season just to return value on their ADP. Pietrangelo falls in this category.

Ryan O’Reilly’s ADP is hilariously low. He’s also another guy I’d flat-out rather draft than Eric Staal, let alone being able to get him several rounds later.


San Jose Sharks

I mean, what can we say? I officially have Brent Burns first and Erik Karlsson third among d-men but picking one over the other is like picking a favourite child.

Joe Pavelski rebounding will depend a lot on the health of Joe Thornton. So goes one as does the other. I will take a gamble on Pavelski but will do so as a winger rather than a centre.

If Evander Kane can manage nearly 80 games again, his ADP is an absolute steal. If he cannot, well, he might return his ADP regardless. He can be a top-50 player in multi-cat leagues even if he plays just 70 games.

Timo Meier is a guy to get late in drafts. He quietly had 20 goals last year and has the profile of a player who can push 30 even without the top PP minutes. He’s been pretty consistently in the top-6 of late in preseason.


Vancouver Canucks

I’m not concerned about a regression from Brock Boeser and you shouldn’t be either. This kid is special.

Speaking of special, if I could only draft one rookie this year, it’s Elias Pettersson. Just the top PP minutes alone should mean he’ll pass 50 points. Not many rookies elsewhere can boast that.

Alex Edler can’t be relied upon to stay healthy but he’s a multi-category monster for 60-plus games. Add the replacement player you can slide in for him and he’s probably worth his ADP.

I don’t think there’s much value to be had on this roster aside from players to be featured on the top power play.


Vegas Golden Knights

There are very few rookies who’ve impressed in the preseason as much than Erik Brannstrom. The suspension to Nate Schmidt had opened the door for Brannstrom to make the team but he was cut a couple days ago. Hold in dynasties but maybe not much here in 2018-19.

Max Pacioretty was due to rebound anyway but having a centre the quality of Paul Stastny should only cement that. He can be a multi-category beast this year at a wing position. Don’t let him pass you by.

Don’t expect Marc-Andre Fleury to repeat last year’s ratios.

William Karlsson will regress but won’t fall off the map. Regardless, Jonathan Marchessault is the guy to own off the top line in multi-cat leagues.


Winnipeg Jets

Even with regression built into his projection, Blake Wheeler comes out as one of my most valuable wingers. He’s a gift pick in the second, even third round.

I love Nikolaj Ehlers but without the prime PP minutes, he won’t reach his true fantasy potential. Be wary of over-drafting him.

I know Jack Roslovic is a sexy sleeper pick this year (just type his name and ‘sleeper’ in the google machine) but I’m not buying that he’ll A) replace Bryan Little on the second line, and B) get top PP minutes. We’ll have to wait for his true breakout season.


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