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. It’s been a rough year for almost everyone in St. Louis, eh. Besides Vladimir Tarasenko, injuries have hit some key players like Jaden Schwartz and Alex Pietrangelo, the coach was fired, the forwards brought in haven’t seemed to mesh together, and the goaltending has been inconsistent. Ryan O’Reilly is having a pretty good season, but he’s about the only one.
What jumps out immediately, of course, is Tarasenko’s shooting percentage. He sits at 8.4 percent for the season, having never had a year below 10.7 percent, and a three-year average of 12.7 percent. Were he to be at 12.7 percent for the year instead of 8.8 percent, you could add five goals to his current total and he’d be on pace for nearly 40 goals. If that happens, we’re not having this conversation.
There’s always the possibility he has one of *those* seasons were he just doesn’t break out of his funk, but I’ll bet on talent and opportunity over randomness and Tarasenko has both. (dec27)
2. Blackhawks’ Collin Delia was having an amazing AHL season, where he had a great second half a year ago. The concern with Delia as a keeper for my fantasy league(s), however, is the upcoming free agent market.
Considering Corey Crawford’s concussion troubles and that his contract is running out in two seasons, I’m wondering if the Blackhawks sign one of Brian Elliott, Mike Smith, Sergei Bobrovsky, Cam Talbot, or Semyon Varlamov in the offseason?
3. The Leafs have to figure out a way to keep Kasperi Kapanen, who is set to become a restricted free agent this summer and will probably make over $5 million in his next contract (if he keeps up his 30-goal, 55-point pace at only 22 years of age).
Kapanen is not better than William Nylander but to me he is more versatile, and he’s clutch. And those are attributes that the team will need over the next few years as opposed to those that Nylander brings and of which they already have in abundance. If the Leafs trade Kapanen and keep Nylander, they would regret it. Not only would Nylander’s return be better, but I really think they would be better off. (dec24)
4. Isles’ Mathew Barzal now has three-point games on back-to-back nights with points in four consecutive games. As a follower noted on Twitter, Barzal has been shooting the puck more. He had taken only 34 shots (less than two per game) over his first 19 contests, but 52 over his last 18 (nearly three shots per game).
Or, to put it another way, Barzal scored just three goals prior to December 15. Since then, he has rattled off seven goals in seven games, while taking 24 shots (over three per game). Yes, the buy-low window has slammed shut. (dec30)
5. In case you haven’t noticed, Barzal’s goaltending teammate, Robin Lehner is on a roll. He has wins on back-to-back nights and has now won four consecutive games. Over those four wins, he has allowed just two goals (granted, Friday’s win was in relief).
As expected, this New York goalie battle with Thomas Greiss has been a seesaw, with Lehner holding the upper hand at the moment. If Lehner can stay healthy, then he is a goalie worth owning (only 38 percent owned in Yahoo leagues). Especially if the now over-.500 (and by over-.500 I mean real .500, where OT/SO losses are considered losses and not ties) Islanders are serious about winning. (dec30)
6. Hey, why not pre-order your Midseason Guide here? DobberHockey staff are working on this feverishly so it’ll be available for you on January 11. You’ll find second-half projections, sleepers, advanced stats, historical trends, prospects, and more.
I’m currently working on the goaltending piece. So, which goalie could be in danger of overuse? Marc-Andre Fleury is your league leader with 35 games played. As much as his fantasy owners have been able to count on him for starts and wins, he’s one of the league’s older goalies at 34. He missed two months with a concussion last season and also suffered two concussions in 2015-16, which is something for you to keep in the back of your mind … Follow the link for more >> (dec29)
7. Erik Karlsson was listed in the most recent Cage Match Tournament on underachievers – players who will never reach a certain point total again. I probably spent more time thinking about whether Karlsson would reach 70-plus points again than I did about any other player possibly not reaching another ‘never again’ level. In the end, I elected not to ‘vote’ for Karlsson, meaning that I think he could reach 70 again in his career.
But in spite of the four-point effort on Saturday and the nine-game points streak, I don’t think Karlsson will reach 70 points this season. Not with the Sharks, anyway. I think it could still happen with a different team next season – the right team where he would be the only defenseman on PP1. But Karlsson has the momentum and ability to prove me wrong with a strong second half, so this prediction is by no means a lead pipe lock. Karlsson currently has 30 points in 38 games, which puts him on pace for 65 points. (dec30)
8. I’m sure we’ll find out more about Dustin Byfuglien’s injury in the coming days, but I also seem to remember that Josh Morrissey’s icetime took off when Big Buff was out of the lineup earlier this season. At the time, Morrissey’s Yahoo ownership was somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-30 percent (if I remember correctly), yet now it is up to 67 percent. Even though Morrissey has been held without a point over his last four games and his power-play time hasn’t been great recently, he’s someone you’ll want in your starting lineup if Byfuglien misses time.
More unfortunate injury news but at least this is the kind we can plan around: Thomas Chabot is expected to be out for the next three weeks with an upper-body injury from Friday’s game. The Sens had only one power-play opportunity and, as expected, Maxime Lajoie received the first-unit minutes. Recent callup Christian Wolanin also received minutes and might be worth keeping an eye on (18 points in 26 AHL games). (dec30)
9. Habs’ Tomas Tatar has now recorded multiple points in three consecutive games after being held without a point in his previous six games. Despite the recent slump, Tatar has exceeded expectations in Montreal and is on pace for the 30 goals and 60 points plateaus. (dec29)
10. I don’t read about these types of comments in hockey as often as in other professional sports – maybe because of the more polite nature of hockey culture. Yet, as we saw on Friday, Stars’ CEO Jim Lites ripped into Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin with a few choice words. Benn’s $9.5 million cap hit is within the league’s top 10 at the moment; while Seguin will move into that group starting next season, which is when his new contract with a $9.85 million cap hit kicks in.
How this affects Benn’s or Seguin’s production remains to be seen, but the contract amounts, terms, and no-movement clauses will not make them easy players to trade if it turns out they are not happy with Lites’ criticism and want to get the H-E-double hockey sticks out of Big D. (dec29)
11. Over the last 4-5 years, I’ve personally gotten more involved in auction leagues in fantasy baseball. Let me tell you this much: I absolutely love them. It makes a lot of sense when you realize that traditional snake drafts inhibit how a player can construct their team.
If a fantasy owner is playing in three leagues and happens to be drafting outside the top-3 in all three leagues, that person has no chance at drafting Connor McDavid. If that person drafted outside the top-5 in all three leagues, that person had no chance at drafting McDavid or Nikita Kucherov, and on and on it goes.
Also, if someone is at a wheel pick (first or last), they’re not at risk of missing out on runs of goaltenders or defensemen. It also creates fun rivalries within the fantasy league before the season even starts because of bidding wars.
I understand a lot of people don’t want auction leagues because of how involved owners need to be. You need to evaluate each player within the parameters of your league, you need to have discipline to not overspend on ‘your’ guys, and the drafts themselves can take hours. It all depends how much time a league’s members want to put in. All the same, I think fantasy hockey owners, especially Industry Leagues, should start using more auction formats. (dec28)
12. Ottawa has recalled goaltender Marcus Hogberg from the AHL, an indication that Craig Anderson probably won’t be playing in the next few days at least due to a concussion. Let’s hope it’s nothing serious or lingering for the elder statesman of the Sens. Fantasy owners will have to make other arrangements for the time being. I’m not sure Mike McKenna is the answer, either. (dec28)
14. One Swiss player who really stood out at the WJC, and much of my Twitter timeline seemed to agree, was Nando Eggenberger, a winger for the Oshawa Generals. He went undrafted in 2018 but you couldn’t tell by watching his game. He looked like an old school power forward at times, being able to drive wide using his size and reach to create chances. Keep an eye on him. (dec27)
15. Either I possess incredible fortune-telling skills, or I jinxed Frederik Andersen (Saturday Ramblings). Whatever it is, the well-used Leafs’ starting goalie is now day-to-day with a groin injury. Because Saturday callup Kasimir Kaskisuo is clearly not NHL ready (.866 SV% in the AHL), the Leafs acquired veteran backup Michael Hutchinson from the Panthers for a 2020 fifth-round pick.
This is a small price to pay for the Leafs, who badly needed a goalie for the AHL Marlies. If Andersen is out for more than a few days, expect Hutchinson to be called up right away. Although Hutchinson isn’t having a spectacular year in the AHL (.906 SV%), he had a stellar campaign for the Manitoba Moose last season (2.08 GAA, .935 SV%).
When you add in the kind of game Garret Sparks had on Saturday (four goals allowed on 24 shots), I could see Hutchinson competing for starts on the big club if Andersen isn’t back soon. Sparks was playing his second game on back-to-back nights, but by no means has he solidified himself as a goalie who can carry a team at the NHL level. (dec30)
16. We all know that Jeff Carter, as an aging player, is in decline. At the age of 34 (well, he’ll be 34 on New Year’s day) and with over 1000 games under his belt, that’s not in dispute.
Second, we know the team around him is very bad and not likely to get much better. Third, outside deeper leagues, Carter is likely available on the waiver wire, so it’s a matter of who he’d be replacing. Carter would be a guy to stash on benches, not someone to roster and start immediately.
I’m always willing to bet on talent. Carter scored at least 20 goals in every season but one from 2005 through 2017 (he was injured last year). The problem right now is, largely, shooting percentages. He’s shooting just 7.3 percent, the lowest for him since 2006-2007, coming off a three-year average of 12 percent.
Again, looking to grab Carter off the wire is probably only for deeper leagues, or at least 14 teams. He’s not drawing penalties and he’s not shooting near as much as he used to, and those are to big red flags for me. But that doesn’t mean Carter is a 10-15 goal guy now. Expect a much better second half from him, even on that team. (dec27)
17. I was asked for my thoughts on Canes’ Dougie Hamilton — do I still feel that the cream will rise to the top?
I still stand firm that Hamilton is far more talented than Justin Faulk and I honestly don’t understand how he hasn’t just powered his way to become the best on that team, but for one reason or another it’s not happening. Maybe he doesn’t work hard enough for Rod Brind’Amour’s liking.
I don’t like the situation and I don’t see a quick or easy resolution. I’m ready to write off the year for Dougie but I’m still very high on him in keepers so rebuilding teams may want to kick tires. (dec26)
18. Conor Garland, a 5-10, 165-pound small, skilled player, who as I noted above will take extra time to get going, has finally broken out at the AHL level and is now taking advantage of his NHL stint. He has points in four straight games, including the first two of his career. I think he’ll finish off the year as an AHL star and will make the team next year – which he’ll have to because starting in 2019-20 he has to clear waivers to be sent down. (dec24)
19. Why put pressure on Carter Hart? While Hart’s first two games were great, they were a little over-hyped. In his debut, the team came together before him like no other – and then he was gifted the game’s First Star in what I suspect was a ploy by the home team Flyers to boost his confidence, because he was not the First Star. In the second game, it was different, though. He played great and stole one from the Predators. I’d have him back in the AHL while his confidence is high. (dec24)
20. One prospect I hyped up in the Fantasy Prospects Report three summers ago was Florida’s Jayce Hawryluk. But he ran into injury troubles early on and played somewhat poorly when healthy, even seeing some ECHL time last season. He had since fallen off the radar.
However, whatever training he did this past offseason sure worked. He’s been flying, posting 28 points in 25 games for Springfield and adding some of the leadership that he had in junior hockey. The Panthers gave him his first recall a recently and he scored the first two goals of his NHL career earlier this week.
I’m sticking him back on my radar because even if his upside is limited, this team has a ton of top-six talent and, as a complementary winger on one of those scoring lines in the future, he would really pay dividends. (dec24)
Have a good week, folks!!
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