Ramblings: Updates on Monahan, Eberle, Filppula; Gourde; Weber; Fowler – March 21

Michael Clifford



Sean Monahan was back on the top line in practice on Wednesday for Calgary after missing their last couple of games. It’s crunch time for fantasy owners so this is a very welcome sight, especially with an upcoming schedule of Ottawa and Vancouver to finish this week.


Detroit extended goaltender Jimmy Howard for one more year. The deal will be for $4-million and it does not include any sort of no-move or no-trade clauses. He’ll be trade bait in 11 months.


The New York Islanders will march into the playoffs with Valtteri Filppula as he’s expected to be out up to a month due to injury. This doesn’t have much in the way of ramifications fantasy-wise, unless you’re rostering Tom Kuhnackl, in which case he may get some face-offs now. But I’m guessing if you’re rostering Tom Kuhanckl, you’re not in your fantasy playoffs.

Jordan Eberle wasn’t at Islanders practice on Wednesday, but he’s expected to make the upcoming mini-road trip with the team that starts Thursday night in Montreal. He’s considered day-to-day.

Now, we’re at the time of year where I’m extremely skeptical of everything coaches say but that he’s at least going on the road trip is a good sign. He had been on the top line with Mathew Barzal of late and with three more games this week, he could tip fantasy head-to-head playoff matchups.


Blackhawks forward Drake Caggiula skated on his own before Wednesday’s practice as he continues his concussion recovery. As with all concussions, there’s no timeline here, but even just skating is a welcome sign.

In other Chicago news, Brandon Saad was bumped down to the third line with Patrick Kane moving up alongside Jonathan Toews. Not that it’s news that those two are reunited, more that Dylan Sikura remained on the top line with the two of them. Chicago has three more games this week including a home-and-home with Colorado on the weekend. For those getting desperate in deeper leagues, there are worse options.


Joe Pavelski was skating by himself before Sharks practice on Wednesday after missing the team’s last game. Considering he didn’t take part in line drills, I would assume he’s out for at least one more game.


It looks like Mikhail Sergachev is going to stay on Tampa Bay’s top pair with Victor Hedman for the time being. Given that he’s been on the third pair or healthy scratched at times this year, it could be a huge boon for his fantasy value in the short-term.


With his game on Wednesday night, Shea Weber reached 75 contests over the last two years with Montreal, having missed significant time with injury. In those 75 games, Weber has 18 goals, 27 assists, 211 shots, 34 penalty minutes, 177 hits, and 149 blocked shots. In multi-category leagues, those are huge numbers.

I do wonder about 2019-20. I don’t really worry *too* much about defencemen around his age, as we’ve seen top-end blue liners like Brent Burns and Mark Giordano have great years this season. If Weber can stay on the ice, he can still be very productive. I’ll be interested to see where his ADP lands. Weber can be a top-10 defenceman in multi-cat fantasy leagues, he just needs to stay healthy.


Coming off a 64-point season, there was a lot of optimism for Yanni Gourde. He had been a diamond in the rough for many in the fantasy community (I do believe Dobber was high on him a few years ago) and that faith finally paid off.

Things haven’t been as rosy this year, even if he’s been solid with 20 goals and 43 points. So what’s the deal here?

Quite honestly, it’s nothing more than a high on-ice shooting percentage coming back down to a more normal level. Last year, the Bolts shot 11.5 percent with him on the ice at five-on-five. That was second among all forwards in the NHL with at least 1000 minutes at five-on-five last year. Not much else has changed; Gourde’s shot rate has gone up slightly, his IPP went down but it’s not unsustainably low, and though his PP time has been cut down by about 20 seconds, he’ll only fall short of last year’s PP point total by three or four. It’s not nearly enough to explain his 20-point drop. That explanation, my friends, belongs to an unsustainably high on-ice shooting percentage in 2017-18 dropping in 2018-19.

On a completely unrelated matter, Dylan Strome’s on-ice shooting percentage since the trade to Chicago is 13.9 percent. The league leader this year (1000-plus minutes) is Alex Ovechkin at 12.1 percent. The next-closest is Mitch Marner at 11.6 percent, and there are only seven players over 11 percent. I dive a bit more into avoiding pitfalls in drafts later these Ramblings, and we’ll have to see where Strome’s ADP lands in September. My guess is that he’ll be a pitfall to avoid.   


I know the Ducks have been injured and bad for most of this year, and Cam Fowler’s production has suffered as a result with just 18 points in 51 games as he battled his own injuries. But does anyone realize Fowler doesn’t have a 40-point season since 2010-11? Among 171 defencemen with 2000-plus minutes over the last three seasons, he’s tied for 125th in individual shot rate with Jamie Oleksiak. He doesn’t put up strong peripherals in hits or blocked shots either. He’ll probably be cheap in drafts next year but man oh man, there isn’t much to like here fantasy-wise and there’s no guarantee the Ducks will be much better in 2019-20.


After suffering a shutout at the hands of the Predators, the Leafs bounced back with a 4-2 win on Wednesday night in Buffalo, slamming the Sabres 46-24 in shots on goal. Auston Matthews and his line mates were buzzing all game, and AM34 tallied a goal and an assist. The score may indicate a close game but were it not for Carter Hutton making over 40 saves, many of them at point-blank range, this could have been 8-2. Matthews had seven total shots on goal, giving him 105 shots in 25 games since the All-Star break. If that guy is landing four shots a game, opposing goalies are going to have a bad time.

Alex Nylander scored his first of the season (second of his career) in the third period.

A little note: both Justin Holl and Igor Ozhiganov played fewer than nine minutes each. Until the blue line gets healthy, it appears the quartet of Muzzin-Rielly-Hainsey-Zaitsev is going to get all the minutes they can handle.


We had one of the best games I’ve seen this season as Tampa Bay skated away with a 5-4 overtime win against Washington. The Lightning fell behind 1-0 in the first period, reeled off four second-period goals to take a 4-3 lead going into the third, and Evgeny Kuznetsov tied it up with the goalie pulled to force overtime.

Victor Hedman scored the overtime winner, adding a goal to the assist he managed earlier in the game.

Steven Stamkos had a goal and two assists, giving him 85 points on the year, one shy of his 86 from 2017-18, while Nikita Kucherov marked a pair of tallies for himself. He needs one more point for 120 on the season, which would be the first time in over a decade a player has reached that mark (Sidney Crosby had 120 in 2006-07). If he can get to 128 points, he’d have the highest point total in over 20 years. As much as I love debate about the Hart Trophy (and Crosby does deserve attention in this regard), it’s Kucherov’s trophy to lose.

Washington defenceman Michal Kempny got his leg rolled under him in the latter stages of the second period and did not return. Kempny was having a nice season as a complementary player with 25 points, over 100 shots, over 130 blocks, and over one hit per game. We didn’t get an update on his status, but if this is an injury of any consequence, expect Christian Djoos to get more games.


Vancouver’s top line (or second line, depending how you view it) had a monster game Wednesday night against Ottawa as Bo Horvat (2-1), Loui Eriksson (1-3), and Tanner Pearson (2-1) combined on five goals for the Canucks. Horvat needs three more points to reach 60 for the first time in his career.

Ottawa made it an interesting game as the Canucks managed a 5-0 cushion early into the third period before the Sens reeled off four straight to make it a one-goal game with two minutes left. Jean-Gabriel Pageau had a pair of assists while Brady Tkachuk scored his 18th of the year. Dylan DeMelo had three helpers and needs one more point to tie his career-high of 20.


Connor Hellebuyck had a 29-save shutout in Winnipeg’s 3-0 win over Anaheim. Overall, he’s saved 92 of the last 96 shots he’s faced and that’s helped raise his season save percentage to .912. He hasn’t been able to repeat his season of a year ago but he has the opportunity to still post a solid fantasy campaign when all is said and done.

The other Connor, this one named Kyle, had a goal and an assist in the win, pushing him to 57 points on the year, tying his mark from last season. He also needs just one more goal for back-to-back 30-goal campaigns. That guy is going to get paid as an RFA this summer.


It’s fantasy baseball draft season and while I was refining my auction values over the weekend, a thought occurred to me: projecting players is hard. I know, big shock, right? The thing is that it’s a notion of which everyone is likely aware but most people don’t put much thought into. If you project a player to accumulate X stats, we assume that we’re smart enough to be close to what we project. Sometimes, we get bogged down in the thought of, “we’ve seen X Player do this before, so X Player will do it again.” Not thinking much deeper about what those stats represent, or how hard it is to reach a certain level of numbers.

I thought of all this as I saw Milwaukee Brewers outfielder, and reigning National League MVP, Christian Yelich go fifth overall in a friend’s league. For those unfamiliar with baseball, Yelich was always a very good player for the Miami Marlins, and got traded to Milwaukee for the 2018 season. Playing in Milwaukee meant playing in a hitters’ park and a better lineup, both of which should have helped Yelich put up much better numbers, especially in the power department. I won’t get into the details, but there is every reason to believe his power numbers will take a dip in 2019 from career-highs set in 2018 but his draft position is not accounting for it. It seems likely he drops from his 36 home runs a year ago, and perhaps by quite a bit.  

So what does all that have to do with fantasy hockey? This is what I was thinking of when I saw Yelich go fifth overall: when drafting (or avoiding drafting) players, we can’t miss the easy ones. In most fantasy hockey leagues, we have to be aware of at least 300 names and the projections they entail. Having to project (at least) that many players means there are going to be a lot of wrong projections. Getting just 100 out of 300 incorrect (and how “incorrect” is defined by an individual can be vague) would be a big win. There were guys before the season we knew at the least would struggle to return value on their ADP based on historic trends, let alone return a profit; Rasmus Dahlin is one, Anze Kopitar is another. Those guys were so easy to avoid based on where they were drafted and yet people drafted them anyway.

This isn’t an I Told You So. Far from it. I get lots of players wrong every year. But we can’t make our own lives harder by going after players we know cannot perform to the level we need them to without significant luck. Drafting like that is a quick way to stop having to pay attention to your teams by January.


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