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. Habs’ Phillip Danault had a four-point game this week with one goal and three assists. He has tied his career-high of 40 points set back in 2016-17 and is now two goals shy of tying a career-high 13. Danault’s two-way game is very much underrated, though his upside in fantasy will always be capped as long as he’s not on the power play. (feb8)
2. The St. Louis Blues have rebounded from a poor start to the point where they now occupy a playoff spot in the Western Conference. A key reason for that success has been the unexpected success of Jordan Binnington, who, with a win on Saturday, has now reeled off five consecutive Ws and sports an impressive 9-1-1 record.
Binnington’s recent success has pushed the inconsistent Jake Allen off the grid for a while. In fact, until today’s match versus Nashville, Allen hadn’t seen any playing time since January 17!
3. Binnington’s save percentage is a neat .931 in 13 games. Stats like his HDSV% and GSAA are all very stellar, as well.
It’s still far too early to tell but if Binnington can be their goalie of the future, and with the way this team is playing right now, the Blues could be a dangerous team if they sneak in the playoffs. (feb8)
4. It’s been quite the fascinating season for Gustav Nyquist. There were absolutely no expectations for him this year in Detroit, coming off three straight seasons producing under 50 points and never more than 21 goals. He’s currently on a 70-point pace, though, and has been dynamic on the top line with Dylan Larkin.
Teams looking for Nyquist wouldn’t necessarily be looking for a goal scorer, they’d be looking for someone to facilitate other goal scorers. A guy who can get out of his zone, and into the offensive zone, with possession of the puck to look for trailers, seam passes, or to start the cycle. Who fits that bill? Two teams from the Central.
It’s no big secret that Nashville needs more secondary scoring. Being able to put Nyquist on the second line with Kevin Fiala and Kyle Turris could help them both going as playoffs start to roll around.
Winnipeg has really struggled since the Nikolaj Ehlers injury and Patrik Laine has been mired in a brutal slump. Adding a rental like Nyquist would allow for one of Ehlers or Kyle Connor to slide to the third line and play with Mathieu Perreault, and it would give Laine a legitimate playmaker at five-on-five and provide insurance in case of another injury like the one Ehlers suffered. (feb5)
5. Evander Kane is on quite a run with 29 points (15g-14a) over his last 23 games. Kane is only six goals away from reaching the 30-goal mark for just the second time in his career.
The Sharks’ winger has been an absolute beast in multicategory leagues with top-5 numbers in both penalty minutes (105) and shots on goal (214), and he’s also in the top 50 in hits (117). (feb10)
6. Anders Nilsson’s goaltending performance is worth mentioning.
Nilsson was acquired as an injury replacement for Craig Anderson, but he seems to be forcing a timeshare in the Ottawa net, something that hasn’t been possible during much of Anderson’s time in Ottawa.
Nilsson has earned more playing time than a typical backup, posting a 1.88 GAA and .949 SV% over the past month. In spite of that success, he’s still widely ignored in Yahoo leagues (just 8 percent owned). (feb10)
7. Patrice Bergeron made game No. 1,000 one to remember. The Bruins’ all-everything center scored the overtime winner and added two assists with a plus-3 and seven shots on goal in a 5-4 win on Saturday.
For fantasy purposes, Bergeron has been like fine wine in that he has gotten better with age. After scoring 53 points in 78 games two seasons ago (0.68 pts/GP), Bergeron scored at a point-per-game pace last season with 63 points in 64 games. He has surpassed that even further this season with 50 points in 39 games thus far (1.28 pts/GP).
Assuming he stays healthy for the rest of the season, Bergeron is on pace for 84 points even though he can only play a maximum of 66 games. (feb10)
8. Neal Pionk, the Rangers’ leading scorer among defensemen, was ‘healthy scratched’ twice this past week — he has just one assist since December 23, a span of 14 games.
Pionk has been slowed by a lower-body injury that resulted from blocking a shot in a game just after Christmas, but he was having a fine season before that with 19 points over his first 32 games.
The recent struggles of Pionk combined with the underachieving Kevin Shattenkirk have resulted in the Rangers trying a five-forward power play at one point this season.
9. Jet Patrik Laine is hardly the only scorer owned in most fantasy leagues that is having trouble turning on the red light.
For example, would you consider the Wild’s Mikael Granlund hot or cold at the moment? If you value assists, you’d consider him hot, as he has five of those in the last seven games. Bruce Boudreau doesn’t seem to care, though, as he identified Granlund as ice cold with two goals in his past 38 games.
During Granlund’s breakout two seasons ago, I suspected that he had experienced some good luck in the shooting percentage department with a near-15 percent shooting accuracy. This season, Granlund is shooting more in line with career average of 10 percent while his current goal total (12) puts him on pace to finish under 20 goals for the first time in three seasons.
Don’t panic if you’re in a roto league, though. For starters, Granlund may experience better puck luck soon. In addition, both his 32 assists and 15 power-play points lead the Wild, and his current shot total (124) puts him on pace to finish with around the same number of shots he took over the previous two seasons.
This is a case of a coach expressing frustration over his team’s inability to rise above the pack of teams that are drifting aimlessly around the wild-card spots in the Western Conference. Besides, Granlund’s career assist total is over double his career goal total. Hopefully you understood that ratio when you drafted him.
10. Speaking about Laine, he was moved off the top PP unit in favor of Jack Roslovic this past week. I know this is in response to Laine’s current slump (two goals in 22 games) and it’s undoubtedly temporary, but this kind of move never made sense to me. One of the best goal scorers in the league is in a shooting percentage drought, so you take him out of the best situation he has to score? I would better understand moving Laine down the lineup at even strength and playing him with Mathieu Perreault or Adam Lowry. (feb8)
11. The Nashville Predators are starting to look like the team many hope they can be, and that’s just largely a function of getting their players back. Viktor Arvidsson has put his injuries behind him, P.K. Subban looks great as always, and now Kyle Turris has returned to the lineup, too. (feb8)
12. I remember before the season I was debating keeping Kevin Fiala over Arvidsson in one of my keeper leagues. I am still very high on Fiala but sometimes the obvious choice is obvious for a reason. There’s a fantasy sports lesson to be learned here. (feb8)
13. The Kings are not expecting Jeff Carter to play anytime soon but there’s hope he can return to the lineup by the end of their current road trip on Monday in Washington. Michael Amadio took his spot on the second line but honestly, I wouldn’t even be reaching that far. This is a dead zone of fantasy value. The L.A. Kings are the AT&T of fantasy hockey. (feb8)
14. Before the season, I was very much gung-ho on Jake DeBrusk in the anticipation of top power-play minutes. That Ryan Donato (remember him?) earned those minutes early on worried me but I was still drafting DeBrusk. He’s still on pace for a 20-goal campaign but his ice time has been declining of late. He still has those top PP minutes, and the question is whether he can turn it on down the stretch.
The problem with the decline in ice time is that there’s a similar drop in his shot rate as he’s now below two shots per game over his last 11 games. It’s not only a function of his ice time drop, but over the last four weeks, his shot attempt/minute rate has gone down by about 20 percent.
What gives me hope is Boston’s upcoming schedule. Out of their next 20 games or so through the third week of March, not even half of them are against teams currently in a playoff position (with only a few of those games are against top defensive teams). At best, those teams have one good defensive line which should be swallowed up by Boston’s top line, allowing DeBrusk and his linemates to run wild on the depth. (feb8)
15. It’s been a brutal year for Rickard Rakell. He had averaged 24 five-on-five goals over the previous two seasons and would be on pace for eight this year had he been healthy all season.
While injuries have been a factor with the Ducks all year, the conditions are there for Rakell to rebound. His issues this year are almost all driven by shooting percentages, but it is worth noting that his individual expected goal rate is a four-year low (via Corsica), and considerably lower than the previous three seasons. (feb8)
16. The Oilers are a favorite punching bag of many, and rightfully so. All the same, Oscar Klefbom is an excellent talent and he still plays on a team that boasts Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. He cannot be ignored.
The question for Klefbom is where he fits. He just returned from injury, but Darnell Nurse has maintained his role on the top PP unit. They’re going to ease Klefbom back into his minutes but when he’s back to full gear, he should be back to 24-25 minutes a night.
When McDavid has been on the ice with Klefbom over the last season and a half, the Oilers generate about six percent more shots, and though it hasn’t led to more goals (it’s close), I will usually bet on the side of volume.
Give it another week or so for Klefbom to get some games under him and then see if he can be had for cheap in your leagues. He’s a guy that can be had for the price of a fourth or fifth defenceman with the upside to be a No.2 over the next two months. (feb8)
17. I suspect Mikko Koivu’s season-ending injury means that Minnesota ‘may’ pack it in at some point soon? They are currently in a wild card spot but there are nine teams within eight points and they’re already without Mathew Dumba.
This probably means Eric Staal is to be traded by the deadline, which is just a couple of weeks away. He’s a pending UFA and they can always re-sign him. I guess we’ll know more soon. If they go on a big win streak, it’ll make the decision tougher. If they start to lose ground, it makes it easier. (feb7)
18. The biggest news this week was the signing of Auston Matthews, who signed a five-year deal with an AAV over $11.6-million.
That might seem like a weird deal given that the Leafs would likely have wanted to keep him around for eight more years rather than five, unless he signs another extension down the road. But as Cam Robinson pointed out in his Ramblings yesterday, the team only bought one year of unrestricted free agency, which kept the cap hit down. If they buy more UFA years, that number of $11.6-million goes even higher, and this is a team that needs every bit of cap space they can manage for 2019-20. (feb7)
In the last nine months, DiPietro has suited up for the Windsor Spitfires and Ottawa 67s of the OHL. He was the third netminder for Canada at the 2018 World Championships, as well as the starter for the Canadians at the recent World Junior Championships. Now, the back-up gig in the NHL.
You know he’s had a massive smile on his face for all of it. (feb6)
20. Over in the college ranks, the state of Massachusetts was buzzing with the annual Beanpot tournament this week. This annual tourney pits the top NCAA schools from the region against one another for the prestigious 65-year-old trophy.
Last Monday saw Boston University and Northeastern square off and Canucks’ prospect, Tyler Madden was the hero in overtime as he converted on a breakaway.
Madden is making a claim to be the best value pick from the 2018 class. Taken 68th overall by Vancouver, he’s been dynamite as the top line centre for the Huskies this season, and was a swiss army knife for the Americans at the WJC. He sure looks to have a future as a top-six forward. Keeper leagues, take notice. (feb6)
21. My theory on Erik Gustafsson’s odds of long-term success is something I’ll coin the 45/55 theory. It’s one I apply to a defenseman that is lesser-touted and/or to a late-bloomer enjoying really strong success for a team with a handful of high-quality offensive prospect defensemen on the way.
Will Henri Jokiharju, Adam Boqvist, Ian Mitchell or Chad Krys steal the spotlight? Well, if Gustafsson finishes the season with 45 points, I think he’s vulnerable. If he gets to 55, though, he’s bulletproof.
There’s something prestigious about a defenseman hitting the 55-point mark that keeps him safe from reduced PP time and faltering coach confidence. Gustafsson’s current pace is 52, but that is with a slow start due to gaining the coach’s confidence (and thus ice time), so I’d accept it. If he reaches those lofty totals come April, then the next wave of highly-skilled kids will have to be the Ivan Provorov to Gustafsson’s Shayne Gostisbehere (say that three times fast). Or, the Sam Girard to Gustafsson’s Tyson Barrie. And so on. (feb4)
Have a good week, folks!!
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