21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles
Every Sunday, we'll share 21 Fantasy Rambles — formerly 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. Rookie goalie Carter Hart now has six consecutive wins. It might make more sense for his development to keep him in the AHL, but what if he’s the Flyers’ best goalie right now? That includes injured goalies Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth.
Just a thought, but maybe the Flyers could try trading UFA-to-be Elliott at the deadline and try to get by with a Hart/Anthony Stolarz tandem the rest of the way? If the playoffs are out of reach, then why not? Stolarz, by the way, pitched a shutout just last Tuesday. (feb1)
2. It’s been a true bounce-back season for Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad, who with 50 points has already exceeded his point total from last season in just 51 games. I can say with certainty that he’s been one of my top waiver-wire pickups this season. In being drafted in just 25 percent of Yahoo leagues, chances are he was available in yours. His shot total and shooting percentage aren’t much different from last season, but the difference has been his assist total (30 already this season compared to 20 last season).
Zibanejad likely won’t be traded by the deadline but you may have heard that his linemate Mats Zuccarello is a strong candidate to be dealt.
For his part, Zuccarello has a seven-game point streak going in which he has 13 points (5g-8a). This recent run should help his trade value in what has otherwise been a down year, but keep in mind that a Zuccarello trade could really hurt Zibanejad’s fantasy value. The Zibanejad-Zuccarello-Chris Kreider line might be under the radar and one of the league’s hottest line over the last handful of games. (feb1)
3. Fantasy-wise, I don’t see huge gains in Jake Muzzin’s value this season with his trade to the Leafs. He’s seen limited power-play usage thus far and could be forced to fight Jake Gardiner for second-unit time.
Don’t get me wrong, though. This is a good hockey trade for Toronto, as they received a much-needed top-4 defenseman. The trade could even help Frederik Andersen, who hasn’t had an easy time over the last two months (3.04 GAA, .908 SV% over December and January).
I’m pretty sure this trade is also the final straw in Gardiner’s exit from Toronto after the season. Not that there was much doubt, given the Leafs’ cap situation. Plus, why on earth would he want to re-sign there anyway, given the way he gets treated by his own team’s fans?
4. Nino Niederreiter is enjoying his time in Carolina and not just because of the enjoyable post-game celebrations. Since being acquired by the Hurricanes, Niederreiter has scored five goals in five games.
The Hurricanes really needed a player who could score from the slot and uniting him with a playmaker like Sebastian Aho can’t hurt, either. Not to mention that Niederreiter’s ice time is over two minutes per game higher than it was in Minnesota. It’s still very early but so far the Niederreiter for Victor Rask trade has turned out to be a huge win for Carolina. (feb2)
First, he isn’t shooting much. Among d-men at five-on-five, he’s in the 60th percentile. That isn’t a huge concern, though. We don’t expect 18-year old defensemen to shoot a lot, even the elite ones. Don’t read anything into it unless this persists for three seasons.
What worries me for the balance of 2018-19 is his secondary assists. At time of writing, he was averaging 0.8 secondary assists per 60 minutes at 5v5. That’s the fourth-highest mark in the NHL. There are a lot of guys at the top of the leaderboard that we’d consider puck-movers like Morgan Rielly, Erik Karlsson, Mark Giordano, and Thomas Chabot. Even for elite guys with track records like Rielly, Karlsson, and Giordano, they’re exceptionally high marks. All three players are currently enjoying career highs, and in the case of Rielly, he’s over three times higher than his three-year average from 2015-18. We can talk about increased goal scoring all we want but that doesn’t explain such a jump. There’s a good bit of luck mixed in there.
I’m not trying to take anything away from the kid. His ability to drive the play, especially offensively, is already very obvious. He’s having a great year so far and has every look of a player who’ll be in the Norris conversation in the next three years, and then every year for 10 years after that. All I’m saying is that he’s a player whose fantasy value for 2018-19 is dependent on assists and plus-minus. Having such a high rate of secondary assists and a .937 save percentage at 5v5 behind him is cause for concern over the next couple of months. This has nothing to do with his long-term outlook, just the next nine weeks. (jan31)
6. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: coaches Barry Trotz and Mitch Korn have been an absolute godsend to Islanders’ goaltenders, who currently lead the league in goals-against average, over a full goal per game lower than last season.
The Islanders are still a middle-of-the-pack team in shots against, so much of this success is on goalies Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner. In fact, I’m almost prepared to suggest that Lehner will lose fantasy value if he signs anywhere else this offseason. (feb2)
7. Hawks’ great Patrick Kane has posted a staggering 26 points over his current 11-game point streak. That run has helped Kane climb up to second in league scoring with 31 goals and 76 points in just 52 games. Kane has reached 100 points once in his career (in 2015-16), but he’s currently on pace for 118 points in what has clearly been a live puck season. (feb2)
8. Look who was on a line with Kane and Jonathan Toews on Friday night. Yes, it was none other than ex-Oiler Drake Caggiula, who scored a goal and added two assists. It’s not quite time to add him to the list of players who have surpassed expectations since being exiled from Edmonton, as he entered this game with just a single assist in eight games as a Blackhawk. But this promotion could be a massive boost to his fantasy value if it can somehow stick. (feb2)
9. Jets’ sniper Patrik Laine, with just two goals over his past 20 games, simply isn’t shooting often enough from high-danger areas. And when you combine that with a meager assist total (just nine assists to 25 goals), he’s sucking wind for fantasy teams at the moment. At his peak, Laine can literally score at will, so this is simply a case of fantasy owners needing to be patient. Maybe even a buy low from the owner that is already giving up hope? (feb1)
10. Speaking of the Jets, they have a multitude of young forwards when you scan down their lineup, meaning that Nic Petan is a perpetual healthy scratch. Winnipeg is reportedly shopping the latter, who has played just 13 games. I’m wondering if the Jets can leverage Petan and another young forward/pick for a top-6 forward that would round out a very strong top 9. (feb3)
11. Although Corey Perry isn’t the fantasy asset that he used to be, it’s still worth mentioning that he made his season debut on Saturday. Perry was held without a point while taking four shots on goal in 16 minutes of ice time on what is clearly the Ducks’ top line alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell. Perry is worth adding if he has been forgotten about in any mid-sized to deeper leagues. (feb3)
12. Nikolay Goldobin was back in Vancouver’s lineup on Saturday and he was handed the plum assignment of lining up with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, a spot that he is already familiar with. Goldobin also scored a goal, which should at least temporarily extend his time there.
Goldy is a tempting fantasy option for his raw talent and his linemates, but his lack of defensive awareness and his tendency to be uninvolved in the play for long stretches results in him residing in coach Travis Green’s doghouse too often. The funny thing is that Goldobin is the Canucks’ fourth-leading scorer at the moment (24 points in 45 games). (feb3)
13. Big news for the Penguins and their fans as Justin Schultz took part in game-day skates this past week. He’s done so in a non-contact jersey but considering he’s returning from a broken ankle suffered three and a half months ago, it’s a very good sign. He’ll need a lot of time to get anywhere near game shape, so don’t expect him back in the lineup in the immediate future, but he’s trending in that direction. (jan31)
14. Before the season, I said it was kind of a make-or-break year for Denis Gurianov, the Dallas Stars prospect forward. He’s over a point-per-game in the AHL and has been able to crack the NHL lineup at times. He still needs to shoot more but at least he’s showing the improvements needed to take that next step. (jan31)
15. I was watching a TSN segment on Tuesday night and Bob McKenzie discussed that the Sens could be looking to move Cody Ceci. This comes on the heels of seeing Jake Muzzin traded to Toronto, and Ottawa thinking they could get some sort of package in the neighbourhood of what Muzzin returned.
Now, delusion aside, trading Ceci does make sense for this team. He’s an RFA probably looking for a long-term contract and that long-term contract, whatever he does get, will not look pretty. If they can get anything for him, they should.
Ceci is covetted in multi-cat leagues because he can provide stout peripheral totals in both hits and blocks, while giving decent shot totals and a reasonable amount of points. All this, however, is a function of two things: ice time and playing on a bad team. That second part allows him to rack up hits and blocked shots at a higher rate than many of those d-men on good teams (your team can’t have the puck if you want to pile up the blocks and hits) and the first part allows him to boost his totals.
If Ceci is traded somewhere like Columbus, the Islanders, or Minnesota, where he’d be very unlikely to get top-pair minutes, and where the teams are much better defensively, what do his peripheral stats look like? He won’t fall off the map but he won’t produce to the level he’s currently enjoying, either. Something Ceci owners need to keep in mind as the trade deadline approaches. (jan31)
16. Flyers’ Sean Couturier is riding hot these days. After an icy four points in 12 games to begin his season, the 26-year-old has been playing at a point-per-game pace. He has 14 points in his last 10 games and seems primed to keep that pace up – this despite being away from Claude Giroux at even-strength for the last little while. (jan30)
17. Giroux produced a whopping 45 points in 35 games down the stretch in 2017-18. It was the final touch on a career-best 101-point campaign. It also stands alone as his finest second-half performance sprinkled amongst several disappointing springs.
With the Flyers out of a wild-card spot, and more likely to settle at the bottom of the standings than make a late charge, it’s conceivable to expect Giroux’s production to slide a bit. Heading out of the break, Giroux had just six points in his previous 10 contests.
The entire Flyers' squad being on a down season will likely affect the fantasy hockey trade value even on a stud like Giroux, but it may not hurt to test the waters. Don’t be afraid to use the Schedule Planning feature on Frozen Tools to suss out a suitable trade target that may have some better matchups during the fantasy playoff weeks. (jan30)
18. With the prominence of so many young blueliners like Thomas Chabot, Miro Heiskanen, and Rasmus Dahlin, it’s easy to forget that Mikhail Sergachev already has a 40-point season under his belt. He’s just 20 years old and still doing very well by all accounts, but it might be worth checking in with the Sergachev owner in dynasty leagues to see what his value is. He might not do much for the balance of 2018-19, but his future is still very bright for 19-20 and beyond. (jan31)
19. Don’t give up on Blues’ Robby Fabbri yet. It has been a brutal 2018-19 season for him with just five points in 23 games, often finding himself either in the bottom-6 or a healthy scratch. Let’s be honest, though, it’s been a bad year for almost anyone in a Blues uniform to this point. If you didn’t draft Ryan O’Reilly or David Perron, you’re probably disappointed with your Blues selections.
But let’s not forget that over his first 123 regular season games from 2015-17, Fabbri had the same primary points per 60 minutes at five-on-five (1.37) as Mark Stone, and higher than names like Zach Parise, Patric Hornqvist, Tomas Hertl, and Jordan Eberle. It’s his first season after missing a year and a half with knee injuries and he just turned 23 years old last week.
This is basically a lost season for Fabbri but it’s also an important one. He’s back on the ice and has avoided catastrophic injury. That’s a win. His value will probably never be cheaper again in deep keeper/dynasty leagues than it is right now, though. It’s worth at least checking in with the Fabbri owner. (jan29)
20. Last note regarding the Peter Chiarelli firing. I thought he did a solid job in Boston, especially early on, and thought Edmonton hired a good one. Clearly I was wrong. But one thing I won’t pin on him is his drafting of Jesse Puljujarvi. He had to draft him or fans would have been up in arms. Besides that, Puljujarvi was widely believed to have fallen into his lap as a gift.
I begrudge him the Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson deal as a bad trade, but that’s also a statement of the way things are in the NHL. If Larsson was a forward, that deal doesn’t happen. If Larsson was making $6 million per year, that deal doesn’t happen. If Larsson was an RFA, that deal doesn’t happen. In the salary cap era where decent minute-munching defensemen with upside are a rare commodity, they become overpriced.
So, it was a bad deal, but not the worst in NHL history as many say (I also never in a million years would have guessed Hall would ever win the Hart Trophy). At the time, I figured it was the 20th best forward in the league, who is injury prone, for the 65th best defenseman in the league, who has some upside. Instead, it turned into the fifth best forward (give or take) for the 90th best defenseman (give or take).
Had it turned out that Hall remained the 20th best forward and Larsson improved to the 40th best defenseman, well we’d look at that deal differently. But it was bad deal after bad signing after bad luck that all added up. (jan28)
21. Look at this comment here in a recent Ramblings. The gent almost had his trade vetoed in late November for giving up Tyler Seguin for Mark Giordano. Now look at the deal today. This is one great reason why you should be very careful with your fantasy hockey league veto rules. Only veto if you are one hundred percent certain that it is a ‘buddy deal’ meant to stack one of the teams to give them the win. That is it. Do not veto bad trades that are just bad trades. Imagine if the trade was vetoed and he lost out on the possible Norris Trophy winner?
Have a good week, folks!!
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