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. Alex DeBrincat has been en fuego to begin the year. He’s skating on the top line, has six goals and nine points in five games and is dispelling any concerns of a sophomore slump. I already liked DeBrincat to break out this season but with that deployment and the early chemistry with Jonathan Toews, he may just smash all expectations. (oct13)
DeBrincat took nearly 200 shots in his rookie season last season, but this season he’s really shooting the puck. In four of his five games, DeBrincat has taken at least four shots on goal. (oct14)
2. I’ve received multiple questions on whether to drop Jake Gardiner. I believe the motivating reasons behind the requests are: 1) Younger d-men off to faster starts (Henri Jokiharju, Thomas Chabot); and 2) Gardiner is not on Toronto’s PP1. Like many Leafs last season, Gardiner was a tweener between the first- and second-unit power plays. By likely losing a few power-play points, his projection might shift from 50 points to around 45. Plus, if the first four games are any indication, there should be plenty of points to go around in TO. I’d continue to hold. (oct10)
3. I was bullish on Thomas Chabot in the Guide, bumping him up to 42 points after the Erik Karlsson trade. But from what I’ve seen, I wonder if he shoots past that mark by the middle of March. Very composed and mature, and six moves ahead of everyone else. I’ll reserve judgment for a few more games. But man, so far so good. (oct8)
4. I was thrilled to learn that my auction-league bids for Henri Jokiharju and Juuso Valimaki went through. Now I must decide which of these prospects I can use this season and which one I need to reserve until next year. I’m going with Jokiharju this season. I’ve had my eye on Valimaki for a while, and the fact that he made the Flames only reinforced my decision to add him. The only problem is that Calgary’s top-four is more solidified than Chicago’s, so I don’t see Valimaki making a major impact this season unless there’s an injury. But the Flames have a couple of solid blueline prospects in the system in Valimaki and Rasmus Andersson.
5. Jokiharju looks like he could be a top-four defenseman right away because the competition in Chicago is more wide open. Being paired with Duncan Keith right off the bat has helped, as 30 points is well within reach. Coach Joel Quenneville isn’t easy to impress but he seems happy with all aspects of Jokiharju’s game. The Hawks might be chained to Brent Seabrook for six more seasons and he might still be on your fantasy radar out of habit, but Quenneville has reduced his minutes (under 20 minutes in four out of five games so far).
Jokiharju jumps to the front of the line of rookie d-men but should you drop an established blueliner to pick him up? This is a tricky one. If Jokiharju hits a rookie wall and struggles, then he could be moved into a 5/6 role. Or, worse yet, he is made a healthy scratch. If it means dropping a d-man that you had penciled in for 40-plus points, I wouldn’t add Jokiharju quite yet. But I’d certainly keep an eye on the situation. (oct10)
6. Welcome back to fantasy relevance, Tomas Tatar. Playing on a line with Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault on Saturday against the Penguins, Tatar scored two goals and added an assist while firing six shots on goal in 21:30 of ice time. Given the Habs’ lack of scoring depth, there was a real possibility that Tatar would play in the Habs’ top-six, and that’s what he’s doing. He played nearly 20 minutes in his previous game. It may not have seemed like it at the time but the Max Pacioretty trade may have helped Tatar’s fantasy value. (oct14)
7. The last spot on the vaunted top power play in Colorado has been taken by Tyson Jost. The former BCHL superstar has a single goal this year (on the PP) but nearly a third of his ice time is with the extra man and lining up with Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Tyson Barrie and company. He’s likely a bit away from a true explosion but with that type of deployment, things should get going quickly. (oct13)
8. The Rangers may be bottoming out this season as they attempt the quick rebuild but one area they don’t need to concern themselves with is in net. At 36 years old, Henrik Lundqvist is still above average. Sure, his consistency isn’t what it once was, but he still possesses strong ability and can be leaned on. But those days won’t last forever. Father Time remains undefeated.
Enter Igor Shestyorkin. The 22-year-old Russian has been building a wall in front of the SKA nets for the last few seasons. Through seven games this year, the 2014 fourth round pick is undefeated. He’s posted four shutouts in the last five games and is sporting a 0.972 save percentage and 0.71 goals-against average. No, you didn't read that wrong. In 101 KHL games, he owns a career record of 66-16-15 with a 0.932 save percentage and 1.80 goals-against average. Those metrics are mind-boggling.
As for his ticket to Broadway, Shesty will conclude his KHL contract this spring. It’s expected that he’ll cross the pond and begin his North American career as the starter in Hartford in 2019-20, or in an immediate platoon role on the big squad. He could be the man as early as 2020-21, when Lundqvist is in the final year of his deal. That plan can be thrown out the window if Lundqvist gets hurt, traded, or if the transition doesn’t go as smoothly for Shesty. But, this is the kid whom I consider neck and neck with Ilya Samsonov as the best goaltender outside of the NHL. I like his chances to be an elite fantasy asset. (oct13)
9. I have this theory that unless you own Artemi Panarin in a league, you undoubtedly undervalue him. It seems like this guy is the Rodney Dangerfield of hockey. A mid-20s star who has made it his business to click at or near a point-per-game since the moment he entered the NHL.
This season has been no different, he sits at seven points in five games. Since the start of the 2015-16 season, when Panarin was a rookie, there are only six players who have amassed more than his 239 points. Their names are Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Nikita Kucherov, Blake Wheeler and Jamie Benn.
The soon-to-be unrestricted free agent is a juicy fruit just ripe for the taking in keeper leagues as managers concern themselves with a potential move. He’s likely to be had for less than his production should command. Now go out and make an offer. (oct13)
10. Jack Hughes, the consensus first overall pick this June and his USNTDP U18 mates took on older brother Quinn Hughes and the University of Michigan on Friday. The result was a 6-3 victory for the U18's with Jack leading the charge with a goal and two helpers. His speed is breathtaking to watch. Reminiscent of Nathan MacKinnon in his Halifax days. But, if I were to compare the younger Hughes to an NHLer, it would be Patrick Kane. He's undersized but packs the biggest of skill punches. Load up on those lottery picks for next year's rookie drafts. Hughes is going to be worth it. (oct13)
11. Pavel Buchnevich or Kevin Labanc, points-only? That question was taken from here, on our DobberSports Forum. To me, this isn’t close. In my preseason projections, I had Buchnevich at 55.0 points even and Labanc at 45.6 points. There has been nothing so far this season that makes me think Labanc can increase his scoring by 25 percent to become the better option.
Yes, Labanc is off to a great start with five points in five games. He’s also still playing roughly as many minutes as he did last year and unless San Jose sustains four or five more key injuries, he won’t come anywhere close to the top PP unit.
Buchnevich, on the other hand, is earning about a minute more per game so far this season compared to 2017-18 and will be on the top PP unit. There is a disparity in the quality of the teams but that top line for the Rangers is still very good. As long as Buchnevich remains in his current role, he’s the superior points-only option. (oct11)
12. The Lightning scored a touchdown with a two-point convert on the Blue Jackets on Saturday. Brayden Point led the charge, scoring two goals and adding an assist skating on a line with Steven Stamkos and Yanni Gourde. With an eight-goal outburst from his team, coach Jon Cooper might decide to let that line stick for a while. That would benefit Gourde the most, who scored a goal and added an assist in this game. It’s difficult to make out what kind of scorer Gourde will be after his surprise 64-point campaign last season, but his chances of success improve if he’s skating alongside truly talented offensive drivers like Stamkos and Point. (oct14)
13. Micheal Ferland continues to hang around the Sebastian Aho / Teuvo Teravainen line, and he continues to record points. Ferland now has five points over his last four games. I’ll admit that I had no interest in Ferland in fantasy drafts after he was moved off the Johnny Gaudreau / Sean Monahan line in Calgary to being buried on the Canes. Yet, the hard-hitting winger is proving he can be productive when he is deployed on a team’s top line. Go ahead and add him, but continue to check Frozen Tools to ensure he is still on the top unit. (oct10)
14. Through four games, Rangers’ Kevin Shattenkirk has no points and is a minus-4. Shattenkirk is coming off knee surgery, which could be contributing to the slow start. Right now, fantasy owners should probably take this as a one-off which could potentially motivate the veteran d-man. I wouldn’t cut bait yet, but if the struggles continue then I’d advise you to consider looking elsewhere. (oct10)
15. Libor Sulak. Dennis Cholowski. Filip Hronek. Were it not for the injuries, it’s a wonder if any of these guys are on the Red Wings’ opening night roster. As it is, Mike Green is expected to miss a month with his illness, Jonathan Ericsson isn’t back yet, Niklas Kronwall has just returned, and Trevor Daley was injured last Sunday night.
It’s been years now that the Wings haven’t had a bevy of players on the blueline who can move the puck. Other than Green, the defense corps has been, more or less, a horror show when it comes to moving the puck and starting the offense. Each of those players, specifically Sulak and Cholowski (who’s currently day-to-day with an upper body injury), bring a dimension to the defense that the team needs badly. The rebuild is on for the Wings and they should keep giving the kids the ice time. Kronwall has one year left and if they want him to mentor the young players, he can do so playing 15 minutes a night. Ericsson has two years left and he can do the same. A big reason why Detroit has looked fine early in the season is because of the young defensemen. Don’t take away their ice time, coach Jeff Blashill. (oct9)
16. Jonathan Quick is out again. Another lower-body injury. As some of you know, I am a big fan of Cal Petersen. I believe the Kings are bringing him along to take over in two or three years. But Jack Campbell really proved himself last season in the AHL and I think can do well as the starter for a week or two. Anything longer than that? I have my doubts. Is Petersen any better? Well, long term I do like him better, yes, in keeper leagues. He's just not ready yet.
Campbell gets first dibs and he has has paid immediate dividends to the savvy poolie who managed to catch the news in time and claim him off the wire. For all we know, Quick will be back within a week in which case the question is moot. Peter Budaj was recalled for the backup role, this way Petersen can continue getting AHL work. (oct8)
17. Regardless of what happens with (or what we think will happen with) William Karlsson this year in terms of repeating last year’s numbers, one thing I know for sure is that Jonathan Marchessault is as safe as it gets in fantasy hockey. He’s the driver, Karlsson is the passenger. I just think hockey sense wins out here, Marchy has it in spades. While I have questions of Karlsson getting 55 points or 75, I think Marchy gets to 70 safely. (oct8)
18. After his big two points in his last 18 games to end last season with his new team (Rangers), I don’t have very high hopes for Vladislav Namestnikov. Good on Steve Yzerman for trading him with a classic ‘sell high’. I wonder if more teams will mimic that: take a one-dimensional fringe offensive player like a Namestnikov or a Ty Rattie – have him play with a couple of superstars for two months and put up gaudy numbers, and then trade him for a ‘real’ player such as a J.T. Miller. Do that three or four times before other GMs eventually catch on, but by then you’ve added a great core to your squad. Dobber for GM! (oct8)
19. The debate of Elias Lindholm vs. James Neal was never really a debate in my mind, but I’ve seen too many hockey writers assume that Neal would be Johnny Gaudreau’s linemate that it created this imaginary debate.
Long-time hockey fans and writers have a lot respect for Neal. That’s the ticket that gets punched when you tally 80 points in a season – once you do that, you’re considered ‘can’t miss’ for years, even though you’re frequently missing. Neal had 81 points playing with Evgeni Malkin back in 2011-12. Since then, he hasn’t topped 62 points and is usually around 45 points thanks to injuries holding him to 70 or 75 games. This is over five seasons with three different teams, and this is clearly a well-established second-line number.
Meanwhile, Lindholm is seven years younger, on the rise, he shoots right (which is what the Gaudreau line needs) and can play center as a backup to Sean Monahan. On the top line, Lindholm has four goals, six points and is averaging nearly 21 minutes per game over five contests. In my Keep 12, back in September I traded Ryan Johansen for a draft pick so that I could make Lindholm my keeper over him. Any lingering doubts you have over Lindholm and what he will do this season, you can probably start letting them go. (oct8)
20. I grabbed Austin Czarnik in two of my leagues, late (almost the last pick in one) because I felt that the Flames pursued him hard, signed him early and promised him certain things for signing him, such as ice time and PP time. To me, that says that they have scouted him, done their homework and brought him in to succeed. So, he will be given every chance to do so. So far, his ice time has been middling, he has seen secondary PP time and has three points in five games with very solid linemates (Matt Tkachuk, for one). I’m not counting my chickens before they have hatched here but I like the promising signs thus far. (oct8)
Have a good week, folks!!