The 2018-19 Dobber Midseason Fantasy Hockey Guide is available right now in the Dobber Shop! Get the edge you need to make a run for your league title. For those out of the running, there is loads of information on call-ups, rookies, prospects from across the world, and a whole lot more. There is something for everyone so be sure to grab your copy now!
Defenceman Josh Gorges has retired from professional hockey. He was often a healthy scratch in 2017-18 and couldn’t get an NHL deal this season. He finishes his career with 124 points in 783 games. All the best to Josh and his family on their next step.
I’m only going to touch briefly on the Andrew Cogliano/Devin Shore trade. There is not much fantasy relevance here but that will depend on lineup configuration. Cogliano could fit with, say, Jason Spezza and Alex Radulov on the second line, in which case he’ll have some value. I imagine Shore will bounce all over the lineup for the Ducks, as most wingers have.
The crux of the trade is this: Cogliano is responsible defensively and has some offensive upside. I’m not sure Shore can boast either of those things. Dallas gets older but this feels to me as trying to recoup something for an asset they don’t think has a future with the team, and Cogliano is an established middle-six two-way winger. That’s valuable, even at his age. Dobber breaks down this deal more in-depth right here.
Thomas Chabot was skating for Ottawa in practice on Monday and it looks like he’ll be ready to go soon, possibly for their game on Wednesday. There was an update on Colin White saying he won’t return before the All-Star break, which starts next weekend.
Hey everyone, Nick Schmaltz is really, really good:
Matt Barzal continues to be an absolute monster entering the offensive zone. Leads the league in controlled entries per 60. This is the rest of the top 10 (100+ 5v5 minutes tracked) pic.twitter.com/YBuB7Sl2dz
— CJ Turtoro (@CJTDevil) January 14, 2019
We had a good ol’ fashioned shootout in New Jersey as the Devils and Blackhawks combined for 13 goals in the Devils’ 8-5 win. The scoring was really spread out among New Jersey’s players, with Kyle Palmieri being the most relevant with a pair of tallies. Going back to the All-Star break last year, Palmieri has 37 goals in 78 games. It’s not a huge shooting percentage binge, either, though it is a stout 14.9 percent in that span.
Sami Vatanen had a goal and two assists and is now up to 18 points in 42 games. His plus/minus is still atrocious, though if Mac Blackwood can stabilize things in net, that could turn itself around and make him much more valuable in multi-cat leagues.
Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and an assist in St. Louis’s 4-1 win in Washington. That gives Tarasenko four goals and seven points in six games this month. He’s starting to heat up, and playing with Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn is only going to help. Don’t be surprised if they all start heating up, as long as they keep skating together.
Carl Soderberg tallied a hat trick in Toronto, leading Colorado to a 6-3 win. Soderberg now has 15 goals on the season and is one away from tying a career high. He’s also over two shots on goal per game for the first time in his career, and the additional shots are leading to goals. Who knew.
James van Riemsdyk, on the top line and top power play unit as the Flyers went with five forwards on their top PP quintet, managed a hat trick of his own in Philadelphia’ 7-4 win over Chicago. Give JvR five goals and seven points in three games. He’s looking like the player the Flyers paid for.
Devan Dubnyk was pulled after the second period.
Nolan Patrick had two goals and an assist in the win. It was his first point(s) of any kind in nine games, his first multi-goal game of the year, and his first multi-point game since November 1st. I will say, he has looked better than his points give him credit for. He just needs more time.
Back in the middle of November, I wrote part of a Ramblings on three young defencemen with standout starts to the 2018-19 season: Thomas Chabot, Miro Heiskanen, and Henri Jokiharju. Since then, none have proven themselves anything other than standouts. Though Chabot is injured, Heiskanen is playing for a boring team, and Jokiharju’s ice time is declining, the results have still been very good for all three since the time of writing. It’s truly a triumvirate of talented defencemen, all of whom could be in the upper-tier of blue liners in a few years’ time (Chabot may already be there).
I bring up that old Ramblings because I was doing some stats perusing on Sunday afternoon. This is the list of the top-15 defencemen this season in shot driving percentage relative to their team at five on five. It helps to identify good defencemen playing on bad teams, elite defencemen on good teams, and those just along for the ride, being a partner to either of the previous two type of d-men in this list (from Natural Stat Trick):
Let’s break down the 15 players into groups.
- Elite – Kris Letang, Thomas Chabot (yes, I’m ready to say that), Erik Karlsson, Dougie Hamilton, Mark Giordano, John Carlson, Seth Jones
- Along for the Ride – Brian Dumoulin, Brenden Dillon, Dylan DeMelo
- Everyone Else – Radko Gudas, Henri Jokiharju, Will Butcher, Travis Dermott, Troy Stecher
Let’s go over the Everyone Else section for a minute.
Radko Gudas is likely one of the more under-appreciated defencemen in the NHL. He has put up very strong relative shot-driving numbers each of his four seasons with the Flyers, this year being the best of them.
Henri Jokiharju has already been discussed at length.
Travis Dermott has always put up strong results in a minimal role for the Leafs. He looks to be the heir apparent to Jake Gardiner, working under the assumption that Gardiner doesn’t re-sign with Toronto.
Troy Stecher… I’m not quite sure what’s going on here. He hasn’t put up anything close to these types of numbers in his previous two seasons. He and Derrick Pouliot have been an excellent defence pair for the Canucks, driving the play at nearly a 53-percent clip on a team that is much, much worse than that. He’s a guy to dig into at a later date.
Will Butcher is a very interesting name on this list and he’s the guy I want to explore today.
As we sit on Monday evening before the games start, Butcher has just 14 points in 43 games on the year. This follows a rookie campaign where he had 44 points in 81 games. It also follows a rookie season where he was playing just over 16 minutes a night compared to just over 19 minutes now. In other words, it’s been a disappointing follow-up to an excellent rookie fantasy campaign.
So what’s going on?
First thing is first: he’s driving the play. He’s the only New Jersey defenceman over a 50 percent adjusted shot share at five-on-five, sitting at 52.5 percent. No one on that blue line with 500 minutes is at 48.5 percent or better. Not only has he been good at driving the play, he’s been great relative to his team, resulting in him being in the top-10 league-wide in relative shot share, ranking just behind Erik Karlsson. The picture above shows the other elite defencemen in the top-15. It’s good company for Butcher.
The team isn’t getting unlucky with him on the ice, either. He’s tied for 20th in PDO among all defencemen with 500 minutes, and the team is shooting 9.97 percent with him on the ice, 23rd in the league. He’s been on the ice for 3.31 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five and yet he’s last among the team’s d-men in points/60. The natural conclusion is that his individual points percentage (IPP, or the rate at which he garners a point when he’s on the ice) has cratered, and it has: among 149 defencemen in the league with 500 minutes, he’s 144th in IPP, managing a point on roughly 11 percent of the five-on-five goals scored with him on the ice. That, of course, is hilariously low and will not sustain itself this season, or in any other.
Of course, just saying he’s been driving the play in a half-season sample and that he’s been unlucky doesn’t really paint a complete picture of what Butcher does.
There is a visual tool from CJ Turtoro that helps compare defencemen among several categories, not the least of which are shots/60 minutes, possession entries and exits/60 minutes, entry break-ups, and more. This is based off the game-tracking work of Corey Sznajder. Now, the tracking isn’t complete. Games are missing, so some players have a couple hundred minutes tracked, some have several hundred, some have over one thousand. But it does give us an idea (however incomplete) of what a player has done. We know that entries and exits with possession create much more shots than dump-ins and dump-outs, so defencemen ranking high in one (or both) of these categories is what we’re looking for.
Let’s take a step back to give some context. Butcher just turned 24 years old earlier this month. Our Dobber Tools have him listed at 5’10”, 190 lbs. For extended periods of his career to this date, he’s been used in a minimal role as a power-play specialist. So, we have an undersized defenceman seen as having very good offensive tools in his mid-20s but is still needing to learn how to play against bigger competition before earning more minutes. Remind you of anyone else? Hmmm:
Now, Ellis is 28 this season but the years covered in that viz are age-26, age-27, and this year. Next season is Butcher’s age-25 season. But they’re both undersized defencemen whose first full season didn’t come until 23 years old, neither has been a shot-volume guy (save for that one half-season from Ellis), neither was (has been) given big minutes early in their career, but both seem to be very good puck-movers. The difference between the two is that Ellis is in an environment with several excellent defencemen, and Butcher is not.
The whole point of this was to try to point out a player who has been excellent this year but hasn’t had the breaks go their way. Butcher’s IPP has cratered but it won’t stay there all year and will most certainly be much improved for 2019-20. Whereas Ellis is one good defenceman among many, Butcher is one good defenceman among few (if any). For those in dynasty leagues, the time to buy him is now. Barring a catastrophic injury, his value won’t get any lower over the next few years than it is at the moment. He’s only going to keep improving which will only lead to more minutes. The compounding of more minutes next year (including top PP time) with a rebound in IPP feels like a sneaky big season in the making. He’s not a multi-cat stud so beware in leagues that count hits and shots, but in points-only leagues, he should be on deep keeper/dynasty shopping lists right now.