20 Fantasy Hockey Thoughts
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. Sens’ top prospect Drake Batherson made his debut on Thursday. He didn’t waste much time making an impact, scoring his first NHL goal – a power-play marker – on his first shot. Although he played just under 11 minutes in that first game – he also picked up two helpers against the Pens on Saturday – Batherson did play some even-strength and power-play minutes with the red-hot Matt Duchene. Batherson, who scored 20 points in 14 AHL games this season, is worth considering for keeper leagues if you can stash him away. (nov16)
2. I wish I had an answer for you with regards to Cory Schneider. I do think he will turn it around and I believe that of all the struggling starters (Cam Talbot, Mike Smith, Matt Murray, Jake…well, maybe not Jake Allen). But the issue is timing. When will this turnaround happen? I think Schneider, due to all the time missed, will be last. So…January? The others I’d keep on the bench until December and I think you’ll see signs of life from them. These guys get paid to be the starter and the organization doesn’t want to be embarrassed. So, as you saw last year with Scott Darling, the paid starting goalie will keep getting starts and getting every chance he can to play his way out of the funk. We’ve seen Smith and Talbot in these kinds of funks in the past and they did play their way out of it. (nov12)
3. It’s fair to say that the fantasy values of both Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin have increased since the start of the season. With the power-play game winner and an assist on Saturday, Drouin now has his own five-game point streak, and he also has nine points (4g-5a) over his last seven games. Maybe the Domi-for-Alex Galchenyuk and Drouin-for-Mikhail Sergachev trades aren’t looking so bad for Montreal now? (nov18)
As for him, Domi now has a nine-game point streak and points in 15 of his last 16 games. Is this sustainable? Should you sell high? How does Domi compare rest of season to another player who isn’t as red-hot but is still off to a good start? Find out in this past week’s Cage Match. (nov14)
4. Mike Smith has been guilty of allowing numerous brutal and untimely goals this season. You should not be starting Smith right now. How bad are his numbers? Well, among 51 goalies that had played at least six games going into Saturday action, Smith was 50th with a .876 SV% (only Calvin Pickard’s save percentage was worse). Smith’s 3.48 GAA was a little better (relatively speaking) at 43rd, but you get the idea. There’s a strong possibility that this is an age-related decline, as Smith is now 36 years of age.
Meanwhile, David Rittich’s 1.92 GAA is second (only Pekka Rinne is better), while his .933 SV% is fourth. I’m not sure if Rittich is the long-term answer in net for the Flames, but he’s at least worth a go while he’s hot.
If a player has been out-of-his-mind impressive/poor for much of a season, it’s worthwhile to go back to last season to find out whether the run of good/bad play extends further. Dating back to February 1 of last season, Smith has a ghastly 3.54 GAA and .876 SV% in 29 games. So, he’s been downright terrible for the equivalent of half a season. Never mind benching him – I would consider dropping him outright if I owned him. Smith is owned in 65 percent of Yahoo leagues, while Rittich is only owned in 29 percent. (nov17)
5. Well, Pens’ Matt Murray’s save percentage is practically the same as Smith’s (mentioned above), and his goals-against average is even worse (4.08 to 3.48). I wouldn’t be doing you a service if I told you to keep throwing Murray out there and hoping for the best. He needs to be moved to your bench immediately if he’s still starting because he’s bleeding goals. Not dropped outright, as I wouldn’t expect the two-time Stanley Cup champion, still only 24, to crash and burn completely. But I’d expect to see more of Casey DeSmith in the near term while Murray attempts to sort things out. (nov18)
6. Good question from a commenter in my last Ramblings: “How concerned should we be with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with the Edmonton line moves? He had been playing so well and still has PP1, but should we consider selling high?”
With Connor McDavid being reunited with Leon Draisaitl earlier this week, RNH’s fantasy hockey value took a hit, as he lined up with Tobias Rieder and Alex Chiasson. I’ll start by giving one reason that you should consider selling high, and another reason that you might not want to.
The reason you SHOULD: the Nuge has never recorded more than 56 points in a season. He might be on his way to a career season, but we already have enough of a sample size to know that he is not an 80-point player. If you can exchange him for someone with a higher ceiling than 50-60 points, then it might be worth it for you. Particularly in a multicategory league, where his peripherals aren’t overly strong.
The reason you SHOULDN’T: Line combinations change all the time. A team like the Oilers might be better off with McDavid and Draisaitl on separate lines to spread out the scoring, which could move RNH back to the McDavid line. I’ll throw in one more reason you shouldn’t: Nugent-Hopkins has just four goals on a 6.8 SH%, a number below his career average of 11.3%. A regression might not be significant, particularly if he is reunited with McDavid.
So, my advice is that it wouldn’t hurt to try, particularly if you use it to improve your team in other areas. But if you can’t make the deal, he should be able to hold much of his value going forward. (nov16)
7. The big news from Wednesday was the trade of winger Carl Hagelin from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles in exchange for winger Tanner Pearson. At the time of the trade, those two players had combined for one (1) goal this year between them. The former is a UFA after this season, while the latter has two more years with an AAV of $3.75-million.
What I will say is this: from 2015-16 through 2017-18, Pearson scored 0.78 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five. Among wingers, that tied him with Taylor Hall, and placed him slightly ahead of Mike Hoffman and Jaden Schwartz, both at 0.76. It’s easy to look at his poor start this season and write him off but this is a guy with a proven track record of being able to score well in the minutes allotted to him. He won’t see the top PP unit unless there are a handful of injuries, and if there are a handful of injuries, those top PP minutes might not be worth anything. Pearson will be a better real-life contributor than a fantasy one.
There’s no fantasy relevance for Hagelin. Don’t do it. Just don’t. (nov15)
8. Elias Lindholm now has 21 points in 20 games. James Neal has four points in 19 games and has been held without a point in his previous six games. What a difference playing on the Flames’ top line makes. Imagine if Neal and not Lindholm had been placed there. I don’t think there’d be a complete reversal, but I think the numbers would be a lot different. Neal is droppable in many formats if you haven’t done so by now. I don’t see Neal getting on the top line anytime soon because the Flames’ problems have nothing to do with the top line. (nov18)
9. Rejoice, Erik Karlsson owners. The namesake of the podcast that appears here once a week finally scored his first goal of the season in his 21st game and added an assist in the Sharks’ 4-0 win on Saturday. I heard one of the hockey analysts on one of the Canadian major sports networks say that Karlsson hasn’t looked the same since being traded to San Jose. He cited the power play as an example, where both he and Brent Burns are right-handed shots and are often deferring to the other when playing together, which helps neither player nor the Sharks’ power play as a whole. The Sharks’ power play is middle of the pack with a 19.4 percent success rate, although you might think that it should be a lot better if both Karlsson and Burns are manning the point.
Well, it appears as though the Sharks have opted to use just one blueliner at times on the first-unit power play, particularly over the past three games. That chosen blueliner happens to be Karlsson for the moment.
If I’m a Burns owner, I’m not that worried (at least not yet). Burns already has nearly twice as many points (22) as Karlsson (12), so I think this is a strategy that coach Peter DeBoer is using to kickstart Karlsson. So far it is working, as Karlsson has five points over his last three games. Burns, meanwhile, hasn’t scored a goal in nine games, even though he is firing the puck at what seems like at least his normal pace (30 SOG over his last 6 GP). (nov18)
10. Matt Duchene is an every-day, every-week fantasy starter at this point (I’ve learned that the hard way). And never mind all the turmoil coming out of Ottawa – what matters are the numbers that you see on your team page. With two goals and an assist on Saturday, Duchene now has 12 points (4g-8a) over his last six games, including three games with three points each. Yes, his shooting percentage (17.8 percent) indicates a bit of a regression may be coming, but his point total is already assist-heavy, which you can certainly benefit from as long as goals aren’t worth a ton more than assists in your league. (nov18)
11. Mark Stone has 15 points (5g-10a) over his last nine games. Both Duchene and Stone are now at over a point per game for the season. What’s more interesting, of course, is what the Sens will do with both eventually. The values for both of these potential UFA have certainly increased since the start of the season and they could be too expensive for the Sens to keep, even if they wanted to sign them. (nov18)
12. Ducks’ Maxime Comtois was sent to the AHL on a conditioning stint. When he’s back, I would love to see him play with Jakob Silfverberg again, rather than have Ryan Kesler on that line. Sure, Kesler and Silfverberg have enjoyed a lot of historical success together but when Comtois played with Silfverberg, the latter was off to a career-best start and I’d like to see them pick back up on that. (nov12)
13. Reilly Smith in Vegas has just two points in his last 12 games. I’ve often said that he makes a splash in his first year with his new team and then tends to tail off in years two and three, but this is ridiculous. The tailspin is generally not quite so drastic. Just seven points on the season so far (20 games) but I think he’ll turn things around at least a little. I projected 57 points in the Fantasy Guide, and I would adjust that to something closer to 50. He had 60 in 67 games last year. (nov12)
14. Jaroslav Halak thrives on action. Historically, he does very well with a heavy workload, which he was getting while Tuukka Rask was on personal leave. However, also historically, Halak gets injured a few games into the heavy workload. You could almost set your watch to it. Be forewarned: just when you think he seizes the starting goalie job, he goes down for two weeks. (nov12)
Btw: Halak’s Bruins’ teammate, Brad Marchand, is now your penalty minutes leader with 66, a full 24 ahead of the next-highest player. Needless to say, I’m kicking some serious butt in the PIM category in one of my head-to-head leagues, since I own both Marchand and Tom Wilson. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for most of the rest of my other categories this week. (nov17)
15. Bolts’ Louis Domingue is an obvious pickup with the injury to Andrei Vasilevskiy and he immediately rewarded fantasy owners, who were able to insert him into their lineups right away with wins over Pittsburgh on Thursday and against Philadelphia on Saturday (although he gave up five goals in that one). Allowing eight goals in two games isn’t ideal, but he’s a great option if you need wins. The goalies that I had in mind to ‘drop’ (at least on two of my teams) were Chad Johnson and Darcy Kuemper. So, I’m not setting the bar super high here. However, I was beaten to the punch in both instances, in one case by only half an hour. (nov16)
16. If there’s one thing Chicago desperately needed in order to keep their Cup window open, it was a couple young defensemen emerging as not only NHL players but impact NHL players. Rookie Henri Jokiharju has certainly been that. But let’s temper our expectations for Jokiharju, at least for this season.
Let’s be clear here: we’re talking about a roughly quarter-season sample for a 19-year old defenseman. There is absolutely nothing definitive one way or the other about his future. What I am saying is that there are some good signs for him to reach his potential but there is still work to be done. I am one of many, I’m sure, clamoring for him to be on the top power play unit but maybe it’s best to let Brent Seabrook have that mantle for now. It’s not to say Jokiharju can’t be fantasy-relevant, or that things might not change by February. It is to say that just penciling him in for 40 points might in 2018-19 might be a bit premature. (nov15)
17. I’ve seen the name ‘Jordan Eberle’ and the word ‘drop’ used in the same sentence recently. I understand that fantasy owners often focus on what you have done for me lately, but I’ll have to say that I’m not sure that he’s droppable except in maybe the shallowest of leagues – he’s probably more of a move to the bench if he’s struggling. He’s a serviceable option that should continue to receive first-unit power-play minutes on the Isles, although 60 points is probably the most that you should expect. (nov14)
18. Like it or not, Tom Wilson’s suspension was reduced to 14 games, making him eligible to return to the Capitals’ lineup last Tuesday. Without hesitation, I added him in one of my leagues, a league that counts penalty minutes as well as the standard offensive categories. He paid immediate dividends, scoring a goal with a plus-2, while accruing 7 PIM on a goaltender interference penalty on the goal (I thought goals were waived off on those plays) and a second-period fight with Marcus Foligno. Oh, and he played on the Caps’ top line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. So, his Tuesday debut went exactly how we drew it up.
If your league counts penalty minutes and/or hits, then Wilson needs to be picked up immediately if he’s still available. We can debate how much scoring that Wilson will actually provide, but we’re talking about a player who finished second in the league with 187 PIM and fourth with 250 hits and plays on his team’s top line. And he’s not going to be as much of a liability to fantasy teams scoring-wise as other typical players who stuff the physical categories. (nov14)
Washington was 8-6-3 during Wilson’s suspension. The team lacks depth and his return makes a bigger impact than you would expect. In his absence, not one winger had even remotely established himself in that first-line spot. (nov12)
19. Aside from that fact that a demotion will serve Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi well, I also think it will serve all the Edmonton prospects well. For the first time in ages, Edmonton is actually icing a pretty awesome farm team. Ethan Bear had been out since October 13 with an injury but is now back, Caleb Jones is having a great start to his season, while Cameron Hebig (undrafted free agent signee) has 12 points in 13 games as a rookie. Other rookie-pros Tyler Benson and Cooper Marody are both up over a point per game. Now, the team adds Puljujarvi and Yamamoto, giving them two solid lines and an elite AHL PP unit. I think that bodes well for everyone’s confidence when it comes to putting pucks in the net and I think that will translate to the NHL a little better too. (nov12)
20. Zach Parise now has 17 points in 19 games. Are the Wild getting another resurgent veteran? Parise missed 40 games last year, 13 the year prior, and 12, eight and 15 in the years before that. It would seem that missing a dozen games is in the bag. But, if he is playing with a clean bill of health, perhaps the 70 games this year will be productive ones. (nov12)
Have a good week, folks!!
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