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. There are always a handful of players that seem to force the coach’s hand and plays his way onto the team in preseason. Kailer Yamamoto definitely fits this bill. The 20-year-old saw himself on the fourth line or worse when camp opened and was all the way up to the second line with Leon Draisaitl and Milan Lucic early on this past week.

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 Draisaitl. My expectation at the time was that he would indeed force the hand of coach Todd McLellan and not be relegated to the bottom-six 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. (sep27)


2. 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 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 centers. (sep27)

I can’t think of a scenario right now where Rattie isn’t on McDavid’s line on opening night, so Rattie has to be on your list of potential sleepers. This is simply a continuation of Rattie’s late-season success (nine points in 14 games) on the McDavid line. I’m not sure that Rattie sticks and believe that Puljujarivi is the better long-term option. However, Rattie was a two-time 100-plus points scorer in the WHL, so this could simply be a matter of him finding the right opportunity. He sure won’t find a better opportunity than this one. (sep26)


3. Only Brent Burns has more goals over the past four seasons (85) than Oliver Ekman-Larsson (70). The ADP (average draft position) of 107.9 in Yahoo leagues might turn out to be a real bargain for OEL, particularly if the Coyotes take a step forward this season and his plus-minus recovers. Unfortunately, OEL has been a minus-77 over that same four-year span. That number is trending toward improvement, though. With the Coyotes being a much better team in the second half than the first half, OEL was a plus-13 over the final two months of the season. (sep30)


4. Jesperi Kotkaniemi has made the opening-night roster of the Montreal Canadiens. Between reaching for Kotkaniemi third overall and him making the squad as an 18-year-old, it’s clear that the Habs are very high on this kid. At one point, Nick Suzuki seemed like a stronger bet to make the Habs out of camp given that he is a year older but thanks to a strong camp, Kotkaniemi will receive at the very least a nine-game audition. There is the debate as to whether it’s worth using a year of Kotkaniemi’s entry-level contract now but the fact that the Habs are so thin at forward has helped Kotkaniemi’s cause. (sep30)

There was a chance that Suzuki would make the Habs’ roster but he will have a chance to record another 100-point season in the OHL. He’s one player I’d love to see in the World Juniors, considering he was one of Canada’s final cuts last season. (sep26)


5. One popular offseason debate has been which new Flames’ acquisition – Elias Lindholm or James Neal – will see top-line minutes with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. The answer, according to the Calgary Sun, is both. What do you mean the Flames should make up their minds? Don’t you know by following the Frozen Pool line combinations that teams line juggle all the time?

Personally, I think it would be better for the Flames to put Lindholm there, as he has more to offer overall. Hopefully I’m not just saying that because I drafted Lindholm. In fairness, Neal is more of the pure, proven goal scorer. However, Lindholm seems to be better in matchups and faceoffs and he’s the only right-handed shot of the four forwards mentioned here. But, at just 18 percent ownership compared to the 56 percent ownership of Neal, Lindholm needs to be owned in more fantasy leagues. (sep30)

Also with the Flames: Mark Giordano is one of my favorite targets outside the top-12 defensemen. He had to share power play duties with Dougie Hamilton last year and does not have that threat this year. The additions of Lindholm and Neal  should add more scoring and help Giordano surpass 40 points again. (sep29)


6. I think people are starting to overdraft Hamilton. He’s a great real-life player and has top-five fantasy upside among defensemen 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 he’ll split top PP duties with Justin Faulk. (sep28)


7. 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. (sep29)


8. Many promising young stars have been cut from their NHL team in recent days such as 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 Blueshirts 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. (sep29)


9. A couple of injury notes. 1: 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. Basically, Perry was 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. 2: 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. (sep27)


10. With the uncertainty in Ryan Kesler’s health this year, things seemed wide open for Sam Steel to assume third-line pivot 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  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, the now-injured 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. (sep27)


11. Alex Galchenyuk is currently week-to-week with a lower-body injury and is not expected to be ready for opening night. This news means that you should move Galchenyuk down your draft rankings at least a little bit. It might also cement Dylan Strome for the Coyotes’ opening-night roster. I’d be surprised if Strome is sent to the AHL anyway, although I think that would have more to do with his defensive play than anything. (sep26)


12. Corey Crawford last played a game on December 23 and he is considered doubtful for the season opener. His ADP of 123 on Yahoo is way too high, considering that we have no potential return date and he is dealing with a concussion. But, if you’re looking for a silver lining, there is the possibility that he could return to practice this week. Yet there’s enough there for me to move Crawford onto my ‘do not draft’ list. I would only consider him a late-round option at this point, as there is considerable risk here.

Crawford’s injury means that Cam Ward remains a possibility in fantasy leagues. Maybe not the best goalie option on your waiver wire, if last Tuesday’s result is any indication (six goals allowed on 17 shots). But, these games don’t count and he’s still an option if you desperately need to fill a starting goalie void. He’s only 11 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, so chances are he’s available in yours. If he can’t figure it out, though, the Blackhawks might be in deep trouble. (sep26)


13. Another Cory (Cory Schneider) is expected to travel with his team to Europe for the Global Series to start the season, but it is not known whether he will start in any games there.  I wouldn’t place Schneider on my ‘do not draft’ list even though he has been recovering from hip surgery since early May.

Schneider should still be considered the slight favorite to start over Keith Kinkaid but this news suggests that Schneider owners should consider drafting Kinkaid as a later-round handcuff option. Contracts ($6 million for Schneider, $1 million for Kinkaid) will also matter, which means that Schneider will be given every opportunity to reclaim the starting job. However, health and performance could also result in Kinkaid at least matching Schneider in games started as he did in 2017-18. (sep26)


14. More top-10 Fantasy Calder Candidates. This exercise has focused on the point-production of the 2018-19 rookies and how valuable they’ll be to your squad this season.

Casey Mittelstadt: The eighth overall selection from 2017 had an interesting draft-plus one campaign. He stepped out of High-school hockey and into his freshman season at the University of Minnesota. There he produced 30 points in 34 games. Strong results but not world-beating. He was demonstrably more impressive at the World Juniors and concluded his campaign with six contests for the Sabres. There he scored a goal and added four helpers. That final stretch of action had fantasy manager licking their chops.

The Good, 21-41-62: If things fall into place, Mittelstadt owns the high-level speed and skill to produce top-end freshman numbers. The key will be in his deployment (big surprise), his team taking a massive step forward and his ability to adjust to the NHL on an everyday basis. The 19-year-old is penciled in as the second line center behind Jack Eichel. He’ll be flanked by Kyle Okposo and Conor Sheary. That’s not a bad place to be. And he’ll be afforded secondary matchups as the defensive focus will be squarely placed on L1.

A spot on the top power play unit is key here. And realistic. If the American pivot can find his sea legs at even-strength, Okposo bounces back, and the Sabres top power play unit starts finishing as their talent-level would indicate possible, it’ll be a fun year in Northern New York.

The Bad, 8-23-31: The preseason hasn’t gone as smoothly as Mitteltstadt and the Sabres would have liked. That could mean little but if it’s an indication of his situation play, the numbers will suffer. A lack of chemistry or production on L2 and a spot on the secondary power play unit will be leaving owners disappointed.

The Likely, 14-31-45: As per usual, the most likely is somewhere in the middle. Mittelstadt will see some decent deployment opportunities but it’s difficult to produce at even-strength as a rookie, as especially one who is tasked with the responsibility of a center and moving around mid-level wingers. He’ll likely see stretches on each of the power play units, providing a boost to the production but likely not massively so. (sep25)


15. Going into the preseason, all the hype in Buffalo seemed to surround either 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 Tage 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 must surpass some of those same players to get the top PP minutes. (sep27)


15. Andrei Svechnikov: The No.2 overall selection will go first overall in a lot of rookie drafts this fall. The dynamic Russian goal-scorer is a threat from all over the ice. His ability to convert from outside the dots is as impressive as his willingness to get dirty and finish the hard way down low. Svechnikov joins a tantalizing young core in Carolina. He has the opportunity to mesh with Sebastian Aho or Martin Necas – not a bad proposition. He’s physically mature. Owns high-end skill and is entering a good situation. This is a rare player with 40-goal upside.

The Good, 32-32-64: Chemistry on the top line and top power next to Aho would go a long way in his bid for a Calder Trophy. Svechnikov was one of the best even-strength scorers in junior hockey and looks to continue that trend.

The Bad, 18-20-38: The same as always – slow start, lack of power play time, missing chemistry at evens. Of all the players listed, this seems the least likely.

The Likely, 27-26-53: Plenty of goals. Plenty of highlight reels made. Plenty of good times in Carolina. A 53-point season is nothing to sneeze at and is just the first step in what should be a terrific career. (sep25)


17. Mike Green is suffering from exhaustion caused by a virus but is apparently over the worst of it. He’ll spend a few days battling the rest of it off and then another few days regaining his strength and conditioning. Still, it’s a better prognosis than what it looked like on Friday, so I am guessing he misses just the first two or three games of the season.

That still means Detroit will start with two rookie defensemen this year and then send one back after Green returns. The candidates – Dennis Cholowski, Filip Hronek, Joe Hicketts, Libor Sulak and Vili Saarijarvi. The player who turned heads last season in the AHL is Hronek. The player turning heads in training camp right now is Cholowski. So, those are my two picks, with the two of them battling it out in the first few games of the season for the right to stay with the team upon Green’s return. I tend to think that, based on his pro season last year, Hronek ends up winning out. But Cholowski was taken 20th overall in 2016, 33 spots before Hronek, and has a higher ceiling.

In a game this past week, Cholowski saw 21:45 to Hronek at 19:45 for ice time. More importantly, Cholowski saw 5:00 of PP time and Hronek 2:46. So you can see where Coach Jeff Blashill is leaning. I’m starting to want to slide Cholowski into the sneaky dark horse category, so Sammy Blais better move over and make room. (sep24)


18. One player who is turning heads in Blackhawks camp is Dominik Kahun, a Czech/German late-bloomer who was never drafted but was signed by Chicago after posting nearly a point-per-game in the German League. and tallying five points in seven games for Team Germany in the Olympics. He probably won’t have a big, lasting fantasy impact this year but he could be a Joonas Donskoi type who gets 35 points in his rookie season (I have him for 26). His linemates have been Alex DeBrincat and Jonathan Toews recently, so you know that coach John Quenneville is taking his bid for a roster spot seriously. (sep24)


19. Since I am on the topic of Chicago, fantasy owners are keeping a close eye on the defensemen situation. With both Connor Murphy and Gustav Forsling out with injuries, you can count Erik Gustafsson as a shoe-in and frankly I think he is a nice little dark horse in deeper fantasy leagues. But, what keeper owners have been watching is what happens to Henri Jokiharju and Adam Boqvist (who was eventually sent back to the OHL this week).

With regards to Boqvist, I have been saying since May that this year’s draft class was heavy in talented defensemen and lighter in terms of forwards. And I was surprised when NHL teams picked forwards over defensemen anyway, reaching for forwards higher in the draft and letting good defensemen slip. So, my attitude when it comes to blueliners from the 2018 class has been to boost their value-rating but drop the forwards down a bit. Boqvist was drafted eighth overall but in terms of future fantasy upside he’s probably top-five. He’s been turning heads and in terms of pure talent he is an NHL player. But he’s so small that I still struggle to see him on Chicago this year. He can wait a year.

While Boqvist was drafted eighth overall this summer, Jokiharju was selected a year ago at 29th overall. He proceeded to embarrass the WHL with ridiculous numbers for a defenseman (71 points in 63 games, fifth among WHL rearguards). Jokiharju is making things difficult for Chicago to send him back there and the fact that he has nothing more to learn at the junior level also plays in his favor. I’m thinking Joki makes the squad for at least the nine-game trial. (sep24)


20. I’m starting to develop a Cam-Atkinson-like man crush on St. Louis prospect Sammy Blais. I first took him seriously back in May when analyzing his situation, his numbers, what the organization says about him, for the Fantasy Prospects Report. I thought he had excellent sleeper potential, between scoring 26 goals as an AHL rookie in 2016-17 and then nearly a point-per-game there in 2017-18. I call him ‘Mike Hoffman’ in terms of upside. But then the Blues went out and added a pile of proven NHL players and I shifted Blais off my radar for this year. But man, the guy keeps showing up on the scoresheet and while I know it’s only preseason, it has to be making an impression on coach Mike Yeo. (sep24)


Have a good week, folks!!



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