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. Jeff Skinner is the second player to hit the 20-goal mark this season – Patrik Laine, now with 21, being the first. The former Hurricane is loving life next to Jack Eichel, and we can only assume Eichel is having a good time as well. The two have formed a deadly top line option.
It will be very interesting to see the type of contract Skinner garners if he can keep this up. Here's hoping he doesn't price himself out of Buffalo. Eichel has been waiting for a serious mate and he's got him now. (dec1)
2. Bold statement time!
In the last 25 years, we’ve seen five players score 60 or more goals in a season.
3. Valentin Zykov was an early second round pick of the Kings back in 2013 and has three assists in 13 NHL games this season. His goal-scoring was non-existent, despite that being his ‘specialty’. While with the Checkers last season, he led the American League with 33 goals in 63 games. He did so on a highly-unsustainable 30 percent conversion rate. But nonetheless, he had promise.
Zykov was a sexy pick for a sleeper/breakout candidate last summer. The expectation and early indications had the Russian playing on the top line with Sebastian Aho. That didn’t happen. He found himself playing under 10 minutes per night before being a healthy scratch the last three weeks.
In Edmonton, he gets a quick chance to rejuvenate his career. There’s a revolving door beside Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the top line that he’ll surely get a sniff at. It’ll be a situation to watch. If Zykov finds lighting in a bottle, he has nice upside. If not, he could quickly find himself back on the wire. (dec1)
4. I’m getting a few questions about Nikolay Goldobin and whether I think you should add him to your fantasy team. He’s owned in just seven percent of Yahoo leagues. Although the returns of Brock Boeser and Sam Gagner will decrease Goldobin’s power-play minutes, he appears to be a fixture on the top line. He and Elias Pettersson have developed a great connection both on and off the ice, so he could be worth taking a flier on depending on who else is available. He’s currently on pace for 45-50 points, although I see 40 as a safe target at this point. (nov28)
5. In case you were worried about Jonathan Huberdeau’s value because he was bumped down to the second-unit power play earlier this season, don’t be. With a goal and an assist on Saturday, Huby now has five consecutive multipoint games with 11 points (2g-9a) over that span. That puts him at over a point per game (28 points in 25 games) this season. And with Vincent Trocheck out for a while with a fractured ankle, Huberdeau is back on the Cats’ first-unit power play. (dec2)
6. Now that William Nylander is signed long term, it will be interesting to see how Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas manages superstar RFAs Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, not to mention whether Nylander is eventually traded.
In our 18-19 Fantasy Guide, Nylander was projected to score 60 points in 75 games. Assuming he returns right away, Nylander has only 55 games to play, which over that span would put him at 44 points. He will likely need a few games to get back up to NHL speed, so don’t expect immediate returns if you’ve been hanging onto him all this time.
Nylander’s imminent arrival, which could occur as early as Tuesday against Buffalo, could mean that Kasperi Kapanen is bumped off the Matthews line. At least we now know that Kapanen is NHL-ready (10 goals and 18 points in 27 games), but his fantasy value could take a hit with the Nylander return. (dec2)
7. Jesper Bratt, seeing some time on the Devils’ top line, has seven points in his last eight. He’s still not getting top unit power play deployment which will mute his ceiling, but he’s one to watch right now. (dec1)
8. Mikko Rantanen is on another planet right now. The 22-year-old had posted multi-point efforts in his last six games and eight of the previous nine. Gross stuff. He now leads the league with 43 points in 26 outings. I've run out of superlatives. This guy is not a product of Nate MacKinnon (although it sure doesn't hurt that they have amazing chemistry). Of course, Rantanen should be considered a locked-in top-10 keeper asset. (dec1)
9. Canes’ Curtis McElhinney's has five consecutive starts with a 0.930-plus save percentage, with victories in four of them. The 35-year-old journeyman looks like the starter in Carolina for the time being. That holds significant fantasy value.
Petr Mrazek is younger and I'm sure the team is hoping he can regain the form that earned him the label of goaltender of the future in Detroit, but until he figures out how to play even remotely close to league-average, McElhinney is the man. (dec1)
10. With Dustin Byfuglien sidelined with a concussion, Jets’ Josh Morrissey in particular has benefitted from Big Buff’s absence with ice times of 28:59 and 29:02 over his last two games and a goal on Saturday, his first in over a month. Byfuglien could return next week but for now Morrissey is a great short-term pickup. (dec2)
11. Devan Dubnyk has for the most part been a fantasy goalie that you could rely on since he was claimed by the Wild off waivers during the 2015-16 season. Goalies can be prone to struggles, though, and Dubnyk is no different. He has allowed four goals in each of his last four games. Since November 13, he has struggled mightily with a 3.56 GAA and .856 SV%. (dec2)
12. Kevan Miller took a puck to the throat last Monday night. Official word came down Wednesday morning that he had suffered torn cartilage in his larynx and will be out more than a month. He had just returned from injury, too. It’s been a tough year for Miller and the Boston defense as a whole.
13. Mikko Koskinen appears to have the faith of the very defensive-minded Ken Hitchcock. So, Cam Talbot owners are facing a dilemma of whether to drop him. Talbot hasn’t done himself any favors, allowing at least three goals in each of his last six games, which isn’t going to cut it with coach Hitch. It probably depends on your team’s circumstances, since goalie management is becoming harder and harder, but at the very least Talbot should be on your bench. (nov28)
14. If you’ve been staying up late to watch the Kings play, you’ve seen (or based on icetime, haven’t seen) the fall of Ilya Kovalchuk. If you own Kovy, unfortunately I don’t have good news to report. He was held without a point for an eleventh consecutive game last Thursday (and is now listed day-to-day with an ankle injury).
Kovalchuk is clearly not a favorite of new coach Willie Desjardins, but I’ve also heard speculation that his benching (low TOI when he was playing of late) has the blessing of Kings’ management. Otherwise, this would be by far the most ballsy move that Willie D has made as an NHL coach.
I don’t want to say “I told you so” with Kovalchuk, but I’ll reiterate something that I mentioned during the summer. Kovalchuk entered the NHL in the early ’00s as a top prospect along with the likes of Dany Heatley and Rick Nash. Heatley is no longer in the league, while Nash was just a shell of his former self last season. So, you were basically getting a 35-year-old who had aged five years since he last played in the NHL and whose peers were no longer NHL stars. I knew about the strong KHL numbers, so I wasn’t willing to write him off completely, but I was more willing to let someone else take a chance on him and didn’t draft him in any of my leagues.
15. I’m sure by now the Kings would like to trade him to a contender with considerable cap space. Good luck with that, because he’s got two more years on his contract after this one at $6.25 million per season. Yikes! But before I speculate any further on what happens to him, I will simply tell you to go ahead and shop him around, in case someone out there is willing to pay for the brand name. Someone in my last Ramblings asked if Kovalchuk could be traded away for Alex Tuch. Yes, I would make that trade in a heartbeat if you haven’t already. In fact, if there’s an option on the waiver wire that you’ve got your eye on, you could probably part ways with Kovalchuk.
16. Like his older brother Matthew, Brady Tkachuk is proving to be a quick study to the NHL game. Much has been made about Elias Pettersson’s impressive rookie season, but Tkachuk is also putting together a solid rookie campaign. Tkachuk already has nine goals in 14 games and is also scoring at over a point-per-game pace (16 points). He’s also recorded six points (3g-3a) over his last three games. He’ll most likely hit the rookie wall at some point (20 percent accuracy), but he’s got a long NHL career ahead. (nov28)
17. Lines have been in flux for the Senators all year. There have been injuries, call ups, and general under-performance defensively being the reason. The line of Tkachuk, Colin White, and Mark Stone haven’t played a lot together, but when those three have been healthy since Tkachuk’s return, they’ve been skating together and have been good.
the Sens are a favourite team to pick on. Playing DFS? Stack against Ottawa. Playing season-long? Stream players playing against Ottawa. They’re porous defensively at even strength and on the PK. That line, however, is not. So just freely picking on Ottawa isn’t really viable anymore. We need to be aware of who will be matched against that line, because they are good. (nov26)
18. With two in his last three games, goals have just started trickling in for Kevin Fiala, but if he keeps shooting like he is right now and continues to regularly earn back his ice time, they’ll come in bunches. Those in 12-team leagues or deeper should stash him on the bench if there is room and no need of the spot immediately. (nov26)
19. Cap leagues have always been about one thing: having highly-successful talent on cheap contracts. Being able to get those 60-point rookies or sophomores on entry-level contracts is nearly a necessity to win such leagues. Not only that, though, but the RFA contracts these talented players would get would usually be much lower than their open market value. It would keep a cheap player on a cap league roster for a decade.
The times, they are a-changin’. Teams are more reluctant to give out those monster deals to guys hitting free agency in their late 20s. We saw this in the MLB last offseason and it’s starting to seep into the NHL. Sure, the Caps signed John Carlson and TJ Oshie to monster contracts over the last year or so, but since the unmitigated disaster that was the 2016 free agency period (think Milan Lucic, Loui Eriksson, David Backes, and Troy Brouwer), and the troubles the Hawks and Kings are running into with their legacy contracts, teams are very weary about handing out monster deals to 28-year olds. There are still big legacy contracts handed out (the Washington guys named above and Marc-Edouard Vlasic comes to mind) but players changing teams and getting huge deals are fewer and further between.
20. The 2017 offseason saw Kevin Shattenkirk, a defenseman with five consecutive 40-point seasons in 82-game campaigns, get just a four-year deal while Alex Radulov got five years and less than $6.5-million per year. And other than the guys staying put, that was basically it.
In 2018, aside from John Tavares (a potential Hall of Famer), no one got more than five years to change teams. James van Riemsdyk got 5x$7M, David Perron got 4x$4M, James Neal (who has scored 20 goals every season since the beginning of time), got five years at less than $6M per. Four years ago, someone like van Riemsdyk would have probably gotten 7x$7M, or something close to the Oshie deal anyway.
If players aren’t going to get paid as they expect at the age of 28, they deserve to get paid more at the age of 22. Players are going to start wringing every dollar they can as soon as they can, as they should. Their time to earn for the rest of their lives is limited and they’re all one injury away from never playing again. But this is going to impact cap leagues significantly in the short-term. With a lockout looming, this will be a big sticking point for both the NHL and NHLPA, for different reasons. (nov27)
Have a good week, folks!!
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