Every Sunday, we'll share 21 Fantasy Rambles — formerly titled 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. After Auston Matthews scored his 100th goal, there were many mentions from various media about how few games he was able to complete that milestone in (187). However, does Matthews become a Band-Aid Boy Trainee this offseason? He lost 20 games to injury last season and 14 this season after playing a full 82 games in his first season. He’s got a long ways to go before he’s as notorious for injuries as Evgeni Malkin, but I’ll acknowledge that it’s something to keep an eye on.
Back to the other side of the coin: Since his rookie 2016-17 season, Matthews has the fifth-highest goal total (101) among all players. Among the four players ahead of him, only Alex Ovechkin has a higher goals-per-game total than Matthews, and the margin is miniscule. Matthews’ fantasy value will be elite if he can stay healthy. (feb16)
2. There were some murmurs that Alexis Lafrenière, the uber 2020 prospect, might be going pro next year in Europe, taking the same route that Auston Matthews did prior to being drafted. That was very quickly put to rest by the future star’s agency.
Not that it’s hugely relevant for us fantasy-wise, but I always wonder about development for a player like this. Would it be better for a supremely talented player to go overseas for a season rather than spend it in junior hockey? Would it make him better prepared for his first season in the NHL? I don’t have an answer and I’m not sure there’s a concrete answer one way or another. I just think it’s an interesting discussion. (feb12)
3. Hawks’ Dylan Strome has 18 points in his last 12 games and his 32 points in 35 games since the trade sits amongst the top-45 in the league over that span.
Imagine my surprise when a 21-year-old with exceptional pedigree blossoms in a new environment with more exposure to talented players and offensive situations. Shocking stuff. (feb13)
Still, this is just a warning. The points so far are largely the result of a percentage bender and not solid play-driving. There are still some things to like here; his passing metrics are solid and his unit with recent linemates Alex DeBrincat and Dominik Kahun have shown promise in a small sample of a sheltered role. Just be wary that the Blackhawks suddenly found a 70-point center to play behind Jonathan Toews, though. I’m skeptical. (feb12)
4. For his part, Kahun has also been brought along beautifully, being given steady ice time. Not on the top line, but always with talent and without really being put in the doghouse despite stretches of lesser production. And now it’s really paying off. He has nine points in the last seven games. (feb11)
5. New Oiler Sam Gagner got to Brooklyn in time for Saturday’s game against the Islanders. In case you were wondering if he would immediately be placed on the Connor McDavid line, there was no such luck. He started the game on a line with Tobias Rieder and Colby Cave but later Cave was swapped for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Gagner played just under ten minutes while receiving second-unit power-play time.
By the way, Jesse Puljujarvi was a healthy scratch for this game. Get him to the AHL. (feb17)
6. I always liked Shea Theodore. I thought his small samples showed well in Anaheim and just watching him play, you saw a defenceman who could skate and pass out of danger and would always look for an offensive opportunity. That kind of cooled off in Vegas’s inaugural season (remember when he started the year in the AHL?) but is back in full force this season.
Defensively there are still issues, but those aren’t huge concerns for us fantasy-wise as long as it doesn’t lead to a loss in ice time.
Theodore’s ability to drive offense cannot be overstated. For example: among 132 defensemen with 700 five-on-five minutes this year, he’s fifth in driving shot attempts for his team relative to his teammates. The four guys ahead of him: Dougie Hamilton, Thomas Chabot, Erik Karlsson, and Brent Burns. That’s pretty good company.
This is a very, very good offensive talent. His issue for fantasy is playing enough minutes to really be a top-tier talent. If he ever starts to earn more minutes, there is a lot of upside beyond 40 points. (feb14)
7. I’ve touched on Thomas Chabot before and just a cursory search of ‘Thomas Chabot’ here at Dobber will reveal a lot more on Chabot from this season. I won’t feed a fed horse here so I’ll let most of what I’ve written stand.
What I will say is that there is still some work to do defensively. Like Theodore, he’ll need to be better defensively to really earn a lot of minutes. With that said, if Cody Ceci doesn’t return next season, there really isn’t much in Ottawa for coach Guy Boucher to lean on minutes-wise. It’s not like in Vegas where if Theodore isn’t performing, the coach can turn to Colin Miller, or Nate Schmidt, or even Brayden McNabb. In Ottawa, they turn to… Christian Wolanin? Ben Harpur? Mark Borowiecki? It’s basically Dylan DeMelo and that’s it.
Chabot has the look of a defenseman you build a franchise around. He’s still just 22 and has just over 100 NHL games under his belt. This team is rebuilding but having someone like Chabot is nearly as good a start as a general manager can hope for. (feb14)
8. Overall, the Canes have had great goaltending from the Petr Mrazek / Curtis McElhinney tandem recently, allowing just five goals over their last five games.
Mrazek and McElhinney are both in the top 15 in goals-against average among goalies that have played at least 20 games, so maybe they could even be considered a poor man’s Islanders’ tandem (as weird as that may sound). (feb17)
9. Nino Niederreiter has eight goals and 12 points in 13 games since joining the Hurricanes. El Nino had scored just nine goals in 46 games for the Wild before that.
A regression will come, but sometimes a trade can perform wonders for a player’s value. Having a playmaker as skilled as Sebastian Aho has helped, as Niederreiter’s shots-per-game total has doubled since the trade (3.83 SOG/GP in Carolina before Saturday’s game vs. 1.76 SOG/GP in Minnesota). (feb16)
10. BTW, if you’re the Hurricanes and currently battling for the last playoff spot in the East, should you really trade Micheal Ferland? Isn’t he the kind of player that you need down the stretch and into the playoffs, should you make it there? With his 16th goal of the season on Saturday, Ferland has five points in his last three games. (feb17)
11. Dustin Byfuglien was out of the Jets’ lineup on Saturday because of a lower-body injury. Even though Big Buff is still a beast out there, I’ve predicted over the last couple seasons that the wear and tear of his physical game would catch up to him. Now we’re seeing signs of that, as the now 33-year-old blueliner has already missed 22 games and counting this season.
Whenever Byfuglien has been out of the lineup, Josh Morrissey has been considered the Jets’ defenseman to start in your lineup. Morrissey logged nearly 25 minutes on Saturday. (feb17)
12. Could the Bruins’ goalie situation be a timeshare again? Well… they have played three back-to-backs in the past week and a half, but Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak have alternated over the last seven games. For more goalie starts, don’t forget to check out Goalie Post. (feb16)
13. I forgot to mention this during my Randy Carlyle eulogy. One contract that Bob Murray probably wishes he could have back is Ryan Kesler’s. The latter has three more seasons after this one at nearly $7 million per, and he has put up an anemic six points in 49 games.
Kesler already had a ton of wear and tear when he signed that extension with the Ducks, and they managed to get one good year out of that contract (two good years with the Ducks before that). I can’t see this contract lasting until the end. (feb16)
14. Andreas Athanasiou has his first 20-goal season with more goals to come. He hasn’t been blessed with Detroit’s top forwards as linemates (Dylan Larkin immediately comes to mind), but he’s using his speed to make the most of what he has been given.
If his production is a surprise to you, keep in mind that this is his fourth season. With his skill, I can’t help but think there’s more to come. (feb15)
15. Jordan Binnington has now won seven games in a row, while the Blues as a team have won nine in a row. Coach Craig Berube and Binnington have not only rescued the Blues’ season, but they are now lifting the Blues above the pile of struggling teams that are still within shouting distance of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. (feb15)
16. Meanwhile, Vladimir Tarasenko is now riding an 11-game point streak and has 10 points (6g-4a) over his last four games. His season has turned around completely just as the Blues’ season has, which is why it's wise not to write off a stud when all hope seems lost (Patrik Laine owners, are you paying attention?) I was hoping that Berube would try Tarasenko with Ryan O’Reilly, which has turned out to be beneficial for Tarasenko, O’Reilly, and Brayden Schenn. (feb15)
17. Nikita Kucherov is up to 94 points in just 59 games. He’s clicking away at a 1.59 point-per-game pace. No one has achieved that feat in a full season since Joe Thornton threw down a 125 pointer in 2005-06.
Meanwhile, teammate, Brayden Point has chipped in with 75 points in 58 games. Thank goodness Tampa Bay is in a no-tax state. That’s the only reason the Bolts will keep him at a reasonable number as an RFA this summer. (feb13)
18. Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad has 13 goals in his last 12 games and 25 on the season – two shy of his career-high mark set last season. The shooting percentage (15.0%) is due for a slight dip, but his metrics appear stable. The 25-year-old looks every bit the part of No.1 center on Broadway. Will people believe it heading into drafts next season? I’m guessing no. (feb13)
19. Nate Thompson and a fifth-round pick were traded to Montreal in exchange for a fourth-round pick this past week. There’s no fantasy relevance here whatsoever but it’s always nice to see general manager Marc Bergevin in the midst of his annual Fourth Line Bonanza. One of these seasons, he’ll acquire useful players at the Trade Deadline (Phillip Danault excepted) and we’ll all rejoice. (feb12)
20. Viktor Arvidsson is shooting for a Cy Young Award with 26 goals and eight assists. Generally speaking, he’s a 50-50 goal/assist distribution player and while his goals are a tad high, his assists are far too low. I think he has another gear that can push him above 80 points if he can play a full season. (feb11)
21. Frank Vatrano has 19 goals on the season and has been skating alongside Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau, so strike while the iron is hot.
Provided he stays healthy, which is a big drawback with him, he has enough talent to continue putting up decent points.
The Panthers have a nice distribution of offense now thanks to Derick Brassard up on the top line with Aleksander Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov, and a third line of Henrik Borgstrom, Mike Hoffman and Riley Sheahan. (feb11)
Have a good week, folks!!