Ramblings: Jordan Staal Update; Coyotes Injuries; Deadline; Dahlin – February 19

Michael Clifford



Jordan Staal was back at practice for the Carolina Hurricanes, but this time he was in a regular jersey instead of a non-contact one. For a player returning from a concussion, this is a significant step. I imagine he’ll need a few more practices under his belt before he’s cleared, but it looks like he should return to the lineup sooner rather than later. That’s a huge boon for the Hurricanes in this playoff push, if not overly fantasy-relevant.


Pontus Aberg should be back for Minnesota’s game Tuesday night while Victor Rask will not be.


Boone Jenner returned for the Blue Jackets having missed their last couple games, skating in his usual spot with Nick Foligno and Josh Anderson. Anthony Duclair, meanwhile, was a healthy scratch:



I know it’s the way of the world that a player at the end of the roster will get nitpicked to death while those at the top of the roster will not. However, it always struck me as a way to alienate a guy who could help a team win.


Corey Crawford is still skating with Chicago, which continues to be a good sign, but there’s still no firm update on a return.


We got an update from Craig Morgan at The Athletic about a few of the injured Arizona players:

To summarize:

  • Still not expecting Antti Raanta to return this year.
  • Christian Dvorak’s conditioning stint length is not determined, could be one game, could be several.
  • Michael Grabner is back skating with the team but in a non-contact jersey following his eye injury. There’s no firm timeline yet.
  • Jason Demers is also skating with the team in a non-contact jersey recovering from knee surgery. Don’t expect him back anytime soon but it certainly seems possible he’s back before the season is out.

The Coyotes will get some reinforcements in the next month but it’s a question of how many players and if it’s too late to push for the playoffs. It’s a wonder where this team would be with any injury luck.


After an unlucky start to the year, Vladimir Tarasenko is up to 0.46 goals/game (he was 0.46 over the previous three seasons) and 0.89 points/game (he was at 0.89 points/game over the previous three seasons). Hope you all bought low when we told you to.


Carolina is having a bit of fun with Don Cherry:



Heaven forbid players have fun playing a game. 


Brent Seabrook was scratched just before warmups for the Blackhawks with an abdominal strain. When there is a timeline for his return, we will pass it along.


Colorado has seen their power play go cold of late so Nathan MacKinnon was dropped to the second power play unit. They also split their top line across their top three lines. I'm as confused as you are. 


Victor Hedman left Monday night’s game at the end of the first period and did not return. Though Jon Cooper wouldn’t elaborate much further, he said he didn’t expect it to be serious.


Nikita Kucherov had a five-point performance in Tampa Bay’s 5-1 win over Columbus. That was the seventh time this season Kucherov has tallied at least four points in a single game. For reference on how absurd that is, no player in the league had more than three four-point games in 2017-18. He’s well on his way to setting a 20-year single-season high in points. It’s been absolutely remarkable.


Alex DeBrincat scored a hat trick in Chicago’s 8-7 win over Ottawa. Yes, you read that final score correctly. The following players had multi-point efforts:

All four goalies were used and we had eight goals in the first period alone. Quite the night for fantasy.


On the topic of hat tricks, Joe Thornton fell one shy of the rooster trick, scoring three goals in San Jose’s 6-5 overtime loss to Boston. Thornton is now up to 13 goals on the year and has an outside chance at reaching the 20-goal plateau for the first time in nine years.

Karson Kuhlman scored his first career goal with the Bruins, while line mates David Krejci (three assists) and Jake DeBrusk (one goal, two assists) also had stellar performances.


Semyon Varlamov had a 40-save shutout on Monday night, blanking the Golden Knights as the Avs skated away with a 3-0 victory. One more shutout would set a single-season four-year high for Varlamov.


We are less than a week away from the trade deadline, typically one of the busiest times of the year for fantasy owners outside of draft week. Just a reminder that we’ll have you completely covered here at Dobber Hockey. Any trade of significance will be broken down here by either myself, Ian, Cam, or Dobber himself. Whenever fantasy owners see a trade go down, they should head over here within the next few hours to get a breakdown of what that means for them and their fantasy leagues.


While on the topic of trade deadlines, we need to get something out in the open: a lot of what happens between now and the end of the season is driven by luck, and that goes for both teams and individual players. With about one quarter of a season left, just think of all the quirky things we’ve seen this season alone in quarter segments:

  • Through the season’s first 21 games, Buffalo had one fewer point than Tampa Bay, The Rangers had one fewer point than the Flames, and the Blues were 30th in the league.
  • In that same span of games, Matthew Tkachuk had as many points as Nikita Kucherov, Max Domi had as many points as Johnny Gaudreau, and Pekka Rinne led all goalies in save percentage at .944 (he’s been a .901 since).
  • In the next 20 or so games, Jonathan Huberdeau put up as many points as Sidney Crosby and Sean Monahan, Gaudreau led the league in goals (what?!), Vegas accumulated the most points in the league while Buffalo, previously fourth, fell to 22nd in the league. The Rangers went from accumulating one fewer point than Tampa Bay through the first ~21 games to accumulating 20 fewer points than Tampa Bay over the next ~21 games.

Those are a handful of extreme examples, but I think fantasy owners will get the general idea. We can talk about how Player X is a good fit, or Player Y will get better line mates, or Team Z is suddenly better defensively because of an acquisition, but the truth is we’re at the mercy of the hockey gods (and ensuing puck luck) a lot more than we’d care to admit.

It’s not to absolve everyone of their sins in decision making. There are still optimal decisions to be made that can put a fantasy roster in the best position to succeed. That does not guarantee success, or even make it likely. Just something to keep in mind if Matt Duchene gets traded to Winnipeg and puts up 11 points over the balance of the season.


On the topic of luck, I wanted to check in with the best ball league over at Fantrax that Dobber, Cam Metz, myself, and others from around the industry took part. For those unfamiliar, best ball leagues are draft-only. That means you draft your team and leave it, with no trades or free agency. Your best scores from a pre-determined number of players – your best 6 out of 10 forwards, 3 of out of 6 defencemen, and 2 out of 4 goalies or whatever – determine your overall score.

In these types of leagues, it can be helpful to stack and try to hit a line that explodes for the year. I did exactly that by drafting Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, and Mark Giordano. That worked out well! However, injuries have gotten the better of me, having lost John Klingberg for six weeks, James van Riemsdyk for six weeks, Oscar Klefbom for nearly two months, Justin Schultz for over half the year, and Taylor Hall still hasn’t returned to the lineup, having missed eight weeks already. That’s two of my top three defencemen (and a potential top-5 blue liner) plus my first round pick with significant injuries. Needless to say, I’m nowhere near the top (though I’m second in points/game, I’m last in games played because of the injuries). Cam Metz can still win the title though and has drafted a solid squad.

That’s just a long lament to show that even if your players perform that you hoped they would (and I do think I drafted a very good team, as evidenced by being second in points/game), there’s still the injury factor that can crop up at a moment’s notice. Not only do fantasy owners need puck luck, they need injury luck. Fantasy hockey amounts to a roulette wheel sometimes.  


Dobber released a couple of his rankings last week but the one I want to focus on is his top-100 keeper defencemen list. Namely, one defenceman on the list, coming in at number 20: Rasmus Dahlin.

Before the season, I was adamant that Dahlin would not be worth his ADP in standard Yahoo! leagues (you can read my stuff from the offseason here, here, and here. That’s not all of it, but it’s a start). He’s already surpassed my projections but whether he lives up to his ADP remains to be seen. All the same, I wanted to say this: his rookie season has been exceptional.

In the history of the NHL, Dahlin is one of three defencemen to average 0.55 points per game in their rookie season, the other two being Bobby Orr and Phil Housley. Not that he’s guaranteed to maintain that mark over the balance of the season, but the fact he’s at that point when we’re a week away from the trade deadline speaks volumes of his talent.

This production isn’t all smoke and mirrors, either. In cases like this, we’d often be concerned with a sky-high individual points percentage at five-on-five (he’s under 40 percent personally which is kind of high but still outside the top-40 defencemen), a sky-high on-ice shooting percentage (he’s at 8.7 percent, which doesn’t even lead the Sabres and is outside the top-60 league-wide), or a high secondary assist rate (that is high, by the way, tied for 10th across the league). While there is a bit of a concern of a slowdown because of the secondary assist rate, the additional power play time he’s seen recently can make up for that.

Under the hood, he’s driving offence at a considerably higher rate than his teammates on the blue line, and at a comparable rate league-wide to other dynamos like Morgan Rielly and Mark Giordano. He can find his teammates regularly in shooting positions and can get out of his zone and into the other zone with control as often as almost anyone (from CJ Turtoro’s viz):


His performance in the defensive zone still needs work but, I mean, come on, the kid is 18. We can cut him a little slack!

All this is to say that Dahlin is performing every bit the future superstar he has been. Though that may not be enough to pay off his preseason ADP, this is about as good as we could possibly hope for. I can’t possibly imagine he can be had for cheap in dynasty/keeper leagues, but I would be checking with the Dahlin owner in your league. If he can be a top-30 fantasy defenceman as an 18-year old and do it without being driven by luck, we’re only a couple years away from a top-5 defenceman.


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